Tito Vilanova has died at the age of 45 following his long battle with illness, Barcelona were saddened to report on Friday afternoon.
Vilanova spent six years as a player at the Camp Nou having progressed through their youth ranks, although he failed to make the first team. Having left the club in 1990 for regular action with Celta Vigo, he went on to appear for Badajoz, Mallorca, Lleida, Elche, and Gramenet before hanging up his boots at the end of the 2000-01 campaign.
A couple of years later the former midfielder began his coaching career in the fourth level of Spanish football with FC Palafrugell, and he also had a spell as technical director with Terrassa FC before he returned to Barca in 2007 to assist Pep Guardiola with their B side. After leading the reserve team to promotion, the pair were handed the reins of the first team, to coach the likes of Lionel Messi, Andreas Iniesta, Xavi and co.
Their first season in charge was the most successful in Barcelona’s history, with the Catalans winning six major trophies including the treble. In total during their three years together with the first team, Guardiola and Vilanova won an incredible 14 honours home and abroad, before the assistant became head coach following his mentor’s departure.
This appointment came seven months after Vilanova was first diagnosed with throat cancer, which required him to take leave of absence to undergo surgery. During his first campaign in solo charge of the first team he had a second tumour removed, in December 2012, which required him to travel to New York several times for further treatment.
He returned to the sidelines in time to see Barca regain the league title from Real Madrid, but another relapse in July forced him to resign him post. On Friday afternoon, the Camp Nou giants released a statement to confirm the passing of Vilanova, at the age of just 45, and sent their deepest condolences to his family, and said they would be opening a space in the main grandstand at the for people to express their condolences.