Tata Martino knows how to get off to a good start.
The new Barcelona coach won his Primera Division opener 7-0 over Levante, putting the opponent away with a knockout punch of six first-half goals. It was a strong statement from Gerardo “Tata” Martino, one that signalled to all that he wouldn’t have much of a learning curve in his new setting.
The champions opened the scoring three minutes in, and rolled with two goals from Lionel Messi and two more from Pedro.
It didn’t always look so good for Tata Martion and Barca. The club ended its 2013/14 Asia Tour with a 3-1 loss against the Malaysia XI team, a game that the manager freely admitted wasn’t the club’s best.
“We didn’t see the best version of the team, but we’re ready for the start of La Liga,” Martino said.
But the loss to Malaysia also came under some unusual circumstances. The game was moved from its initial venue at Buit Jalil National Stadium due to poor conditions on the pitch, and Martino said the new venue at Shah Alam Stadium wasn’t much better.
“We needed more than one touch to move the ball quickly and that conditioned our play,” he said.
But Barcelona also played without Messi in the match, who was held out due to injury, and saw a promising sign in its newest player, Neymar. He netted his first goal with the club, then was subbed out for Christian Tello at the break.
In all the tour was a good way to prepare for the start of La Liga, Tata Martino said.
“In terms of football it’s been a good tour,” he said. “Despite the time change and the Club’s commitments, we’ve been able to prepare the team well.”
Tata Martino was picked last month to replace Tito Villanova, who announced he would step down to focus on his fight against cancer. There were concerns that the team might struggle with its focus after the emotional departure and an uneven trip to Asia, but he seemed to have put those to rest.