|File photo taken on Jan. 13, 2013 shows Barcelona's coach Tito Vilanova reacts during their Spanish First Division soccer match against Malaga at La Rosaleda stadium in Malaga, Spain. Former Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova died on April 25, 2014 after a prolonged battle against cancer.(Xinhua/Agenciapuntopress)|
MADRID, April 25 (Xinhua) -- Former FC Barcelona coach, Tito Vilanova died on Friday afternoon aged 45 following a two and a half year fight against cancer of the parotid gland, the FC Barcelona announced on its website on Friday afternoon.
Vilanova had undergone emergency surgery on Thursday evening, but his condition continued to worsen in the following hours.
The 45-year-old who had been assistant to Pep Guardiola for four seasons, was diagnosed with the illness in November 2011. But when Guardiola announced he was stepping down as Barca coach in the summer of 2012, he was named as successor and in doing so became the 50th coach in the club's history,
He led the Barcelona to the 2012-13 Primera Liga title, but missed three months of the campaign after his illness returned in December 2012.
A further setback in his health saw him decide to renounce his position in July of last year in order to continue his battle to recover and he was replaced as Barca coach by Gerardo 'Tata' Martino.
FC Barcelona posted a message on the official website, saying: "the Club wishes to express its most heartfelt sympathy to his family, who are being joined in these moments of mourning by FC Barcelona members and fans all around the world, as well as the rest of the footballing and sporting world."
Barcelona will also open a space in the main grandstand at the Camp Nou Stadium for anyone who wishes to express their condolences, while club President, Josep Bartomeu sent a message on the social media stating that Vilanova was "an eternal reference for FC Barcelona both in human and sporting terms. Thank you for all you have taught us. Rest in Peace."
Meanwhile messages of sympathy have begun to pour in from all areas of Spanish and world football with former Barcelona player, Lobo Carrasco saying "anger and pain. Tito never gave in and he has been taken from us. He was an example of someone who knew how to compete,"
Meanwhile former Real Madrid coach, Jose Mourinho, who is now at Chelsea and who famously stuck his finger in Vilanova's eye in the final of the 2011 Spanish Supercup, sent a message saying "it is a sad day, I send my deepest condolences."