Mexico manager Gerardo "Tata" Martino says he understands why fans may have concerns about a foreign coach leading the national team but said there should be no worries about the commitment he and his staff have to El Tri.
The Argentine has led his own nation's national team but also coached Paraguay earlier in his career and took La Albirroja to their best-ever finish at a World Cup, making the quarterfinals in 2010. Martino was announced as the new El Tri boss in January and has quickly gotten to work ahead of March friendly matches against Chile and Paraguay.
Martino took over from Juan Carlos Osorio, who was largely unpopular with Mexico fans despite a winning record. While most criticisms of Osorio revolved around his tactical decisions, an incident at the Mexico City airport where a woman told Osorio to go back to his native Colombia received widespread publicity.
The current coach said he could see where the sentiment of wanting a Mexican coach to lead the team comes from, but assured fans he'll do everything possible to make sure Mexico is successful.
"I understand that it's always difficult for a national team to have a foreign manager," Martino said at a news conference Thursday in Los Angeles . "It's a nationalistic question that also flows into football. We always think that the right thing is to make an effort to have domestic coaches. I don't think that posture is bad. Right now, I'm here like (Argentine Ricardo) La Volpe was here or Osorio was here, also being from different countries.
"We're taking it on with a lot of hope, with a lot of intensity and with a lot of desire. We weren't born in Mexico, but when we're in this role we're putting on the shirt and giving our best. I'm not one of those people who kisses the shirt because my commitment is shown through work, but since the 6th or 7th of January, I don't remember what it was, we've got the shirt on."
Martino's last stop was at Atlanta United, and he said he'd be happy to consider MLS-based players for his March squad even with the season beginning only a few weeks earlier. He also showed a willingness to accept players' decisions to come back to North America.
A number of players have elected to join teams in MLS or Liga MX in recent years rather than staying in Europen leagues with a higher quality of play. In the winter transfer window, Carlos Salcedo moved from Eintracht Frankfurt to Tigres and Miguel Layun signed with Monterrey. Asked specifically about the 25-year-old Salcedo's transfer, Martino said there are more factors to consider than simply soccer.
"A player doesn't only define his situation by sporting issues, but rather also with personal ones. That's where, as managers, we don't have anything to say," Martino said. "Surely, he considered and analyzed the situation. I wouldn't put it down as a step back, coming to a team with the characteristics that Tigres has. For me particularly, as manager of the national team, it's true that we want the players to play in the best leagues in the world.
"The second step for me is that the players play, and in no way do I consider it a regression that he's come to play here in Mexican football because when you analyze the European leagues, I don't know if there are as many matches like America-Monterrey, Cruz Azul-America, Monterrey-Tigres, Tigres-Pachuca, in Mexico there are seven or eight teams that are really even and that gives the player competition.
"If you analyze the German league, the Spanish league, the Italian league, there are two or three teams that stand out above the rest and the other teams have a regular level. That's on the football side, but there also is the personal side and every player has to make his own decision. I can't add anything else to his choice."
Martino makes his debut as El Tri coach on March 22 against Chile in San Diego before a March 26 contest with a Paraguay team now coached by Osorio.