After an intense few days of speculation, Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino has signed a 3-year-deal with Spanish champions, Barcelona. Some in Europe may meet the news with scepticism but the Argentinian’s work has not gone unnoticed and should come as no real surprise that he has landed one of the top jobs in world football. Here are 5 reasons that Martino is the man for the job….
So why exactly did Barcelona opt for Gerardo Martino?
1 – What Martino has illustrated at Newell’s Old Boys is that he is very much a disciple of the “Barca-Style”. This stretches back to Martino’s playing career whilst at Newell’s and playing under, Marcelo Bielsa. Martino was the creative spark in Bielsa’s midfield that won the championship back in 1991 and there are several similarities in his approach now to that of Bielsa. Of course, Pep Guardiola, himself, is a huge admirer of Bielsa and has also studied him so bringing in a man who adheres to the Barcelona system of high pressing and then passing, possession football in a 4-3-3 system makes absolute sense.
2 – Why not hire Bielsa in this case? Well, Marcelo Bielsa has proven to be somewhat difficult to work with at times and at the risk of alienating some of the players, Martino would certainly be a safer choice in this respect. Everyone who has played under Tata speaks highly of him and so perhaps the thought process is that Barcelona can get the tactician without the histrionics.
3 – One accusation of Barcelona in recent times is their lack of any ‘Plan B’ and an over reliance on one way of playing. Martino has shown throughout his managerial career that he is pretty adaptable and has found success playing different types of football. When taking charge of Paraguay, Martino led them to the World Cup in South Africa, eventually losing to champions, Spain in the Quarter finals following that with a run to the Copa America Final in 2011. Here his side was all about defence and setting up not to concede but with the lack of resources it led Paraguay to one of it’s best campaigns and resulted in Martino being named South American Coach of the Year.
This is in stark contrast to Martino’s Newell’s side. Taking over a relegation threatened side at the tail end of 2011, Martino transformed them into title challengers and eventual winners. The Torneo Inicial in 2012 was the beginning and although missed chances cost them when things clicked in this year’s Torneo Final, Newell’s swept aside the opposition to claim the trophy, scoring 40 goals in the process, the most for 18 championships.
Critics may look at their meagre goal return in the Copa Libertadores over the same period but a small squad stretched to capacity by the huge midweek journeys must be afforded some slack. A semi-final defeat on penalties is still some achievement and displays Martino’s adeptness to knockout competitions.
4 – It is believed that Martino was the choice of Lionel Messi. As a fellow Rosario native and supporter of Newell’s Old Boys, Messi is a huge admirer of Martino and has made no secret of that fact. When making these decision it has been suggested in the past that Barcelona have taken into consideration Messi’s thoughts as they want to keep their prize asset happy and perhaps they have done so again. With the signing of Brasilian Superstar, Neymar and following a disappointing campaign (by their very high standards) perhaps Barcelona have made a wise move in appointing someone much admired by Leo and, reportedly idolised by Messi Sr.
5 – Martino has not been afraid to utilise the youth players when at Newell’s and has taken a keen interest in these levels. Maxi Urruti, Martin Tonso and Horacio Orzan have all played crucial roles in the clubs recent success and will be key figures from here on in. It has been this mixture of youth with the astute signings of experienced leaders, Maxi Rodriguez and Gabriel Heinze that have made Newell’s such a force. Barcelona is a club that prides itself on it’s academy and Martino will be someone who will relish the opportunity to work with this and incorporate it into his first team set up.
Of course, many South American coaches have struggled to adapt to when first moving to European football and the expectations will be huge but make no mistake that Barcelona have appointed a first rate manager with a bright future ahead of him.