The moment Pep Guardiola confirmed that he would not stay on as Barcelona coach after last season, questions started to be asked as to who would be the man to replace the club’s most successful coach
It appeared as though Guardiola had decided to end his time at Nou Camp months earlier but the club tried to delay any announcement in the hope that maybe he would change his mind and he did not.
Despite Barca’s record-breaking success under Guardiola over the past four years - resulting in 13 trophies and countless magical moments – his assistant Tito Vilanova was rarely at the center of attention.
As Guardiola’s righ hand man, Vilanova came to prominence back in August of last year during the stoppage time of the Spanish Super Cup return leg between Barcelona and Real Madrid at Camp Nou.
A wild challenge by Marcelo on Fabregas sparked a scuffle between players of both clubs, and ended with Real coach Jose Mourinho, a man never short of controversies, poked a finger in the eye of Vilanova, an incident which was widely reported by the Spanish press.
Mourinho was reprimanded for his behaviours, and Vilanova rose to prominence, but when the 42-year-old was confirmed as Barcelona’s coach for the next two seasons, it came somewhat as a surprise.
Despite some of the big names in the game including Arsene Wenger, Louis Van Gaal, Guus Hiddink being mentioned as Guardiola’s possible successors, no one mentioned Vilanova’s name.
Guardiola and Vilanova grew up together in La Masia’s youth setup in the 1980s, but while the former Guardiola went on to become a star in Johan Cruyff’s ‘Dream Team’ - winning six La Liga titles and a European Cup, the later failed to graduate at Nou Camp.
Guardiola would go to achieve the biggest trophy haul in Barca’s proud history, including two Champions Leagues, three La Ligas, two Club World Cups, two Copa del Reys and five Supercups.
When Guardiola was appointed coach to replace the much loved Frank Rijkaard, how many knew about him especially that his coaching experience had been limited to one year as coach of Barcelona B?
Therefore, much as the world knows or knew little about Barceloan’s next coach, I think the club, which has a history of recruiting from within, have reasons to trust him with such a magnificent project.
Although Tito was been Pep’s right hand man as he coached Barcelona B and the senior team, he (Tito) kept a low profile. I imagine that many people, including myself knew who he was until Mourinho infamously poked him in the eye.
Barca fans, neutrals and haters alike must be wondering how Tito Vilanova will perform in what is a very demanding job, especially given the size of shoes (sic coach) he’s stepping into.
Appointing a low profile and an insider man like Tito could end up being a very good move as it gives the club the opportunity to make the necessary changes without necessarily changing the direction of the team.
Remember, there is always a danger that any new coach would feel the need to change everything so as to enforce his own way of doing things. We may not see this with Tito, and it may end up working pretty well for him and the club.
Regardless of the name he is replacing and or how successful his predecessor was, any new coach would find Barcelona a difficult environment.
At Nou Camp, success and style go hand in hand, and having been involved with the club almost all his life, the player will do everything possible to help their new coach build on his predecessor’s achievements.
After all, just the other day, Fifa World Player of the Year Lionel Messi talked of how Tito Vilanova played a big role in making him the player he is at the moment.