Tata Martino has not done a terrible job at Barcelona, but he seems likely to leave in the summer and it’s probably the right decision.
On Monday night, the club were forced to deny claims that Martino had decided to depart at the end of the season.
Esport 3, a programme on Spanish station TV3, who are usually fairly accurate where Barcelona are concerned, announced that the manager was leaving, h/t AS.
For five minutes, the internet was ablaze, especially as some linked the story breaking to a press conference scheduled to begin only a few minutes later.
However, the press conference had always been planned, and Barcelona's new vice president of marketing and media, Manuel Arroyo, used the opportunity to deny the claims made by Esport 3.
He said, as per AS:
We found out a few minutes ago that this news was emanating from somewhere. We don't support it, Tata is contracted to the club and in this week that is so important to us he is dedicated to Barça. We asked him and he has flat out denied it. He has not spoken to anyone, including his staff, it's completely false.
But Sport Qatar, the English language sister paper of Sport, available in PDF form here, say: "He has already informed his coaching staff that he may cut his ties with Barça."
Martino has found it hard to cope with the pressures of being Barcelona manager.
He has another year left on his deal at the club, but there is an escape clause that allows either he or the club to break the contract.
Martino will not have enjoyed dealing with the various off-the-field pressures that the job entails.
The drawn-out saga over Neymar's transfer took its toll on the player and has affected his form, which in turn affects Martino.
Keeping the likes of Neymar, Xavi and Lionel Messi isn't easy either and the issue of a new contract for the latter has still not been resolved, although it is on Barcelona's agenda.
To be manager of Barcelona you need that "wow" factor and Martino simply doesn't have it. But he was always going to suffer in comparison to Pep Guardiola.
The former Barcelona boss will understandably be the yardstick for any manager that takes over at Camp Nou in the foreseeable future.
Things haven't been easy for Martino on the pitch either.
Barcelona have not been playing with the zest that you associate with them, bar in a few matches, like the 7-0 humiliation of Osasuna last weekend.
The problems have appeared when they face well-drilled, well-organised sides. Valladolid upset the Blaugrana earlier this month and they looked toothless.
Since then, they bounced back with that excellent victory over Manchester City at the Nou Camp when they looked a totally different side.
You wonder if it's the players pulling themselves together for the big occasions.
We saw something similar at Chelsea when Jose Mourinho was sacked and Avram Grant installed.
The stand-in manager was not considered to have much control of the squad and it was the established stars like Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard and John Terry that steered the squad to the Champions League final.
Barcelona need a fresh start, albeit not a total restructure. As suggested in this Bleacher Report article, Jurgen Klopp might be the man for the job.
He has the charisma, the attacking intent and the know-how to do an excellent job at Camp Nou.
By bringing in a “name,” the next Barcelona manager will have more scope to stamp his style over the club.
This might enable the club to move out of Guardiola’s shadow and onto their next stage.
Leaving behind the attacking, possession-based philosophy is not necessary, but even minor changes will be painful for supporters who have witnessed the glory years to take.
Guardiola knew that he had taken the current side as far as it could go.
As per the BBC, he said upon leaving: “It would have been a bad idea to continue. Perhaps it would not have gone wrong but I have the perception that it would.”
Martino tried to play in the same style, with a few modifications here and there, and it’s not working.
Now it’s time for a new man to take the reins, with a new style and a new plan.