SPORT

Tito Vilanova Dead: Former Barcelona Coach Dies Aged 45

25/04/2014 18:15 BST | Updated 25/04/2014 20:59 BST

Tito Vilanova, the former coach of FC Barcelona, has died after a long battle with illness. He was 45-years-old.

The former youth team player had been diagnosed with throat cancer in 2011, and had undergone surgery to have a growth removed.

However, he suffered a relapse in 2012, ultimately forcing him to step down from the manager’s job at the Camp Nou last year. Tata Martino was appointed as his successor.

The Catalan club released a statement on Friday that read: "FC Barcelona is in immense mourning. Tito Vilanova has died at the age of 45. May he rest in peace.

tito vilanova

Vilanova was in charge of Barça for their 2012-13 Primera Liga-winning campaign

"The club wishes to express its most heartfelt sympathy to his family, who are being joined in these moments of mourning by FC Barcelona members and fans all around the world, as well as the rest of the footballing and sporting world. The Vilanova family has asked for respect for their desire for the strictest intimacy in the moments after his death."

Lionel Messi, the star of Vilanova's Barcelona team, said on his Facebook page: "A person difficult to forget. I will always remember you. All my love to the family of Tito."

A former midfielder who spent his playing career largely in the Spanish second division, Vilanova first assisted Guardiola with the Barcelona B team before the pair stepped up to the first XI in 2008 The pair oversaw the club's 2009 and 2011 Champions League wins during four trophy-laden campaigns.

In sole charge, Vilanova led Barca to their highest ever points total for a La Liga season during his single season in charge, their 100 points a joint record for the division with Real Madrid.

Tito Vilanova Career Pictures