Former Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova has lost his battle with throat cancer, passing away at the age of 45. Vilanova, who had been fighting the illness since 2011, had been admitted to a hospital last Friday after suffering a serious relapse. Barcelona broke the news on Twitter and with a statement on their website.
“It is with immense sorrow that FC Barcelona announces that Francesc ‘Tito’ Vilanova i Bayo departed this world today at the age of 45,” it read. “He passed away this afternoon after losing his battle against an illness that had affected him since 2011.
“The Club wishes to express its most heartfelt sympathy to his family, who are being joined in these moments of mourning by FC Barcelona members and fans all around the world, as well as the rest of the footballing and sporting world.
“The Vilanova family has asked for respect for their desire for the strictest intimacy in the moments after his death.”
Barcelona also revealed that they would be opening their Camp Nou stadium for people to express their condolences over the next few hours.
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Vilanova played a key part in Barcelona’s dominance of Spain and Europe as assistant to Pep Guardiola from 2008 to 2012. He then took over as manager when Guardiola left, and led the club to the best-ever start to a La Liga season. However, he suffered a relapse of his illness and his assistant Jordi Roura took charge while he received treatment in New York. Vilanova returned to oversee the club winning the Primera Division title with a record points total but was forced to step down last July to concentrate on recovering from his illness.