FC Barcelona announces Tito Vilanova will step down

"It's a cruel blow" says club president as coach suffers cancer relapse

FC Barcelona president Sandro Rosell during Friday's press conference.
FC Barcelona president Sandro Rosell during Friday's press conference. ALEJANDRO GARCÍA (EFE)

FC Barcelona on Friday announced that Tito Vilanova will step down with immediate effect in the wake of reports that the head coach has suffered a relapse of a cancer affecting his saliva gland.

At a press conference held by club president Sandro Rosell and sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta, which was also attended by the first team, Rosell confirmed that Vilanova would leave the club.

“We are appearing before you to make an announcement that we could have never imagined making,” said Rosell.

“After tests carried out on Tito Vilanova this week, he has reached the conclusion that it is necessary that he follows a course of treatment that will be impossible for him to combine with his work as the coach of FC Barcelona.

“We ask for understanding at this time, it is a cruel blow. There is nothing else to say. We will present a new coach next week and in the meantime we have decided not to play our upcoming friendly match in Poland because there is no desire to do so.”

Vilanova took over from former coach Pep Guardiola last summer after the latter resigned his post to take a year off from the game. Guardiola, who spent his sabbatical in New York, had anointed his assistant coach Vilanova as his successor before leaving Camp Nou.

During the 2012-13 season, Vilanova traveled to New York last December for treatment on the parotid gland cancer that had been diagnosed in November 2011. The Barça coach spent the ensuing two months receiving chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment in New York and returned to the Camp Nou dugout in late March.

During his absence, assistant coach Jordi Roura oversaw first team affairs in a season in which Barcelona regained the league title from Real Madrid by a nine-point margin.

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