Spain had a mixed reaction on Tuesday to Argentine Gerardo Martino being appointed as the new coach of champions Barcelona, judging by online polls and columns.
Martino, 50, was chosen by Barca on Monday to replace Tito Vilanova, who stepped down on Friday because of the throat cancer that has plagued him for two years.
Barca’s first Argentine coach since Cesar Menotti in 1984 will sign a three-year contract. He will fly in on Wednesday, but will not be in charge for the high-profile friendly against European champions Bayern Munich on Wednesday.
Martino was not amongst the favourites for the job, with Barca originally wanting to continue the tradition of appointing a coach from within the club — as they had had done with Vilanova in 2012 and Pep Guardiola in 2008.
However, the two obvious choices, former Barca players Ernesto Valverde and Luis Enrique, had recently signed for Athletic Bilbao and Celta Vigo respectively.
Martino, who recently led Newell’s Old Boys to the Argentine league title, was recommended to Barca by former Bilbao coach Marcelo Bielsa, and also by star striker Lionel Messi and his father Jorge.
The Messis are fans of Newell’s and, the same as Martino and Bielsa, hail from Rosario.
An online poll in Mundo Deportivo showed on Tuesday that 60 per cent of readers agreed with the signing of Martino.
However, a similar poll taken by Sport showed only 47 per cent in favour, and that Luis Enrique would have been a more popular choice.
Sport said that “this decision will have to be explained very well” by club president Sandro Rosell, and that it was “a risky decision.” Sport added that the decision showed “the massive power that Messi has at the club...a power that he has, quite rightly, gained by his performances and goals.”
Madrid paper AS called the Martino decision as “good news for Messi in what has been a difficult summer for him,” due to the charges of tax evasion made against him by the Spanish prosecutor’s office.
Meanwhile, Marca quoted Jose Yudica, who was the coach at Newell’s when Martino was the midfield general, in the 1980s, as saying, “Martino is going to win almost every game at Barcelona. It’s impossible that he fails with such a team. He works really hard and believes in good football.”