It came out of the blue but wasn’t really a surprise. Tito Vilanova’s departure from Barcelona had an air of inevitability after spending a large chunk of last season absent due to an unfortunate relapse in the cancer he suffered in 2011. Understandably priorities for Tito clearly lie with continuing his treatment rather than football.
So after much media speculation about Guus Hiddink and Michael Laudrup, in steps Gerado Martino to fill the sizeable hole.
The Argentine guided the Paraguay national side to the quarter finals of the World Cup in 2010 and his last managerial post, Argentinians Newell’s old boys, to the Tomeo Final title. A modest if not spectacular CV compared to some of the names linked to the position, but In recent years a decorated track record has not been a necessity for the Catalans. Guardiola and Vilanova are perfect examples of this. As ever with Barcelona, philosophy comes first.
Tata (as Martino is affectionately known) shares many aspects of Barca’s style of play with his own. Martino was schooled playing under the great bespectacled tactician Biesla at Newells old boys, and Bielsa’s influence is clear to see. Gerardo’s team play a pressing energetic game where possession in key, intricate passing and moving the ball forward quickly are also paramount. All traits inherited from Bielsa and all traits the current Barcelona team will be very familiar with. But Martino is more pragmatic than Bielsa. A solid defence will usually come before the attacking flair for Tata’s sides, and given over the last year or so more and more teams are finding the vulnerabilities in Barcelona’s system (see Bayern Munich for reference) this may be no bad thing. Despite his pragmatism, given the talent and ability of the Barca side their style of play won’t change that much. Merely slightly tweaked. And this is why the appointment of Gerardo Martino may be another shrewd move by the Catalan Hierarchy.
So the question remains, can he make the jump from South America to Europe? Despite a brief stint at Tenerife, this is Tata’s first professional foray in Europe, and it’s not an easy transition to make. Given the quality and infrastructure of the club he’s inheriting, it could be an easy step to make. But add in the expectation of leading the best club side in the world, far greater have crumbled.