Atlanta United made a huge statement of intent on Tuesday when they announced the hiring of Gerardo “Tata” Martino as the first manager in their club’s history. Major League Soccer has had its fair share of “big name” coaches come through, but none (in the modern age of the league) have had the resume or track record that Martino boasts.
For a decade now, MLS and its leaders have preached about becoming one of the best leagues in the world sometime in the future. A big part of reaching that goal is attracting big name talent, which the league has done a good job of ever since David Beckham’s famous arrival in 2007.
High-priced players will only get the league so far though. The next step has to be attracting some of the best managers in the world to bring their expertise to the ever-improving depth of talent bestowed by many of the teams.
MLS has seen its fair share of great managers. The likes of Bob Bradley, Bruce Arena, and Sigi Schmid made their name in the league and will be Hall of Famers when they retire. However, we haven’t seen the league bring in the big names on the managerial front like they have on the player side.
Enter Tata Martino and Atlanta United. The ambitious expansion franchise pulled out all the stops and acquired themselves a household name (within the soccer realm) with a prestigious background as a top class leader.
From winning titles in Argentina and Paraguay’s first-division to managing FC Barcelona and Lionel Messi, Martino has been all over the map and back again in his managerial career.
A manager with that track record is just not something you see in this region of the soccer world very often. World Cup-winner Carlos Alberto Parreira coaching the MetroStars in 1997 is the closest comparison we can come up with, but it’s not really fair to lump him into consideration as he only stuck around for one year and had a reputation as being a mercenary on the managerial front.
This hire is one that has shook up the MLS world considerably. All you need to do is to look at the reaction from the media when his arrival was officially confirmed. Everyone from CNN to Univision were covering it. You just don’t see that in MLS, where a new manager hiring in a random city barely makes the local news broadcast.
You have to wonder if the front offices around MLS are reacting with the same level of interest. Will they feel the pressure to go out and top this type of signing? A team like the Seattle Sounders will likely be looking for a new manager this offseason. Will this move play into their decision making?
There has never been another manager hiring like this in MLS history and probably won’t be for a long while, although you can bet teams will try. There’s still a lot to accomplish, like, you know, actually put a team together and win games, but the biggest piece is in place.
Martino isn’t coming here to collect a paycheck as a retirement gift. He’s not a big name/first time manager looking to get some experience under his belt. He’s a proven world-class manager coming off leading the No. 1 national team in the world. The club hired him with the long-term in mind and his mindset seems to match that.
The story goes that Martino had his contacts reach out to Atlanta United about the job. A world-class manager put his own name into the hat for the job instead of the club begging him. The thought of it is just astounding.
Perhaps we’ll look back at this news in 20 years as the David Beckham moment for MLS luring in world-class managers. We can only hope.