Javi Martinez only made brief substitute appearances for the triumphant Spain side in 2010 and 2012, but at just 23 years of age, the Bayern newcomer is already a world and European champion. The player is following in the footsteps of the likes of Xavi, who is 32, and 28-year-old Andres Iniesta. “Martinez is part of our future," victorious Spanish boss Vicente del Bosque declared.
The seasoned coach is a huge Martinez fan: “As a footballer, it's fair to compare him with former world-class star Patrick Vieira. He’s a born leader and a complete player. I can only congratulate Bayern." Del Bosque has welcomed the player's decision to leave Athletic Bilbao for Munich. “It's always proved helpful when our players have experience of major overseas clubs," the Spain boss said, “it shapes them and brings them on."
But what exactly are the qualities which have made Martinez sought after by big-name clubs everywhere? “If you're thinking of a specific position and search the whole of Europe, and you keep coming back to the same two or three players, you have to make a call at some point," reflected FCB president Uli Hoeneß. Martinez is robust, strong in the air and a good tackler, but agile for a big man, possessed of outstanding technique, and equipped with great vision. That combination persuaded Bayern to pursue the Spaniard this summer, as he is regarded as the final piece in Munich's midfield mosaic.
“He's an excellent player and overall, a type of player we don't currently have," board director for sport Matthias Sammer said. One of Javi's youth coaches is quoted as saying: “I've got Patrick Vieira in my team!" Indeed, the former France battler is Martinez’ biggest idol: “I was always amazed by him. He attacked, he defended, he won the ball, he distributed possession and got his shots away. He was a complete player," the new boy stated.
In Spain, Martinez was soon christened Kaiser of Ayegui due to his Beckenbauer-like elegance on the field. The youthful Martinez, the youngest Spanish second division player of all time, was a target for major clubs from an early age. Bilbao made the running and signed him in 2006 from Osasuna as a 17-year-old for €6 million. Martinez made a full 35 appearances in his first top-flight season.
Over the years, the Spaniard has emerged as a leading figure for Athletic. Since his La Liga debut, he has never played fewer than 30 games per season, and boasts a total of 23 goals from 201 appearances. Javi led the Basque outfit to the Europa League final in 2012, although that ended in a 3-0 defeat to Atletico Madrid. He is set for his Champions League debut with Bayern this autumn.
Martinez’ prodigious talent earned him the Premio Don Balon, the young player of the year award in Spain, for 2010, as he followed in the footsteps of legends such as Xavi (1999) and Raul (1995). Last season, Bilbao coach Marcelo Bielsa fielded his star player at centre back, and although he excelled, his preferred role remains in defensive midfield. He was a key player in Spain's triumphs at the U-19 and U-21 European Championships in 2007 and 2011, and earned his maiden senior cap in May 2010, shortly before the World Cup in South Africa.
Javi is an intriguing character away from the field too. He has modelled underwear, and also owns a restaurant in his hometown of Ayegui. His partner, Spanish model Maria Imizcoz, is his greatest supporter both professionally and privately. All in all, Bayern have surely acquired a fascinating personality and true star in the making.