Vilanova's smiling face made the front pages of all the major sporting and general newspapers, even those of the partisan Madrid press.

Pro-Real Madrid daily Marca published a 12-page supplement on the "unforgettable" Vilanova and a rare Barca-related front page with a full-length portrait of him and the headline: "Goodbye, Tito, your struggle was a lesson to us."

It described the ex-coach -- who made headlines in 2011 when Real's then-manager Jose Mourinho poked him in the eye after a bad-tempered match -- as "a symbol of valour, courage, hard work, responsibility and simplicity".

Barcelona sports daily El Mundo Deportivo hailed the "Eternal Tito" on its front page, praising him in its lead article as "a strong personality and a coach of great and inexhaustible resources".

"Today children and grown-ups, friends and rivals, coach and players around the world, Spaniards and Catalans all cry for him," it said.

The other major Barcelona football daily Sport lamented the young age at which Vilanova succumbed on Friday to a nearly three-year fight with cancer of the salivary gland.

"It is unjust that a person of just 45, a sportsman, full of life and plans, had to leave his loved ones this way," Sport said.

It described the announcement of his death as "a stab in the stomach that chilled our blood".

The other major Madrid sports daily AS described Vilanova as "a footballing great" and "an actor in a fundamental part of the history of modern football".

Spain's biggest-selling general newspaper El Pais described Vilanova as "a natural leader" and the Barcelona squad he led along with ex-coach Pep Guardiola as "an unforgettable team".

Several newspapers highlighted Barcelona's best Spanish league performance ever, when Vilanova's men scored 100 points in 2012-2013, winning their 22nd league title in his only season in full charge of the team.

Vilanova had wanted to stay on as coach for the current season but was forced to step down for ongoing cancer treatment.

The second-biggest Spanish general daily El Mundo described him as "the man who could not live his dream".