After Pep Guardiola left in the summer, Barcelona knew exactly who to appoint as their next coach and turned to Pep’s loyal assistant Tito Vilanova in a move that made a lot of sense. Vilanova, whilst his own man with his thoughts on players and tactics, wanted to carry on where Guardiola had left off and maintain the structure that had been built over the past 4 years. The players felt instantly at ease, the fans rejoiced and the club continued down the successful path they had been walking down for some time now. Results on the pitch this season have been good with Barcelona sitting at the top of the Primera División, 9 points clear of 2nd placed Atlético Madrid. Messi and the rest of the team are firing in the goals whilst the new players signed by Vilanova had settled in to the team with little difficulty.
But now Barcelona’s season is in turmoil with the shock announcement yesterday that Vilanova is to step down temporarily after suffering a relapse of a tumour he was treated for in November of last year. His assistant coach, Jordi Roura will take charge of the team, whilst Vilanova undergoes treatment. The news has rocked the Nou Camp and Spanish football, with clubs, players, celebrities and fans across Spain and the world sending message of support for Vilanova.
Spanish star David Silva tweeted his support like many others:
‘All my support and best wishes to Tito and all of the people in the world fighting every day against cancer. Be strong #AnimoTito”
Spanish tennis ace, Rafael Nadal also tweeted his support:
” All my strength and support to Tito Vilanova! We are all with you to overcome this next hurdle”
Even arch rivals Real Madrid put football to one side as they came out with a statement on their official club website in support of Vilanova and the news:
“Real Madrid want to express their support, love and affection to Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova and hope that he makes quickest recovery. The Real Madrid C. F. extends this support to your club and your family.”
It’s a blow for the talented young manager who was making his first venture into senior management after learning his trade in the lower divisions over the past years. But Barcelona are hopeful of his return and are, contrary to early media speculation, not removing Vilanova from the job and looking for a replacement. Talk of emergency calls to Pep Guardiola to come back are wide of the mark for the time being.
“Tito is the coach, and continues to be so,” said Barcelona’s Sport Director and former Spanish goalkeeper, Andoni Zubizarreta. Barcelona president Sandro Rosell backed what Zubizarreta said saying: “We want to express our unconditional support to Tito and his family.Tito is strong, very strong – he’s shown us that and we’re convinced that he’ll be back with us soon”.
Barcelona’s management and the team want Vilanova to return the job as does the man himself, but it will mainly depend on how the surgery (planned for today) and follow-up treatment goes. If the surgery is successful and the chemotherapy and radiotherapy don’t take too much out of Vilanova, then he will be back in the hot seat in the new year. But doctors are being cautious to put guarantees or predictions over what will happen. They had hoped that the cancerous tumour they removed from his throat in November 2011 was gone but checks over the last few weeks, indicated it had returned. How Vilanova’s body reacts to a second dose of treatment is anyone’s guess.
Vilanova will check in to hospital today to start his recover and everyone associated to the world of football will be sending their strength and support to him during this difficult time. The footballing community will be hoping that Vilanova’s treatment goes well and can get back to fitness quickly as everyone, including arch rivals Real Madrid would love nothing more than to see him in the Barca dug out once more.