The rise of Tito Vilanova

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Sandro Rosell surprised the assembled press somewhat on Friday when, immediately after announcing that Pep Guardiola would leave his job as Barcelona manager at the of the season, he confirmed Tito Vilanova as the former's successor.

It was more the timing to the announcement that left many aghast and, after the dust had settled, it was clear that the appointment of Vilanova made perfect sense and remained in keeping with Barca's managerial policy.

When Frank Rijkaard was relieved of his duties in 2008, Barca resisted the temptation to hand the manager's job to a high-profile tactician, despite Jose Mourinho being interviewed for the position.

They instead decided to appoint from within; allowing Guardiola, a man more representative of the club's ideals than any other, to progress from coaching Barcelona B to taking charge of the first-team.

And this is the pattern they have attempted to replicate by promoting Vilanova.

"We've always said that if the team needs players, we look at home first," said Barca sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta at Friday's press conference.

"What do we have here at home? Tito.

"We chose Tito because he represents the idea and the image. He has commitment and personality."

Vilanova's association with the Catalan giants stretches back over 25 years, having been part of the famous La Masia academy as a teenager, where he struck up a strong bond with a future Barca captain and manager. That man was Guardiola.

While Guardiola went on to achieve greatness as a player at the Nou Camp, his friend failed to graduate to the Barca first-team, and Vilanova instead moved to Celta Vigo in order to make the grade at the top level, making his debut for the Galician side in 1992.

However, the young midfielder was not afforded the opportunities he would have hoped for during three years with Celta, and dropped back down to the lower echelons of the Spanish leagues with Badajoz, Mallorca, Lledida, and Eleche, before retiring at Gramenet.

Following his decision to quit playing, Vilanova became technical director at Barcelona-based Segunda B side Terrassa, but was soon reunited with Guardiola when his former teammate took the reigns with Barca B in 2007.

The pair spent only one season with the reserve side, with whom they won promotion from Spain's fourth tier, before being assigned the task of moving from the Mini Estadi to the Nou Camp in order to succeed Rijkaard and Johan Neeskens.

Their success was instant as they oversaw the most successful season in the history of Barcelona; winning six trophies - including the Champions League - and, in doing so, became the first team in Spain to complete the Treble.

A further seven honours followed over the next two seasons, as Barca established themselves in the eyes of many as the best club side in the history of football, and Vilanova's influence has always been highly-valued in Catalonia.

This campaign, though, began on a sour note for the 42-year-old, when he was involved in an altercation during the Supercopa Clasico, during which he was gouged in the eye by Real Madrid boss Mourinho.

There was far worse news to follow for Vilanova, however, when it was discovered late last year that he a tumour on his parotid gland, the largest of of the salivary glands.

Thankfully, he underwent a successful operation last November, and was quickly integrated back into Guardiola's set-up, despite being advised by some to have an extended period away from the game.

The accusation of lacking courage cannot be one levelled at Vilanova, and he has certainly proven that mental and physical make-up is one suited to management.

Should he find the going tougher than expected, however, Vilanova can rely on Guardiola for advice, if he ever needs it.

"Barca is making a great choice. He's very capable. The players know him. Even though I won't be here physically - if Tito needs me, I'm here," Guardiola told the press.

"I think the club has taken the best decision possible. He is more than capable. The players know him. He will make few changes.

"He will give the club and these players something that I thought I could no longer give. I could have continued but is not what Barca would have deserved."

Some suspect that Vilanova is merely keeping the position warm for his great friend, and faces the prospect of being removed when Guardiola decides he is ready to return to the game.

Yet, with everything already in place at the Nou Camp, who is to say that Vilanova will not be able to replicate the feats of the finest manager in Barcelona history.

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