Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino to coach Lionel Messi again at Inter Miami: what happened when they were together at Barcelona?
Reports have confirmed that Martino will return to MLS with the Herons and Messi, who he also worked with in Argentina.
Former Mexico head coach Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino is set to return to MLS to be the new manager of Inter Miami, where he will link up for the third time in his career with Barcelona legend Lionel Messi, who is set to move to Florida upon the expiry of his Paris Saint-Germain contract.
When will Martino and Messi move to Miami?
Argentinian journalist César Luis Merlo confirmed the news that Martino, who coached Atlanta United between 2016 and 2018 and led the club to the MLS Cup to his last season charge, had been chosen to take over from Phil Neville at the Herons and would start his role at the beginning of July, provided his work visa comes through in time. Messi is expected to link up with his new team shortly afterwards, with the Leagues Cup game against Liga MX side Cruz Azul on 21 July having been pencilled in as his potential debut.
Martino “offered nothing” to Messi at Barcelona
Not that Martino has especially fond memories of his time working with his compatriot during the 2013-14 season at Camp Nou. Speaking to Argentinian newspaper Clarin in the summer he left La Blaugrana, Martino had the following to say about his time in Catalonia:
“I didn’t make any mark on Barcelona. It was a bubble in my career in terms of what I did as a coach”.
When asked what he managed to add to Lionel Messi’s performances, Martino was brutally honest: “Nothing. Nothing at all. Not to him or to Barça. I went to a team that always won and didn’t win anything while I was there”.
Barcelona’s 2013-14 season
That is not strictly true, as Barcelona did win the Spanish Super Cup in August 2013, winning a two-legged tie against Atlético Madrid on away goals weeks after Martino’s arrival.
However, disappointment followed in the competitions that really mattered. The club had amassed 100 points in LaLiga the previous season, in which they finished 15 points clear of Real Madrid, but were unable to defend their title, with Atleti surprisingly finishing top of the pile after avoiding defeat at Camp Nou on a dramatic final day.
Barcelona ended the league season 13 points worse off than the year before, failed to reach the Champions League semi-finals for the first time in seven years and lost in the Copa del Rey final to Madrid (thanks to that Gareth Bale goal).
Messi’s 2013-14 season
As for Messi, then 26, his numbers also suffered. In the two previous seasons, the playmaker has scored an astonishing 60 and 73 goals respectively, comfortably averaging more than a goal a game in each. Under Martino, he netted 41 times in 46 matches (admittedly an incredible return for any other player), which included ‘only’ 28 in LaLiga.
Two seasons earlier, he had scored 50 league goals, followed by 46. The year after Martino’s departure, his numbers increased again under Luis Enrique, with 43 league strikes and 58 in 57 matches in all competitions.
Argentina’s Copa América heartbreak
And the pair also suffered heartbreak together during Martino’s time in charge of the Argentina national team. Taking charge after the 2014 World Cup final defeat to Germany, ‘Tata’ led La Albiceleste to Copa América finals in back-to-back years. On both occasions, they were unbeaten in the tournament, on both occasions, they faced Chile and on both occasions, they were beaten in a penalty shootout.
To make matters worse, Messi missed from the spot in the second of those finals, which led to him retiring from international soccer at the age of just 29. A short time, later, however, he changed his mind and the rest, as they say, his history.
A new challenge with Inter Miami in MLS
Will it be third time lucky for Martino and Messi in Miami? A very different challenge awaits them, with the Herons currently sitting bottom of the MLS Eastern Conference and 27th out of 29 in the overall table.