• Primera Liga

Barca's Vilanova may step down due to illness

ESPN staff
December 19, 2012 « Dodson chasing pigs & squirrels to prepare for Johnson | Chartbeat test »

Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova has again fallen ill, according to widespread reports in the Catalan and Spanish media on Wednesday morning.

Catalan newspaper Mundo Deportivo reported first that the coach, who successfully underwent an operation to remove a cancerous tumour just over 12 months ago, had suffered a relapse.

Barcelona have cancelled all their scheduled activities for the day, including a press conference which was to be given by club president Sandro Rosell.

"FC Barcelona states that the press conference of president Sandro Rosell, scheduled for midday today, has been cancelled," a statement from the club read. "The Christmas dinner which was to be held with the media has also been cancelled.

"The announcement of the winner of the IX Manuel Vazquez Montalban International Journalism Prize will go ahead today as scheduled. The club will be represented by institutional vice-president Carles Vilarrubi and director Ramon Pont i Ramon Cierco.

"Later today the club will release a new statement. Until then there will be no further statement on the matter. We regret any discomfort caused by this decision."

Barcelona's arch-rivals Real Madrid posted a message of support for Vilanova on their official website later on Wednesday.

"Real Madrid Football Club wishes to express its support and affection for FC Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova," a short statement read. "We wish him the quickest possible recovery. Real Madrid offers its full support to his club and all his family."

Vilanova, who replaced his former boss and friend Pep Guardiola as Barca first team coach last summer, has overseen the club's best start to a season. Sunday evening's 4-1 win over Atletico Madrid at Camp Nou stretched their lead in the Primera Division standings to nine points over second placed Atletico, with Real Madrid a further four points behind in third.

Unconfirmed reports in Spain suggest that Barcelona had already made contact with a potential replacement to take charge of the club until the end of the season.

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