Former FC Barcelona manager Tito Vilanova died of throat cancer at the age of 45 on Friday, according to the club's official Twitter account:
The FC Barcelona is in immense mourning. Tito Vilanova has died at the age of 45. May he rest in peace— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) April 25, 2014
Per the Daily Mail, Vilanova was diagnosed with cancer in November 2011 while serving as a Barca assistant. Vilanova then ascended to the managerial position in 2012 after the departure of Pep Guardiola.
Vilanova led Barcelona to a dominant showing in the 2012-13 season as they won the La Liga title in impressive fashion. Unfortunately, Vilanova was forced to resign as Barca's manager when his condition worsened in July 2013.
Jose Mourinho expressed his condolences, per Chelsea's official Twitter feed:
Jose Mourinho: 'Tito Vilanova’s passing is a sad day for football, for Barcelona and most importantly for his family and friends...' #CFC— Chelsea FC (@chelseafc) April 25, 2014
Jose Mourinho: '....On behalf of everybody at Chelsea Football Club I send my deepest condolences at this most difficult time.' #CFC— Chelsea FC (@chelseafc) April 25, 2014
The untimely loss of Vilanova has certainly shaken the sport. Many within the sport have expressed shock and grief regarding Vilanova's passing, including Rory Smith of The Times:
That is horrific news about Tito Vilanova.— Rory Smith (@RorySmithTimes) April 25, 2014
In addition to his time as Barcelona's manager, Vilanova managed Palafrugell from 2003 through 2004, and he enjoyed a strong playing career before that.
Vilanova made 52 appearances for the Barcelona B team before going on to play for a number of other clubs, including Figueres and Elche.
Although there has been plenty of focus on Barcelona's somewhat disappointing form in league play this season, as they trail Atletico Madrid by four points for the La Liga lead, that doesn't seem important at this point.
Vilanova was beloved by Barca players and fans, and he will always be remembered for the manner in which he was able to manage a star-laden team and keep egos in check.
Barcelona will finish their season with heavy hearts, but one can only assume that the players will be inspired to perform to the best of their abilities in memory of Vilanova.
He was a fantastic representative of the club, and he will certainly be honored for many years to come.
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