Tito Vilanova departs to win his fight for life

Posted by Francesc Tomas

Cancer has decided to hit Tito Vilanova once again and, unfortunately, the Catalan coach has been forced to give up his dream of coaching Barcelona for a second season. The terrible, devastating news was confirmed by under-pressure president Sandro Rosell and sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta in front of the astounded eyes of players, colleagues and the world's media.

- Hunter: Anims, Tito
- Barcelona confirm Vilanova exit

The ruthless condition that the Catalan coach has been fighting since November 2011 seems to, at least momentarily, have won the battle and denied him of the chance to show whether he could lead Barcelona to an even better season this time around. Disappointingly, Cules will never find out if the man who achieved a record 100 points and 115 goals in a single Liga campaign could inspire the team to reach even higher heights in his second year in charge.

Despite going through obvious difficulties at a personal level throughout the season, Vilanova managed to keep his integrity intact, always prioritising the interest of his team to his own, risking his valuable health to do so if necessary. The fact that doctors had to stop him from coming back to training as soon as he returned from endless weeks of undergoing chemotherapy in New York City clearly exemplifies what a dedicated, strong-minded individual Vilanova really is.

Sadly, even the most courageous individuals reach a point when they just can't see a way forward and it is at that exact point when something must give. In Vilanova's case, the only decision which could possibly be taken ahead of the prospect of yet another round of exhausting treatment was giving up his high-profile job and focusing on what really matters: Life.

Note: Some are already speculating about the fact that the uncomfortable situation centered on mentor and former best friend Pep Guardiola last week could have influenced Vilanova's decision to step down. I'd like to point out that, personally, I believe Vilanova would have continued at the Camp Nou next season if his health had allowed him to do so, despite his obvious disappointment about the whole situation.

What next for Barcelona?

A couple of weeks ago I argued that, despite all the uncertainty and doubts surrounding the club, fans should simply trust Tito Vilanova and hope that the talented manager could build an even stronger side this season. Well, that is certainly not going to be possible, so Rosell must find a convincing, effective solution as a matter of urgency.

Early reports indicate that the club is considering assistant coach Joan Francesc Ferrer "Rubi" to fill the vacancy. The 43-year-old was able to lead humble side Girona FC to their best-ever season, finishing fourth in Segunda Division and coming desperately close to being promoted to the top flight after an impressive playoff run.

With all due respect, however, I just don't feel the hugely inexperienced manager is the right man for the job at this moment in time. As the difficult times under Jordi Roura showed last season, it takes an inspirational leader to take the best out of the current squad. Professional footballers are complex individuals who need a strong role model they respect and admire in order to improve even further. Plus, and contrary to what many believe, Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, Neymar and Xavi Hernandez cannot simply jump on the pitch and coach themselves.

With an official club announcement set to be made next week, it is certainly very early to even predict who the next Blaugrana coach may be, but based on his current contractual situation, former Athletic Bilbao manager Marcelo Bielsa would be my preferred choice: innovative, creative, a unique methodology, an attacking mentality, used to demanding job conditions and well-respected by players and supporters alike. And currently unemployed, which obviously helps.

The only way for Barcelona to get through these difficult times is ensuring the community stays together and focuses on supporting the squad rather than fighting unnecessary battles against each other. Following the cruel departure of Tito Vilanova, the need for unity has become even more crucial.

Let's continue the healing process. The show must go on.


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