BUENOS AIRES: Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino is back at work with Lionel Messi after the ex-Barcelona coach was appointed new national manager of World Cup runners-up Argentina.
Martino succeeds Alejandro Sabella who resigned after the 1-0 extra-time defeat by Germany in Rio de Janeiro last month. His debut will be against none other than Germany in Dusseldorf on September 3.
Like Argentina captain Messi, Martino was born in Rosario and won the Argentinian league title with Newell’s Old Boys in June 2013 before moving to Barcelona where he took over from the late Tito Vilanova.
Martino earned praise at Barcelona for a good start and the way in which he integrated Brazilian superstar Neymar into the ways of Spanish and European football.
However injuries – to Messi among others – boardroom problems, the Neymar transfer controversy and the ageing of key players such as playmaker Xavi all conspired to end up with the club not winning even one major trophy for the first time in six seasons.
The late Hugo Grondona, president of the AFA who died two weeks ago, had always preferred Martino as new national coach rather than another Argentinian in Jose Pekerman, who had bossed the national team in 2006 and who took Colombia to the quarter finals of the World Cup.
Grondona had set up talks with Martino at the time of his death from heart failure on July 30. AFA vice-president Luis Segura has now followed through since taking up the leadership of the federation.
Martino has previous national team experience having taken Paraguay to the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time in South Africa in 2010 and the Copa America final as hosts in 2011.