After Tito Vilanova’s shocking announcement just a few days ago, Barcelona has hired Gerardo “Tata” Martino as their new manager. Vilanova’s departure is definitely an unfortunate one under the circumstances it presented itself, and he will certainly be in the minds of Barca fans everywhere as the season progresses. For now though, it’s time to turn the page.
So who is “Tata” Martino? Unknown to many, he has quite a reputation in South America, highly regarded in the eyes of many great coaches and players around the world. He’s won the Paraguayan League a total of 4 times with different teams, led Paraguay to a near upset of Spain in the 2010 World Cup quarterfinals and most recently led Newell’s Old Boys to the semifinal of this year’s Copa Libertadores.
So where did he come from? I, for one, did not see this coming, although after his name was thrown out there for the first time, I could see it being a viable possibility. The main reason for his signing in my mind is Messi. Messi has publicly stated he is a coach he admires, they’re both Argentinian, born in the same city and one of his assistants coached Messi when he was 11. With all the speculation out there that with Neymar’s arrival this would not be Messi’s team anymore, there is nothing wrong in appeasing your best player. Additionally, the arrival of a South American coach could make Neymar’s transition a bit easier as well as hopefully revive Alexis Sanchez, who struggled for big parts of last season.
**I want to draw a quick parallel to the NBA here. After Phil Jackson left, this is what the Lakers should have done. You consult your best player before signing a new coach. At the end of the day, we all know how the Mike Brown experiment turned out, I’m sure Kobe might have had a better suggestion.
I don’t see Barca’s style of play changing much. Ball possession will remain the priority, although I do see an added emphasis brought to defensive positioning and the return of the ball pressure that was lost last season. I wouldn’t be surprised if the team moved their positioning back about 20 meters if they have a narrow lead late in the game, looking to finish it off by countering with Messi, Neymar, a common trait amongst South American coaches.
At the end of the day, with the success Barcelona has had over the past years, there really isn’t reason to change much. Added focus on defense will do the team good and they will be ready for another neck-to-neck race with Real Madrid for the league title as well as the now usual long-run in the Champions League.