What now for Barca?
The fans have been screaming 'Tata who?' for the last few hours, with Barcelona having appointed a relative unknown. Will Gerardo Martino change the tactics that may see them left behind? Tim Stannard has the answers...
By Tim Stannard
Last Updated: 23/07/13 10:57am
Barcelona sticking up a 'Help Wanted' note in the football corner shop should have seen the club's mobile phone inundated with calls from all corners of the world, at all hours of the day. After all, this is the institution which is more than just a club, with a team that apparently picks itself, needs no coaching and will be fielding Neymar and Leo Messi in the same forward line. What's more, Barcelona is a pretty nice place to live too, aside from the pickpockets. And the rats on the metro. And the street statues.
Instead, the very sad news that Tito Vilanova was not going to be able to continue in his role as manager due to a new course of treatment in an ongoing cancer battle had the Catalan club on a bit of a desperate search for a suitable figure who could lead the team in the new season.
Potential candidates were bandied out in the press, but nearly all were unavailable or unwilling to take on what is a tempting, but hefty challenge. Manuel Pellegrini and Ernesto Valverde were top choices but already ensconced in their new roles at Manchester City and Athletic Bilbao respectively. Jupp Heynkes said that retirement was treating him very well indeed. Marcelo Bielsa was clearly too mad, still.
This left a shortlist of two and differing destinies for the team. Luis Enrique is a former player, and 'B' team coach, a figure steeped in the traditions of La Masia. The Spaniard would have been a third in-house appointment to the role in a row. It would have been a seamless, comfy fit. Enrique, though, had only just begun a new project at Celta Vigo, meaning a tricky manouevre to ease the trainer out of Galicia, should Enrique even had wanted to leave his new post in the first place.
Instead, Barcelona's next boss is Argentinean coach, Gerardo 'Tata' Martino, arguably the football figure with the most Wikipedia hits over the past 24 hours. The former Newell's manager and player is reportedly the choice of club president, Sandro Rosell, and most importantly of all, Leo Messi. Tata happens to be the footballing hero of the Barca player's father and is known well to the striker himself. 'Messi leads a lot there and Eto'o and Ibra know it well, amongst others,' noted 'AS' editor Alfredo Relano.
In the same way that Arsenal fans were nonplussed by the appointment of the very unknown Arsene Wenger, back in the day, Tata Martino has caused more confusion and concern in the Barcelona world rather than optimism. In an online poll published in 'Sport' on Tuesday morning, only 48% thought the appointment was a good idea. 'Martino will have to win over the majority of fans who do not really understand his signing, through not knowing him,' argued Santi Nolla in 'Mundo Deportivo'.
However, ignorance of a coach is not a good reason to oppose his arrival. Martino will be coming to the Catalan capital having been in football management since 1998. Luis Enrique's resume, for example, currently contains a spell at Barcelona 'B' and a failed season at Roma. The coach has been recommended to the club by big hitters in La Liga such as Jorge Valdano and Bielsa himself.
The 50-year-old will certainly have a lot of challenges on his agenda aside from making himself more familiar to the club's supporters. There's getting the best out of Neymar and finding a top-class centre-back. Real Madrid look set to mount a strong domestic challenge too, under Carlo Ancelotti. However, Tata arrives at a time at Barcelona when some fresh ideas are desperately required. Bayern Munich's destruction of the team in the Champions League rocked Barça back on their heels and made some feel that the possession and pressing style of the team needed a rethink. Figures such as Carles Puyol and Xavi Hernandez are in the final years of their careers and the squad needs a hefty reboot.
Rather that delaying this process and appointing a continuity candidate, Barcelona have been bold and appointed a relative unknown on a two-year deal. However, Tata Martino is going to have to quickly become familiar with the ways of La Masia, the club and its footballers. Most crucially of all, the Argentinean is going to have to work even harder to convince the team's supporters that he is the right man to put Barcelona back on the right path.