Tito Vilanova is stepping down as Barcelona's coach following a recurrence of throat cancer, just a month before Lionel Messi and his teammates begin the defense of their Spanish league title.
Club president Sandro Rosell told a hurriedly called news conference at Barcelona's training facility on Friday that Vilanova will "follow a treatment'' that will be "incompatible'' with staying on as coach.
Rosell said that a new head coach would be named next week and that Barcelona was canceling its first friendly of the preseason, scheduled to be played in Poland on Saturday against Lechia Gdansk.
Spanish media was rife with speculation that little-known Joan "Rubi'' Ferrer would replace Vilanova. Ferrer was hired on June 28 as Barcelona's new assistant coach after his strong season with Catalan club Girona in the second division.
The 44-year-old Vilanova had twice previously had to take a medical break from his duties at Barcelona, once as Pep Guardiola's assistant in the 2011-12 season and again as its manager last season.
In his single season in charge he led Barcelona to the Spanish league title with a record-tying point 100 points.
"This is a piece of news I would have never in my life wanted to give,'' Rosell told a packed media room including Barcelona's first team with Messi and captain Carles Puyol.
"After evaluating the results of the routine tests and checkups for Tito Vilanova, the option arose of following a treatment that will be incompatible with the development of the responsibilities as the coach of the first team,'' Rosell said.
Vilanova was not in attendance.
Vilanova had battled the recurrent tumor in a saliva gland for the past two years, coming back to coach each time.