Barcelona have announced the appointment of Argentine Gerardo Martino as their new manager.
The 50-year-old former coach of the Paraguay national team has replaced Tito Vilanova, who resigned as Barcelona manager on July 19 as he continues to undergo treatment for cancer.
Gerardo Martino’s early management career began with Brown de Arrecifes, Platense and Instituto in the lower Argentine soccer leagues before he won championships in Paraguay with Libertad and Cerro Porteno.
In 2006, he was named manager of the Paraguay national team, and four years later led them to the quarter-finals of the World Cup, where they lost to Spain.
Last season, Martino guided Newell’s Old Boys to the Argentine Clausura title.
News of Martino’s appointment as new Barcelona manager will come as a surprise to some quarters of the soccer world, as he had not been thought a leading contender for the role.
Favorites to fill the vacancy were former Barcelona B boss Luis Enrique, Tottenham Hotspur’s Andre Villas-Boas, Swansea’s Michael Laudrup and Guus Hiddink, who resigned as coach of Anzhi Makhachkala on Monday.
Martino will have the support, however, of superstar Lionel Messi, Barcelona’s multiple award-winning creative attacker. “I like [Gerardo] Martino,” he is quoted as saying. “He is a great coach… his teams play well and we all respect him.”
Martino will be under enormous pressure to ensure that Barcelona finish the new season ahead of great rivals Real Madrid, who announced their own appointment of a new manager, Carlo Ancelotti, just a few weeks ago.
Last season Barcelona cantered to the Spanish Primera Division tite, finishing 15 points clear of Real Madrid.
One of Gerardo Martino’s first orders of business will be to settle the future of Spanish international midfielder Cesc Fabregas, reportedly the subject of a $45 million bid from Manchester United.
Barcelona have so far insisted that Fabregas is not for sale.
Do you think Gerardo Martino is the right pick as new Barcelona manager? Can Barcelona retain the Spanish championship under his leadership? Will they challenge once again for the UEFA Champions league crown, which they last won in 2011?