ATLANTA (Sept. 27, 2016) – Atlanta United today announced that it has agreed to terms with Gerardo “Tata” Martino to become the club’s inaugural head coach. A former professional player and coach at the highest levels of international football, Martino has most notably led the Argentina National Team, Paraguay National Team and La Liga’s FC Barcelona during his prestigious 20-year coaching career.
Martino will be introduced to the media on Wednesday, September 28, 10 AM ET, at a news conference in downtown Atlanta that will be streamed live on the Atlanta United Facebook page at Facebook.com/AtlantaUnitedFC.
“We are delighted that a manager of Gerardo’s caliber and pedigree will be leading our team into our inaugural season,” said Atlanta United President Darren Eales. “His deep experience and success at both the club and international levels speak for itself, and his vision and approach aligns very well with our club philosophy. We’re confident in his ability to help build a winning culture both on and off the pitch.”
Martino, 53, most recently managed the Argentina National Team from 2014 to 2016, leading Argentina back to the No. 1 FIFA World ranking in July 2015. Under Martino’s leadership, Argentina appeared in the Copa America final in back-to-back years in 2015 and 2016, while finishing with a 20-4-5 overall record. Martino also managed Paraguay from 2006 to 2011, where he led La Albirroja to their best World Cup finish, advancing past the Round of 16 for the first time ever in South Africa in 2010. At the club level, Martino has most notably managed FC Barcelona (2013-14) and Newell’s Old Boys (2011-13).
“This is an incredibly exciting and historic day for our club,” said Atlanta United owner Arthur Blank. “Gerardo brings an unprecedented level of international experience to our head coaching position that will be a valuable asset to our players and demonstrates the continuing growth of Major League Soccer. We’re thrilled he’s chosen to join our club and look forward to welcoming him to Atlanta.”
With Argentina, Martino’s leadership to the FIFA No. 1 World ranking broke an eight-year drought for the nation since their last top ranking in June 2008. In the 2015 Copa America, Martino led Argentina to the top of Group B and into the semifinals, where they dismantled Paraguay 6-1. The following year, Martino again led Argentina to the top of its group in the 2016 Copa America Centenario, completely outmatching opponents 10-1 in three matches. After two more lopsided victories – 4-1 over Venezuela in the quarterfinals and 4-0 over the hosts, USA, in the semifinals – Argentina was again on to the final. However, Argentina fell just short in each final, losing to Chile both times in penalties.
During his time at Paraguay, Martino was named the 2007 South American Coach of the Year after a strong showing in Copa America that year, as well as an unbeaten start in World Cup Qualifying. Paraguay was drawn into a difficult Group F at the World Cup, alongside Italy, Slovakia and New Zealand. They won the group and then advanced past the Round of 16 for the first time in the nation’s history. The following year was Martino’s last with Paraguay. At the 2011 Copa America, Paraguay advanced out of Group B and scored the upset of the tournament in the quarterfinals, defeating Brazil. They wound up defeating Venezuela in the semifinals, marking the first time Paraguay reached the Copa America final since 1979.
“I’m very happy to join Atlanta United as the first head coach in club history” Martino said. “This is an exciting time for MLS and I’m looking forward to the challenge of leading a team in an evolving league. Atlanta United is a first-rate organization, and I’m very eager to get working and build one of the top clubs in MLS.”
At the club level, Martino’s most recent position was at FC Barcelona, where Martino’s team won 13 out of its first 14 league matches and was eventually drawn into a frenzied three-way battle for La Liga’s title, as Barcelona finished second with a league-high 100 goals and league-best +67 goal differential. Prior to that, Martino managed Newell’s Old Boys from 2011 to 2013, immediately turning around a club heading for relegation by finishing in sixth place in the Torneo Final (the second half of the Argentine football season) in 2012. The following season, Newell’s finished in second in the Torneo Inicial (first half of the Argentine season), before winning the Torneo Final in 2013. That same year, he also led the club to the semifinals of the 2013 Copa Libertadores.
“Gerardo’s teams have always been organized and have displayed a fast and fluid style that aligns with how we intend to play,” said Atlanta United Technical Director Carlos Bocanegra. “He’s also demonstrated a commitment to youth soccer, consistently proving his ability to enhance the progression of younger players. He’s a great fit for our club and I look forward to working with him to build a successful club.”
Martino also starred at Newell’s Old Boys as a player, where he still holds the club record for games played. During his time, Martino helped guide the club to three Argentine Primera Division titles before the attacking midfielder was eventually moved to CD Tenerife, of Spain’s La Liga.