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Barcelona have already moved to install a successor to the stricken 44-year-old, as they seek to ensure that the inspirational coach's good work does not go to waste

At a hastily arranged press conference on Friday evening, Barcelona president Sandro Rosell confirmed the rumour that the entire footballing world had been praying was not true: Tito Vilanova has stepped down as coach to continue his already lengthy battle against cancer.

Flanked by sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta and sat before the club's playing staff, Rosell defiantly declared: "It is a very big blow, a huge blow, but Barcelona has overcome many obstacles in its history - and this will be no exception."

The message was clear: the Blaugrana will not only once again support their stricken coach every step of the way on his road to recovery, they will also ensure that everything he strived so hard to build at Camp Nou last season will not suddenly come crashing down.

Indeed, Rosell revealed that a replacement will be installed in a matter of days. Whoever succeeds Vilanova as coach will, of course, have an almighy void to fill, given the truly inspirational way in which the courageous 44-year-old fought off cancer to lead the Blaugrana to the Liga title last season.

However, there will be much interest in the position and a number of frontrunners have already emerged. Consequently, we asked our readers to give us their thoughts on who they would like to succeed Vilanova at the helm and, below, in alphabetical order, are the five most popular choices ...

WHO SHOULD BE BARCELONA'S NEXT COACH?

Marcelo Bielsa

@ObjectiveKritic: "A quality coach and has the same playing tradition as Barcelona."

Prospects: One of the frontrunners to replace Pep Guardiola last summer and recently departed Athletic Bilbao.

Jupp Heynckes

@NikhilNaz: "Jupp Heynckes of course! Will be a perfect swap for Pep."

Prospects: Insisted he was retired after leading Bayern to the treble - but could be tempted by leading Barcelona.

Roberto Mancini

 @@MoeAlRabban: "I pray for Mancini to be the next Barcelona manager. Please let it be."

Prospects: Sacked by Manchester City after a trophyless campaign and has a questionable record in Europe.

Rubi (Joan Francesc Ferrer)

@JDTIPS: "Rubi is likely to take over. Sensibly, Barcelona will look internally."

Prospects: Recently arrived at Camp Nou from Girona as an assistant but fits in with Barcelona's internal strategy.

Andre Villas-Boas

@GeorgeLamb97: "AVB will go to Barcelona and Gareth Bale will follow!"

Prospects: Has already resisted the advances of PSG but would surely be tempted by an approach from Barcelona.

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