Mexico got its man, announcing on Monday it has hired Gerardo "Tata" Martino to manage the men’s national team.
The length of the deal is yet to be announced, though the Mexican federation stated that Martino will be the man to lead El Tri "on the way to Qatar 2022".
Martino takes over a team that has been remarkably consistent in recent history. El Tri have qualified for the last seven World Cups and been eliminated at the round of 16 stage of each of them. That has set off a near-obsessive quest to make the ‘fifth game’, a quarterfinal, for the first time on foreign soil.
He’ll first be tasked with re-establishing regional supremacy. Mexico’s strongest team was at the Confederations Cup in 2017 but an alternate team failed to win the Gold Cup. Martino will have Mexico’s best at his disposal for this summer’s Gold Cup.
That includes an exciting new generation of players, led by PSV star Hirving Lozano, who are taking over from a generation of stars that won the U-20 World Cup and Olympic gold but were unable to turn those youth trophies into major achievements on the senior national team level.
The El Tri job had been vacant since Juan Carlos Osorio declined a contract extension after the 2018 World Cup, leaving to eventually take over the Paraguay national team. It was with that same Paraguay team that Martino first made his name in international soccer.
Now 56, Martino was hired as Paraguay manager in 2007 after winning four titles in the country’s domestic league - three at Libertad and one at Cerro Porteno. He led the Albirroja to their best-ever finish at the World Cup, making the quarterfinals in 2010.
After announcing his intentions to step down, Martino instead was convinced to stay on and guided Paraguay to a runner-up finish in the 2011 Copa America - albeit without winning a single match in regulation after three group stage draws and a pair of penalty shootout wins in the knockout stage.
He later went on to manage Newell’s Old Boys, the club where spent his youth and later suited up nearly 500 times as a midfielder for the first team. After winning the 2013 title with the club, he made the jump across the Atlantic Ocean to replace Tito Vilanova as Barcelona manager.
His tenure there lasted just a year, with Barca falling short of the La Liga title by a point and finishing as runner-up of the Copa del Rey. Yet, he impressed enough for Argentina to bring him on after the 2014 World Cup. He took his home nation to the final of back-to-back tournaments but fell to Chile in both the 2015 Copa America and the 2016 Copa America Centenario. He stepped down after the latter final, ending his Argentina career with only those defeats, a pair of friendly losses in 2014 and a defeat to Ecuador in World Cup qualification
While the team faltered on the final day of the regular season and missed out on the Supporters’ Shield, awarded to the team with the most points at the end of the regular season, it rolled through the playoffs with a 4-1 aggregate victory in the Eastern Conference semifinals, a 3-1 win the conference finals and a 2-0 triumph over the Portland Timbers in the MLS Cup final.
His debut as Mexico manager will come in a March 22 friendly match against Chile in San Diego with a contest against Osorio’s Paraguay four days later in Northern California.