SPORT

Barcelona unveils Gerardo Martino as new first team coach

Argentinean took Newell’s Old Boys, Leo Messi’s alma mater, to title last season

FC Barcelona has announced that Gerardo Martino will replace Tito Vilanova as first team coach. Vilanova stepped down with immediate effect last Friday after suffering a relapse of the parotid gland cancer that was first diagnosed in 2011 and caused the former assistant to Pep Guardiola to miss much of last season to undergo treatment in New York.

The Catalan club reached an agreement with Martino on Monday after a videoconference. The current coach of Newell’s Old Boys, the Argentinean Primera Division club from which Barcelona signed Leo Messi to the La Masia academy in 2000, has inked a two-year deal with the option of a third.

Martino is a break from the recent Barcelona tradition of promoting from within but neither of Vilanova’s assistant coaches, Jordi Roura or Rubí, was considered experienced enough to take the helm of the reigning Liga champion. Martino coached Paraguay during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and took Newell’s to the league title in Argentina and the semifinals of the Copa Libertadores last season.

Although he has never coached in Europe, Martino has some experience of Spanish soccer having played for Tenerife in 1991.