Having led Barcelona to 14 titles out of the 19 competitions he disputed as coach, Josep Guardiola left the side he calls “home” as the club’s most decorated manager. Inheriting the most successful European side in recent times is no walk in the park, let alone trying to follow on from this impressive record. But that is exactly what new coach Francesc “Tito” Vilanova will be aiming to do.

Born in Bellcaire d’Emporta in Girona on 17th September 1969, Vilanova enrolled in the youth ranks of Barcelona in 1984, during the same year that saw Guardiola join the club. After making his mark as a solid midfielder, he gained promotion to Barcelona’s B team in 1988, even going on to make three appearances with the first team.

However, he was unable to establish himself as a permanent first-teamer with the Blaugrana, going on to play with UE Figueres, struggling with the side to gain promotion to the Primera Division in 1992, but ultimately losing to Cadiz during the playoffs.

Vilanova’s next step was a stint at Celta Vigo, where after three years he left to join Badajoz, RCD Mallorca, Lleida, Elche and finally Gramenet, putting an end to a journeyman career at the age of 34 in 2002.

In the 2007/08 season, the now budding coach joined former Masia graduate Josep Guardiola as assistant at Barcelona B. After guiding the side to the Spanish third division, he and Guardiola were picked by former Barcelona president Joan Laporta to boss the first team following Frank Rijkaard’s disastrous last term with the side.

The Spaniard’s first season at the club with Guardiola proved to be the duo’s most successful ever, as well as the team’s best, winning the Liga title, Copa del Rey, Champions League, domestic and European Super Cups, and the FIFA Club World Cup.

Flash forward four campaigns and with Guardiola outside of the Camp Nou walls, his assistant was confirmed as the club’s new coach. Names such as Athletic Bilbao’s Marcelo Bielsa were originally linked with the job, but as Barcelona sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta would later explain, Vilanova was the more “natural” choice. “Why Tito? Because he’s brave, it is a huge, demanding challenge, because of where we have been and where we are going, it is huge. He is capable, he knows the idea and he has experienced the club from within. As Pep [Guardiola] said, our success until now is partly down to him”, explained the former Barcelona goalkeeper.

Vilanova is imprinted with the Barcelona culture as much as his predecessor. In a way, he is a continuation of the Guardiola legacy and is expected to make a stealthy transition from second-in-command to head man.  

Also key to the Blaugrana’s thinking is just how similar in many ways Vilanova is to Guardiola; the new Barcelona coach is naturally calm and likes to keep a low profile, a blueprint that has been set by Guardiola, as opposed to the flamboyant, outspoken personality that his direct adversary Jose Mourinho has.

With the incident between Vilanova and Mourinho at the last Spanish Super Cup still fresh in minds, the appointment of the new Barcelona boss is an act of defiance from Sandro Rosell. The president has been very vocal over the way Mourinho was dismissive of the famous eye-poke, and his appointment of Vilanova is a direct message that the Barcelona board fully endorses its coach and personnel.

Vilanova has recently stressed that he is not on bad terms with Mourinho and that last summer’s incident has been put to rest. But when the two teams meet to contest the curtain raising Super Cup and La Liga this upcoming term, expect the world’s eyes to be firmly set on them.

The new Barcelona boss has nothing to lose, but virtually an impossible task to accomplish. Overcoming Guardiola’s achievements will be close to impossible, and as this is widely accepted, the pressure is, in a small way, off. However, few expected the latter to achieve the success he tastes today. Who is to say the same cannot happen with his old friend?