Barcelona's Tito Vilanova suffers a relapse of cancer
'Get well' messages flood in from far and wide as the Barcelona coach undergoes cancer surgery
Leading names from the sporting world sent their best wishes to Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova who underwent surgery yesterday and faces weeks of chemotherapy and radiotherapy after suffering a cancer relapse.
Vilanova, 44, who led the club to their best-ever league start, will be out of action for six weeks for ongoing treatment for cancer in his salivary gland, a year on from a previous operation.
Barcelona captain Carles Puyol told the press: "The first message I've received is that the operation has gone very well."
Sports media quoted Vilanova as assuring players "I will be back soon," the evening before his surgery.
In a brief statement on their website, Barca said Vilanova's progress would determine how long he stayed in hospital, but it was likely to be three or four days.
Bitter title rivals Real Madrid issued a statement in support of Vilanova even before official confirmation from Barca that he faced renewed surgery.
"Real Madrid wishes to express all its support, love and affection for Barcelona's coach Tito Vilanova, to whom it wishes a quick recovery. Real Madrid extends this support to his club and all his family."
Real players also put aside traditional rivalry by sending wishes for a quick recovery.
"Tito, everyone is behind you to beat this - the strength of football and people. It's impossible you will lose this match," Real skipper and Spain international keeper Iker Casillas wrote on his Facebook page.
Real defender Sergio Ramos wrote on online message site Twitter: "All the best to Tito Vilanova and his people, We are all part of the footballing family. A strong and heartfelt hug."
Chelsea's Spanish interim coach Rafael Benitez was one of many top names from the soccer fraternity to send his best wishes for a speedy recovery.
"I have just heard about the tough times Tito Vilanova faces once again a year on from his first meeting with the surgeon to deal with his health problems. I would like to pass on all our best wishes and support on my own account and also in the name of all my staff," said former Valencia, Liverpool and Inter Milan coach Benitez.
Former Valencia star David Silva, now at Manchester City, also sent a message of support.
"All my support and best wishes for Tito and all those who are battling cancer on a daily basis," Silva said.
Former Barca and England star Gary Lineker sent his own best wishes. "Very sorry to hear Tito Vilanova, the Barca coach, is undergoing surgery after a cancer relapse. Thoughts are with him," Lineker, now a sports broadcaster for the BBC, tweeted.
Manchester United's former Atletico Madrid goalkeeper David de Gea likewise said: "All my support for Tito Vilanova. We are all with you in the fight to beat the disease."
And before the draw in Nyon, Switzerland, Uefa secretary-general Gianni Infantino said in Catalan: "Tito, we are all with you."