Atlanta United’s beloved former head coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino is no longer in a job after his Mexican side failed to advance from the group stage in the 2022 World Cup.
Martino told the media in his post-match press conference yesterday that his contract ended the moment the ref blew for full time, confirming reports that had trickled out in days prior to the match.
Martino is now a free agent, and Atlanta United fans probably can’t help but wonder if there’s any future for him to return to Atlanta, especially now that there is new management overhead in the form of Garth Lagerwey, who was formally introduced as Darren Eales’ permanent successor earlier this week.
The answer to that question, understandably, is almost certainly not. The “almost” in that sentence encapsulates the very slim possibility that “anything is possible in football” as we often hear from those involved in the sport.
The honest truth is that the only possible way it could ever be conceived would be for current Vice President Carlos Bocanegra to also depart from the club, given that the two reportedly did not see eye-to-eye on various workings at the club during their time together.
Having said that, even the prospect of coming to work in Bocanegra’s role himself is very hard to see for someone like Martino. If there’s one thing that Lagerwey expressed in his introductory remarks to media on Tuesday, it’s that he is a thoroughly analytical, process-driven executive. Martino, I think it’s fair to say, would not be a great fit in such a setup. Aside from tropes like being “old school” and such, Martino is really driven by his intuition and experience as a coach. He stubbornly trained players hard day-after-day in Atlanta despite sports scientists and other staff (even some of his players) perhaps disagreeing. He kept a smallish group of about 15 players from the entirety of the roster as his trusted group that he’d rely on week after week. Perhaps these things were right to do in his role as coach, but they do not inherently mean he would fit well as a technical director in Atlanta United’s setup.
We don’t even know that he’s interested in being a technical director at all. One would think that a coach reaching this stage of life would naturally like to remove himself from the training ground on a daily basis, but Martino himself has long been adamant that he’s only interested in being hands on with players day-in, day-out. On top of that, he’s been working at a pretty intense pace for quite some time now. And with his last four jobs being those at Barcelona, Argentina national team, Atlanta United and El Tri, maybe it would be good to take some time back in his native Argentina.
Or maybe not — to be fair, he’s never taken a break in his coaching career to this point. But it’s hard to see him back here in Atlanta, despite all of our very fond feelings.