Javi Martinez is a name that those in England may have heard of by now; the Spain Under 21 international was linked with Liverpool this summer as a potential replacement for Madrid-bound Xabi Alonso and, although the transfer didn’t go through, he remains one of Spain’s top talents who is bound to continue his career with a bigger club than Athletic Bilbao, particularly given that a number of European giants are already said to be interested in the 21 year old.
Born on the 2nd of September 1988 in Pamplona, Martinez joined local side Osasuna as a 10 year old and then at age 17 he made his way into Osasuna’s “B” side where he became a regular for the season. His impressive performances for the reserve side led to local rivals Athletic Bilbao, who have a history of only ever signing Basque players, splashing out 6 million euros on Martinez despite his never having played a first team game in Spanish football. Eighteen year old Martinez was then immediately launched into the Athletic first team where he has remained to this day although the bigger teams would like to change that as quickly as possible.
A central midfielder by trade, Martinez has been likened to Patrick Vieira in that he is tall (Martinez stands at 6’3”) and capable of breaking up opponents attacks and pushing forward in an attempt to aid his side’s attacking. Martinez has not proved much of a goalscorer with only 11 goals in 110 league appearances for Athletic but he is still young with a lot of developing to do and his game is focused more on driving runs, sweeping away opposition attacks and heading from box to box. When he was linked with Liverpool Martinez was enthusiastically likened to Steven Gerrard by some Liverpool fans as a result of his powerful charges forward and use of his strength – a comparison he surely wouldn’t mind.
Martinez became an Under 17 international for Spain whilst playing for Osasuna “B” and moved up to the Under 19 squad when he joined Athletic. Since being a first team member at Athletic Martinez has been promoted to the Spain Under 21 squad where he has been a regular, making 13 appearances and scoring 1 goal to date and he will optimistic of a call-up to the full Spain squad sooner rather than later – he is very highly rated in his country after all.
Athletic Bilbao will have no desire to sell the starlet as they cannot properly replace key players they sell due to the restrictions in having just Basque players on their books but Martinez’s minimum fee release clause is believed to be around 20 million euros and it would come as no surprise if he were to be sold for less than that as Athletic are not a rich club and can be swayed by big offers for their players. Martinez himself has expressed himself as happy to stay at the club as he’s settled there and developing well but he would surely not turn down the chance to play for a bigger side. What’s more, he has fuelled speculation that he could move abroad in the near future by admitting that he is a fan of both the Premiership and Serie A, having watched them as a child and finding them entertaining. And which does he prefer? The Premiership. If Liverpool don’t move for him, don’t be surprised to see him gracing one of the other English sides and it will be interesting to see if Martinez reaches the level he’s expected to – the Spanish Vieira? It’s possible.