Martinez is the PERFECT appointment for Barcelona

Peter Staunton
  • Updated: 2 Mar 2024 08:37 GMT
  • 5 min read
Roberto Martinez, Portugal, 2023

Barcelona came very close to appointing Roberto Martinez back in 2021. Xavi ultimately got the job but Barca had seen enough in Martinez to go deep in negotiations before a last-minute hitch ended the possibility.

But the Catalans have never stopped admiring him. And the idea of the 50-year-old stepping into the Camp Nou hotseat is one that makes perfect sense.

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Xavi will depart at the end of the season, amid a poor campaign for Barcelona.

The former midfielder was a LaLiga champion last season but the club’s famously tight backline has disappeared. They have no platform to build and the season has more or less slipped away. Although they remain in the Champions League, it would be a Leicester 2016-sized surprise were they to win it.

EXCLUSIVE: Barcelona approach Roberto Martinez over replacing Xavi

Barca are in need of a revamp and Martinez fits the bill.

Martinez gets the best out of top players

There are still one or two big names on the Barca books like Robert Lewandowski and Ilkay Gundogan. During his time in the Belgium job and from his spell at Portugal, Martinez has shown he has got what it takes to bring the best out of the world’s biggest players.

Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne brought their games to another level thanks to Martinez’s tactical tweaks while Romelu Lukaku could not stop scoring under him.

Cristiano Ronaldo described Martinez, meanwhile, as a “breath of fresh air” around the Portugal international team.

He has shown he can work on a tight budget

And not only is Martinez adept at working with the game’s superstars, he has shown during his Everton days that he has what it takes to manage on a budget.

Across his three seasons there, he barely spent more than €25 million a season. Given Barca’s precarious finances it will be likely that the next manager will not have a fortune at his disposal. It’s not a time for an Antonio Conte who goes into combat with his own sporting director in every press conference asking for more players in the transfer market.

Martinez, through his development of players like Lukaku, John Stones and Ross Barkley at club level, has demonstrated the ability to work with younger players and mould them into future stars. That’s what Barcelona are going to need as they increasingly come to rely on la Masia in the seasons ahead.

Strong Catalan and Cruyff connections

Aside from almost being appointed back in 2021, Martinez also has a strong Barca connection through the Cruyff family. Johan Cruyff spoke very highly of Martinez as a manager and as a person while Johan’s son, Jordi, a former Barcelona player and sporting advisor, is a lifelong friend.

And not only that but Martinez was born and raised in Balaguer, Catalonia. He is a local figure, a status that ought to be cherished by a club such as Barca.

Best Belgium manager

Then there’s Martinez’s managerial record itself. The World Cup in 2022, when Belgium went out at the group stages, was a bitter disappointment. But his record as a whole should be considered.

No Belgium manager ever did better than their bronze in the 2018 World Cup. They were eliminated only by eventual winners, France, and the same happened with Italy at Euro 2020. He presided over the Red Devils’ long reign as the No.1 side in the FIFA World Ranking too.

Martinez has restored Portugal's prestige

At Portugal, his excellent work has continued. The Selecao were in a state of flux following a poor World Cup of their own but Martinez has restored their prestige. Across their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign, they played 10, won 10, scored 36 and conceded only two. Quite simply, they are among the best two or three teams in Europe.

And he’s done it by being tactically flexible, using more than 30 players and a mix of formations, always with an emphasis on goalscoring. He’s brought the best out of Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes in a way their Manchester United club manager Erik ten Hag has been unable to.

Cristiano Ronaldo Roberto Martinez Portugal
© IMAGO - Cristiano Ronaldo Roberto Martinez Portugal

He’s worked with current Barca stars Joao Felix and Joao Cancelo, the latter of which has nothing but good things to say about him. He’s blooded youngsters like Antonio Silva and Goncalo Inacio, showing he’s not afraid to give inexperienced players a chance to prove themselves.

There is an identifiable, Cruyff-like philosophy running through his teams that is becoming more and more apparent every level he goes up.

This is an appointment that makes sense; it is the right call from Barca to go in for Martinez and after the Euros his stock could be even higher.

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