Puyol saddened by Vilanova's departure

Madrid, July 23 (IANS) Barcelona captain Carlos Puyol has expressed shock at Tito Vilanova stepping down as Barcelona coach to continue with his cancer treatment.

Vilanova had appeared to have got over the cancer of the salivary gland, which caused him to miss several months of last season as he underwent treatment in New York, but the club explained that a routine test had shown the coach needed to continue with his treatment for the illness which was first detected in 2011, reports Xinhua.

"It was a tough blow. We take a few of those, but this was really hard," said Puyol on Monday.

"Nobody expected it and the team was really affected by it. Tito spoke to us and calmed us down, but it is bad news that we had to take. It is an illness and people are the most important things," he said, adding that the now former coach had asked the players to keep on fighting as he would as well.

Vilanova's departure with the pre-season already underway is a huge blow to Barca's plans given that they now find themselves without a coach ahead of the season beginning on Aug 17.

Two main candidates have emerged: former Paraguay and Newells Old Boys coach, Tata Martino and former Barca player and B-team coach, Luis Enrique, who only recently signed for Celta Vigo.

Puyol shared the Barca dressing room with the later and admitted he had a good relationship with the former midfielder, but insisted it was not for the players to say who should take over at the club.

"That is down to the sporting direction and the technical staff. They will do what is best for the team. We have a style of play and our philosophy and I am sure that whatever the choice is it will be a good one," he said.

Martino is shaping up to be the favourite, which would mean the end of the continuity in the club, given that Villanova had been assistant to Pep Guardiola for four seasons before taking over first team duties, but Puyol was not worried by the arrival of someone from outside.

"The people who are being talked about all understand our style of play and those responsible will have to look at it all," he said.

Puyol said he was recovering from the knee injury which saw him miss the end of last season and the Confederations Cup adding that he did not believe that Cesc Fabregas would leave the club despite a big offer from Manchester United.

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