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Coach Tito Vilanova, centre, has been overseeing training sessions for his Barcelona players this week in Spain. He will step aside with immediate affect.
Coach Tito Vilanova, centre, has been overseeing training sessions for his Barcelona players this week in Spain. He will step aside with immediate affect.

Tito Vilanova steps down as Barcelona manager

Club confirms relapse of throat cancer and president Sandro Rosell says news is a 'difficult blow' and replacement would be named next week.

MADRID // Tito Vilanova's time in charge of Barcelona drew to a close after just 14 months on Friday night when the 44-year-old Spaniard stepped down as coach after suffering a relapse in his battle against cancer.

Barca president Sandro Rosell and director of football Andoni Zubizarreta announced the news on Friday night at a media conference attended by the first-team squad.

Rosell said: "Tito Vilanova will continue treatment of his illness, he will not be able to continue as Barcelona's head manager. This is a very difficult blow to the club, but we have overcome many difficult setbacks.

"After evaluating the results of routine rests this week, Vilanova has been presented with the option of carrying out a treatment to continue to control his illness which will make it incompatible to carry out the role of first team coach from now on.

"I want to ask everyone, especially the media, in the name of his family to show the maximum respect for the privacy of the whole process which will start now."

Rosell also said a replacement should be in place early next week.

Vilanova first had a tumour removed from his throat in November 2011 while still working as an assistant to Pep Guardiola at the Spanish giants, but returned to coaching duties in March the following year.

He then went on to succeed Guardiola as head coach of the Catalans after the latter decided to step down at the end of the 2011/12 season.

However, after an amazing start to his first senior managerial role on the field as Barcelona made the best ever start to a Spanish league campaign, the club was rocked by the news in December last year that the cancer had reappeared.

Vilanova had surgery on a salivary gland and then spent two months in New York receiving chemotherapy treatment before returning to the touchline for Barca's Champions League quarter-final tie against Paris Saint-Germain in March.

Having amassed a commanding lead in the first-half of the season, Barca comfortably went on to seal their 22nd Spanish league title, but they were hammered 7-0 on aggregate by Bayern Munich in the Uefa Champions League semi-finals. Despite that defeat Vilanova stressed that had the energy and determination needed to continue in the role.

"I feel fine. I have the energy and the desire to continue at the head of the team next season," he said.

But unfortunately his health once again failed him and he has now agreed to step aside.

After a season working with the club's youngsters, Vilanova followed Guardiola as he graduated to first-team coach in 2008 and was a key part of the side that won 14 trophies over a four-year period.

"I am not looking to compare myself to anyone; I simply want to do my job," said Vilanova when he was officially presented as the coach in July 2012.

Vilanova's relationship with Guardiola appeared to have cooled since the latter's decision to leave Barca last year.

The Bayern Munich coach claimed last week that the current Barca board had deliberately tried to use Vilanova's illness to damage Guardiola's reputation by claiming he had not visited his friend. That claim was rebuffed by Vilanova last week, who said he had only seen Guardiola once during his two-month spell in the American city.

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