BARCELONA: Spanish champions Barcelona are hunting for a new coach after Tito Vilanova stepped down to continue his treatment for cancer.

The 44-year-old had a tumour removed from his throat in November 2011 before suffering a relapse last year.

Vilanova underwent surgery in December 2012 and spent 10 weeks in New York for chemotherapy and radiotherapy before returning in March to lead his side to the Spanish title.

A new manager should be announced next week, according to president Sandro Rosell and director of football Andoni Zubizarreta at a brief media conference attended by the first-team squad.

Rossell said: “Tito Vilanova will continue treatment of his illness, he will not be able to continue as Barcelona’s head manager. This is a very difficult blow to the club, but we have overcome many difficult setbacks.”

Barcelona’s friendly with Polish club Lechia Gdansk on Saturday night has been cancelled.

Vilanova replaced Pep Guardiola as coach in June 2012, having previously worked as his assistant. Joan Francesc Ferrer, known as Rubi, could replace Vilanova in a caretaker capacity.

He joined Barca’s coaching staff last month as an assistant to Vilanova and Jordi Roura, who took charge of the first team when Vilanova was absent last season.

Rubi was head coach of Girona last term and led the club to the Segunda Division play-offs, where they lost to Almeria.