Barcelona Soccer Coach Tito Vilanova Resigns as Cancer Returns

Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova resigned from the Spanish soccer champions to receive treatment for cancer he’s been fighting since at least 2011.

The treatment will prevent Vilanova from performing his coaching duties, Barcelona President Sandro Rosell said yesterday at a news conference. A replacement probably will be announced next week, he said.

“This is a very difficult blow to the club, but we have overcome many difficult setbacks,” Rosell said.

The team also won’t travel to play its scheduled exhibition match today against Lechia Gdansk of Poland, according to Rosell.

Vilanova, 44, has had surgery for throat cancer twice since November 2011. He returned to New York in May for a checkup after receiving treatment there earlier in the season.

Barcelona won its fourth league title in five seasons this year. Vilanova was an assistant to Pep Guardiola, Barcelona’s most successful manager, and took over in 2012 after the club lost its European and Spanish titles.

Guardiola, 42, who took over current German and European champion Bayern Munich at the start of the current preseason, oversaw two Champions League titles and three league titles at Barcelona. Guardiola, with Vilanova on his staff, won 14 trophies in a four-year period.

Vilanova is a former Barcelona trainee who only played in three exhibition matches for the team before moving to Celta de Vigo. He started coaching Barcelona’s B team, which included current squad members Gerard Pique, Cesc Fabregas and four-time world player of the year Lionel Messi.

Barcelona won Vilanova’s first game in charge, 5-1 against Real Sociedad, and ended the season with the Spanish Liga title. After his break for treatment following a relapse of cancer of the salivary gland, he returned for the Champions League quarterfinal win against Paris Saint-Germain in April 2013.

The club lost to Bayern 7-0 over the two stages of a Champions League semifinal.

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