Former Barcelona manager Tito Vilanova, 45, dies of throat cancer
After being admitted to the hospital in Barcelona on Thursday, Tito Vilanova has died, FC Barcelona said in a short statement on Friday. The former Barça manager and La Masia product as a player lost his battle with throat cancer, which caused him to resign as coach in July 2013.
"The club wishes to express deepest condolences to his family, who shared those moments of pain along with friends, FC Barcelona fans and all football and sports," reads the club statement, in Catalan. "By the Vilanova family's wishes, please respect their desire to live in privacy in these moments after his death."
The club also said it would open a space in the Camp Nou stands for a makeshift memorial, and arrangements would be made for a memorial service in the coming days as well.
Vilanova, 45, suffered from multiple bouts of cancer in his parotid gland, a major salivary gland located at the back of the throat, undergoing surgery and chemotherapy treatments in 2011 and 2012 before relapsing again in 2013. Vilanova traveled to New York for long stretches during the course of his treatment.
Before resigning to take care of his health concerns, Vilanova led Barça to the 2012-13 La Liga title. The club amassed a record-tying 100 points during the league season, scoring 115 goals and losing just eight games in all competitions.
As a player, Vilanova left Barcelona in 1990 after two years on Barça B when it became apparent he wouldn't break into the first team. He bounced around the Spanish first and second divisions for 11 years before beginning his managerial career in the third division with FC Palafrugell in 2003.
He eventually rejoined the club of his youth, first as an assistant to Pep Guardiola at Barça B, graduating with him to coach the first team when Frank Rijkaard and Johan Neeskens left the club. They managed the first team together for four years, winning numerous trophies and becoming the first Spanish club to win the league, Copa del Rey and Champions League treble.
Vilanova would only last one interrupted season in charge after Guardiola left, winning the Miguel Muñoz Trophy as La Liga's top manager before resigning.
One of the lasting images of Vilanova's time in charge at Barcelona was the trophy ceremony after the club captured the league championship in May 2013. Captain Carles Puyol, who would typically hoist the trophy, called on Vilanova and Eric Abidal, who had battled with liver cancer, to lift the silverware instead in a touching moment: