Tito Vilanova's Defining Moments
Former Barcelona manager Tito Vilanova died Friday at age 45 after a two-year fight with cancer, as announced by the club.
After a playing career with several teams that lasted from 1988 to 2001, Vilanova moved into coaching with Barcelona, first as an assistant and then as manager of the first team in 2012-13.
He won the Spanish title in his only season as manager before stepping down in 2013 due to health concerns. In the following slides, we recount Vilanova's defining moments.
UEFA Champions League Winner
Vilanova served under Pep Guardiola as an assistant at Barcelona from 2008 to 2012, helping the Blaugrana win UEFA Champions League titles in 2009 and 2011.
The titles were a preview of what was to come in Vilanova's lone season in the top job.
Taking over the Top Job
The same day in April 2012 that Guardiola announced his plans to leave FC Barcelona, the club also announced that Vilanova would be its next manager.
Guardiola praised his successor, saying, per ESPN FC: "I think the club has taken the best decision possible. He is more than capable. The players know him. He will make few changes. He will give the club and these players something that I thought I could no longer give."
The transition from Guardiola to Vilanova was nearly seamless, with Vilanova continuing the success his predecessor had established.
Aug. 19 marked Vilanova's first league match, a 5-1 victory at home to Real Sociedad. Carles Puyol gave Barca the lead with an early header, and Lionel Messi scored twice.
Vilanova's first Clasico came just four days later, when Barcelona defeated Real Madrid 3-2 in the first leg of the Supercopa de Espana. (Barca were defeated 2-1 in the second leg and lost out on away goals).
Illness and Return
On Dec. 19, Barcelona announced that Vilanova would undergo surgery after suffering a relapse of the parotid ailment that had plagued him in the past. Per a club statement, Vilanova would then undergo chemotherapy and radiation treatment for six weeks.
Undaunted, Vilanova returned to the touchline in March 2013.
La Liga Title
Vilanova's health issues forced him to step down as Barcelona manager in July 2013, a decision that clearly left the club's players shaken.
Then 45, he had suffered relapse the previous year after having a tumour removed from his throat in November 2011.
As quoted by Spanish newspaper AS (h/t BBC Sport), Barca midfielder Andres Iniesta paid tribute to his outgoing manager, saying: "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."
In a stirring tribute to Vilanova's character, the football community quickly united, sending notes of condolence and well-wishes for the former Barcelona manager's family.
Social networking service Twitter had an especially broad selection of tributes, some of which have been compiled here.
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