Soccer

Former Barça coach Tito Vilanova succumbs to cancer

The 45-year-old, who led club to Liga win in 2013, dies after battle with parotid gland tumor

Tito Vilanova in 2013.
Tito Vilanova in 2013.EFE

Tito Vilanova, the former coach of Barcelona soccer club, has died. The 45-year-old, who led the team to Liga victory last season, had been suffering from parotid gland cancer since 2011.

Vilanova, whose illness forced him to step down as coach of the Catalan club last July, had undergone emergency surgery on Thursday. His health had deteriorated over the last week, forcing doctors at Barcelona’s Quirón Hospital to operate. Vilanova had been diagnosed with cancer of the parotid gland – a salivary gland located behind the mouth – in November 2011.

Vilanova frequently played down his illness, right up to the final moment. Before Easter he had told a relative that he was being admitted to hospital rather than heading to his country house for the vacation, attaching no more importance to it as, by then, he was already going in and out of clinics on a regular basis. He had a virus, he explained, and his immune system was not responding as it should, following failed experimental treatment he had undergone in France.

Vilanova often played down his illness, right up to the end

A former player with Barça B, with which he debuted in 1988, Vilanova played with several clubs until 2002, when he began his training career with the Barça youth squad. Later he was sporting director for Figueres and Terrassa, and in 2007 joined Barça B as assistant to then-coach Pep Guardiola. From 2008 to 2012 he held the same post with Barça’s top team alongside Guardiola and together they built the best team in the world at that time, winning 14 titles from 19 competitions.

After Guardiola’s departure in 2012, Vilanova took over as head coach and led the team to the 2012-2013 Liga championship. But his illness forced him to step down from the role on July 19 of last year.

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