Old Friends Tata Martino May Want at Barcelona
Miquel Benitez/Getty Images
As new Barcelona manager Gerardo Martino sizes up the strength and depth of his squad, he would be wise to consider some of the players that have served him so well.
"Tata" used a blend of youth and experience to guide Newell's Old Boys to a hugely successful season. His old club may be fearful of the plundering of players who were expertly utilised and wanted to give everything for their manager—a precious commodity in today's game.
Certainly there are a handful of stars known to Martino who could grace Barcelona and La Liga. It remains to be seen if he wants to trim the squad in the way that Tito Vilanova was intending—down to just 22-24 players—or whether the new man will be keen to rotate and will therefore require a few extra squad members.
Let's take a look at a few players who may well follow Gerardo Martino to the Camp Nou.
Santiago Vergini has all of the attributes Barcelona are crying out for in central defence.
Word is that 24-year-old Santiago Vergini could be following Gerardo Martino to Barcelona.
"Martino really likes Santiago," Claudio Curti told Todomercadoweb."As well as being a great player, he's also a terrific person.
"We'll see what Barcelona need. There hasn't been any contact yet. We'll see what happens in the coming days."
The Newell's Old Boys central defender represents a highly attractive proposition for the Blaugrana.
First and foremost, with the player's contract having recently lapsed, he is available on a free transfer. That in itself would probably be enough to tempt the Barca board into backing Martino's judgement.
When you factor in that his accomplished performances saw him called up for the Argentinian national team in 2012 and that he was instrumental in Newell's success last season, the question of his hire becomes a no-brainer.
His physical presence is what Barca are sorely lacking in Carles Puyol's absence. But Santiago Vergini has a lot more in his locker than the battling qualities needed to be a success in La Liga.
He is a quick, tall defender who is equally adept on the ball and playing out of defence as he is repelling high balls into the box—an area where Barca have struggled in recent times.
If Barcelona move quickly, Vergini could be the answer to their prayers.
Despite his age and affiliation with rivals Real Madrid, Gabriel Heinze would be a useful addition at Barcelona.
How readily Barcelona fans would accept a player that has played in the colours of arch-rivals Real Madrid is anyone's guess. Yet despite his advancing years—he is now 35—Gabriel Heinze is still a defender of some note who could well provide some defensive cover, either centrally or on the left side, for Barcelona when required.
Heinze started his career at Newell's and was re-signed for the club by Gerardo Martino in 2012. His performances since have been consistent and fully justified Martino's decision to bring him home.
One perennial problem at Camp Nou is a lack of strength in depth. As long as Heinze accepts he will not be first choice, then a move for the player makes sense.
Squad rotation is something Martino would do well to manage effectively during the coming season.
The Barcelona of 2012/13 looked tired at times, and the lack of quality backups in certain positions stopped players from benefiting from some down time now and again.
Heinze has been capped 72 times for his country and has a wealth of experience of La Liga. Don't be surprised if Martino takes more than a passing interest in the player's intentions over the coming weeks.
Lucas Barrios has scored goals wherever he has played and was called up for the Paraguayan national team by Martino.
Tony Feder/Getty Images
If Gerardo Martino is looking to change things around in an attacking sense, then 28-year-old Lucas Barrios may well be in the thoughts of the new Barcelona manager.
Known as "The Panther" because of his attacking prowess, the 6'2" target man has scored goals wherever he has played—which could well have been in Catalonia before now. Barca's crosstown rivals Espanyol made a $7 million offer for the player back in 2009, but the deal was rejected by the player because of its structure.
Instead, Borussia Dortmund were the grateful recipients of the player's services. Thirty-nine goals in 83 appearances in the Bundesliga was a handsome return of almost a goal in every two games.
Despite being born in Argentina, Barrios qualified to play for the Paraguayan national team by virtue of his mother. Martino wasted no time in taking advantage. Just a month after the player's dual citizenship was granted, he was called up to the Paraguayan 2010 World Cup training camp by Martino and has since gone on to make 21 appearances for the country.
Currently plying his trade in China for Guangzhou Evergrande, alleged salary irregularities (via news.xinhuanet.com) will see Barrios angle for a move away.
The player is in his footballing prime and would provide Barcelona with an effective option.
With Martino no stranger to changing formation and style when necessary, Barrios should be on his wish list.
Maximiliano 'Maxi' Urruti
Maxi Urruti is a young, traditional centre-forward.
Another centre-forward who may interest Gerardo Martino is one of the young stars at Newell's—Maximiliano Urruti.
At just 22 years of age, Urruti is one for the future. But there can be no doubt the player is destined for great things.
Born in Rosario, Urruti made his debut for his hometown club at the back end of the 2010/11 season but made more of an impression during the following campaign. In 28 appearances he has scored seven goals (a one-in-four ratio) but it has been his style of play that has piqued the interest of Valencia amongst others.
A leader on the pitch, Urruti is good in the air and quick across the ground for a big man. A powerful shot is complementary to his all-round game.
With his best years ahead of him, Martino may well consider a purchase now will reap the benefits later on.
Maxi Rodriguez has the luxury of being a seasoned La Liga campaigner.
"Maxi" Rodríguez has made no secret of his admiration for Gerardo Martino.
The player told AS (h/t Stefan Coerts of Goal.com):
Barcelona have signed one of the best Argentine coaches from the past few years. There's no doubt about that.
His preferred style of play is pretty well known at Camp Nou. He prefers a 4-3-3, but uses some interesting variations.
His players have a lot of freedom to switch positions. I think Martino is the ideal coach for Barca.
At 32 years of age he is approaching the business end of his career, but he still has something to offer, as his performances in Newell's title-winning season showed.
His experience in La Liga is invaluable.
Martino is well aware he can still get the best out of him. His signature could well be another master stroke, but whether Rodriguez would accept being second choice at Barca rather than seeing out his playing days as a mainstay of the Newell's team is a matter for conjecture.
What is clear is how highly he rates Martino's managerial expertise. That could be a deciding factor should the new Barca manager raid his old club's talent pool.