NEW YORK – Gerardo "Tata" Martino was arriving at FC Barcelona just as David Villa was leaving the club to start a new chapter in his storied career at Atletico Madrid.
It was July 2013, and Villa was still in touch with former teammates and staff.
“He came after I left, but I have a lot of friends there and everybody told me very good things about him,” Villa told MLSsoccer.com. “He’s a great coach.”
It is because of those early reviews that Villa is not surprised at the fast start Atlanta United FC, who visit Yankee Stadium to face New York City FC on Sunday (4 pm ET | Univision, facebook.com in US, MLS LIVE in Canada), have had in their inaugural season.
However, the NYCFC star is also quick to point out how early in the season it is.
“It’s early yet, only seven or eight games. But he’s a great coach, they signed some really good players,” Villa said. “Of course it’s hard to start from zero and play against a team that has been working for 20 years before you, but they are a good team and I expect them to have a great season.”
“The other day they lose to D.C., but I watched the game and the first 20 minutes Atlanta can be [ahead] 2-0 or 3-0,” Villa said. “The game changed after. We will have a difficult game on Sunday because they have good players, a good team and a good coach.”
As is the case by bringing players like Villa, who on Wednesday signed a one-year contract extension with NYCFC, Major League Soccer is better off having experienced coaches from around the world, according to the Spaniard.
Though Patrick Vieira is still relatively new to the coaching ranks, his playing experience is vast and Martino coached Paraguay and Argentina before coming to Atlanta.
“I think soccer is soccer throughout the world, but when you have a coach with experience from different countries, it’s better,” Villa said. “More than ever, for the experience. It’s the same with a player, with the passing of time you have more experience and you are better to attack different situations.
“In this case, Tata is coaching the national teams in South America and in Europe with a team like Barcelona – of course he is ready to be a coach in any part of the world in soccer.”