Javi Martinez was key to Bayern Munich's table-topping demolition of Borussia Dortmund. - © DFL
Javi Martinez was key to Bayern Munich's table-topping demolition of Borussia Dortmund. - © DFL

Why Javi Martinez is crucial to Bayern Munich’s title defence


Every team needs a player like Javi Martinez, especially one gunning for the Bundesliga title. After a weekend in which Bayern Munich painted the back pages red, Martinez has been front and centre of the conversation, doing what he does best: playing the all-action midfield battering ram.

Martinez, 30, received praise from all angles for his impenetrable display in the 5-0 rout of Borussia Dortmund, as Bayern moved a point clear of their title rivals with six games to go.

The Spaniard snapped into tackles, competed for headers and used every inch of his 6'2" frame to bully a hitherto free-scoring Dortmund attack into submission. He even got on the scoresheet for the third time in four games to underline his importance to the Reds' operation.

"He gives his best whenever he comes in and is a real personality on the pitch for the team," gushed Bayern coach Niko Kovac of Martinez. "He's made for this level."

Watch: Javi Martinez played a crucial role in Bayern's win over Borussia Dortmund

It's impossible to disagree. Bayern have suffered three defeats, drawn two and won five of the 10 league games Martinez has sat out this season - he missed one through injury and watched on as an unused substitute in nine - but have lost only one of the 18 matches he has featured in - at Dortmund on Matchday 11. That's 1.7 points per game without him, and 2.7 seven with him at the base of the midfield.

Martinez occupied the holding role throughout Bayern's remarkable 2012/13 campaign under Jupp Heynckes, and was instrumental in delivering a historic treble of Bundesliga, DFB Cup and UEFA Champions League. Though he has gone on to win five more league titles with the club, injuries and uncertainty about his best position mean that he has only been able to exert the same influence on the Bavarians' game in bursts.

But the fact remains: when he's fit and stationed in his preferred area in front of the back four, Martinez is in a league of his own.

"When Javi plays where I want him to, he's the No.6 we need," said Kovac, having started the 2010 FIFA World Cup winner in four of Bayern's last six Bundesliga matches.

"The way he goes into tackles and wins aerial battles - he's a real weapon," added Bayern president Uli Hoeneß.

A future WWE superstar? Javi Martinez (l.) is well versed in close-quarters takedowns and grappling. - getty

A weapon of mass disruption. No player in the Bayern squad, or indeed Europe as a whole, can tackle, press and carry the ball like Martinez. He intimidates opponents and breeds confidence in his teammates, and has been trusted by a series of top-class managers, from Heynckes, Pep Guardiola and Carlo Ancelotti to Kovac, to be the glue that holds the Bayern team together when the stakes are highest.

How a young and inexperienced Dortmund team tasked with hunting down Germany's record champions could do with a midfield destroyer of Martinez's pedigree during the run-in...