Just basking in the Clasura final tournament with Argentine side Newell’s Old Boys, 50-year-old Gerardo Martino has been handed a tough task to replace Tito Vilanova who resigned from his position as manager of Barcelona due to health issues. The new Barcelona head coach who managed Paraguay between 2007 and 2011 has signed a two year deal with the Spanish champions. Even before he signed, Martino was the favourite to land the job, despite not having led a European club. The Argentine has been handed an extremely important job that presented itself in an unfortunate context but Martino should be looking to make a contribution to the institution that is the Barcelona football club. Back in the 1980s, Martino was a midfield icon for Newell’s Old Boys before spending his entire coaching career in Argentina and Paraguay. During his time as Paraguay manager, he led the side to the quarterfinals of the World Cup in 2010 and even had the opportunity to eliminate eventual champions Spain during the group stages had Oscar Cardozo not missed that penalty. Martino is primarily a disciple of compatriot Marcelo Bielsa who managed him during his playing days at the Rosario club he has just left. During his time at Newell’s Old Boys, Bielsa advocated a particular intense style of play, in line with the style set up by Guardiola and then retained by Vilanova. Martino also believes in the same philosophy which means that this appointment is one that signifies Barca’s intention of having continuity. Most of the people, not following Argentine football should know that Martino does not arrive at the club as an unknown quantity. Last year, Newell’s Old Boys were in the bottom half of the Argentine Apertura and needed to mount a title charge during the Clausura in order to avoid relegation (the Argentine league is divided in two parts and teams get relegated based on their performances from past three seasons). And it was the start of the new year that turned things around for the Rosario giants. Newell’s played an eye catching brand of football and scored 43 goals in 19 games to win the ‘Torneo’ and thus make sure that they would be relegation-worry-free until the Apertura restarts. Nicknamed Tata for his paternalistic approach to the younger players (tata means dad in Argentine countryside), Martino likes to give a chance to the academy players. No fewer than 14 players from the academy participated in Newell’s triumphant run in the Clausura 2013. This reliance on youth can only appeal to Barcelona, who focus a lot on La Masia. Just like Guardiola and Vilanova, Tata loves the beautiful game, is a philosopher and loves his players to adapt to a short, quick pass philosophy, enough reasons for Barca to hand him a task that might not be easy, but one he can fulfill with aplomb.
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