When Sandro Rosell and Andoni Zubizarreta announced Tito Vilanova would leave his role as Barcelona manager on Friday evening, few's first thoughts would have centered in on Gerardo "Tata" Martino taking over the reigns at Camp Nou.
Santi Gimenez, of Spanish paper Diario AS, immediately insisted that Martino was the early favorite though, and on Tuesday morning fcbarcelona.com rubber-stamped his move to the Catalan capital on a two-year deal.
The more you read about Barcelona's new coach, the more his appointment at Camp Nou makes sense—although it will take more than good literature to endear him to the club's supporters when the football gets underway next month.
Born in Rosario, Argentina the 50-year-old shares his home city with Lionel Messi, who previously spoke about his new coach in an interview with Diario Ole, via The Guardian:
I like Tata Martino. He is a great coach and he showed that in the Clausura with what he did for [Newell's Old Boys], the way it ended and how he did it. He gets his teams playing well and we all respect him.
Possibly of more interest, though, are Tata's links with Marcelo Bielsa.
Jonathan Wilson wrote an article exerting the amount of influence Bielsa has had tactically on the modern game, with it well known that Josep Guardiola sought the Argentinian out on a trip to South America to discuss football ideology in extensive detail for a significant amount of time.
Martino played under Bielsa for Newell's Old Boys in the 1990's and became manager of the Rosario-based club in 2012. Euan Marshall wrote about how you could the see similarities between Tata's Newell's side last season and a Bielsa side—playing with "intense pressure" and "attacking and defending in numbers."
In his one season with La Lepra he led them to the Primera Division final, losing 1-0 to Velez Sarsfield, while being knocked out of the Copa Libertadores at the semifinal stage.
He previously spent five years managing the Paraguay national team, losing 1-0 to Spain in the 2010 World Cup quarterfinal after seeing his side miss a penalty at 0-0.
Tata's Paraguay were stylistically quite different to Barcelona, but the 50-year-old recently put that down to adapting to the resources available to him, via Marca:
"Maybe we didn't play the most attractive football, but we used a more direct approach which suited the players we had."
Now all that has gone before will be forgotten, and the questions will be asked about Martino's future, not his past: How far can he take Barcelona?
Outside influence could be deemed a major plus in the appointment, with their new coach, on the face of things, appearing to offer a stylistic evolution as opposed to any form of revolution.
As seen with Bielsa at Athletic Bilbao recently and, to an extent, with Guardiola during his spell as Barcelona manager, the rewards of this tactical approach can be extremely high, although players can often become tired—Athletic badly toiled last season.
The players at Tata's disposal—Messi, Neymar, Andres Iniesta—clearly offer a natural fit to his line of thinking though and, if it clicks, the results could be both fast and effective.
"It is hard to imagine a Martino side capitulating quite so meekly as Barca did to Bayern last season," says Jonathan Wilson on The Guardian, and with that semifinal defeat all too raw, that can only be a good thing.
There's plenty of work to be done—not least the signing of a central defender—and it's a high pressure job, but Martino will undoubtedly relish the challenge few would have thought likely this time last week, let's see how he takes to it.
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