Tito Vilanova
Tito Vilanova, who died this afternoon aged 45.Reuters

Tita Vilanova, former coach of Barcelona, has died today at the age of 45.

Vilanova, who had been battling cancer since 2011, passed away a day after being admitted to hospital for emergency surgery to treat gastric complication.

His death has left the football world in mourning, with even his one-time arch-rival Jose Mourinho sending a moving tribute.

Vilanova coached Barca for just one season, 2012-13, before stepping down to continue his cancer treatment. Upon leaving the club, he published an open letter dedicated to the Barcelona family, thanking them for their support during his fight against terminal illness.

IBTimes UK can now print the letter in full. It reads:

Thank you Barça, thank you everyone

After five marvellous years forming part of a team that has made what any manager dreams of come true, the time has come to face a change in my professional career in order to put my strength and energy into continuing the process of the illness that was diagnosed a year and a half ago.

The treatments that I am going to have to undergo from now on does not make it recommendable, in the doctors' opinion, for me to dedicate one hundred per cent of my effort to being the first team manager of a team as demanding as FC Barcelona, but I shall be staying close by and will be continuing to work for the Club that I love so much in other jobs in the sports area.

It is not easy to leave such a special group of people, the players, my fellow staff and friends with whom I have shared so many unforgettable experiences. I am eternally grateful for everything that they have given and shown to me. The human and footballing qualities of this team can overcome any obstacle and I am convinced that they will be able to use that capacity to face the new sporting challenges of a season that everybody has such high hopes for.

I would also like to especially thank the president, the whole of the Board of Directors, and the director of sport Andoni Zubizarreta for all the trust they have put into me and especially for their unconditional support, both sporting and personal. Just as important to me has been the human and medical support of Doctor Ramon Canal and his team, who have been by my side. I know that I am not playing this match alone, but I form part of a Club that will help me get through this long process, as it has done until now.

To you, the Barça members and supporters, I also want to say thank you for all the shows of support and affection that you have sent me, not just now but all these last months. I can tell you that that I feel calm and strong, and I am facing this new stage of the process in the full confidence that it will all go well.

Thank you very much too to all the football fans, fellow professionals, clubs, athletes and people that I do and do not know for all the messages of support that have brought so much comfort to me and my family.

These are difficult times for my loved ones and that's why I am asking for respect and understanding from the media. Now that I am no longer Barça manager, I hope to enjoy the peace and privacy that both me and my family need at a time like this.

I couldn't finish this letter without wishing lots of luck and every success to the new manager of the best team in the world.

Thank you everybody.

Tito Vilanova