Football: Vilanova insists Barca seat is safe

MADRID (AFP) - Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova insisted on Friday he would still be in charge of the newly crowned Spanish champions next season despite press rumours to the contrary.

Vilanova missed two months of the current season after heading to New York for cancer treatment.

He was replaced during that time by his assistant Jordi Roura.

But the 44-year-old says reports of his imminent professional demise are grossly exaggerated.

"I have nothing to clarify. I can repeat what I've already said louder but not clearer," said Vilanova. "I will be coaching Barcelona next season.

"Obviously when someone has been ill, as I have, there are certain routine tests to be done that will mean I will have to be absent a few days next season. But the club knows that and they believe in me." Vilanova was diagnosed with cancer of the saliva glands in December, the second time he had contracted the illness.

Barcelona's form dipped during his absence, although they still cantered to the Spanish La Liga title.

Upon his return, Vilanova insisted he would honour his contract until the end of next season but press rumours suggest he will be replaced either by former Barca youth team coach Luis Enrique, who left the club for an unsuccessful year at the Roma helm in Italy last season, or Valencia's Ernesto Valverde.

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