Manolo Preciado dies a day after agreeing to take over at Villarreal
The Spanish coach Manolo Preciado has died of a heart-attack, a day after agreeing to take over as the manager of Villarreal
Preciado's former club Sporting Gijón reported on their website that the coach had died in Valencia aged 54 on Thursday.
Preciado had just agreed a deal to take the reins at relegated Villarreal for next season and was scheduled to be presented at the Madrigal on Friday.
José Mourinho wrote an open letter to the Real Madrid website paying tribute to Preciado – known as Manolo.
One of Preciado's high points during his six years in charge of Sporting came against Madrid when, in April 2011, his side won 1-0 at the Bernabéu. That was the first home league defeat Mourinho had suffered in more than nine years in charge of Porto, Chelsea, Internazionale and Madrid.
Earlier that season Preciado had a well-publicised war of words with Mourinho after the Portuguese had accused Sporting of gifting Barcelona three points by fielding a weakened team in a league match.
Tensions between the two eased though, and earlier this year Preciado said during a visit to Madrid's Valdebebas training ground that he had a "magnificent relationship" with Mourinho.
In his letter, Mourinho said: "Manolo was always an honourable opponent, who I got to know well when he came to visit us in March. He had everything that I like in a person and in sportsmen: character, openness and the courage to fight against blows. We have been left by a football figure and above all by a very special person. My memory of him will be heartfelt and permanent."
In a statement, Sporting Gijón said they "convey their great sadness for the loss of someone who wrote their name in our history in golden letters, and send their condolences to his family in these painful moments."
The popular and charismatic Cantabrian, had coached Sporting between 2006 and January this year, when he was sacked after a poor run of results. He had been the second longest-serving coach in Sporting's history, after having also worked with Racing Santander and Levante among others.
Villarreal, who had been looking to Preciado to lead them back in to La Liga next season after he successfully guided Levante and Sporting into the top division, said: "Villarreal wish to show their deep sorrow for the sad loss."
Tributes quickly appeared in local media, one of the first coming from the Spanish national team coach Vicente del Bosque in Poland, where the team are preparing to start the defence of their European championship title.
"He was a man of football who represented the best values of his profession," Del Bosque told Marca Radio. "He was a fighter who leaves a large gap in this world," he added of a man who had lost his wife to cancer and a son in a road accident.
The Spain midfielder Cesc Fábregas wrote on Twitter: "I can't believe the bad news I just woke up with. Hugs for the family of Manolo Preciado. RIP my friend."