Argentina's Gerardo "Tata" Martino will succeed the ailing Tito Vilanova as coach of defending La Liga champion FC Barcelona, the Spanish club announced Tuesday.

Martino, 50, comes to Barça after leading Newell's Old Boys to the Argentine first division title and is well known to Spanish soccer fans as the coach of the Paraguayan national team that challenged eventual winner Spain in the quarterfinals of the 2010 World Cup.

The new coach signed a two-year contract, Barcelona said.

Martino shares a hometown, Rosario, with Barça striker and World Player of the Year Lionel Messi, whose father idolized Tata during the midfielder's long and distinguished playing career at Newell's.

The 44-year-old Vilanova stepped down unexpectedly last Friday to begin a new course of treatment for the throat cancer first detected more than 18 months ago.

Vilanova spent only a year in the post after succeeding Pep Guardiola.

Martino is an exponent of Barça's trademark playing style, which emphasizes ball control and precision passing.

The new manager will likely join the squad on Thursday in Oslo, where Barcelona is scheduled to play a pre-season friendly this weekend against Norway's Valerenga.

Barça opens the pre-season Wednesday with a match in Germany against Bayern Munich, now coached by Guardiola.

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