From being mistaken for a type of coffee to setting pulses racing by winning two trebles, there were countless highlights for Javi Martinez during his nine-year stint at Bayern Munich.
bundesliga.com looks back on five of the best…
1) Record signing
After Borussia Dortmund sealed their second Bundesliga title in succession in 2012, Bayern head coach Jupp Heynckes knew something had to be done. His solution: to sign Javi Martinez from Athletic Bilbao – even if not everyone in Munich was aware of his abilities. “Nobody knew who he was when we signed him,” recalled Heynckes. “Franz Beckenbauer thought he was a type of coffee!”
The Spaniard, who was Bayern’s record signing at the time, was far from an unknown quantity in his homeland, however, having been part of Spain’s FIFA World Cup winning squad in 2010 and the triumphant EURO 2012 team.
The defensive midfielder provided Bayern with the desired caffeine jolt in his first season at the club, helping a side that had conceded just 22 Bundesliga goals in 2011/12 to let in an all-time low of 18 in what would be a historic 2012/13 season.
“He’s a reliable player who plays with intelligence and who holds his position,” said Heynckes. “That means you’re not as vulnerable in defence. He’s an outstanding defensive-minded player who is good on the ball, covers a lot of ground and is strong in the tackle.”
2) Treble-winning key
Heynckes’ words proved true – and then some – in that memorable debut campaign. Bayern hadn’t won the Bundesliga for two years, and Dortmund had set a new points record of 81 in 2012. That rankled at Säbener Straße.
And while Martinez initially struggled to start in defensive midfield, with Bastian Schweinsteiger and Luiz Gustavo the preferred pairing in Heynckes’ 4-2-3-1 formation, by early November 2012 he had squeezed above Gustavo in the pecking order, ultimately making 21 Bundesliga starts and 27 appearances that season. Come Matchday 34, the Bundesliga Meisterschale was back in Bayern’s hands – thanks to a new record points haul of 91.
Martinez also played in five of Bayern’s six DFB Cup games – including the 3-2 win over Stuttgart in the final – and 11 of the team’s 12 en route to beating Dortmund in the Champions League final. Indeed, it was at that match at Wembley that he justified Heynckes’ insistence on signing him.
“Dortmund were the better team at the start of the game,” Heynckes said. “But then Javi won three or four tackles and from there the machine started to run. He’s a very important player in my system.” Having helped Bayern win their first ever treble, there is no arguing that.
3) From midfield to centre-back
Heynckes departed on the highest of highs after that treble, and under his successor Pep Guardiola things began to change for Martinez.
With Guardiola keen to have players comfortable on the ball in every area of the pitch, Martinez played as centre-back more often than not under his Spanish compatriot. While the role was not entirely new to him, Martinez having “matured as a footballer” in that position under current Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa while in Bilbao, Guardiola made it his regular position: in total, Martinez played 22 of his 38 Bundesliga games for Guardiola at the heart of defence.
“We worked a lot on tactics and he taught me by showing me 200 videos,” Martinez told Sport1. “He taught me to play at centre-back in a very different way than I was used to under Marcelo Bielsa, who wanted me to play man to man.”
After Guardiola’s departure, Carlo Ancelotti kept Martinez in defence too. When Heynckes returned to the club in an interim capacity for the 2017/18 season, he praised the decision to field the Spaniard there, even though he considered him to be “a defensive midfielder, no question”. “My predecessors were right to put him at centre-back, as he can play there as well,” he said.
4) Best ever Bundesliga centurion
As you may have guessed from Martinez’s limited outings in three seasons under Guardiola, he has also been blighted by injuries. Groin surgery, a cruciate ligament tear, knee complaints and a variety of muscular issues have robbed the father of four of over 200 competitive games for Bayern.
It was therefore all the more joyous an occasion when, on 21 January 2018, he set a new Bundesliga record. Bayern’s 4-2 triumph over Werder Bremen that day was his 100th top-flight outing in Germany – and his 85th win. Nobody before or since has won as many Bundesliga games when completing their century.
Watch: From the archive: why Martinez was Bayern's rock in defensive midfield
5) Serial winner
As sad as it is for Martinez to move on, he leaves with his legacy very much intact. Only Thomas Müller, Frank Ribery and David Alaba (each with nine) have won more Bundesliga titles than him in the history of the league, but not even they can match the 32-year-old’s record of having won the Meisterschale in every single season in Germany (eight), with Bayern one victory away from giving him his ninth.
Add to that five DFB Cups, three Supercups, two Champions Leagues, two UEFA Super Cups and two FIFA Club World Cups, and it becomes clear just how successful he has been.
Indeed, it was his thumping header in extra time that helped Bayern lift the 2020 UEFA Super Cup thanks to a 2-1 win over Sevilla.
Not only that, but having arrived at the age of 23, Martinez contributed to the influx of Spanish players arriving on Germany’s shores. Only 11 Spaniards had featured in the Bundesliga before Martinez signed for Bayern; 37 have followed him since, including Guardiola, Thiago, Xabi Alonso, Juan Bernat, Pepe Reina, Alvaro Odriozola and Marc Roca at Bayern alone.
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