Now in his sixth season with Bayern Munich, Javi Martinez is part of the furniture in the Bavarian capital where he has won it all, including an historic treble in his first season at the club in 2012/13.
Speaking to Spanish sports publication AS, abridged by bundesliga.com, the Spaniard discussed his life in Munich, his time under coaches Pep Guardiola and Jupp Heynckes, as well as his World Cup dreams with Spain.
Question: How are you enjoying life in Munich?
Martinez: When you experience so many things in one place, it becomes a part of your life. I’ve experienced everything during these five years – some good, some not so good, but I feel at home here. I miss my Ayegui [his hometown in Navarre, Spain] but everything is to my liking here. The way of life is similar to that in northern Spain. It’s not as different as I thought beforehand. I’ve settled in really well and I hope I’ll be here for many years to come.
Question: Are you able to identify with such a traditional organisation like Bayern?
Martinez: It’s a globalised world now. It’s getting tougher and tougher to keep families small, which is why this club is so special. They’ve just finished the works on the new FC Bayern Campus near the Allianz Arena, and most clubs in the world would’ve moved everything there, but not Bayern. They’ve stayed at Säbener Straße because that’s their home. It’s a tradition and the good habits that they won’t change. I always compare it with Athletic Bilbao, another really traditional, family club that’s always stayed true to its roots. Bayern are the same. It’s what we romantics like in life.
Question: On the subject of romanticism, what went through your head when Heynckes returned to the club?
Martinez: I couldn’t believe it at first. It was a surprise for everyone, but a really wise decision at the time. He was the only coach who knew the club and its players. We were on a bad run and needed an immediate reaction, and Heynckes was the perfect fit.
Question: He’s also restored you to your position in defensive midfield…
Martinez: I’m playing further forward in a position I’ve always played in. I felt comfortable in defence, but when you play in one position for your whole life, then you always feel more comfortable there. This also coincides with a good dynamic in the team, which is why I’m really happy.
Watch: Bayern's midfield rock
Question: Is it possible to convince Heynckes to stay another year?
Martinez: The titles are here and he’s also a great help for people like James [Rodriguez] because he speaks Spanish. You have to see it as a favour he’s doing for Bayern because he’s gone to a great effort to help us out, for example moving away from his wife back in Mönchengladbach.
Question: You were once described by a German newspaper as a perfect mix of English forcefulness and jogo bonito. It’s not a bad mix…
Martinez: I know there are prettier players than me. What I like most is to play a simple game and give my all in every match. That means not backing down when you have to stick a leg in and facing the consequences. I can’t guarantee ten assists or ten goals a season, but I can promise I’ll work my hardest and that’s what keeps me going. More than scoring a goal.
Question: Your style of play is an art…
Martinez: Football is a team sport and you won’t win anything with 11 individuals. In American football, for example, you can’t win with 15 quarterbacks. In the same way we can’t win with 11 Arjen Robbens, 11 Jerome Boatengs or 11 Javis. A team needs players who play nice football but you also need people who run when you don’t have the ball, who work hard to recover it. I love playing football and playing nice passes, but I know my work is often that which you don’t see and doesn’t make the headlines.
Question: That same newspaper also said Guardiola made you a worse player.
Martinez: I don’t share that belief. I was unlucky not to be able to fully enjoy those three years under Guardiola because I missed 18 months with a knee injury. I couldn’t go two months without another problem, and I’m the sort of player who feels better the more he plays. Marcelo Bielsa asked us at Athletic Bilbao whether it was better to play or rest for a week in the build-up to a hypothetical Champions League final. I was 22 at the time and said I preferred to rest, but as time’s gone on I’ve realised it’s not the best thing. I’m a player who needs plenty of matches, minutes and even fatigue, but I couldn’t manage that under Guardiola.
Question: You scored last weekend against Bayer Leverkusen, tell us about your celebration.
Martinez: Aline and I are really happy. After Luca was born, we wanted another child quickly. Thank God, Aline is pregnant again and we’re expecting a girl in June or July.
Question: Is Luca a Bayern or Bilbao fan?
Martinez: He still doesn’t understand the idea of teams yet, but when he sees his daddy in a picture he gives it a kiss. He plays with a ball all day. Sometimes with his feet, sometimes his hands. He’ll play whatever sport he likes one day.
Watch: Martinez dedicates his goal to his son
Question: You appear happy…
Martinez: I’m happy right now. Things are going well on the pitch, and of course there was the birth of Luca and Aline’s next pregnancy, which is all making me happy. We love our son more than anything in the world. That won’t change for anything. I just hope he isn’t as cheeky as I was as a child.
Question: Do you dream of going to the World Cup in the summer?
Martinez: It’s in my mind but I know I have to give my all every weekend to fulfil that aim. I’m playing well right now and I think the coach will watch the Bundesliga and all available players. Competition in the team is fierce, but I’m not giving up hope and hopefully I can represent my country at the next World Cup.
Question: Do you remember the moment when you were called up in 2010?
Martinez: I remember it perfectly. We were together with the Athletic squad saying goodbye to Joseba Etxeberria in Menorca. We were in the hotel waiting for Vicente Del Bosque’s press conference to see if they had called up Fernando Llorente. There were 40 Germans drinking in the pool at the time, and when the boss said my name we all started to jump up and hug each other. I cried, my mum called in tears, and so did teammates because it was so unexpected. He later called up Llorente as well, so the party was complete. The strange thing was the Germans had no idea who we were and they were just in shock when we all started celebrating like that.
Martinez is now one game away from making his 100th appearance in the Bundesliga, which will likely come in Sunday’s fixture against Werder Bremen. Regardless of the result, the Spanish midfielder can look back on a remarkable century of games in Germany. His win rate of 84 per cent remains the record for any player to have featured at least 10 times in the Bundesliga.