Barcelona are in danger of allowing Pep Guardiola's success define the future of the club.
At Barcelona there has been a sense of foreboding for any manager taking the first-team hot-seat post Pep Guardiola.
The top job has always been something of a poisoned chalice, but never more so since Barca's most successful manager decided to decant for a sabbatical firstly and then subsequently stay in Bavaria.
That Guardiola has enjoyed almost blanket success since taking charge at Bayern Munich has led certain sections of Barca support to opine for the return of Barca's very own "Special One."
His ghost hangs around Camp Nou like a bad smell.
No one could've foreseen the impact that Guardiola would have when he swapped Barca B for the first team in 2008, although Joan Laporta didn't feel it was the risk many others did, per Joshua Robinson, New York Times:
At the time, we were sure that this coach had a lot of experience at our club.
Pep was a player. He was a reference. He was captain. He knew our club very well.
At the same time, he was very talented and very intelligent about football. And he was brave.
That last sentence—"He was brave." Is that not precisely what Tata Martino has been all season long?
Dropping Lionel Messi. Resting Xavi Hernandez. Rotating not only personnel but systems, dependant on the opposition. Switching styles as and when necessary.
On Saturday against Real Sociedad, Martino's Barca slipped to just their third league defeat this season. That's right. As we approach March, Tata has only tasted league defeat on three separate occasions.
In fact, if we go back in time and compare Martino and Guardiola after La Liga week 25 fixtures, both have exactly the same records.
Played 25, won 19, drawn three, lost three.
It's remarkable therefore that anyone would even contemplate Martino as a failure, much less verbalise it.
Of course, Pep is one of their own down at Camp Nou.
Terry Venables & a younger Pep Guardiola in 1986. pic.twitter.com/PGELlm5PEO— Antique Football (@AntiqueFootball) February 24, 2014
As someone who is the epitome of everything that Barca stand for, it's only natural that he would be given the luxuries of time and patience not afforded Martino.
The latter suffers precisely because he is an outsider and when things begin to unravel, it's easy to point the finger. To suggest that things weren't "this bad" back in 2008/09. The stats say otherwise.
Whilst there is only the Supercopa de Espana in the cabinet this season, Martino has guided his troops to the final of the Copa del Rey, is three points behind in the title race and should have a relatively safe passage to the Champions League quarter-finals.
Taken in context of what he has had to work with, at this point the manager deserves huge credit, and the end of the season is really the time to judge if his first term has been a success or not.
Guardiola's legacy still casts a huge shadow over this part of Catalonia and the club are allowing it to envelop and define its immediate future.
That's a very dangerous game to be playing so perhaps it's about time to doff a cap to Pep's achievements but leave them where they belong.
In the past.