Soca Warriors captain Kenwyne Jones will be guided from the sidelines next season by a man whose last centre forward was Argentine sensation and global superstar Lionel Messi.
New United States Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise, Atlanta United, announced today that former Argentina and Barcelona coach, Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino, will head their technical staff next year for their inaugural competitive season.
Martino steered Argentina to two successive Copa America finals in 2015 and 2016 but lost on penalties to Chile in both games. His record as national coach comprised 19 wins, seven draws and three losses.
He quit in July over what he referred to as “serious problems” with the Argentinian FA, which was under a normalisation committee at the time.
Martino coached Messi at Barcelona as well, where he led them to second place in La Liga in 2013-14, while he steered Paraguay to the 2010 World Cup quarterfinals and took Newell’s Old Boys to the 2013 Copa Libertadores semifinal.
Atlanta, which sold an expansion team record 22,000 season tickets for their debut season, are thrilled to have secured Tata.
“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 will now be expected to help the club fill its roster, which has just seven players at present. Jones, who is on loan at local Pro League team, Central FC, is far and away Atlanta’s most experienced player and the only squad member with more than a handful of senior international caps.
Jones is due to join Atlanta for pre-season training on 1 January 2017. And he cannot wait to meet his new coach.
“I’m really happy that Martino has made the decision to join us at Atlanta United,” said Jones, via his publicist. “He’s played at all levels of football, he’s led Argentina to the top spot in the FIFA World Ranking, and he’s been at the coaching helm for one of the biggest clubs in the world, FC Barcelona.
“He is a leader in every sense of the word, and I respect him a lot.”
The former England Premier League forward with Southampton, Sunderland, Stoke City and Cardiff City said he is more anxious than ever to suit up for his new MLS employers, Atlanta.
“Definitely, it’s a good look because it shows that the club is out to make a big impact,” said Jones. “I’m excited to join camp next year, management is making historic moves, and the Atlanta United fans should be looking forward to great times for the 2017 season.”