Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Who is Tito Vilanova? Barcelona's new coach profiled

Who is new Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova? talkSPORT has the low-down

With the shocking news that Pep Guardiola will leave FC Barcelona, Barca President Sandro Rossell nipped any speculation over Barca's next coach in the bud, announcing that Guardiola's assistant Tito Vilanova will take charge next season. With Vilanova something of an enigma on these shores, talkSPORT tell you all you need to know on the new man in charge at Barcelona.

Name: Francesc 'Tito' Vilanova i Vayo
Date of birth:
Bellcaire, Catalunya, Spain
Clubs as player:
FC Barcelona (youth), Celta Vigo, RCD Mallorca
Managerial experience:
FC Palafrugell, FC Barcelona Cadete B (coach), FC Barcelona B assistant coach, FC Barcelona assistant coach.

The low-down
A former room-mate of Pep Guardiola at La Masia, Vilanova was a midfielder by trade like his compatriot. After making his way through the youth ranks to the B team however, Vilanova couldn't break through into Barca's first squad, and sought his chances elsewhere. Successful spells at Celta Vigo and RCD Mallorca are highlights amongst a myriad of different clubs, but in the end Vilanova retired as a player without the glories achieved by his friend.

As a manager, Vilanova had a bright start, returning to the Nou Camp to learn his trade as coach of the famous FC Barcelona youth team featuring the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Lionel Messi and Gerard Pique. Brief spells elsewhere took him away from Barca momentarily, but he soon returned as assistant to Pep Guardiola at Barcelona B. When Guardiola was offered the chance to take on the role of Barca first team coach, he insisted he would only do so should Vilanova continue as his assistant. Indeed, Guardiola publicly thanked Vilanova for turning down job offers as a first team coach at other La Liga sides that year. With his appointment as Barcelona coach as of next season, Vilanova seems to have made the right decision. FC Barcelona's youth strategy has successfully extended to continuous home-grown managers as a result..

Though much more withdrawn than Pep Guardiola, Vilanova has been credited as the tactical mastermind behind Pep's success at the Nou Camp. Known for his attention to detail, Guardiola can often be seen consulting Vilanova on the touchline after Barcelona concede a goal or need to react mid-game. Vilanova has also successfully taken charge of the Barcelona first team on the rare occasions that Guardiola received a touchline ban, and was famously involved in an incident where Jose Mourinho gouged him in the eye after a heated el Clasico encounter. In a press conference afterwards, Mourinho feigned ignorance, claiming he didn't know who Vilanova was. Jose had best do his research for next season.

In November of 2011 Vilanova was operated on to remove a tumour from his salivary glands, missing several FC Barcelona games as a result. He returned for the el clasico match with Real Madrid in December, and is thought to have recovered well. Vilanova's style is expected to be similar to Pep Guardiola's, though it remains to be seen how the appointment of a new number two will impact the running of the team. One name rumoured for that position is Barcelona youth coach and fellow La Masia graduate Oscar Garcia, in which case Barcelona's youth cycle would continue one step further.

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