Munich - 71,000 fans rose in anticipation as Javi Martinez leapt to meet Holger Badstuber's cross and head in his first goal as a Bayern Munich player in the 2-0 win against Hoffenheim at the weekend. Sadly for them, the Spanish international failed to make the desired contact and kicked the post in frustration as the ball bobbled wide.
It was the perfect opportunity for the 24-year-old to open his account for the record champions, but Martinez will swiftly be forgiven by the Bayern faithful given the impact he has already made since arriving from Athletic Bilbao at the end of August for a Bundesliga record 40 million euro fee.
Not that Martinez was signed for his goalscoring abilities. In six years with the Basque outfit, he chipped in with a useful 23 goals in 201 appearances but, as a defensive midifelder, his game has always been about breaking up attacks rather than creating them.
Doing the dirty work, effectively, is one of the Spaniard's biggest assets and the fact that he may not stand out over 90 minutes is something he can take as a compliment. His average of 31 tackles per game, 11 more than his Germany international clubmate Bastian Schweinsteiger, is proof enough he's doing something right.
Although eyebrows were raised at the club's interest in a player relatively unknown outside of the Iberian peninsula, Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge does not believe any justification was required for the continent's biggest summer transfer. "He's a superb player," said Rummenigge. "Javi fits in perfectly, even in terms of his character, but I knew that because he declined money to make sure the deal went through."
"Martinez gives us the highest level of quality," continued the former Germany striker. "That's the feeling I get. We've spent money in an area where games are often decided and we've bought the best quality for at least the next five years." The statistics serve to reinforce those sentiments. An astonishing 90 per cent passing accuracy rate, combined with an average of 83 touches per match represent obvious value in terms of his contribution to the team.
Martinez's imposing physique also gives him an aerial advantage and his record of 65 per cent of headers won speaks for itself. It is a quality that has not gone unnoticed by Spain coach Vicente del Bosque, who has included the Bayern midelder in his squad for the defending champions' upcoming FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Belarus and France.
"I've called Javi Martinez up as a central defender because that's where we need him most, and that's where we'll be deploying him," said del Bosque, who also guided Spain to the successful defence of their European title over the summer. Having already played at centre back for Bilbao, Martinez will take the positional switch in his stride - further evidence, were any needed, that Bayern have once again made an exceedingly sound investment.