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Tito Vilanova set for 6 weeks of cancer treatment

The Barcelona head coach suffered a tumour relapse, the club confirmed today.

Image: Adam Davy/EMPICS Sport

BARCELONA COACH TITO Vilanova is to have surgery tomorrow and will undergo six weeks of treatment after suffering a cancer relapse, the Spanish league leaders said.

Vilanova, 44, has led Barcelona to their best league start ever but he must now undergo weeks of further care for cancer in his salivary gland, a club statement said.

Doctors monitoring him following a cancer operation a year ago detected “an extension of his condition which will require surgery” on Thursday plus chemotherapy or radiotherapy for “about six weeks” a club statement said.

“During this time, depending on how he develops, he could combine the treatment with his working life,” it added.

The club did not say who would stand in for Vilanova when the side travels to Valladolid for Saturday’s league game, but media reports said his assistant Jordi Roura was tipped to take over.

The club said its management would give a news conference later on Wednesday.

The statement said Vilanova had asked for his privacy to be respected.

The news came at a dramatic moment for Barca, flying nine points high at the top of La Liga while their fierce rivals and title holders Real Madrid are suffering a malaise.

Jose Mourinho’s Real are 13 points adrift in third place and rattled by reports of internal squabbles.

Atletico Madrid are in second place, nine points behind Barcelona.

Real Madrid joined various sporting figures in Spain and abroad in wishing Vilanova well after Spanish media reported the news.

“Real Madrid wishes to express all its support, love and affection for Barcelona’s coach Tito Vilanova, to whom it wishes a quick recovery,” it said. “Real Madrid extends this support to his club and all his family.”

Online message site Twitter buzzed with messages from sporting figures including former Barcelona and England striker Gary Lineker and Chelsea’s Spanish caretaker manager Rafael Benitez.

Spanish tennis champion Rafael Nadal tweeted: “All my strength and support to Tito Vilanova. We are with you to overcome this.”

“Lots of courage to Tito Vilanova and his relatives. We are all one football family,” tweeted Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos.

The president of the Spanish football federation Angel Maria Villar told the body’s Christmas lunch: “I would like to wish with all my heart a quick recovery to Tito Vilanova. I am sure that he will overcome this difficulty.”

Vilanova has been Barca manager since the departure of his long-time comrade-in-arms Pep Guardiola in April.

Vilanova underwent an operation to remove a tumour on his parotid gland — the largest of the salivary glands — on November 22, 2011 and was back at work as Guardiola’s deputy just two weeks later.

One of the world’s most successful football teams, Barca are riding high largely thanks to Argentine talisman Lionel Messi, who has taken his goal tally for the calendar year to a record-breaking 90.

Way back

Vilanova played only briefly as a professional in Spain’s top flight, notably with Celta Vigo, before turning to coaching at the end of his career and finding his way back to the club of his youth.

He came through Barcelona’s youth ranks but after failing to break into the first team he continued his playing career with lower league clubs before retiring in 2002.

He rejoined the Catalans as a youth coach in 2007, helping Barcelona’s B side to promotion.

Vilanova was promoted to first team duties, working alongside Guardiola, for the 2008-2009 season, by the end of which the team had won six major trophies including the Champions League.
- © AFP, 2012

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