Following an unsurprising yet saddening resignation from Tito Vilanova last week, Barcelona have been on the hunt for his replacement.

With a matter of weeks before the new season begins, they were in somewhat of a rush. The Catalans moved swiftly and reached an agreement with Gerardo Martino via video conference call yesterday.

The 50-year-old Newell's Old Boys coach has signed a two-year contract at the Camp Nou that allows him to bring his backroom staff with him.

The Catalan giants are usually settled in a managerial sense when compared to other European heavyweights, but this time their hand has been forced.

Usually Barca would have the pick of the cream of the managerial crop, but as it is so late in the summer, the majority of top managers have already been on the move leading to increasingly limited options.

After their humbling by Bayern Munich in the Champions League and the resurgence of Real Madrid under Carlo Ancelotti, the Catalan club have a huge season ahead of them. Amidst talk of the demise of their tiki-taka style, this somewhat knee jerk decision could end their season before it begins.

Although many South American coaches prosper in the various European leagues, Martino has never been at the helm of such a club. He has managed Paraguay in the past and is well regarded at Newell's Old Boys but the pressure and media circus that comes as part of the Barca job will still be foreign to him.

The Catalans have previously preferred to promote from within or at the very least employ someone that shares their ideals. Martino played under Marcelo Bielsa at Newell's, whom Pep Guardiola sought advice from as he embarked on his stint at Barcelona's helm. It may be a tenuous link, but Martino will bring a sense of continuity.

But Barcelona need more than that this season. Questions were asked of the team last season that have never been asked last season. Teams rarely dominate for so long and at the Allianz Arena they were a shadow of their former selves as Bayern Munich harassed, hassled and muscled their way past the passing and pressing style that has been so successful.

Barca need to develop their style further, which seems almost impossible, or tweak it slightly via a change of tactics and personnel.

Martino has a tough job on his hands; he will have to be brave. Barca need to compete on all fronts if they are to keep their team together. Having won every title available, older and established players could seek a new challenge before long.

Domestically, Real Madrid and Carlo Ancelotti are spending big in order to mount a serious La Liga challenge, while the Champions League will be as competitive as ever.

Rarely does a player of such quality voluntarily walk away from the Camp Nou, but Thiago has left. One of their favourite sons, Cesc Fabreags is embroiled in a transfer saga with Manchester United.

Martino has enough on his plate and room for seconds before he has even started. He might want to purchase some armbands because he's about to be thrown in at the deep end. 


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