Tito Vilanova, the coach who succeeded Pep Guardiola at Barcelona and won the La Liga title in his only season in charge, died on Friday following a long fight with throat cancer. He was 45.
Vilanova, who has battled a recurring tumour in a saliva gland, was admitted to a local hospital in Barcelona last week. He is thought to have had emergency surgery on Thursday.
“It is with sadness that Barcelona must announce that Francesc ‘Tito’ Vilanova has died today at the age of 45,” Barcelona said in a statement. “The death of our former coach occurred this afternoon when he could not overcome this disease which he had battled since 2011.”
Vilanova first became ill in November 2011, while still an assistant to Guardiola, and took a leave of absence after undergoing surgery. The softly spoken Vilanova returned and took over from Guardiola the next season, when he led Barcelona to the Spanish league title with a record-equalling 100 points.
Vilanova had a second tumour removed in December 2012 and travelled to New York several times during the season to receive further treatment before returning to the sidelines.
In April 2013, Vilanova said he felt fine and “had never thought about quitting”. He finished the season before suddenly being forced to resign following a relapse in July.
As an assistant, Vilanova helped Guardiola propel Barcelona into their most successful period and transform the team into the world’s best.