BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Barcelona fans were not the only ones surprised by the club's decision to appoint Gerardo Martino as coach.
Even the little known Argentine, who will replace Tito Vilanova, said he was caught off-guard when the club came calling. "I did not expect it," Martino said on the club's website, adding that he was expecting some time off after the recent Argentine season ended. "I had prepared myself for a rest.
"Barcelona's call caught me by surprise but it filled me with pride." Now with Barcelona, Martino will get a chance to work with Lionel Messi, another Argentine who many believe to be the best player in the world.
The 50-year-old Martino, who coached Newell's Old Boys last season, said the first thing he and his team had to do once in Spain was establish personal relationships. Martino is likely to travel with assistant Jorge Pautasso, fitness coach Elvio Paulo Rosso and Adrian Coria, another coach who once was in charge of Messi at the Argentine club.
Barcelona said Martino will arrive at the Camp Nou late Thursday but will not sign his contract or speak to the media until the following day. Barcelona traveled to Germany early Wednesday for a preseason friendly against Bayern Munich, a team coached by Vilanova's predecessor, Pep Guardiola.
Martino said he did not know how Barcelona had arrived at its decision to hire him, "but surely the opinion of Messi and his father had its weight."