BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Barcelona reached an agreement Tuesday to sign Gerardo Martino as coach for two seasons, replacing Tito Vilanova.
The club said it will specify plans for the Argentine's arrival in Barcelona "in the coming hours." Martino is expected to travel from Argentina to sign a contract and be presented officially to the club.
Vilanova stepped down as Barcelona coach last week following a recurrence of throat cancer.
Despite having no experience coaching a European club, the 50-year-old Martino received backing from Barcelona star Lionel Messi before the club's sporting director traveled to Buenos Aires to negotiate the deal.
Messi spoke glowingly of Martino, better known by the nickname "Tata" in Argentina.
"I like Tata Martino," Messi said recently. "He is a great coach," adding that "his teams play well and we all respect him."
Martino played as a midfielder from 1980-1996, including a short spell in 1991 at Spanish club Tenerife in the Canary Islands. He also led Paraguay to the quarterfinals of the World Cup for the first time, in 2010.
Martino is due to arrive with his assistant from coaching Newell's Old Boys last season, Jorge Pautasso, fitness coach Elvio Paulo Rosso and coach Adrian Coria, who once was in charge of Messi at the Argentine club.
Barcelona said Martino will become the fourth Argentine to coach the club, after Helenio Herrera (1958-60, 1980 and 1980-81), Roque Olsen (1965-67), and Cesar Luis Menotti (1983-84).