Couple of hours ago FC Barcelona’s President Rosell and Technical Director Andoni Zubizarreta announced that Tito Vilanova, Barcelona’s coach, was leaving his post because of the relapse of his illness. In the year, 2011, while Pep Guardiola was still the coach of Barça and Tito was his able assistant, the news that he had been detected to have parotid gland cancer had hit Barcelona badly. It affected Guardiola and many of the players of the team. However Tito recovered and in May 2012, when Guardiola announced his departure, Tito (in the same press conference where Guardiola was bidding adieu) was declared to be the new coach of Barcelona. When Guardiola left, Barça fans, the culés, were disappointed because the most successful coach in the history of Barcelona was leaving the club. Some fans really doubted Tito’s ability to manage all the stars in the team and keep them disciplined while some others felt reassured that Barça’s beautiful touch-and-pass attacking football will not be affected because Tito Vilanova will build up on the same legacy, as he belonged to the same school of football philosophy as Guardiola.
Amid this mixture of doubts and hope, support and skepticism and against an overly aggressive Real Madrid led by José Mourinho, Tito Vilanova took charge. The first half of his first term silenced his critics and skeptics. Barcelona reached Christmas with more points than it had ever done by that time in its history. In fact many Madrid fans, including its coach, had admitted that Barcelona had already won the League title. The New Year didn’t begin well. Tito Vilanova had a relapse of his cancer and had to spend two crucial months in New York recovering from his illness. His illness badly affected team’s performance in all competitions. Barcelona still managed to win the league though. But Barcelona’s performances by the end of the year didn’t satisfy fans.
Tito also had to suffer constant comparisons with Guardiola. Despite their similarities in playing styles, Guardiola and Tito have been two very different individuals. If Guardiola had been an example of elegance, poise, obsessive adherence to the philosophy of the game, Tito was more pragmatic, self-assured, precise, direct and (to an extent) silent. Tito didn’t have eloquent justifications for his strategies, nor he had mesmerizing oratory skills; he was a coach who spoke players’ language. He handled wonderfully, when it came to avoiding controversies and playing mindgames with Mourinho.
Everybody expected Tito to start afresh, consolidate his work and take Barcelona to new heights this year. With a shaken Madrid under change and Neymar’s arrival every Barça follower thought that this was going to be Tito Vilanova’s year. Barcelona was in a position to pick up from where it ended last year, build up on it and keep winning games and trophies. At least that’s what die-hard Barça fans expected.
However, when it was announced today that Tito is leaving, it has left culés in a state of shock and profound sadness. This is truly the end of Guardiola’s legacy. Nobody knows who will be the next coach, but he definitely won’t belong to the core group that took Barcelona where it is today.
Whether under new coach Barcelona wins trophies or not, doesn’t matter. All the victories and losses are irrelevant and unimportant as there is only one victory that now really matters, and that’s Tito’s victory over his illness.
Get well soon Tito,
(Written on 11:49 pm, 19th July, 2013)