Popular Spanish manager and former footballer Manuel Preciado died of a heart attack on Thursday, according to the Associated Press. Before his tragic passing, the longtime Sporting Gijon boss was set to become the new head man at Villarreal after an unveiling on June 8.
News of Preciado's death spread quickly throughout the football community.
It was a sobering moment for everyone, including members of the Spanish national team, who are currently in Poland preparing for the start of Euro 2012.
Midfielder Juan Mata was one of several people who spoke glowingly about the football lifer:
The truth is that this is difficult to digest. I always remember him smiling, as a happy person that transmitted his passion, joy and character to all his teams.
Talking about him in the past tense is tough for me.
Preciado had just reached an agreement with El Submarino Amarillo on Wednesday to take over for Miguel Angel Lotina, but he was never able to enjoy his introduction to the club.
The 54-year-old former defender was supposed to bring some stability to the position after Villarreal went through four managers in a span of three years. The team had just been relegated after a disappointing campaign, and ownership pinpointed him as the person to get them back to La Liga.
His engaging personality made him a lot of friends throughout the game over the years, as evidenced by the outpouring of kind words since his death.
Several players, including Barcelona star Cesc Fabregas, took to Twitter to express condolences.
I can't believe the bad news i just woke up with. Hugs for the family of Manolo Preciado. RIP my friend.— Cesc Fàbregas Soler (@cesc4official) June 7, 2012
"Manolo" was Preciado's nickname. He started his playing career with Racing Santander in 1977 and made six stops before retiring in 1992. Three years later, he took his first manager position with Gimnastica and began working his way up the ranks.
He bounced around quite a bit before settling in with Sporting Gijon.
Preciado spent more than five seasons with Rojiblancos before getting let go last season. It didn't take long for Villarreal to give him a new opportunity.
Sadly, it's an opportunity he never got to enjoy.