Jonathan Wilson, the most erudite soccer analyst writing in English, has written: "Since the back four spread from Brazil in the late 1950s and early '60s, no South American has had such an influence on how the world played as Bielsa." Google "Bielsa coaching tree" and you'll find Martino lumped with Mauricio Pochettino, once a Newell's teammate and now of Tottenham Hotspur, and even Manchester City's Pep Guardiola, who's the best in the world.
Because Spain and Barcelona won a slew of championships with mostly the same men playing a style known as “tiki-taka” — zillions of short passes — and because Guardiola rose to prominence managing Barca, he’s often seen as a “tiki-taka” manager. He’s not. He’s a High Press guy, making him a Bielsa acolyte. It’s akin to a basketball press: A team tries to take the ball from an opponent in its own half and fast-break like crazy.
“Fast and fluid” is how At-U President Darren Eales spoke of Martino’s style of football, and that figures to play well in this market. Beyond this market, it already has.
It’s true that Martino’s Argentina never won the Copa America — Messi missed a penalty this July — and his season at Barca ended with Atletico Madrid winning La Liga and ousting his team in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals. (Under the Argentine Diego Simeone, Atletico employs the soak-up-pressure-and-counter-attack method, the counterpoint to High Press.) But when last did a man of such eminence cast his lot with an expansion team? Casey Stengel with the 1962 Mets?
OK, so that didn’t go so well. This should fare better. There’s a difference between finishing second and having Marv Throneberry play first base.
There was an international feel to Wednesday’s introductory briefing, with Eales pronouncing the word “patently” in his British way — rhyming it with “blatantly” — and Martino making most of his remarks in Spanish. The first question he took in that language: How’d you lose so much weight?
“Absoluto secreto,” Martino said, laughing. Translation not needed.