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Already in November last year, the then Barcelona assistant coach had to make surgery on a salivary gland. Fresh reports indicate that Vilanova is still not well. An official statement from the club confirmed that the manager has encountered a relapse and will undergo surgery on Thursday, remain in hospital for three to four days, before following a six-week chemotherapy:
“An extension of the pathology has been detected in [Vilanova’s] parotid gland. […]
“After the surgery, Francesc ‘Tito’ Vilanova will undergo chemotherapy and radiation treatment for approximately six weeks. During this time, and depending on how well he recovers, Vilanova’s treatment may be compatible with his work life.”
In the meantime, Barcelona have appointed current assistance coach Jordi Roura as Tito Vilanova’s replacement. By undertaking this decision and acting quickly, the club left absolutely no space for the media to speculate on possible candidates to take over the coaching job at the Camp Nou.
Celebrated hero Pep Guardiola could have made a huge u-turn from his football break this week but Barcelona preferred to take sensitive steps by appointing Jordi Roura for the time being. It is true that Tito Vilanova’s worrying health suggests the Catalans must prepare for life without the head coach who might be advised to avoid all the pressure surrounding the world of football.
However, this will be a topic for discussion much later in the season. For now, Barcelona are not in the mood to talk business for the sake of their sick coach. Everyone’s focus and energy is on the well-being of Tito Vilanova.
“Roura will sit on the bench at Valladolid [this Saturday in La Liga], but the coach is Tito,” Barcelona chief Andoni Zubizarreta told the press on Wednesday.
“Tito isn't here now, Jordi is here, and all the training staff are here to help the players to work at their maximum.”
Once again, the Blaugrana’s board has shown that it can handle matters like responsible parents handle their family. Indeed, Barcelona is more than a club. It is a united family with a strong DNA.
“Our trust in [Vilanova] is total, the club is united and strong and we are capable of overcoming anything,” Barcelona president Sandro Rosell declared.
Barcelona are the same, be it under Pep Guardiola or Tito Vilanova. The Catalans may not change their style of play under caretaker boss Jordi Roura and they will probably not be bothered an inch by speculation in the media over the coaching job at the Camp Nou. If anything, the dressing room will certainly be motivated by Vilanova’s health concerns and the players will sacrifice their strength in quest of glory as a gift to their manager.
In fact, the state in which Tito Vilanova has just left the team is remarkably healthy. He has guided the Catalans to the best ever start in the history of La Liga with 15 wins and a draw in 16 matches. In the UEFA Champions League, they qualified from Group G as leaders and will now face Milan in the Round of 16. In the Copa del Rey, they possess a vital 2-0 advantage over Cordoba and are poised to make the quarter-finals.
In times like these, resentment from good old rivalries does not exist anymore. The world understands that everyone is an individual in the first place. Regardless of the intense rivalry between Real Madrid and Barcelona, the former were among the first to offer support to the latter’s head coach.
“Real Madrid want to express their support and best wishes for the coach of FC Barcelona, Tito Vilanova, and wish him a very rapid recovery. Real Madrid offer their support to his club and to all his family,” the Spanish giants declared via their official website.
A flurry of support messages has stormed social networks and more continue to pour in. Tito Vilanova’s name seems very much present in the minds of many across the globe – from sports personalities to common fans.
“All strength to Tito Vilanova! We are all with you!!#AnimoTito.” This tweet by Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea is one of many dedications to Pep Guardiola’s successor.
In reply to this touching worldwide move, the coach’s son, Adria Vilanova, issued this message on Wednesday: “Thanks to everyone for your support. Everything is gonna be alright. Greetings.”
It is going to be a particularly emotional campaign for Barcelona and the world will embrace each of the team’s achievement with more warmth and appreciation. Whoever wins the 2012 FIFA Men’s Football Coach of the Year in January 2013 might want to dedicate it to the suffering Tito Vilanova in the name of world football solidarity.