Football: Ex-Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova dead at 45

A file picture taken on May 19, 2013 shows Barcelona's coach Tito Vilanova at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona after winning the Spanish League title. Vilanova died on April 25, 2014 at the age of 45 after a prolonged battle against cancer, the club
A file picture taken on May 19, 2013 shows Barcelona's coach Tito Vilanova at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona after winning the Spanish League title. Vilanova died on April 25, 2014 at the age of 45 after a prolonged battle against cancer, the club confirmed. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP

BARCELONA (AFP) - Former Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova died on Friday at the age of 45 after a prolonged battle against cancer, the club announced.

Vilanova was diagnosed with cancer of the salivary gland more than two years ago and was forced to step down as Barcelona boss last July due to ongoing health problems.

"FC Barcelona is sad to inform that Francesc 'Tito' Vilanova Bayo has passed away today at the age of 45," Barcelona said in a statement.

"The death of our former coach came about this afternoon after he could not overcome the illness he had been fighting since 2011.

"The club wishes to express its deep condolences to his family, with whom we share this painful moment along with the club members, fans and the whole world of football and sport."

Barcelona also announced that a space will be opened at their Camp Nou stadium for those willing to pay their respects over the next few days.