Francesc “Tito” Vilanova passed away last Friday after a short bout with parotid gland cancer. He was 45 years old. Though his career at the helm of FC Barcelona was restricted to one full campaign, it’ll be that one glorious season that will forever sear him into the hearts of culés everywhere. After ascending the ranks of the team’s B squad as an assistant to Josep “Pep” Guardiola, it wouldn’t be until the latter’s move to Bayern München for the 2013 season that Tito’s grasp of the beautiful sport be fully seen.
What he would’ve done with the team will remain unknown, but for one dominant stretch, Barça lost a paltry eight matches in competition play and took La Liga’s trophy for the 22nd time in its 114 year history. As a player, Tito got his start in Barcelona’s youth system but failed to impress for a promotion past the B squad. He would go on to a thirteen year career with short stints in second and third tier teams, most notably a three year stay at Celta de Vigo.
Unlike other players turned coach, Tito had a better understanding of the pitch’s set pieces and how to deal with the egos that come along with it. It is undeniable that Guardolia’s tenure set the wheels in motion but Tito’s helmsman-ship of the team was a seamless and productive transition. At 45, Tito leaves behind his wife and two young children. While cancer is a terrible disease that has left a huge void in his family, it has left a larger void in the hearts of a new generation of fans that exist beyond the geographical borders of Catalonia.
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