Barcelona Coach Tito Vilanova Fighting Cancer Again

Jasper Juinen

FC Barcelona’s manager Tito Vilanova will undergo treatment to remove a tumor that reappeared, according to reports in Spain. The Catalan, in his first year as head coach, had to have surgery last year to remove a tumor. The sad news comes not long after the doctors cleared Eric Abidal, who had similar health problems, to begin training normally.

Without a ball taking a single bounce on the pitch, the roller-coaster ride of emotions continues. Just hours after hearing Eric Abidal will have recovered from his tumor relapse enough to start playing again soon, the upsetting news that Tito Vilanova's tumor has also reoccurred crashes into the football world.

Vilanova previously had to have surgery to remove the tumor that had appeared on a gland in his throat and was out for about a month, from November to December last year.

Vilanova was Pep Guardiola's right-hand man from the time the two coached the reserve team together, Barcelona B. Tito followed Pep into the senior side, in which they went through an unprecedented run of success. Barca under the Guardiola-Vilanova regime won 14 trophies, including two Champions Leagues.

He first received substantial international attention in the 2011 Spanish Supercup, when Real Madrid's coach Jose Mourinho poked Vilanova in the eye. As Mourinho slinked away, Tito gave him a shove.

When Mourinho publicly insinuated that Barcelona were directors of a foul conspiracy, Guardiola always opted to take the high road. Pep wanted to play football, not mind games. There was a lot to admire there.

But it was those mind games, partially, that drained Guardiola and drove him to take a break from football. There were rumors that an outside coach would take over, but the board really only had one man in mind as his successor. Vilanova landed his first top-division head coaching job last summer when he took over Barca.

Vilanova was chosen because he offered continuity and stability. However, he wasn't the same man. He had his own way of doing things.

When Madrid's defender Pepe implied Andres Iniesta was a cheater, Vilanova snapped back. "We could make a video of all the times Pepe has acted wrongly," he told the press.

Guardiola would probably have never said that, and he would be right not to, in a sense. But you can bet a lot of Barca fans were quite happy to see such a feisty character ready to defend himself and his team.

In his first, so far outstanding, season as a manager, we've come to learn a lot of things about Tito Vilanova.

And yes, one can talk about all the differences the team has had in Vilanova's first season as head coach. One can talk about his outstanding league record (the best ever start in history, with no losses and only one draw.) One can talk about his tweaks to the system and his coaching philosophy.

To me, there's one I thing I know for sure about Tito. He's a fighter.

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