Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By DAN KARELL
After a long battle with throat cancer, former FC Barcelona assistant and head coach Tito Vilanova passed away on Friday, the club announced. He was 45 years old.
Reports late on Thursday stated that he had been admitted to a Barcelona hospital after suffering a relapse and underwent emergency life-saving surgery that ultimately failed. Spanish National Radio reported that he had gastric complications and as of last night had been “gravely ill.”
Barcelona released a statement on Vilanova after releasing the sad news:
“It is with immense sorrow that FC Barcelona announces that Francesc ‘Tito’ Vilanova i Bayo (Bellcaire d’Empordà, 17/09/1965-Barcelona, 25/04/2014) departed this world today at the age of 45. He passed away this afternoon after losing his battle against an illness that had affected him since 2011.
“The Club wishes to express its most heartfelt sympathy to his family, who are being joined in these moments of mourning by FC Barcelona members and fans all around the world, as well as the rest of the footballing and sporting world.
“The Vilanova family has asked for respect for their desire for the strictest (privary) in the moments after his death.
“Over the next few hours, FC Barcelona will be opening a space in the main grandstand at the Camp Nou for people to express their condolences, which will be open to anyone who wishes to express their sympathy and love for the late Tito Vilanova.
“The Club will shortly be announcing when this space is open, as well as details of the religious ceremony that will be held in the coming days.”
Vilanova was the first Barcelona head coach after Pep Guardiola decided to take a year off in 2012. Vilanova lead Barcelona to the La Liga title in 2013 with the team scoring nearly 160 goals in all competitions.
Vilanova stepped down on July 19, 2013, after suffering a relapse from throat cancer. Vilanova had missed part of the 2012-2013 season in order to receive treatment.
Prior to his time as the head coach, Vilanova was the top assistant for Guardiola from 2008-2012, and coached with Guardiola as Barcelona B’s top assistant in 2007-2008.
Vilanova enjoyed a 13-year playing career starting at Barcelona B after graduating from La Masia and playing for a number of teams across Spain including Elche, Real Mallorca, Badajoz, and Celta de Vigo.