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Former Barcelona player, assistant Juan Carlos Unzué reveals he has ALS

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The footballing world stands in solidarity with the man who recently coached Celta and Girona

Albacete Balompie v Girona FC - La Liga Smartbank Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Juan Carlos Unzué has revealed in a meeting of his closest friends and family that he has ALS.

“I just wanted to tell you that I have ALS. In my case, it is affecting my arms, hands, and legs in a symmetrical way. Today, it is a disease without treatment or cure, except for pills that help most patients slow the progression of the disease,” he said in a meeting room at Camp Nou.

Unzué said he had been diagnosed around a year ago. ALS, which stands for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is also known as motor neurone disease (MND) or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

He was most recently the head coach of Girona, and before that, of Celta Vigo. He gained prominence as a coach when he was Luis Enrique’s assistant at FC Barcelona. The pair won the treble together in their first season. among other successes.

A goalkeeper in his playing days, Unzué spent some time as a Barcelona player. As part of the Catalan giants, he won the Copa del Rey and the European Cup Winners’ Cup, although he was only a backup in those days. He played mostly with Sevilla, where he was a starter.

Present at the meeting where, among others, Luis Enrique; Barcelona players Gerard Piqué, Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets, and Sergi Roberto; club president Josep Maria Bartomeu; former teammate Carlos Puyol; and current Barcelona manager Quique Setién.

FC Barcelona, among other clubs, have sent a message of support. So too have coaches such as Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola. In addition, the Spanish football association sent a message to Unzué.

ALS causes weakness in the muscles, difficulty speaking and swallowing, difficulty concentrating, and pain. Most people with ALS eventually lose the ability to walk, use their hands, speak, swallow, and eventually breathe. According to the ALS Association, “the average survival time is three years, about 20 percent of people with ALS live five years, 10 percent will survive 10 years and 5 percent will live 20 years or longer.”