Gerardo "Tata" Martino was unveiled as the new coach of Barcelona on Friday with a message of continuity on the lips of all those present. Before the business of talking soccer began the ceremony paid homage to the victims of the fatal train accident in Galicia on Wednesday night. Barça sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta also spoke of departed coach Tito Vilanova, who stepped down from the role to continue his treatment for cancer.
"It is not easy to know that Tito is winning the most important game there is in life and having to think about his replacement," said Zubizarreta, adding that it was even more difficult to find a substitute due to Vilanova's departure under "non-sporting circumstances."
Nonetheless, the former Spain keeper said that Martino was Barcelona's first choice to assume the helm of the Catalan giant. In Zubizarreta's mind, Martino is a coach who fits into "an idea that is not to be discussed but developed and expanded, an idea of universal sport that is everywhere and that for the last six years has branded a style of play. I spoke to Tata on the phone and I knew straight away he was the one, he speaks the same language."
So no long ball, then. Martino said he would stick with club's patented 4-3-3 formula "in accordance with the history of the institution," and that Leo Messi and Neymar, the club's star signing from Santos, can play together, despite the doubts of former coach and playing legend Johan Cruyff. "It would be the coach's deficiency, not theirs.
"I always thought I would coach Messi, but at Ñuls [Newell's Old Boys]," quipped Martino, who added that the Argentinean four-time World Player of the Year did not have anything to with his appointment. "We are both from Rosario and both from Ñuls but we don't know each other. People think he was consulted but he told me he wasn't."
Barcelona vice president Josep María Bartomeu said he was surprised when the name of Martino was pushed across his desk as he has never coached in Europe before.
Martino also noted it was "normal" that many Barcelona fans will not have heard of him but also agreed with César Luis Menotti, another Rosario native, the architect of Argentina's 1978 World Cup victory and a former coach of Barcelona, who opined that the peculiarities of Argentinean soccer made coaching in Europe easier than there: "I don't know if it's that definitive but it is true that in Argentina we tend to think the facilities clubs in other places have make things easier."