Barcelona mourns fourced exit of coach Tito Vilanova due to throat cancer treatment

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 July, 2013, 1:51pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 July, 2013, 4:01am

Barcelona were mourning the enforced exit of ailing coach Tito Vilanova yesterday, but there was also a sense the Spanish champions were prepared to move swiftly to appoint a successor and focus on preparations for next season.

President Sandro Rosell made the announcement late on Friday that Vilanova, who has been battling throat cancer the past two years, needed more treatment that meant he would be unable to remain in charge of the first team.

A replacement for the 44-year-old, who was promoted from assistant coach to succeed Pep Guardiola at the end of the 2011-12 season, was likely to be announced early this week, Rosell added.

Many of the first team squad were at Rosell's news conference, including World Player of the Year Lionel Messi, and the club cancelled a friendly they were due to play against Polish side Lechia Gdansk yesterday, and suspended training until tomorrow.

"Life goes on," Rosell said. "Obviously, this is a very hard blow to take, but Barca has suffered many blows in our history and we have always come through. This will be no different."

"Stay strong Tito! We are all with you in this fight!" Messi wrote on his Facebook page.

Barcelona-based newspaper La Vanguardia said Joan Francesc Ferrer, known as "Rubi", could be in line to take over, while daily Sport said the former Girona coach might be a temporary replacement.

Ferrer led Girona to the second division play-offs last season and was appointed Vilanova's assistant for the coming campaign to help with technical analysis of Barca's rivals.

Other names mentioned, all former Barca players, were Swansea's Danish manager Michael Laudrup, Celta Vigo's Spanish coach Luis Enrique and Dutchman Frank de Boer of Ajax Amsterdam. Jupp Heynckes and Argentine Marcelo Bielsa were also named as possible candidates.