MADRID (AFP) – Argentine coach Gerardo Martino has been named as Barcelona’s new boss on a two-year deal, the club confirmed on Tuesday.
“FC Barcelona have reached an agreement for the hiring of Gerardo Martino as the new coach of the first team for the next two seasons,” said a statement on the club’s website.
The club had been in search of a new boss since last Friday when Tito Vilanova had to resign due to ongoing health problems.
“In the next few hours a programme will be confirmed for his arrival in Barcelona, the signing of his contract and his presentation.”
Martino is not expected to take charge when Barca face their old manager Pep Guardiola in their first pre-season friendly away to Bayern Munich on Wednesday.
The 50-year-old arrives after successful period in charge of Newell’s Old Boys in his homeland but has just over three weeks to get used to his new surroundings before the start of the Spanish league season on August 17.
Barca were suddenly forced into looking for a new boss just last week when Tito Vilanova sadly had to resign due to an ongoing battle with cancer.
Martino has no previous managerial experience in Europe, although he did enjoy a brief spell in Spain with Tenerife as a player in 1991.
However, it is his great success as a coach in both Paraguay and Argentina that has convinced the Catalans that he is the right man for the job.
Martino won four titles in Paraguay with Libertad and Cerro Porteno between 2002 and 2006 before going onto take charge of the country’s national team.
He led the South Americans to their best ever performance in a World Cup in 2010 where they were narrowly beaten 1-0 by Spain in a nervy quarter-final in Johannesburg.
Paraguay also reached the Copa America final in 2011 under Martino’s guidance, before he left to take charge of Newell’s, for whom he made more than 500 appearances as a player in three spells.
Martino restored the Rosario side, where a young Lionel Messi also took his first steps in the game, to their former glory this season as they won the season-ending championship in Argentina and also reached the semi-finals of the Copa Libertadores.
The appointment will certainly be met with approval by Messi, whose father Jorge Horacio is said to have idolised Martino during his time as a player at Newell’s.
“I like Gerardo Martino. He is a great coach,” Messi told Argentine newspaper Ole last year.
“He showed that in the Clausura with what he did for the team, the way it ended and how he did it. He gets his teams playing well and we all respect him.”
Messi’s respect is likely to be important as one of the biggest challenges facing the new boss is how to integrate Brazilian wonderkid Neymar into the Barcelona system without affecting the scintillating performances of Messi, who has been crowned FIFA’s World Player of the Year in each of the past four years.