Barcelona head coach Tito Vilanova has paid tribute to all those who helped him during his treatment for cancer.
Vilanova underwent a two-and-a-half-hour procedure to remove a cancerous tumour on his parotid gland after suffering a relapse of the illness before the new year.
The surgery was successful and the Spaniard returned to the bench on Sunday to watch Barcelona extend their lead over Atletico Madrid to 11 points with a 4-0 victory over Espanyol.
“I just wanted to thank all my friends, acquaintances and even people I do not know that have been backing me lately,” Vilanova said.
“This really helped me and I really appreciate it. I also want to thank the hospital Vall d’Hebron, its doctors, nurses, once again they treated me well and made me feel fine all the time.
“I also want to thank the people at the club … I always felt protected by their support. And I also want to thank the staff and players – it’s never easy for them.
“They are used to everything now, anything can happen so they are always prepared, everything will just seem easier to them and this can make us think it could happen to anybody.”
The 44-year-old also thanked the media for respecting his privacy.
“I also want to thank the media,” he said. “How you covered this illness and how you respected my privacy.
“Maybe in the near future I won’t be able to attend training sessions and if this happens I wouldn’t like if you try to find the reason.
“I know I’m a public person but this illness is mine, it’s my privacy.”
Vilanova, however, insisted the players had not made any special effort just because he was back on the touchline.
“My players didn’t make an extra effort because I was back,” he said.
“We knew how important this game was. Against Espanyol, a derby, at home, Three Kings Day… So we are happy for the fans, the players are happy to see I’m back… but normally they always play aiming to win, to perform well. “