Tito Vilanova learned his trade in the Barça youth academy and played for Barça Atlètic for two seasons, from 1988 to 1990. During this period he played in two friendlies with the first team under Johan Cruyff in 1989: the match described above that ended 2-6 in Banyoles, and another ending 2-1 in Palamós. He left the Barça reserves to sign for Figueres, playing there for two years before moving to Celta. In Vigo, he enjoyed three years of first division football, making 27 appearances and scoring one goal. He then enjoyed spells with Badajoz, Mallorca, Lleida and Elche in Second Division A before ending his playing days with UEA Gramenet in 2002.
The two numbers in a football score line can often hide a whole story. In this case, a friendly forgotten with the passing of the years – it took place in Banyoles in 1989- served as the starting point for one of the best coaching duos that football history has ever known. That’s the beauty of a 2-6, the final result of the only match that Josep Guardiola and Tito Vilanova ever played together. Many years later, this same score line would be repeated in a much more symbolic setting, the Santiago Bernabéu, this time with the two men seated together on the coaches’ bench.
That match 23 years ago was part of the celebrations to mark the 75th anniversary of CD Banyoles and was played a bare 24 hours after Barça overran Oviedo in the Camp Nou (7-1) and just nine days before the European Cup Winners Cup final in Berne in which Barça beat Sampdoria 2-0.
Tito substitutes Pep
Johan Cruyff decided that only Carrasco and Soler from the first team would play the full 90 minutes and gave an opportunity to the youngsters of Barça B to make their mark. He even included in the squad a teenager from the youth team – a certain Josep Guardiola Sala – and handed him his first team debut. “You played slower than my grandmother”, remarked the Dutch coach after the match.
Guardiola played the first half and then was replaced by Tito Vilanova for the second half. Vilanova had also come up through the Barça youth ranks and played for Barça Atlètic from 1988 to 1990. Juan Carlos Unzué, Aureli Altimira and Jordi Roura, three other members of the coaching staff in the 2011/12 season, also took part in the friendly.
In front of a near capacity crowd, FC Barcelona had little difficulty against the host team, who started the match with their own reserve players. At half time, Barça led 0-3 after 45 minutes in a game the press described the following day as short on spectacle, the goals coming from Pozanco, Linde and Carrasco. Cruyff made nine changes in the second half, bring on Unzué, Herrera, Sergi, Emilio, Javi, Vilanova, Müller, Roura and Altimira.
20 years and one day
However, that 2-6 score line in Banyoles was an exciting moment in the life of a hopeful young debutant like Guardiola, and also for Tito Vilanova who, the same as his future coaching partner, also made his first team debut. And by a quirk of fate, that 2-6 score line in the final days before the Berne final would be repeated on 2nd May 2009 in the Santiago Bernabéu, this time with Pep and Tito as first team coach and assistant coach.
That impressive victory in the stadium of the eternal rival would all but mathematically clinch the first of 14 trophies that the two would win together as coaches of FC Barcelona. Neither Banyoles nor the Bernabéu had ever witnessed a 2-6 score line in favour of FC Barcelona. A sign, probably.
Pep and Tito made their first team debuts for Barça on the same day
20 years later, they both repeated the 2-6 score line, this time in the Santiago Bernabéu