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New Barca coach Martino to tweak side

Moments after completing his deal to coach Barcelona for the next two seasons on Friday,Gerardo Martino assured fans that he had come to maintain

Written by Associated Press | Barcelona | Published: July 27, 2013 12:49:17 am

Moments after completing his deal to coach Barcelona for the next two seasons on Friday,Gerardo Martino assured fans that he had come to maintain the winning style established by successors Tito Vilanova and Pep Guardiola. He also assured fans that Manchester United’s third bid for Cesc Fabregas would be rejected,saying that the midfielder would be staying at Barcelona.

Barcelona announced Tuesday that the Argentine coach would take over for Vilanova,who stepped down last week to proceed with a cancer treatment that was “incompatible” with his coaching duties.

The 50-year-old Martino has never coached in Europe before,and after five trophy-laden seasons with coaches who had come up through the club’s youth programs,his signing represents a break from the line of selecting in-house managers.

Martino said that he would tweak the team he has inherited,looking to improve on something that was already working well. “I will try to combine both things,keeping with the style of the club and the style the players are comfortable playing in,but logically while trying to add my own part to make a more complete team,” Martino said. “There are excellent players here and if we can go back to the ideas of the great moments of Barcelona we will do well.” Martino will travel later Friday to Oslo,where Barcelona is getting ready to play a friendly against Valerenga on Saturday. The Spanish league is set to begin on Aug. 17-18. He will have a tough act to follow.

Vilanova led Barcelona to the Spanish league title last season and helped Guardiola guide it to an unprecedented 14 of a possible 19 titles as his assistant from 2008-12. In his favor,Martino will receive a star-studded squad with Lionel Messi,several Spanish internationals such as Andres Iniesta,Xavi Hernandez and Cesc Fabregas,and the club’s latest major signing,Brazil striker Neymar. But his chances for success may largely depend on how well he can convince this diverse collection of players used to winning,and winning in the Barcelona way of attacking football,that he is the right man to carry the team through this unexpected transition.

Martino considered it “normal” that he was relatively unknown in Europe. His greatest coaching achievements are leading Newell’s Old Boys to the Argentine league title last season and Paraguay to the quarterfinals of the World Cup in 2010. He has already received the backing of Messi. “He (is) a great coach and his record speaks for itself. He showed he could do things well both at Newell’s and with Paraguay,” Messi said. “I am convinced he will do well at Barca.”

‘Cesc not for sale’

Martino also made it clear he is counting on Fabregas for next season and does not want the Spain midfielder to accept an offer from Manchester United. United coach David Moyes said on Thursday the English champions had not given up their pursuit of Fabregas,who returned to his boyhood club in 2011 after eight seasons with United’s Premier League rivals Arsenal. “Obviously I am not going to get involved in the club’s economic affairs but they have already rejected two offers so I will add a third,” Martino said. Barca vice president Josep Maria Bartomeu also ruled out selling Fabregas,saying it was normal for United to be interested in the 26-year-old as he was “a great player” but that the club were counting on him.

New contract for Bale?

Elsewhere,Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas says the club is in talks with star player Gareth Bale over a new contract,as it tries to fend off an approach from Real Madrid. After scoring 26 goals last season,the 24-year-old Bale has been heavily linked with a move away from Spurs,with Madrid repeatedly expressing interest in the Welsh winger. Bale signed a new four-year-contract in June 2012 and his departure would be a huge blow to Tottenham’s attempt to qualify for the Champions League. Villas-Boas says “talks are ongoing but that doesn’t mean there is an agreement. … It’s something that we’re speaking about,but there aren’t any developments.”

‘Suarez going nowhere’

Liverpool managing director Ian Ayre says the club has no intention of selling striker Luis Suarez despite persistent interest from Arsenal and other clubs. Liverpool has refused two transfer bids from the Gunners and Ayre said that stance will remain. Speaking ahead of a friendly in Thailand,Ayre said “the situation with Luis Suarez remains the same. It’s never been our intention to sell Luis.”

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