'Grateful' Vilanova bids farewell
Tito Vilanova has thanked Barcelona for "five wonderful years" of his life as statements of support continue to flood in for the outgoing manager, including from his predecessor Pep Guardiola.
Vilanova, 44, is unable to continue in his role as he receives cancer treatment, the club confirmed on Friday afternoon.
In an open letter published on the club's official website, Vilanova wrote: "After five wonderful years as part of a team that has made dreams come true for any coach, it's time to face a change in my professional life and focus my energy on continuing to fight the disease I was diagnosed with a year and a half ago.
"The doctors recommend that, with the treatments that I must follow from now on, I cannot devote 100 per cent to the tasks of head coach as required by FC Barcelona. But I will continue to work closely for the club that I love on other sporting tasks.
"It is not easy to leave this very special group of players, fellow staff and friends with whom I shared many memorable experiences. I'll be eternally grateful for everything you have given me and the affection you have shown."
Vilanova was Pep Guardiola's assistant before being promoted to the top job last summer. In his one campaign in charge, Vilanova led Barca to their fourth Primera Division title in five years, becoming only the second team after Real Madrid to reach the 100-point mark.
He had a tumour removed from his throat in late 2011, but suffered a relapse a year later. He underwent another operation on his parotid gland in December before beginning a course of chemotherapy and radiotherapy in New York, where Guardiola was taking a year-long sabbatical after leaving the Nou Camp.
"I also want to especially thank the president (Sandro Rosell), the board and all the sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta for the confidence they put in me and, above all, the unconditional support, both sporting and personal," Vilanova wrote.
"Equally important to me is the support I receive - both medical and humane - from Dr Ramon Canal and his team of doctors who are on my side. I do not play this game alone, but as part of a supportive club that will help me succeed in this long process, as it has done until now."
He added: "To all of you, members and fans of the club, I also want to thank you wholeheartedly for the support and affection that you have shown - not just now but over the last few months. I can tell you I'm calm, strong and that I start this new stage in my recovery with full confidence that all will be well."
Vilanova ended his letter by requesting "tranquility and privacy", and wishing "much luck and every success to the new coach of the best team in the world".
Guardiola, speaking after his Bayern Munich side's 4-0 pre-season win over Hamburg, later wished Vilanova well in his continued battle.
The 42-year-old was quoted by the Spanish press as saying: "It's difficult for me to talk about a friend like Tito in German. I love him so very much. I wish him and his family all the best as they tackle this difficult moment with strength. This is very, very hard for me."
Andres Iniesta offered his support in AS: "Tito will once again win this terrible battle facing him. On behalf of the players and everyone, I send him all my love and support. At the end of the day, this is about a person, not a coach."
Real boss Carlo Ancelotti also added his own personal message for Vilanova as he faced the press in Madrid.
"I'd like to send my colleague Tito a message of support and encouragement," he said. "It saddens me. He's a fighter and will go on fighting."
The likes of Marcelo Bielsa, Gerardo Martino, Andre Villas-Boas, Michael Laudrup, Luis Enrique and Rubi - who recently joined the Catalan club's coaching staff - are being linked to the now vacant role.
Information from the Press Association was used in this report.