With the saddened Barcelona players and staff sitting in the front rows of a surprise press conference, club president Sandro Rosell announced that manger Tito Vilanova would step down as he continues his battle against cancer. As a result of this upsetting news, Saturday's friendly against Lechia Gdansk in Poland has been canceled.
Despite missing portions of his only season in charge while he received treatment for throat cancer in New York City, Vilanova still led Barcelona to reclaim the league title from Real Madrid. His absences did weight heavy on the team though, and the season was not without its disappointments — namely a crushing 7-0 aggregate Champions League semifinal loss to eventual treble winners Bayern Munich.
Unlike Vilanova and predecessor Pep Guardiola, Barcelona's next manager will reportedly come from outside of the club instead of being an assistant promoted from within. A move that could disrupt the historic success and stability they've been able to achieve over the last four years. Or it could reinvigorate a team that might haven otherwise been nearing the end of their cycle of dominance. The new manager is expected to be named early next week, suggesting Barcelona were prepared for this possibility.
Both Real Madrid and Jose Mourinho, who famously poked Vilanova in the eye during a typically combustible edition of El Clasico, have both offered their well wishes to the 44-year-old via Twitter.
We would like to send our support, affection, and solidarity to Tito Vilanova, his family, friends, and FC Barcelona. #GetWellSoonTito
— Real Madrid C.F. (@realmadriden) July 19, 2013
Jose Mourinho, his coaching staff and the Chelsea players also all send their best wishes to Tito Vilanova for his fast recovery. — Chelsea FC (@chelseafc) July 19, 2013