New Villareal coach Manuel Preciado died of a heart attack Thursday, one day after he was hired by the Spanish club and one day before he was set to be introduced. He was 54.

Sporting Gijon manager Manuel Preciado died one day before he was set to be introduced as Villareal manager. (Denis Doyle/GETTY IMAGES)

Preciado led Sporting Gijon for five and a half seasons before he was fired mid-season last year. Last April he led the Red-and-Whites in a rare victory over Jose Mourinho and Real Madrid at the Bernabeu.

“He had everything I like in people and sportsmen: character, honesty and the courage to fight on,” Mourinho said of his rival in a letter published on Madrid’s team Web site.

The tragedy caps a miserable year for Villareal which saw the Yellow Submarine lose talented Italian striker Giuseppe Rossi to injury and fall out of the Champions League.

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