Martino pledges to continue winning style

New Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino wants to put Spanish giants back at the top despite never having coached in Europe.

    Martino pledges to continue winning style
    Martino led Newell's Old Boys to Argentine league title last year [AFP]

    Moments after completing his deal to coach Barcelona for the next two seasons, Gerardo Martino assured fans on Friday that he had come to maintain the winning style established by his successors Tito Vilanova and Pep Guardiola.

    Barcelona announced Tuesday that the Argentine coach would take over for Vilanova, who stepped down last week to proceed with a cancer treatment that was "incompatible'' with his coaching duties.

    The 50-year-old Martino has never coach before in Europe, and after five trophy-laden seasons with coaches who had come up through the club's youth programs, his signing represents a break from the line of selecting in-house managers.

    Martino said that he would tweak the team he has inherited, looking to improve on something that was already working well.

    "I will try to combine both things, keeping with the style of the club and the style the players are comfortable playing in, but logically while trying to add my own part to make a more complete team,'' Martino said.

    There are excellent players here and if we can go back to the ideas of the great moments of Barcelona we will do well

    Gerardo Martino,

    "There are excellent players here and if we can go back to the ideas of the great moments of Barcelona we will do well.''

    Big shoes

    Martino must quickly take charge of his new team with the Spanish league set to begin on August 17-18.

    And he will have a tough act to follow.

    Vilanova led Barcelona to the Spanish league title last season and helped Guardiola guide Barcelona to an unprecedented 14 of a possible 19 titles as his assistant from 2008-12.

    In his favour, Martino will receive a star-studded squad with Messi, several Spanish internationals such as Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez, and Cesc Fabregas, and the club's latest major signing, Brazil striker Neymar.

    But his chances for success may largely depend on how well he can convince this diverse collection of players used to winning, and winning in the Barcelona way of attacking football, that he is the right man to carry the team through this unexpected transition.

    While Barcelona won their fourth Spanish league in five years last season, they lost their place as Europe's best team after Bayern Munich crushed them 7-0 in two legs of the Champions league semi-finals.

    Martino thinks he can put Barcelona back at the top.

    "Even for a club like Barcelona that has reached such a high level of excellence, it can also get better and needs to in order to sustain a high level of winning,'' he said.

    "Above all, we want to recover Barcelona's ability to pressure high up the pitch. We want a Barcelona comfortable in attack and defending far from its own area.''

    While not going into many details about a group of players he has yet to meet, Martino said that he plans to keep using Messi as Barcelona's central striker, "where he has exploded in recent years.''

    Messi backing

    Martino considered it "normal'' that he was relatively unknown in Europe.

    His greatest coaching achievements are leading Newell's Old Boys to the Argentine league title last season and Paraguay to the quarterfinals of the World Cup for the first time in 2010.

    He has already received the backing from Messi.

    "He (is) a great coach and his record speaks for itself. He showed he could do things well both at Newell's and with Paraguay,'' Messi said.

    "I am convinced he will do well at Barca.''

    Messi played for Newell's in his home town of Rosario as a young boy before his move to Spain to join Barcelona's "La Masia'' training academy.

    The four-time world player of the year has been Martino's most vocal supporter so far, even though they don't know each other personally.

    Martino, who has the nickname "Tata,'' led Newell's to their first league title in nine years last in June, achieving a remarkable turnaround for a side that had fought off relegation just the season before. He coached Paraguay from 2007-11.

    As a player, Martino played as a midfielder from 1980-1996, including a short spell in 1991 at Spanish club Tenerife in the Canary Islands.



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