El Centrocampista

Gerardo Martino – Who is Barcelona’s new manager?

When Guus Hiddink stepped down this week as manager of Russian giants Anzhi Makhachkala, many assumed it a sign of him being crowned the next Barcelona manager. The Catalan club are in shock due to Tito Villanova’s returning illness, and a full scale meltdown of the mythical team is feared by some outlets. However just 24 hours after Hiddink left his post, Barca announced that they have appointed ex Argentine midfielder Gerardo Martino; a man largely unknown to European football but revered all over South America.

So who exactly is Martino and how will he fit in at Barcelona, the most glamorous club in world football over the last decade?

The Rosario man began his career with home town club Newell’s Old Boys, where he would go on to become the fan-proclaimed greatest player in their history. From 1980-94, Martino made over 500 competitive appearances for the Argentine club, winning 3 Primera Division titles and cementing his place in Newell’s folklore. Gerardo spent time at other clubs including Tenerife, Lanus and BarcelonaSC but the majority of his playing time was spent with the Rosario giants. He received only 1 cap for the national team, a feat that outraged supporters all throughout his career.

As a player, Martino was revered by all in Argentina and most interestingly, current Barca legend Lionel Messi’s father. As a manager, Martino is a perfect fit for the new wave of Spanish football that the Catalan outfit plays.

His managerial career began in 1998 at Brown de Arrecifes and has since spanned 9 teams all in South America. He won the Paraguayan league in ’02, ’03, ’04 and ’06 with both Libertad and Cerro Porteno before quitting club football for the lure of international glory. In 2007, Martino became manager of the Paraguay national team, leading them to a first World Cup quarterfinal ever. They lost a close and controversial game 1-0 to eventual champions Spain, giving a great account of the South American style of football known usually to Brazil or Argentina. In the 2011 Copa America Final, Martino’s Paraguay lost 3-0 to Uruguay in what would prove to be his last game as manager.

After returning back home to Rosario in 2012, the innovative young coach lead his old club Newell’s Old Boys to the Torneo final victory, however they lost the Superfinal 1-0 to rivals Club Atlético Vélez. This would prove to be his final game for his parent club – for the time being at least – before taking the golden reins of Barcelona. The 2007 South American coach of the year has a style to suit the Catalan giants, promoting high, constant pressure and a very sound passing game. He likes his teams to move the ball quickly, never staying in possession with one player for too long; a ying perhaps to Barcelona’s yang. The Newell’s legend will have to quickly impose his style on the already star-studded squad, a feat that shouldn’t be too difficult seeing as they both play in a very similar manner.

He may not be a Hiddink, a Sir Alex or even a Pep, but Martino is very much his own man with the stats to solidify a claim. Barcelona have showed over the last few years that you don’t need a big name to succeed in football, and from a footballing point of view, Gerardo Martino is a picture perfect fit.

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