Barcelona President Sandro Rosell has assured fans that Coach Tito Vilanova will be ‘back with us very soon.’
Rosell and sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta held a Press conference this evening in the wake of the club’s earlier announcement that Vilanova has suffered a relapse of last year’s health difficulties, and will undergo surgery tomorrow followed by chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Club captains Carles Puyol, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and Tito Vilanova were all in attendance, sat in the front row of the club’s media room.
“We’re appearing because an extension of Tito Vilanova’s pathology has been detected,” Rosell began. “We want to express our unconditional support to Tito and his family.”
The situation has been something of an open secret today, with details widely reported throughout the Spanish Press, but official confirmation did not arrive until early evening. Rosell explained why.
“Yesterday we learned the news. Tito wanted to explain it to the players first, and we respected his will. We thank everyone for their support. Tito is strong, very strong, he’s shown us that and we’re convinced he’ll back with us very soon. We have complete confidence in the team. The club is very strong and united, we’re capable of overcoming adversity.”
Zubizarreta rejected rumours that former boss Pep Guardiola had been asked to return in order to fill in during his former assistant’s absence, emphasising that although current assistant Jordi Roura will take temporary charge, Vilanova is and will remain Barcelona Coach.
“We haven’t spoken to Guardiola,” said the former Blaugrana goalkeeper. “Roura will sit on the bench at [Real] Valladolid, but the Coach is Tito. Barcelona will be in extraordinary hands with Roura and the rest of the coaching staff.”
Zubizarreta admitted the news was especially galling on a day that should have been a celebration, with Eric Abidal at long last returning to training and Puyol, Xavi and Lionel Messi signing new deals.
“Tito’s strength will be the strength of all the players, including Abidal. We closed the renovation of three marvellous players, then we were hit by this, right in the jaw. Now we will pick ourselves up.”
Lastly the sporting director was asked if the result in Saturday’s game against Real Valladolid still mattered.
“We’re a football team, so of course we want to win in Valladolid, Tito told the players so. He’ll be watching on television. But today that’s not important. Tito is the priority.”