''You should never get nervous about anything. What today seems important, tomorrow isn't so any more.'' - Tito Vilanova
Francesc "Tito" Vilanova
(man of) Faith
Tito Vilanova passed away on Friday, April 25, 2014 at the age of 45.
When I heard the news that morning, I immediately began to tear up and cried. We all knew in the back of our minds that this was a possibility, but none of us wanted it nor were ready for it to happen.
For the football world, it is a sad day. For us in the Culé/Barcelona family, it's having a family member pass away.
Tito Vilanova the definition of the strong, quiet type of man and leader. He never desired the spotlight. Tito was always more of a "behind-the-scenes" type of guy. Yet, it was Tito's brilliance in tactical creativity, discovering new talent, his class, and his fighting spirit that made him a superstar-a humble superstar.
Tito began his playing career at La Masia. He was a part of Barceloan B in the late 1980s. In 2007, Tito return to La Masia and Barcelona, this time, as an assistant to Josep "Pep" Guardiola. Tito was Pep's assistant during "The Guardiola Era" of recent history at Barcelona. After Pep left the club at the end of the 2011-12 season, Tito Vilanova was named manager of the team.
Despite managing FC Barcelona for only one season, Tito Vilanova will go down as one of the most beloved managers and figures in club history.
Some of Tito's accomplishments include winning the 2012-13 La Liga title, leading FC Barcelona to their sixth straight UEFA Champions League semifinal appearance, and leading Barça to reach 100 points in La Liga, equaling the record set by Real Madrid just a year before. Tito's team averaged three goals a game in 2012-13.
Tito was a leader. Tito led from the bench, led from at home when he was ill, and yes, Tito Vilanova led from the hospital bed. What a man! What a leader! What a fighter! What a hero! What a legend!
The outpouring of condolences and support from the football world came by the dozens. Teams like Arsenal, Juventus, AC Milan, PSG, and many others tweeted out messages, sending condolences to Tito's family and the entire FC Barcelona family. Real Madrid sent a press release, sending their thoughts and prayers to Tito's family and to Barça.
Eric Abidal, one of the most beloved players in Barcelona history who played for Tito in '12-'13, said this of Tito:
"For all that we've lived together, I'll always remember you, my friend, RIP. Thanks for fighting. Abi22"
FC Barcelona players took to social media to thank Tito for all that he did:
Carles Puyol: "Many thanks for everything, Coach. An example on and off the pitch. We'll never forget you."
Javier Mascherano: "Farewell, Coach. Thanks for everything. Rest in Peace."
Jose Manuel Pinto: "When a beloved person says goodbye there are no words that transmit what you feel inside. Thanks for giving us so much."
Dani Alves: "Today we lose a great spirit, a great person. Thanks for fighting until the end. Rest in peace."
Andres Iniesta: "I'm speechless. You have been and will be an example. I'll never forget you. Rest in peace, coach. Kiss."
Isaac Cuenca: "Devastating news. Life is sometimes very unjust. Lots of strength to his family. We will never forget you."
Pedro: "I will never forget you!! Thanks for having been part of my life and for having been a truly great person."
Jonathan Dos Santos: "It's an irreparable loss. My most heartfelt condolences to his whole family. We'll always remember you."
Martin Montoya: "Rest in peace, Tito! Thanks for making Barcelona fans enjoy and for fighting until the end"
Sergi Roberto: "Rest in peace, Tito. Thanks for everything you taught us and for never stop fighting. You'll always be with us!"
Cristian Tello: "Damned disease. You took the life of a great man. But you'll never take my great memories."
Sergio Busquets (via Mundo Deportivo): "Tito, many thanks for everything you did for us. We love you and we will miss you."
Neymar: "All my respect. RIP."
Marc Bartra: "You help me accomplish my dream. You will always be in my heart."
Gerard Pique: "Thanks for everything, Tito. Even though you left too soon, I keep with me the great memories we lived together."
Cesc Fabregas: "Tito, thanks for everything you gave to football and to Barça. All culers will be eternally grateful."
Jordi Alba: "Thanks for making me a better player and a better person. Thanks for everything you taught us."
Victor Valdes: "Tito Vilanova, one of the best coaches I've had in my career. Thanks for everything you gave us! RIP"
Lionel Messi: "I will never forget Tito. Forever with you. All my love to his family."
FC Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu said, "Tito Vilanova was a wonderful person, and will never be forgotten. Thank you for everything you taught us. RIP."
On Saturday, April 26, Pep Guardiola said a few words about his great friend:
"Tito and I were both very young, we wanted to eat the world, and we did. The sadness will never leave me for the rest of my life. A great man has left us, and my friend, but Tito will always be in my heart."
Pep Guardiola was the face of the recent "golden era" of FC Barcelona. But Tito Vilanova had much to do with it as well, including helping make Lionel Messi into the player and greatness that Leo is today. In a 2012 interview with El Pais, Messi told the world that it was Tito that immediately knew Leo was capable of greatness back when both were at La Masia. "I have known him (Tito) since I was a kid. Tito was the first person who had faith in me because at the time, I was a substitute or didn't play, and he was the one who made me starter in the Under-16 category."
In the same interview, Messi mentioned that Tito was not afraid to be tough. "I know him well, he's open. He tells you things to your face without any type of problem, I like this."
Tough, smart, classy, and fair. That was and will always be the legacy of Tito Vilanova.
Tito showed us all how to live life to its fullest, despite the difficult circumstances one may have. Tito taught us how to forgive, like when he shook Jose Mourinho's hand before a 2012 Clásico game, despite the memory of being poked in the eye by Mou after the 2011 Spanish Supercup still on the minds of many. Tito taught us to always smile. But most importantly, Tito Vilanova taught us to never give up and to always fight.
I'm sorry, but I refuse to say cancer defeated Tito Vilanova. I'll never say it! For me, cancer did not defeat Tito. He was too strong for cancer. For me, Tito was being called home up in the heavens.
Cancer didn't beat Tito; cancer was just a tool in a bigger plan for Tito. I don't care if you think I'm crazy or some sort of fanatic. I'm not. That's just what I believe.
Tito Vilanova's Maker wanted Tito to join Him, and used cancer as a way of bringing Tito to His presence.
Tito, it breaks all of our hearts that you had to leave us. My condolences go out to the Vilanova family and friends, and my thoughts and prayers will always be with them.
I know that you, Tito, will be looking down from up above, and watching over your family: wife Montse, and your children, Carlota and Adrià.
Thank you for taking our team to heights none of us Culés could have ever imagined.
Thank you for helping create a football revolution that will never been seen again.
Thank you for teaching us so much on such a small amount of borrowed time.
Thank you, Tito Vilanova, for fighting until the very end.
I'll leave you with a few words that were dedicated to my late grandfather, Raymundo Càrdenas, when he passed away in 2013. I dedicated these words to Tito Vilanova:
"God looked around his garden
and found an empty space,
Then He looked down upon this earth
and saw your tired face,
He put his arms around you
and lifted you to rest,
God's garden must be beautiful
He only takes the best."
Gràcies Tito. Gracias Tito. Thank you, Tito.
We love you. We will miss you. No Culé or anyone else will ever forget you. Your memory and legacy will live on forever. Rest, and be welcomed into the presence of the Almighty.
Xoel, The Voice of els Culés