Who is Barcelona’s new head coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino?
Gerardo Martino was today unveiled as the new head coach of Barcelona after being confirmed by the club on Tuesday, but very few people in Europe had ever even heard of the Argentine before being linked with the post vacated by Tito Vilanova.
So who is Martino and why have Barcelona appointed him as their new boss?
Born on 20 November 1962, Gerardo Daniel Martino also known as “Tata” hails from the city of Rosaria in Argentina and has really made a name for himself as both a player and a manager at Newell’s Old Boys. The same club that Lionel Messi supported as a boy and played youth football for.
Martino was an attacking midfielder as a player and is a living legend of the club having made over 500 appearances for La Lepra and helped them win three league titles over 14 years as a player. He had three spells at the club – broken up by brief spells with Tenerife (in 1991) and Lanus (in 1994/95). While he was a star in the domestic league, he only won one cap for the Argentine national team. Towards the end of his playing career he played for Barcelona (the Ecudorian club) and a Chilean outfit named O’Higgins.
Besides fostering the likes of Gabriel Bautista and Messi, Newell’s is also the home of Marcelo Bielsa, the coach who influenced Martino the most as a player. He actually played under the former Argentina, Chile and Atletico Bilbao head coach in the early-1990s, and during this time the two men developed a special relationship. He was Bielsa’s go to man on the pitch, much like Xavi was to Pep Guardiola or Roy Keane was to Sir Alex Ferguson.
Like Guardiola, Martino is a disciple of Bielsismo and that is perhaps what tempted director of football Andoni Zubizarreta and president Sandro Rosell the most. His first team as a manager was at Brown Arrecife, a team that plays in Argentina’s Primera Division B, but his first coaching successes came in the Paraguayan Premier League where he won four league titles (three with Club Libertad and one with Cerro Porteno). From there he was named manager of the Paraguay national team and had to rebuild the side after the retirement of some key players.
He led the South American country in the 2010 World Cup, where the Albirroja were narrowly eliminated by eventually champions Spain in the quarter finals of the tournament. Martino then led Paraguay to the final of the Copa America in 2011. After the international tournament, he took control of Newell’s Old Boys, a team that were struggling to avoid relegation. With “Tata” in charge, the Rosario-based team avoided relegation, and in the next season they went on to win the league and also qualified for the semi-finals of the Copa Libertadores.