BARCELONA: Former Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova has died aged 45 after a long battle with cancer.

Vilanova had a tumour removed from his throat in November 2011 before suffering a relapse in December 2012. He stepped down as Barca boss last July to continue his treatment, with Gerardo Martino taking charge. Vilanova was readmitted to hospital last week.

A club statement said: “FC Barcelona is in immense mourning. Tito Vilanova has died at the age of 45. May he rest in peace. The club wishes to express its most heartfelt sympathy to his family, who are being joined in these moments of mourning by FC Barcelona members and fans all around the world, as well as the rest of the footballing and sporting world.

“The Vilanova family has asked for respect for their desire for the strictest intimacy in the moments after his death.”

The ex-Barca youth team player was Pep Guardiola’s assistant before stepping up to replace the now-Bayern Munich boss when he decided to take a sabbatical from football in June 2012.

Vilanova had surgery in December 2012 and spent 10 weeks in New York having chemotherapy and radiotherapy but returned in March 2013 to see his side take the Spanish title in his sole season in charge.

Barcelona won La Liga with a league record of 100 points from a possible 114, equalling the total achieved by Real Madrid in 2011-12.

In addition, his side set a scoring record of 115 goals in 38 matches. His overall La Liga record stood at 32 wins, four draws and two defeats, as Barca finished 15 points clear of runners-up Real Madrid.

His team were knocked out of last season’s Champions League after a 7-0 aggregate semi-final defeat by Bayern Munich.

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho saying Vilanova’s death was “a sad day for football”. Mourinho had several run-ins with Vilanova during his time at Real Madrid, most notably at the end of the 2011 Spanish Super Cup.

Othwer tributes came from all Barcelona’s players led by Leo Messi, Cesc Fabregas and Victor Valdes as well as from Real Madrid’s Spain defender Sergio Ramos.

The Spanish Football Federation added Vilanova would “always be linked to a unique generation of players”.