Barcelona picks Argentine Gerardo Martino as coach

Gerardo Martino, a relatively unknown Argentine league coach, reached an
agreement Tuesday to coach a Barcelona team led by Lionel Messi that is one of
great clubs in soccer history.

Mr. Martino will be given a two-year contract, the team said. He is
expected to travel from Argentina to sign the contract and be presented to the

The 50-year-old Martino will follow two of European soccer’s most
successful coaches — Tito Vilanova, who succeeded Pep Guardiola.

Despite having no European coaching experience, Mr. Martino received the
backing from Mr. Messi before the club’s sporting director travelled to Buenos
Aires to negotiate the deal. Mr. Messi spoke glowingly of Mr. Martino, better
known in Argentina by the nickname “Tata.”

“I like Tata Martino,” Mr. Messi said recently. “He is a great coach,” adding
that “his teams play well and we all respect him.”

Martino coached Paraguay in 2010 to the quarterfinals of the World Cup
for the first time. Barcelona praised him on its website for his “clear
commitment to the passing game” and the attacking style that has become the
Spanish power’s trademark.

Barcelona is to travel to Germany on Wednesday for a preseason game
against Bayern Munich, now coached by Mr. Guardiola. Barcelona said Mr. Martino
will not accompany the squad.

Vilanova began as Guardiola’s assistant, providing the tactical know-how
that helped his then boss forge one of the best teams in the history of the
sport — winning 14 of a possible 19 titles from 2008-2012, including two
Champions League trophies.

During Vilanova’s single season in charge, he led Barcelona to the
Spanish league title with a record-tying 100 points. He stepped down as
Barcelona coach last week following a recurrence of throat cancer.

In what he called an “open letter” released Tuesday, Mr. Vilanova said
his doctors had advised him to give up coaching.

“I will continue to be very close and will carry on working at this club
that I love so much on other tasks within the area of sports,” Mr. Vilanova
said, without specifying further.

Mr. Martino played as a midfielder from 1980-1996, including a short
spell in 1991 at Spanish club Tenerife in the Canary Islands. He is to be
joined by his assistant from Newell’s Old Boys last season, Jorge Pautasso,
fitness coach Elvio Paulo Rosso and coach Adrian Coria, who once was in charge
of Mr. Messi at the Argentine club.

Mr. Martino will become the fourth Argentine to coach the club, after
Helenio Herrera (1958-60, 1980 and 1980-81), Roque Olsen (1965-67) and Cesar
Luis Menotti (1983-84).