Report: Martino to become Barca boss
Argentine manager Gerardo "Tata" Martino has signed a three-year deal to become Barcelona's new manager following Tito Vilanova's departure from the club, according to multiple reports from Spain.
The 50-year-old led Newell's Old Boys to the Argentinian Clausura title last season but recently severed ties with the club. Barcelona's sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta was reportedly in Buenos Aires on Monday for talks with Martino. Barcelona have made no official announcement.
The 44-year-old Vilanova had twice previously had to take a medical break from his duties at Barcelona, once as Pep Guardiola's assistant in the 2011-12 season and again as its manager last season. In his single season in charge he led Barcelona to the Spanish league title with a record-tying 100 points.
Vilanova stepped down last week as Barcelona's coach following a recurrence of throat cancer. He underwent another operation on his parotid gland in December before beginning a course of chemotherapy and radiotherapy in New York.
Barcelona forward Lionel Messi has spoken glowingly about Martino following the emergence that the former Paraguay boss was to succeed Vilanova.
He told Diario Ole: "I like Tata Martino. He is a great coach and he showed that in the Clausura with what he did for the team, the way it ended and how he did it. He gets his teams playing well and we all respect him."
The former Paraguay coach had been heavily tipped to take over ahead of the likes of Andre Villas-Boas, Michael Laudrup, Marcelo Bielsa, Luis Enrique and Rubi.
A host of coaches had been linked to the vacant position, including former Barcelona B boss Luis Enrique, Andre Villas-Boas, Marcelo Bielsa, Michael Laudrup, Rubi and most recently Guus Hiddink, who on Monday resigned as coach of Anzhi Makhachkala.
However, it seems Martino is now poised to take the reigns at the Catalan giants. Barca captain Carles Puyol was asked about the possible options at a press conference on Monday morning and he stressed the importance of bringing in a coach who believes in the club's "philosophy."
He said: "I think all the names that have been mentioned are capable of coaching this team. We all know that Zubi (sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta) and the board are working hard and we're sure they'll bring us the best coach. We have a certain way of playing; a philosophy. The coach that comes in will follow that line and I'm sure that Zubi and the directors are looking for a coach that can adapt to our characteristics.
"I know (Martino) is a very good coach, who likes the style of the club. And you all know that I have a very good relationship with Luis (Enrique) - he's one of the most accomplished names - but I like all the others who have been mentioned."
Puyol, 35, also paid tribute to Vilanova, who inspired Barcelona to a 22nd Primera Division title despite missing a number of matches in the second half of the campaign as he underwent treatment in the United States.
"It's really tough news, not just because it's happened to a coach or a colleague, but because it's an illness," Puyol added. "The person is the most important thing. We remember how he talked to us, how he asked us to give everything, asked us to fight. We certainly did that and we did it even more because of him."
FOXSoccer.com's newswire services and The Associated Press contributed to this report.