Former Barcelona manager Tito Vilanova, who stepped down from his post in July 2013 due to an ongoing battle with parotid gland cancer, underwent emergency surgery last week and remains hospitalized due to gastric complications.
A beIN Sports report cited Spanish radio station Radio Nacional and newspaper Marca as the first to report Vilanova's condition. According to the reports, Vilanova underwent the procedure Friday after checking into the hospital with discomfort.
Rik Sharma of The Daily Mail says the hospital currently lists the former skipper and longtime Spanish midfielder in critical condition. He has been visited by friends and relatives at the United Kingdom's Chiron Clinic.
Vilanova, 45, has twice been diagnosed with parotid gland cancer. In November 2011, he had his first surgery to remove a malignant tumor, which was thought to have cured the condition, per Sharma. A little more than a year later, however, Vilanova relapsed and underwent another surgery, followed by chemotherapy and radiation treatment.
Despite his intermittent absences, Barcelona were able to persevere without Vilanova and capture the La Liga title in 2012-13. The club went 32-4-2 during league play, dominating behind a historic season from star Lionel Messi. Vilanova was able to return to the sidelines in time to see his team celebrate the league title, but stepped down last July to commit full-time to defeating the disease.
"Tito will once again win this terrible battle facing him," Andres Iniesta told Spanish newspaper AS at the time (via BBC Sport). "On behalf of the players and everyone, I send him all my love and support. At the end of the day, this is about a person, not a coach."
Gerardo Martino was named as Vilanova's replacement. Long linked to Barca, Vilanova had served as an assistant manager under Pep Guardiola, who stepped down in 2012 for a year-long coaching sabbatical.
Vilanova's managerial career represented something of a full circle of his football life. A Barcelona youth, Vilanova played for the senior club Barcelona B from 1988 to 1990 before embarking in a long and journey-filled career that spanned numerous Spanish divisions. He scored 26 goals across 305 club appearances in a decade-and-a-half career, retiring after a short stint with UDA Gramenet in 2001.
Even though his stay as manager was nearly as short as his playing career with the club, Barcelona are feeling the effects of his absence this season. Atletico Madrid currently hold a four-point lead in the La Liga table, and Real Madrid are primed to take over Barcelona for second place after their next fixture.
Barcelona have also undergone massive internal strife, with FIFA banning the club from making transfers for two straight transfer periods due to widespread financial malfeasance. The ban was lifted by the sport's governing body earlier this week pending the appeals process, but the club is far from out of the woods yet.
However, with Vilanova's condition worsening, Barcelona's status with FIFA is far from the top on their priority list.
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