Barcelona Says Former Coach Vilanova Dies of Cancer at 45

Barcelona said Francesc “Tito” Vilanova, who resigned as coach last year to fight cancer, died today.

Vilanova, an assistant who in 2012 replaced Pep Guardiola, Barcelona’s most successful manager, stepped down in July. He was 45, the soccer club said today on Twitter.

“FC Barcelona is in immense mourning,” the Spanish team said. “Tito Vilanova has died at the age of 45. May he rest in peace.”

Vilanova resigned after several surgeries for throat cancer. Barcelona won its fourth league title in five seasons in his time in charge. He took over after the club lost its European and Spanish titles and Guardiola left. Gerardo “Tata” Martino replaced Vilanova.

Part of the grandstand in Barcelona’s Camp Nou stadium will be opened today for supporters to express condolences, the team said in a statement on its website.

Guardiola, with Vilanova on his staff, won 14 trophies in a four-year period. He’s now coaching German champion Bayern Munich.

Vilanova was a Barcelona trainee who only played in three exhibition matches for the team before moving to Celta de Vigo. He started coaching Barcelona’s second string, 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 league 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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