Tata Martino in his office at the Ciutat Esportiva / PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB

Gerardo Martino took over as FC Barcelona manager following the announcement that Tito Vilanova was standing down from the post for health reasons. This month’s edition of Barça Magazine (not available in English) looks in depth at why the club came to choose Martino as his replacement, from the moment that president Sandro Rosell put his name forward, to how Andoni Zubizarreta came to the conclusion that the Argentinian was indeed the best choice.

The selection process was quick but meticulous, in which football was always the priority. Zubizarreta started by defining the kind of manager he felt the club needed and narrowed it down to four main targets before personally contacting the possible candidates. In Martino’s case, the director of sport spoke to coaches, players and other directors of football that had worked with or close to the man.

Fervent admirer of Guardiola and Tito

Tata was in his home city of Rosario at the time, relaxing after an intense season with Newell’s, with whom he had won the Argentinian Championship and reached the semi-finals of the Copa Libertadores. He had already announced that he was leaving Newell’s at the end of the season but had stayed with the team right through to the end of the campaign. Real Sociedad had already expressed an interest, but Newell’s qualification for the last four of the continental championship meant that he would not be available for the preseason, and so the possibility was not pursued.

Martino was a fervent admirer of Barça under Guardiola and Tito
and regularly watched games on TV, where he learned a lot from the team’s attack-based style, combination football and possession game. Zubizarreta came to the conclusion that Tata was “a manager with a similar style to our own. He taught his teams to play the same way, and his teams had been competitive as a result of that … To me, he seemed a tactically rich coach”.

Fourteen months earlier, when he was on holiday in Barcelona, Tata and his son actually visited the Camp Nou Experience as tourists, enjoying the Museum and the chance to stand on the pitch and sit on the benches, without imagining for a moment that he would actually be the man overseeing operations from that very spot in the not-so-distant future.

Selection process

Zubizarreta goes on to explain that he and the vice-president for sport, Josep Maria Bartomeu, asked Martino a series of questions during the long conversations they had on the phone. He was asked about issues from football tactics to his family, and from his working methods to the way he liked to communicate with staff and players. Zubizarreta was making notes all the time.  He remembers that “I was impressed by his flexibility, how he understood that this was a unique situation and how he would have to fit into our way of working. I was surprised by how much emphasis he puts on talking to each player individually, in the changing room. I could sense that he was a man who lives football from within his squad.”

Rosario-Barcelona connection

There is a curious historical connection between Tata’s city of Rosario and FC Barcelona. No fewer than eight past and present Barça players were born in the city or played for clubs in Rosario. But the historical and cultural connection runs deeper, and one of the testimonies of that is the large number of buildings reflecting the Catalan modernist school of architecture in the centre of the Argentinian city.

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