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Soccer

Soccer club Barcelona set to hire Gerardo Martino as new coach

Barcelona have neared the appointment of Argentine Gerardo Martino as their new coach. He is set to replace Tito Vilanova, who stepped down because of illness.

Spanish champions Barcelona announced on their website on Tuesday that the 50-year-old Martino (pictured above) had agreed to a two-year deal to coach the football club.

"The agreement is pending the drafting and signing of the contract," they added.

Martino, nicknamed "Tata" (granddad), rose to prominence as a coach when he guided Paraguay to the last eight of the 2010 World Cup, where they lost to eventual champions Spain.

In June, he led Newell's Old Boys to the final of the Argentina Primera Division.  The club also reached the semi-finals of the 2013 Copa Libertadores.

Martino replaces Tito Vilanova, 44, who stepped down last week to continue treatment for throat cancer. Vilanova led Barcelona to the La Liga title in his first season since taking over from Pep Guardiola, who is now at the helm of Bayern Munich.

Matching styles

Speaking to Spanish sports daily Marca in June, Martino said he "identified with the kind of football Barcelona play".

He added, "It's the style I like most. The respect for the ball, playing out from the back, possession, interchange of passes. The pass is the essence of football."

Martino's likely arrival had already been welcomed by Barca star and countryman Lionel Messi, who told Spanish sports daily Ole that Martino was a "great coach" and "we all respect him".

tj,ph/msh (Reuters, AFP)