Javi Martinez’s transfer to Bayern Munich is another unbelievable blow to La Liga, as he follows in the footsteps of other top talents who were not central to the top two in Spain. The former Atheltic Bilbao midfielder joins Bayern Munich for around 40 million euros, but did English clubs give up the fight too easily?
Many clubs would have baulked at the asking price set by Bilbao for their star midfielder—a release clause of 40 million euros plus tax, which they were determined not to budge from. It probably would have worked out for the Basque club, too, had no other team stumped up the cash. This isn’t a club who necessarily needed the full cash injection of 40 million euros, and what exactly would they do with it in the transfer market? But Bayern’s insistence to get the deal done has really thrown a spanner in the works for Bilbao, an enquiry which they tried to scare off by forcing the added tax issue and their lack of consent to the deal overall.
For Bayern, however, it was an absolute no-brainer to go after Martinez. But while it’s a huge deal that could help swing the Bundesliga title back into their hands, it does raise questions about issues a little closer to home. What is the situation with Bastian Schweinsteiger? Will he ever be the dominant force in the Bayern midfield again? The injuries that have plagued him over the past season has really left a great deal of doubt as to whether the German international will ever regain that exceptional form that drove the team forward. It was, perhaps wrongly, concluded that both Schweinsteiger and Bayern and German teammate Philipp Lahm were great players but not great leaders: was the Martinez deal tied up in order to add that level of strength and leadership back into the Bayern line up?
The real question is, though, why did none of the major clubs in England look to Martinez as an excellent investment? Yes, 40 million euros is an unbelievable amount of money for any player, but Martinez is well worth the price. He’s a 23-year-old Spanish international with plenty of experience in European tournaments, captaining the Spanish U21s to the European Championship last summer. He’s helped Bilbao to two cup finals last year, in which they lost both to better teams. But perhaps his greatest quality is his versatility and ability to perform exceptionally well at both centre-back and in the centre of midfield.
How many clubs in England were crying out this summer for a real powerhouse in both defence and midfield? Martinez isn’t a one dimensional player either. His strength and reading of the game allows him to cut out opposition attacks, while his positioning and composure more than makes up for his lack of pace.
One of the wonderful aspects of his game is the way he holds his ground in either midfield or defence and acts as a wall with which the more advanced attacking players can rebound the ball off and continue their possession game. It truly is a case of the other creative players lending him the ball, only for Martinez to redistribute quickly and efficiently.
Manchester City were looking for a player of his quality, while his versatility would have plugged two notable gaps in their squad. Yes, there has been a case where Roberto Mancini and Brian Marwood have not seen eye-to-eye with regards to transfers, but surely Martinez would have been a better investment than piecing a squad together almost lazily with the additions of Jack Rodwell and Scott Sinclair.
In the other part of Manchester, Alex Ferguson really could have done with a player like Martinez. Instead, a good chunk of the transfer budget was spent on a striker in Robin van Persie, who arguably isn’t on equal footing to what Martinez could have brought to the club over a greater period of time. The decision to let Dimitar Berbatov go for such a small fee after splashing out £30 million on him is also baffling and could have contributed to the purchase of Martinez.
Meanwhile, Chelsea have shown they are not afraid to spend big this summer. The extreme price of Martinez’s fee would have understandably put them off, but the Spanish international would have done a lot to further force the issue of attractive and winning football at Stamford Bridge.
Franz Beckenbauer has recently stated that the money spent on Martinez does not worry him, as the club are better off spending the money to improve the squad rather than keeping it in the bank. It’s also a huge statement from Bayern considering the Bundesliga isn’t always central in the thoughts of the top talent around Europe. How does the team now fancy their chances both in the Champions League and domestic competition?
Barcelona obviously didn’t have the money to approach Bilbao with a serious offer for Martinez, while Real Madrid had other targets to capture this summer. It is a great addition to the Bundesliga that a player of this status and quality has moved there ahead of Italy and even staying in Spain, but has the Premier League missed out on a real superstar? It does appear that the heavy hitters in England really did give up the chase far too soon.