Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho led the tributes for Manuel Preciado, who has died just a day after being named as the new Villarreal coach. He was 54.
Relegated Villarreal announced it had reached an agreement for Preciado to take charge of the club next season as it sought an immediate return to the Primera Division.
Preciado, who had parted company with former club Sporting Gijon in January, had been set to be presented as the Yellow Submarine's new manager, but then news broke that the Cantabrian had died of a heart attack.
Tributes have been pouring in from the Spanish footballing community for the popular Preciado – known as Manolo – with Mourinho writing an open letter on the Real Madrid website.
One of Preciado's high points during his six years in charge of Sporting came against Madrid when, in
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."
Mourinho also said he felt sure Preciado would have led Villarreal out of the second division.
Preciado took over Sporting in the summer of 2006 and in his second season led the Asturian club into the Primera Division for the first time in 10 years.
His record of 232 official matches in charge at El Molinon is second only to
Sporting, which was relegated in the recently completed season along with Villarreal, said on its website: "With deepest regret, Sporting Gijon wish to express their sorrow at this sad loss, for someone who formed an integral part of this club's history, and send their deepest condolences to his family in this time of grief.''
Prior to his time at Sporting, Preciado was coach of the likes of Racing Santander, Levante and Murcia, while as a player he represented Racing, Real Mallorca and Alaves among others.
Champions Madrid also offered its condolences following Preciado's death, as did Barcelona and a host of other clubs, coaches, players and official bodies in
National team coach
"He was a football man who represented the values of this sport. He was a fighter who made his mark in this world."
Madrid defender Ramos tweeted: "Football is mourning. I got up and the first thing I heard is the news about
Barca midfielder Fabregas added: "I can't believe the bad news i just woke up with. Hugs for the family of
Villarreal was looking for a new coach after
The Yellow Submarine finished fourth in the 2010/11 Primera Division season and reached the Champions League semi-finals in 2006, and the Europa League semi-finals in 2011.
Philippe Montanier has been confirmed as the coach of Ligue 1 side Rennes for next season on the same day his departure from Primera Division high-flyer Real Sociedad was announced.