Tito Vilanova, the coach who succeeded Pep Guardiola at Barcelona and won the Spanish league title in his only season in charge, died following a long battle with throat cancer.
Vilanova, 45, battled a recurring tumor in a saliva gland and was admitted to a local hospital in Barcelona last week. He reportedly had emergency surgery.
|Tito Vilanova factfile|
“It is with sadness that Barcelona must announce that Francesc ‘Tito’ Vilanova has died today at the age of 45,” Barcelona said in a statement on their website.
“The death of our former coach occurred this afternoon when he could not overcome this disease which he had battled since 2011.”
The club added that a “space for condolence” would be opened in the main grandstand at their Nou Camp stadium.
Vilanova first became ill in November 2011, while still an assistant to Guardiola, and took a leave of absence after undergoing surgery.
The soft-spoken Vilanova returned and took over from Guardiola the next season, when he led Barcelona to the Spanish league title with a record-tying 100 points.
Vilanova had a second tumor removed in December 2012 and traveled to New York several times during the season to receive further treatment before returning to the sidelines.
In April 2013, Vilanova said he felt fine and “had never thought about quitting.” He finished the season before suddenly being forced to resign following a relapse in July.
As an assistant, Vilanova helped Guardiola propel Barcelona into its most successful period and transform a team led by Messi into the world’s best.
Barcelona won La Liga with a league record of 100 points from a possible 114, equalling the total achieved by Real Madrid in 2011-12.
In addition, his side set a new scoring record of 115 goals in 38 matches. His overall La Liga record stands at 32 wins, four draws and two defeats, as Barca finished 15 points clear of runners-up Real Madrid.
His team were knocked out of last season’s Champions League after a 7-0 aggregate semi-final defeat by Bayern Munich.
Vilanova’s death prompted an outpouring of condolences from players and coaches across Europe.
Vilanova’s global tributes
Barcelona star Lionel Messi said that is was a ‘moment of profound pain for Vilanova’s family, and also for Barcelona and its fans’.
“All of us who shared Barcelona’s locker room with Tito are deeply affected, considering what he gave us as a person and as a professional,”
Former Barcelona defender Eric Abidal, who recovered from liver cancer and a liver transplant to help hoist the 2012-13 league trophy with Vilanova, wrote on Twitter: “For everything we went through together, I will always remember you, my friend. Thanks for fighting.”
Vilanova’s funeral will be at Barcelona’s cathedral.