Supporters of Roma and Milan paid tribute to the former Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova at their Serie A match on Friday night. Photograph: Maurizio Brambatti/EPA
On the eve of Tito Vilanova's initial season responsible of metropolis, he stood within the middle of the Camp Nou pitch with a microphone in hand. Tradition dictates that the new campaign is welcome with the Gamper Trophy and therefore the manager perpetually features a message to deliver. This time, in August 2012, it carried a special affective power. "I'm thus happy that you are here with US," Vilanova turned to inform the French defender Eric Abidal. "Your fight is our strength."
Abidal had undergone a liver transplant in April of that year once suffering cancer and Vilanova knew one thing of what the Frenchman was going through: in November 2011 he had been diagnosed with cancer of the parotid gland within the throat whereas assistant manager to ginger Guardiola. the subsequent might it absolutely was formally declared that he had absolutely overcome the health problem and he looked forward to a future as the manager of the club. His club. Abidal was still sick from the operation, his future unsure.
"If you are sturdy and you've got desire," Vilanova told Abidal ahead of the fans, "we can anticipate you, as long as it takes."
Abidal was given the medical all-clear and came to the club's Sant Joan Despí coaching ground four months later. it had been Dec 2012. a similar day, it was declared that Vilanova had suffered a relapse of his cancer. He underwent radiotherapy and chemotherapy whereas still the Barcelona manager, eventually being forced to leave the post last summer attributable to his deteriorating health. On Friday, he passed away. He was 45.
Flags at the executive entrance to the Camp Nou flew at half-mast. somewhat more spherical, aboard the north finish of the bowl, stands La Masía – the tiny Catalan-style farmhouse built in 1702 where the club's youth team players used to live. it had been there that Vilanova watched out of the window as Bernd Schuster trained on the little pitch below and there that he met Guardiola. Vilanova had arrived aged fourteen and therefore the 2 men – 2 boys – were technically talented midfielders who shared abundant. Above all, they shared a philosophy.
Vilanova contend for Barcelona B but not the primary team. Born within the village of Bellcaire d'Empordà with a population of very little over five hundred, in Catalan agricultural country, Vilanova contend at Figueres, Celta DE Vigo, Badajoz, Mallorca, Elche and Gramenet. He had left Barcelona in 1990, determined that he wouldn't wait over 2 years for a chance nevertheless his vogue was perpetually a Barça vogue and he came swiftly. In 2002, he became coach of Barcelona's Cadete B, a team of 13-year-olds that enclosed Gerard Piqué, Cesc Fábregas and Lionel Messi.
When Guardiola was created coach of Barcelona's B team in 2007, he now referred to as his friend. Vilanova knew Catalan soccer like few others: he had been sporting director at Figueres and Terrasa and was coaching job at Palafrugell. He was a fair additional determined defender of a selected footballing religion than Guardiola, telling El País: "We're totally different. Winning alone isn't enough: we've a perfect of youth team players and assaultive soccer, as Barcelona's culture demands. we've our faults however being cowards can ne'er be one among them."
Together they won the Third Division league title so they took over the primary team. "Are we prepared for this?" Guardiola asked Vilanova. "Well, you are," Villanova replied. They won six out of six trophies, as well as a unique treble, and oversaw the foremost flourishing era within the club's history.
When Guardiola won the coach's Ballon d'Or, he dedicated the award to Vilanova, delivering the foremost personal part of his speech in Catalan. Vilanova had by then been diagnosed with cancer however he came back to figure in eighteen days. "My job is my whole life," he would say. And as Guardiola's time came to an end, he had overcome the health problem and was given the prospect to manage alone.
In a tv interview that winter, Vilanova explained however how treatment he had thought of his 2 kids who "still want me around". His son Adrià plays for Barcelona's juvenil youth team. a couple of days later, on what ought to have been a cheerful day, marked by Abidal's come back, the news bust. He traveled to ny for treatment, briefly leaving the post, returning to check Barcelona win the league title with a record a hundred points.
As Barcelona's kind had swaybacked and criticism had emerged at the top of that season, once Vilanova managed the team from his hospital bed, even conducting some team talks by video from the United States, Javier Mascherano noted: "Our manager isn't in ny on vacation, you know." Somehow it ne'er quite feels real, therefore the Argentinian's words hit hard. the headscarf Vilanova had taken to carrying round his neck was another reminder. Then, within the summer he was forced to step down as manager on medical recommendation.
There were occasional updates and he would be seen generally looking at his son however he had for the most part withdrawn, determined to not burden others. "It'll be fine," he would say.
On that Dec day once Barcelona declared Vilanova had suffered a relapse of the cancer to that he lost his life , the sporting director, Andoni Zubizarreta, was asked if Abidal and Vilanova's sicknesses made Barcelona's legend even bigger as a result of that they overcame adversity. "No," Zubizarreta replied, "it makes US human."