Andres Iniesta backs appointment of Gerardo Martino at Barcelona

The former Paraguay coach replaces Tito Vilanova

Midfielder Andres Iniesta has backed Barcelona's appointment of Gerardo Martino as their new coach.

The Spanish champions confirmed today they had reached an agreement for Martino to take over the reins at the Nou Camp on a two-year deal.

The 50-year-old Argentinian succeeds Tito Vilanova, who stepped down from the role on Friday after one season in charge as he continues his battle with cancer.

Martino has a reputation as an attack-minded coach and Barca midfielder Iniesta believes he will fit in with the Catalan club's football philosophy.

"Whatever the club decide is the best for Barca. I think he will fit in with our model," Iniesta told Marca while at a promotional event

"If the club have decided on him, then he's the ideal coach for us."

While Martino spent a short spell with Spanish side Tenerife as a player, he has never before coached a European side but he has masterminded some notable achievements during a 15-year career as a manager in South America.

At club level, he led Newell's Old Boys to last season's Argentinian Clausura title, while he also won various trophies with Club Libertad and Cerro Porteno in Paraguay.

He also enjoyed a hugely successful four-year spell in charge of Paraguay, guiding them to the quarter-finals of the 2010 World Cup and the final of the 2011 Copa America. Paraguay had never before gone beyond the last 16 of the World Cup in their history while the last time they made the Copa America final was in 1979.

Paraguay's run at the 2010 World Cup was halted by eventual winners Spain - a match Iniesta played in.

Iniesta added: "It's a good decision. I know him from the match in the World Cup in South Africa. He seems a good coach.

"The club wouldn't have gone for a coach who doesn't fit in as they have clear ideas about that they want.

"Every season we have to have high hopes of winning titles."

A host of coaches were linked to the vacant position with Barca, including Luis Enrique, Andre Villas-Boas, Marcelo Bielsa, Michael Laudrup and Guus Hiddink, who yesterday resigned as coach of Anzhi Makhachkala.

However, Martino emerged as the favourite over the weekend and the former Argentina midfielder was today confirmed as Barca's next boss.

"FC Barcelona have reached an agreement to appoint Gerardo Martino as the new coach of the football team for the next two seasons. This agreement is pending the drafting and signing of the contract," a statement on fcbarcelona.cat read.

"In the coming hours [a programme will be planned for] his arrival in Barcelona, signing the contract and the subsequent presentation."

The news of Martino's impending arrival is sure to go down well with Barcelona talisman Lionel Messi, who has spoken in glowing terms about his compatriot in the past.

The two men both hail from Rosario and, speaking a year ago, Messi told Diario Ole: "I like Tata Martino. He is a great coach... He gets his teams playing well and we all respect him."

Martino, who as a player represented local club Newell's in three different spells while also turning out for Lanus in his homeland, Barcelona SC in Ecuador and O'Higgins in Chile, becomes the fourth Argentinian to coach Barca, following in the footsteps of Helenio Herrera, Roque Olsen and Cesar Luis Menotti.

PA

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