Messi clan backs new Barça manager

The appointment of Gerardo "Tata" Martino as Barcelona manager is slightly at odds with the Catalan giants' recent run of managerial appointments, which placed the focus on promoting coaches already working within the club.

Messi clan backs new Barça manager
The 50-year-old is a disciple of the style of high-intensity, pressing and passing football expounded by Argentine coach Marcelo Bielsa. Photo: Daniel García/AFP

But given the rushed circumstances in which club directors were forced to make an appointment after Tito Vilanova resigned last Friday due to ongoing health problems, Martino does at least allow for a degree of tactical stability at the club.

The 50-year-old is a disciple of the style of high-intensity, pressing and passing football expounded by Argentine coach Marcelo Bielsa.

Martino was a player in Bielsa's highly successful Newell's Old Boys side in the early 1990s and a meeting with Bielsa also strongly influenced Pep Guardiola's outlook on how to coach before taking over at Barca in 2008.

Although untried as a coach in Europe, Martino's success in South America and the style of play his sides deployed indicates he could make a successful transition to European club football.

Martino's first significant steps as a coach came in Paraguay, where he won four titles in five years with Libertad and Cerro Porteno before moving on to take charge of the country's national team.

In Spain he is remembered for his Paraguay side that very nearly eliminated La Selección on their eventual road to glory at the 2010 World Cup.

The South Americans were unfortunate to go down 1-0 in the quarter-final tie after having a perfectly good goal ruled out for offside and missing a second-half penalty.

More success followed as Martino led Paraguay to the Copa America final in 2011, eliminating Brazil on the way, but after losing out to Uruguay he opted for a return to club management.

A return to Newell's in a coaching capacity enhanced his reputation as one of the best coaches in South American football.

The team from Rosario claimed the season-ending Argentine title in 2013 and also reached the semi-finals of the Copa Libertadores before being eliminated on penalties by a former Barca favourite in Ronaldinho's Atletico Miniero side.

His connection with Rosario could help Martino as he begins his new and daunting task at one of the biggest clubs in the world.

Barca's star man Lionel Messi also hails from the city and played for Newell's youth sides before moving across the Atlantic Ocean to join Barcelona as a young teenager.

Indeed, Martino is said to be the idol of Leo's father, Jorge Horacio Messi, due to his playing career at Newell's.

The World Player of the Year has himself been fulsome in his praise of Martino in the past.

At a recent press conference, Martino thanked the Messi family for their support and suggested they had had some degree of influence over his appointment as Barça's new coach.

More important to whether he is successful in Spain, though, is the tactical flexibility Martino has shown throughout his managerial career.

The majority of his club sides have tended to follow the Bielsa principles of free-flowing attacking football, whereas with Paraguay he understood the limitations of the players he had on offer and made them extremely difficult to beat.

With the players at Barca's disposal their strengths will always lie in attack.

But Martino's tactical nous on the defensive side of the game could help them avoid a repeat of the 7-0 aggregate humiliation they suffered at the hands of Bayern Munich in this season's Champions League semi-finals.

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Why has the expansion of Barcelona airport prompted mass protests?

Around 10,000 people demonstrated against the expansion of the El Prat airport in Barcelona on Sunday.

Why has the expansion of Barcelona airport prompted mass protests?
People march during a demonstration against the expansion of the Barcelona-El Prat airport. Photo: Pau BARRENA / AFP

Several ecological and agricultural organisations, have demanded that the expansion be stopped due to the fact nearby wetlands and farms would have to be destroyed.

The demonstration took place on Calle Tarragona in the Catalan capital between Plaça d’Espanya and Plaça dels Països Catalans.

The protests still took place, even though last week, Spain suspended the €1.7 billion airport expansion project, citing differences with the Catalan government, after president Pere Aragonès said he wanted to avoid destroying La Ricarda lagoon, a natural reserve next to the airport. 

Environmentalists decided not to call off the march, in case plans for the airport expansion still went ahead.

READ ALSO: Six things you need to know about Barcelona airport’s €1.7 billion planned expansion

Political representatives from ERC, En Comú Podem and the CUP also attended, as well as the leader of Más País, Íñigo Errejón; the Deputy Mayor for Ecology of the Barcelona City Council, Janet Sanz, and the Mayor of El Prat de Llobregat, Lluís Mijoler.

People from neighbourhoods across the city marched towards Calle Tarragona and could be seen holding placards that read Nature yes, airport no and shouting slogans such as “More courgettes and fewer planes” and “Fighting for the climate, health, and life”. 

One of the largest groups of people were those from El Prat de Llobregat, the municipality which is home to the airport, who were led by tractors. 

People march during a demonstration against the expansion of Barcelona-El Prat airport. Photo by Pau BARRENA / AFP

In addition to protesting against the expansion of the El Prat airport, people were also demonstrating against the Winter Olympic Games in the Pyrenees and extensions to airports in Mallorca and Madrid. 

A representative of Zeroport, Sara Mingorría said “We are here to defend not only La Ricarda, but the entire Delta”. 

The philosopher Marina Garcés also argued that the expansion of the airport would mean “more borders, more mass tourism, more control and more precarious jobs.” 

The leader of the commons in the Catalan parliament, Jéssica Albiach, who also attended the protest, asked the PSOE for “coherence”: “You cannot be passing a law against climate change and, at the same time, defend the interests of Aena [the airport operations company]”, she said. 

She also urged the leader of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonès, to “definitely say no. 

If the airport expansion in Barcelona goes ahead, environmentalists say that CO2 emissions would rise by a minimum of 33 percent. These levels would surpass the limits set by the Catalan government’s climate targets.