Tito Vilanova has stepped down as coach of FC Barcelona after the club announced the 44-year-old had suffered a further setback in his recovery from a cancerous salivary gland.
"After analysing all the tests on Tito Vilanova this week, the course of treatment he was asked to undertake was incompatible with the role of looking after the team," Barcelona president Sandro Rosell told a press conference called this evening to confirm the coach's departure.
The former Barcelona youth-team product and RC Celta de Vigo midfielder had surgery on the troublesome parotid gland in his throat last December before spending several months receiving chemotherapy and radiotherapy in New York. He returned to oversee Barça's UEFA Champions League quarter-final victory over Paris Saint-Germain FC in April and then completed the task of leading the Blaugrana to a 22nd Liga title the following month.
A replacement for Vilanova is likely to be appointed after the weekend, according to Rosell. "We will present a new coach, probably at the beginning of next week," he said. Vilanova first underwent an operation to remove a cancerous tumour from his salivary gland in November 2011. He quickly resumed work on that occasion and, at the end of the 2011/12 campaign, was installed as successor to departing head coach Josep Guardiola.
Vilanova had begun his managerial career in Barcelona's youth ranks and later assisted former team-mate Guardiola as the club's B team achieved promotion to the Spanish third division in 2008. Following their own elevation to Barça's senior coaching staff, the pair went on to mastermind the Catalan giants' most successful era, winning 14 trophies in four remarkable seasons. When Guardiola left the helm at the close of 2011/12, Vilanova was handed the reins and steered the side to a record-breaking start to a Spanish top-flight campaign: 18 victories and a draw from their first 19 matches.
Rosell added: "We have decided not to go to Poland tomorrow [to play a scheduled friendly against KS Lechia Gdańsk] ... This news is a huge blow for Barcelona. Of course, the club has suffered many blows in the past and has overcome them. I ask you all for your understanding at this time."
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