The world of football is in mourning after it was announced that former FC Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova has died at 45 following a long illness.
Vilanova guided the Blaugrana to their 22nd Liga title last season after taking up the first-team reins the previous year. Prior to that he was assistant to Josep Guardiola during Barcelona's most successful period between 2008 and 2012, when a side respected the world over won 14 major trophies, including the UEFA Champions League in 2009 and 2011.
"FC Barcelona is in immense mourning. Tito Vilanova has died at the age of 45. May he rest in peace," said a statement from the Spanish club. "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."
A midfielder at RC Celta de Vigo, RCD Mallorca, UE Lleida and Elche CF, among other sides, Vilanova returned to the Catalan giants in 2001/02 as coach of Barcelona's Cadete B team. He later received the call from Guardiola to join him at Barcelona B and unprecedented success followed for the club with the pair's promotion to first-team duties.
After Guardiola announced his decision to step down in April 2012, Vilanova was offered the vacant post and, despite having to undergo treatment on a cancerous salivary gland during the 2012/13 campaign, he returned to see out a championship-winning campaign that started with a record opening of 18 wins and a draw.
"I was deeply saddened to hear the news of Tito Vilanova's passing. He was a great person and a fantastic coach who will always be remembered for his work at FC Barcelona. I send my condolences to Tito's family and to the club."
UEFA President Michel Platini
"Tito, thanks for all you have given to football and Barca. All fans love you and are eternally grateful. I met you 14 years ago and I can say that there are very few people like you. Thank you for always trusting me to help me improve and overcome personal and professional obstacles. We will always keep a place for you in our hearts. Rest in peace Tito."
FC Barcelona midfielder Cesc Fàbregas
"I have no words. You have been and are an example, I am proud to have formed part of your life. I will never forget you. I wish your family strength through this moment. Rest in peace coach. Kisses."
FC Barcelona midfielder Andrés Iniesta
"Tito Vilanova, one of the best managers I have had in my career. Thanks for everything you have given. Hugs to all of the family and my support and wishes for strength."
FC Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdés
"A person difficult to forget. I will always remember you. All my love to the family of Tito."
FC Barcelona forward Lionel Messi
"Tito Vilanova's passing is a sad day for football, for Barcelona and most importantly for his family and friends. On behalf of everybody at Chelsea Football Club I send my deepest condolences at this most difficult time."
Chelsea FC manager José Mourinho
"I'm saddened by the death of Tito Vilanova, a great example of a fighter both in life and on the pitch. We will miss him."
Juventus coach Antonio Conte
"My condolences to the family and friends of Tito Vilanova. He has always been an example during his struggle. We will never forget."
Club Atlético de Madrid forward David Villa
"Lots of support to all of Tito's family and friends. An example of fighting and strength for all of us. RIP."
Real Madrid CF defender Sergio Ramos
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