By Martin Langer | Goal.com Spain Chief Editor
Despite Barcelona's record-breaking success under Pep Guardiola over the past four years - resulting in 13 trophies and countless magical moments - assistant coach Tito Vilanova has rarely been the centre of attention.
Until today that is, when the 42-year-old was somewhat surprisingly confirmed as Barcelona's coach for 2012-13 following the decision by Guardiola to step down at the end of the current season.
Born in the Catalonian region of Bellcaire d'Emporda in 1969, Guardiola's right-hand man has been very close to the Blaugrana boss during his entire career. The pair grew up together in La Masia's youth setup in the 1980s. But while Guardiola would go on to become a star in Johan Cruyff's Dream Team - winning six La Liga titles and a European Cup in 11 years with the seniors - Vilanova failed to graduate, and after two years with Barcelona B would embark on a modest playing career.
He had spells at Figueres, Celta, Badajoz, Mallorca, Lleida, Elche and Gramenet, where he would retire in 2002 after a professional career which spanned 14 years.
Vilanova then turned his attention to management. His only experience as a technical director came in 2006-07 at Terrassa, a club from the third tier of Spanish football. He returned to Barcelona in the summer of 2007 as an assistant to Guardiola at Barcelona B.
TITO VILANOVA | COACHING FACTFILE
When Guardiola succeeded Frank Rijkaard in 2008, Vilanova joined him on his new adventure, becoming an assistant coach with the first team.
The most notorious incident involving Vilanova as Guardiola’s assistant dates back to August 18 2011 in stoppage time of the Supercopa return leg between Barcelona and Real Madrid at Camp Nou. A reckless challenge by Marcelo on Cesc Fabregas sparked a scuffle between players of both clubs, and ended with Jose Mourinho poking a finger in the eye of Vilanova - a gesture which was widely reported by the Spanish press.
Last October, Vilanova faced a more important battle as he underwent emergency surgery to remove a tumor on his parotid gland. Thankfully, the operation was a success, and after a few weeks he was able to resume his job without a problem. There have been no recurrences of the problem since.
According to Barcelona sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta, Vilanova's appointment as successor to Guardiola is "a logical decision" because he "represents the same style of play and the same philosophy."
"Tito has been working here with us, so why not Tito? He puts in all the hours until he sleeps and he has the personality that we need to lift us. He's different to Pep, but Tito's the one.
"We've always looked in house. We have Tito - it's simple. We needn't go out on the market."
Cesc Fabregas also supported the decision to promote Vilanova, tweeting: "I wish Tito the best in this new opportunity that football has given to him. We were together when I was a kid, and he is not just a great person but also an excellent coach."
|"Tito is a very qualified person, the players know him and I always put his ideas alongside mine"
- Pep Guardiola
In today's tearful press conference, Guardiola himself offered support to his good friend: "I leave and I won't intervene anymore. I'm stepping aside. I'll be here until the cup final.
"Tito is a very qualified person, the players know him and I always put his ideas alongside mine."
But after 13 trophies - potentially 14 if Barca win the Copa del Rey next month - in just four years, Tito faces a tough job emulating his predecessor.
Just as Guardiola concluded today: "Now it's up to Tito."