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In profile: Barcelona's Gerardo Martino

Sports Mole takes a closer look at Barcelona's new head coach Gerardo Martino.

Since 2008, Barcelona have been under the guidance of men who have been integrated into the club's philosophy. First it was Pep Guardiola - a man who had made almost 400 appearances for the Catalans as a player and then took them to three La Liga titles and two Champions League trophies.

In 2012, he passed the responsibility over to his friend and assistant Tito Vilanova. The Catalonia-born 44-year-old won La Liga, but all the while he was battling against parotid gland cancer. Enough was enough this summer and Barca confirmed last week that Vilanova has decided to step down to concentrate on his health.

Over the coming days it became clear that president Sandro Rosell wanted a fresh approach - to break the Barcelona stranglehold if you will. He believes that new ideas are needed, particularly with the Carlo Ancelotti regime in full swing over at Real Madrid.

A number of names were linked with the Camp Nou post, but one man always remained within the speculation - Gerardo Martino. The reports were proved to be on the money earlier today when it was confirmed that the 50-year-old has been appointed on a two-year deal.

Martino's history

Born in the Argentinian city of Rosario, the attacking midfielder spent the best part of his playing career at his boyhood club Newell's Old Boys. He had three separate spells at the El Coloso del Parque and was a real favourite of the fans, who voted him their greatest player of all time during a recent poll.

Upon his retirement in the mid-1990s, Martino embarked on a management tour of his homeland and Paraguay, which took in six different clubs.

Gerardo Martino gestures on the touchline.© PA Photos

It wasn't until he landed the job as head coach of the Paraguayan national team in 2006, though, that his managerial credentials came to the fore. He took the South Americans to the quarter-finals of the 2010 World Cup, where they were knocked out by an 83rd-minute goal that sealed a 1-0 defeat.

And who was the opposition at Johannesburg's Ellis Park Stadium that evening? Spain, whose starting lineup contained Gerard Pique, Carles Puyol, Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets and Xavi, while Cesc Fabregas and Pedro came off the bench. Martino will be those seven players' coach next season.

A year later Paraguay reached the final of the Copa America, knocking out Brazil on the way, but they were defeated 3-0 by Uruguay in the final. It prompted Martino to step down and a few months later he answered a call from his love - Newell's Old Boys.

Poor performances in the Argentine Primera had seen La Lepra sift through three managers in a calender year. The sinking ship was steadied almost immediately, though, and boosted by the presence of a legend, Newell's reached the Copa Libertadores - South America's version of the Champions League.

They looked a good bet to reach the final until Atletico Mineiro's Ronaldino (someone else with strong Barcelona connections) intervened to force a penalty shootout. It ended in heartbreak and earlier this month Martino decided to vacate the position.

Style of football

While Rosell wanted a clean break, he has hired someone who likes his teams to play in a similar way to what Guardiola implemented and what Vilanova picked up and ran with.

Granted, with Paraguay Martino built his side on solid foundations, but that was largely because his attacking options were limited. He turned an average side into a good one, which is no easy task, particularly at international level.

Gerardo Martino hands the ball back to Brazilian midfielder Ramires.© PA Photos

However, with Newell's, Martino had more flair at his disposal. 'Chalk and cheese' springs to mind when you compare his two most successful teams.

Newell's played with a freedom last season and like Barca, they seemed to be addicted to possession. More often that not, they would pass their opposition out of the contest and rob them of the ball inside their own half.

Martino also has a knack of making players love him in a not too dissimilar way to Marcelo Bielsa, who has been lauded for his work with Athletic Bilbao over the last two campaigns. Martino played under Bielsa for a spell at Newell's and is known to have taken a lot from that spell.

He also had an affect on Bielsa, who once said: "I coached him, although I learnt more watching him play and act as captain and team leader. A complete, admirable man."

The future

In terms of playing style, very little will change for Barca. Lionel Messi will still be the main star and focal point, despite the £50m arrival of Brazilian hotshot Neymar. Messi and his new coach are said to have a very good relationship based on the fact that the serial Ballon d'Or winner started his career at Newell's.

He may also delve into the transfer market to purchase a centre-back - and not before time. Puyol's injuries are catching up with him and at times Pique has the concentration levels of a school child who has no interest in a physics lesson. And no matter how you hard try, Javier Mascherano is not and will never be a defender.

Gerardo Martino celebrates his Paraguay side scoring at the 2010 World Cup.© PA Photos

What's more, Martino showed during his time with Paraguay that he likes his team to have a solid backbone, so it would be a surprise if he did not give that area of the pitch any attention.

Then there is the future of Fabregas. Barca are believed to want him to stay and it is unlikely that the new man in town will go against his employers. It could well be time for Manchester United to look elsewhere.

When all is said and done, everything indicates that Martino is a clever appointment. Time will tell of course, but the future of Barcelona appears to be in safe hands - bad news for the rest of Europe!

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