Commanding. Pivotal. Tenacious. Javi Martinez has become the complete anchor midfielder.
He’s worth every cent of the €40m paid for him last year by Bayern Munich, a Bundesliga record that not even Gotze managed to smash only a few hours ago. On a night when two titans clashed, an imperious and brilliant Bavarian side thrashed Barcelona 4-0, with Javi Martinez making a name for himself.
Although the praise naturally revolves around Muller and Robben, who were the fire behind Bayern’s clinical destruction, Javi Martinez was flawless. He was omnipresent throughout the 90 minutes, constantly closing down his opponents, dominating in the air and never missing a tackle. It was a rock-solid performance that became his first win over Barcelona and has now virtually placed Bayern with a slot in the final.
In fact, it was Bayern’s second victory over Vilanova’s side, with the first being last summer’s signing of Martinez. A physical, dynamic player they much needed and were determined to make a ‘blaugrana’, but his fairly high release fee clause ruled them out of the race. For once, Barcelona did not have the financial power at their disposal and opted for a more feasible option, Alex Song.
But would have Martinez been a starting member in Barcelona’s XI if he had joined? Not in his natural position though, as that would only be available if Busquets was injured or rested, which is not often. Therefore, Vilanova would have played Martinez as a centre-back partnering Pique, a place he familiarized himself with during his time at Athletic Bilbao, where he responded well when called upon.
Although Busquets and Martinez are players of different breeds, with the latter being far more physical and commanding than the first, Barcelona’s man is a far more technical and typically Spanish footballer. But on a night where everything matters, Bayern clearly outplayed their opponent, and a player of Martinez’s physique and agression would have been incredibly useful for Barcelona.
Tonight, the Basque defensive midfielder was the champion, Bayern’s third lung, a wall at the back and a motor in midfield. Although it took time for him to adapt to Germany and their style of play, where his value was heavily criticised following his initial sub-par performances, those critics have been silenced.
The 24-year-old is rapidly becoming football’s modern all-rounded anchor man - a player every team could use - embodying the vision from Carrick, the defensive efficiency of Matthaus and presence like Yaya’s. Javi Martinez plays a vital role for Bayern, commanding his ground and linking the defence to the attack.
The path to become an all time best requires consistency, success and experience; all of which will come to him and Pep’s arrival will only improve him as a player. Lastly, a touch of Italian class is always required - which only comes with age.
This piece was written by Dominic Vieira, AFR’s Managing Editor. Follow him on Twitter. Comments below please.
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