Vilanova succeeded Pep Guardiola at Barcelona and won the Spanish league title in 2012, his only season in charge.
Vilanova had undergone emergency surgery on Thursday at Clinica Quiron in Barcelona as gastric complications arose, multiple news outlets in Spain reported. The Catalan coach had dealt with cancer in his parotid gland for more than two years.
Vilanova, 45, had been in the hospital since last Friday, according to Marca.
As word of Vilanova’s worsening health spread on Thursday, a call for courage of “Anims Tito” went out across social media.
Weeks before the start of this season, Vilanova told players he would not be able to continue at the helm of the team.
“The doctors recommend that, with the treatments that I must follow from now on, I cannot devote 100 percent to the tasks of head coach as required by FC Barcelona. But I will continue to work closely for the club that I love on other sporting tasks,” he said at the time through a statement.
Vilanova was Guardiola’s assistant before being promoted to the top job in 2012. In his one season in charge, Vilanova led Barca to their fourth La Liga title in five years, becoming only the second team after Real Madrid to reach the 100-point mark.
He had a tumour removed from his throat in late 2011, but suffered a relapse a year later and took multiple trips to New York for treatment.
Upon Vilanova’s passing, Barcelona issued this statement via Twitter.
The FC Barcelona is in immense mourning. Tito Vilanova has died at the age of 45. May he rest in peace
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) April 25, 2014
Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu said via statement: “Tito Vilanova, a human role model and a football icon. Thanks for everything you have taught us. Rest in peace.”
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho also issued this statement via the club’s Twitter account: “Tito Vilanova’s passing is a sad day for football, for Barcelona and most importantly for his family and friends. On behalf of everybody at Chelsea Football Club I send my deepest condolences at this most difficult time.”
Lionel Messi expressed his condolences on his Facebook page: “Very difficult to forget you. We will always remember. All my love to Tito’s family.”
Vilanova is survived by his wife, Montse Chaure, and two children. His son Adrian is currently in Barcelona’s youth academy.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.