Inter Miami names Messi collaborator Gerardo Martino as coach

Gerardo Martino previously worked with Argentinian star Messi at FC Barcelona and on Argentina’s national team.

A man in a red sports jacket stands on a football field, with goal posts and crowded stands visible behind him.
Gerardo Martino coached Mexico's national team in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar [File: Mark J Terrill/AP Photo]

Inter Miami CF has appointed former Argentina and Barcelona manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino as the football team’s new head coach, ahead of next month’s arrival of star player Lionel Messi.

The Major League Soccer (MLS) club announced the appointment of Martino — a coach who previously worked with Messi at the club and national team levels — on Wednesday, saying he will begin his tenure “upon the receipt of his work documentation”.

Hiring Martino appears to be part of a push to provide a supporting cast for Messi, who recently led Argentina to a World Cup victory in Qatar.

“We are very happy to be able to welcome Tata to Inter Miami. We feel he is a coach who matches our ambitions as a club and we’re optimistic about what we can accomplish together,” managing owner Jorge Mas said in a statement.

“Tata has coached at the highest levels and we believe that experience will be hugely beneficial to us as we aim to compete for titles here.”

A man leans over, with hands cupped to his mouth, to speak with Lionel Messi, who also leans forward enthuisastically
Coach Gerardo Martino (left) talks to Lionel Messi (right) during a match in Rosario, Argentina, on June 24 [File: Nicolas Aguilera/AP Photo]

Martino, an Argentinian national, served a two-year stint in the MLS as the inaugural head coach for Atlanta United FC, leading the team to a league cup victory during the club’s second season.

That same year, in 2018, he was honoured with the league’s Sigi Schmid Coach of the Year Award.

Meanwhile, Inter Miami sacked its previous coach Phil Neville early in June after another poor season. The team is struggling on the field and it sits at the bottom of the MLS Eastern Conference with 15 points from 18 games.

But Miami fans will be looking to Messi’s arrival next month to turn the team’s fortune.

The World Cup winner’s former Barcelona teammate, Spanish midfielder Sergio Busquets, is also set to join Inter Miami later in the summer.

Two men walk across a field as cameras follow them, both dressed in the Barcelona soccer jersey: blue and red stripes. One raises his hand to wave.
Former Barcelona teammates Lionel Messi (right) and Sergio Busquets will be reunited at Inter Miami FC this summer [Lee Smith Livepic, Action Images/Reuters]

David Beckham, Inter Miami’s co-owner, called Martino on Wednesday a “highly respected” figure in the sport, who “will inspire our team and excite our fans and look forward to seeing the impact he will have on and off the field”.

Beckham, a former star player for England who spent years in the MLS with the LA Galaxy, helped establish the Miami-based team, which first took the field in 2020.

Earlier this month, fans in Miami told Al Jazeera they were thrilled to have Messi play for their side, comparing his arrival in the United States to that of Beckham in 2007.

“It’s massive for the club, it’s massive for the league. I think — definitely, hopefully — it helps the on-field product,” said Ukeba Simmons, a leader of the Black Herons United supporters club.

Source: Al Jazeera