Wednesday Kickoff: Vilanova suffers cancer relapse, Arsenal re-sign youngsters, and more

Photo by ISIPhotos.com

By IVES GALARCEP

The soccer world has awoken to some sad news out of Barcelona, where FC Barcelona manager Tito Vilanova has suffered a cancer relapse that will force him to step down as manager and undergo immediate surgery to remove another tumor.

There is no word yet on who will step in for Vilanova while he recovers, but the news of Vilanova’s cancer relapse is a devastating blow for a club enjoying a dream season under their first-year manager.

Vilanova, 44, took over for Pep Guardiola after last season and has helped guide Barcelona to an unbeaten league record, the best start to a season in La Liga history, as well as a place in the UEFA Champions League knockout rounds.

Barcelona is expected to make an announcement later today regarding Vilanova’s condition, and potential replacement so stay tuned for those details.

Here are some other stories to get your Wednesday going:

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The winter transfer window isn’t opened officially yet, but the moves and deals have already begun. Arsenal made perhaps the biggest splash today by announcing the re-signings of five key young players. Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Keiran Gibbs and Carl Jenkinson all signed new deals with the Gunners. Conspicuous by his absence from that list is Theo Walcott, who seems more and more likely to be the next Arsenal star to leave the Emirates.

In Germany, Thomas Muller signed a new deal with Bayern Munich while Klaas-Jan Huntelaar is reportedly planning to stay with Schalke rather than making a Janaury move. He had been linked to Arsenal.

Brazilian defender Lucio became the latest big-name player to leave Europe to return to the Brazilian league, signing a deal with Sao Paulo after leaving Juventus due to a lack of playing time. The 34-year-old World Cup veteran signed a two-year deal with Sao Paulo.

Staying in South America, Boca Juniors has welcomed a familiar face to the fold, bringing back Carlos Bianchi as head coach for the third time. Bianchi, 63, hasn’t managed since leaving Atletico Madrid in 2006, but his history with Boca Juniors is unparalleled. he led Boca to three Copa Libertadores titles (2000, 2001, 2003) and four league titles during two stints a decade ago. Bianchi’s return could also pave the way for Juan Roman Riquelme to come out of retirement, though that is far from a sure thing.

In England, a looming rail workers strike in London has forced the postponement of the Arsenal-West Ham Boxing Day match. The strike is set to take place on Boxing Day, Dec. 26th, and at present no other EPL matches have been postponed.

Someone who may consider going on strike is Mario Balotelli after being hit with a $554,000 fine for poor discipline by Manchester City. Balotelli was initially contesting the fine, but has decided to accept it.

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What do you think of these developments? Who do you see stepping in for Vilanova? Surprised to hear Huntelaar will stay with Schalke? Disappointed to hear Arsenal-West Ham won’t be played on Boxing Day?

Share your thoughts below.

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10 Responses to Wednesday Kickoff: Vilanova suffers cancer relapse, Arsenal re-sign youngsters, and more

  1. Gnarls says:

    Ugh, cancer. Prayers for Vilanova.

  2. elmatador says:

    Praying for Tito and his family!!!

  3. Edwin in LA says:

    Be strong Tito, I hope he can endure this long road

  4. beto says:

    terrible news for Tito and Barca. just when everything looked perfect for them. get well soon!

  5. JJ says:

    I wonder if this opens the door for Pep to come back in and finish the year out.

  6. Metro-211-7 says:

    Be strong Tito!

    We will be praying and we know you will be back soon!

    Be well & Happy Holidays!

  7. RK says:

    Update: Tito will be operated on tomorrow and in the hospital for 3-4 days.

  8. John says:

    Might be Atletico Madrid’s year.

  9. RK says:

    Assistant Jordi Roura takes over coaching duties; Zubizarreta says that they have not spoken at all with Pep and that this is Tito’s team.