Spanish champions Barcelona have announced that Paraguayan Gerardo Martino will be their boss for the next two seasons.
The 50-year-old will replace Tito Vilanova, who on Friday night stepped down from his position due to ill health.
The Barcelona job will be a big challenge for a boss that has never even been in charge of a club in Europe.
All his managerial positions have been in his home continent of South America, including a spell as boss of the Paraguay national between 2007 and 2011, during which they made it to the quarter-finals of the World Cup.
Despite his lack of managerial experience in European football, he has 15 years of managerial experience in his home continent, with eight different clubs, including one Argentina’s most historic clubs Newell Old Boys.
One person who may be happy with the appointment is Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi. The World Player of the Year comes from Rosario, just like Martino, and Messi’s father in fact idolised the new Barca boss during his playing days with Newell’s Old Boys.
Martino, like a number of recent Barcelona bosses comes with quite a low profile to fans of European football. He is hardly a household name in many Spanish residences, despite the fact he played 15 games for Tenerife in the mid-nineties.
Barcelona have a knack of coming up with bosses that get the job done, without ever courting controversy or drama. Bosses that somehow help the club progress, despite being relatively untested or unknown.
This is a different situation though. Martino is an experienced boss, unlike Pep Guardiola or Tito Vilanova when they took over the Barcelona team. One advantage that both former-Barca bosses had though is their inside knowledge of how Barcelona works, from being involved in the club.
The closest that Martino has ever been to Barcelona is playing for Barcelona SC in Ecuador, a club founded by a Spanish immigrant named after the Catalan capital, not exactly a qualification to manage the Spanish champions.
Martino is believed to have been approached by Real Sociedad and Malaga, prior to Newell’s Old Boys Copa Libertadores semi-final exit to Brazilian club Atletico Mineiro. It is a major step-up from Sociedad or Malaga to Barcelona. In fact, it is a major step-up from Argentinian football as well.
Martino does have experience of winning trophies in South American football. He won the Argentinian title with Newell’s Old Boys and claimed four league titles in Paraguayan, so he is no stranger to winning trophies.
Martino should represent continuity to a certain extent at Barcelona. He is a big fan of former-Atletico Bilbao coach Marcelo Bielsa, who he played under at Newell’s. However, Martino is much more of a pragmatism than the Chilean.
Martino likes his teams to play high pressure, high possession, and attacking football, very similar to the philosophy of Barcelona. That is because Guardiola sought out Bielsa when he needed advice and ideas. Maybe Martino has done so, or just taken some of the Chilean’s ideas into his own managerial philosophy.
Barcelona have got it very right with the last few managers they have appointed. The fact that the last few Barcelona bosses have had outstanding teams has contributed to their success. The appointment of Martino seems like a strange one to me, but it is hard to question a club that has had such success in picking bosses.
Regardless of who Barcelona appointed for the new campaign the team were always going to keep winning, because of the sheer quality within the squad. It is just a matter of how many trophies the Blaugrana will win next season.
Barca are likely to face a far better Real Madrid squad next season though, that could be getting better with the likes of Luis Suarez and Gareth Bale linked with moves to the Bernabeu. The teams Barcelona face in the Champions League should be stronger as well.
I can see Gerardo Martino being a success at Barcelona, if only for the fact that he was picked ahead of far more high profile candidates. If the Barcelona hierarchy thinks he is good enough, then that is good enough for me.
Is Gerardo Martino the right man for Barcelona?