Barcelona coach greets team after cancer surgery

Barcelona coach greets team after cancer surgery

MADRID - Agence France-Presse
Barcelona coach greets team after cancer surgery

Adria Vilanova (R) posted a picture of him with his father, Tito Vilanova, in a move fueling further optimism for the recovery of the Barcelona coach. AFP photo

Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova visited team players at its training ground yesterday, less than two weeks after he had cancer surgery, the club said.

The visit raised hopes that Vilanova, 44, may soon return to work with the team, which is flying nine points clear at the top of the Spanish league.

“He came to the Ciudad Deportiva and greeted the players who trained there this morning,” Barcelona said in a statement, referring to the club’s training ground.

Nine members of the Barcelona squad was preparing for yesterday’s friendly match between Catalonia and Nigeria.

Vilanova faces six weeks of radiotherapy and chemotherapy but the club’s president Sandro Rosell said Friday the coach could be back at work in less than three weeks.

The coach’s son, Adria, on Jan. 1 published on Twitter a photograph of himself and his father standing on a paddle tennis court, further fueling optimism for his recovery.

Adria Vilanova, who plays for one of Barcelona’s junior teams, said he had seen in the New Year “playing paddle with someone special.”

Surgeons operated on Vilanova on Dec. 20 for cancer in his salivary gland that had returned following a first operation in November 2011.

The news shocked the Catalan team who has made its best ever league start after Vilanova took over from Pep Guardiola when he stepped down last season. Unbeaten with 16 wins and one draw, Barça is 16 points ahead of fierce rival and titleholder Real Madrid and nine points clear of second-place Atletico Madrid in the league.

FC Barcelona’s next game is a derby against Espanyol on Jan. 6.