Chelsea manager leads tributes to former Barcelona coach after Spaniard dies, aged 45
By Luke Edwards
Barcelona released a statement to say the club was in “intense mourning” following the death of the coach who led them to the La Liga title less than 12 months ago.
Mourinho had several run-ins with Vilanova during his time in charge of Real Madrid, infamously poking him in the eye on the touchline during a fractious El Clásico clash between the two clubs back in 2012.
But the Portuguese responded to news of his death on Chelsea’s official Twitter feed by expressing his sadness at the news he had been unable to recover from throat cancer.
“Tito Vilanova’s passing is a sad day for football, for Barcelona and most importantly for his family and friends,” said Mourinho. “On behalf of everybody at Chelsea Football Club I send my deepest condolences at this most difficult time.”
Vilanova had a tumour removed from his throat in November 2011, but suffered a relapse in December 2012, forcing him to step down as Barcelona coach in July last year in order to receive further treatment.
The former Barcelona youth team player was promoted to one of the biggest jobs in European football in June 2012 after working as assistant to Pep Guardiola before he stepped down to take a break from management.
His health issues came back to haunt him less than six months later and he travelled to America, spending 10 weeks in New York for intensive chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Although he was strong enough to return to the Nou Camp in March to see Barcelona lift the La Liga title, he was forced to leave the club in the summer, with Gerardo Martino replacing him before the start of the season.
Barcelona said in a statement: “The club expresses their deepest condolences over the passing of Tito Vilanova , who died today in Barcelona at the age of 45.”
Barca sent their “deepest condolences” to Vilanova’s family and said they would be opening a space in the main grandstand at the Nou Camp for people to express their condolences.
<noframe>Twitter: FC Barcelona – The FC Barcelona is in immense mourning. Tito Vilanova has died at the age of 45. May he rest in peace</noframe>
The club’s president, Josep Bartomeu, also said on Twitter: “Tito Vilanova was a wonderful person, and will never be forgotten at FC Barcelona. Thank you for everything you taught us. Rest in peace.”