The New Coach at Barcelona – Tito Vilanova

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” Tito Vilanova looks cool, calm and collected as he prepares for his first competitive game as Barcelona head coach at the Camp Nou against Real Sociedad in their La Liga opener next Sunday, but it would be strange if he were not at least a little nervous. Josep Guardiola’s four seasons in charge of Barcelona brought 14 trophies from the 19 competitions entered, including three La Liga titles and two Champions Leagues, as well as widespread acclaim as perhaps the best side in the history of the game. Even though Vilanova was there throughout as Guardiola’s assistant, it is difficult to think of a harder act to follow in football.

Rarely had the success of one team – especially one including talent like three-time FIFA Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi and world and European champions Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta – been so associated with its coach. This was Guardiola’s team or, more popularly, the ‘Pep’ team. That’s why there was such consternation among Barca fans when Guardiola – after agonising over whether to sign a contract extension through most of last season, announced in April that he was definitely stepping down. It was not just supporters who were disappointed – Xavi and Iniesta had led a chorus of Blaugrana players calling on Pep to stay, while Messi was so distraught he could not join his team-mates at the press conference when the decision was announced.

Aware of this, Barcelona president Sandro Rosell and Andoni Zubizarreta decided to demonstrate clearly that as little as possible was going to change at the Camp Nou. Vilanova was promoted from within, with the idea pushed that even though their burnt-out leader was leaving, success would continue as before.

“Tito represents our play, our ideas, our preparation,” Zubizarreta said that day. “Nobody from outside can do this. Who do we have in-house? It was an easy decision. He is different to Pep, that is clear, but we will work with the same idea, the same profile. Talking with Guardiola, too, we saw we should take this direction.”

Listening to Zubizarreta, the logic seemed clear, but even so nobody had seen the decision coming at the time. On the day there was widespread shock in the Camp Nou press room, and among Barcelona fans worldwide. This was partly because Vilanova had just months previously undergone a serious operation to remove a tumour from his parotid gland, but mostly because few really saw him as leadership material. He was Guardiola’s shadow, a trusted counsellor and friend, but not a potential No. 1. Until Mourinho had poked him in the eye during last summer’s Supercopa game, not many outside Barca’s core fanbase knew he was.”

To learn more about Barcelona’s new guy continue reading about Tito Vilanova.

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