To better your chances at cracking the starting line-up at any football club, being able to play many positions makes one that much more valuable to a manager when picking his starting XI. While playing multiple positions is key, where on the pitch can he influence the match?
No other player in Europe gives managers a selection headache than Spanish international Javi Martinez.
While growing up as a midfielder in Osasuna‘s youth system, in the 2011/12 season, Athletic Bilbao Manager Marcelo Bielsa made the decision to move Martinez into central defense. His height and tackling ability prompted the Argentine Manager to test the experiment, and it worked. Despite finishing 10th in La Liga, Martinez marshaled the back-line all the way to the Europa League final in Romania, eventually losing out to a Diego Simeone led Atletico Madrid side.
As a result, many coaches in Europe saw Martinez as a hot commodity in the center of defense, but Bayern Munich saw otherwise.
With the promise of playing as a central midfielder, Munich paid Martinez’s 40-million Euro release clause in the summer of 2012. Slotting into the starting eleven, he dominated in the middle of midfield along with German international Bastian Schweinsteiger as Die Roten earned their first treble in the club’s history.
Although he was one of the best defensive midfielders in Europe in 2013, he was routinely picked by national team manager Vincente Del Bosque’s as a central defender, which another Spanish coach agreed with.
When Pep Guardiola arrived at the Sabener Strasse summer of 2013, he moved Martinez back into the center of defense because of his ability to play the ball at his feet and his qualities as a defender. Ending the formidable partnership he forged with Schweinsteiger.
His time at Bayern Munich was plagued with injuries as well as the inability to adapt to Pep’s high pressing system as a center-back as he and Jerome Boateng were exposed by the top clubs in Europe. Martinez did not have the pace to make up ground playing high up the field.
WIth Carlo Ancelotti at the helm, Bayern will play a medium-press, counterattacking style that will not demand much from any center-back that plays in the system. His fortunes might change with a change in managers, but one will find out if it will pay off in the future.
Javi Martinez on his injury: “I was able to prepare my knee & my ankle to start pre-season in a good condition.” pic.twitter.com/0QJ09xZ6tS
— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) July 27, 2016
While he can play as a defensive midfielder and a center-back, where is he most useful on the pitch? He is most useful at center-back.
Standing tall at 6-foot-3, Javi Martinez has the physical qualities of a center-back. His size helps him compete with opposing strikers on the pitch. Even though he is a good tackler and can play with ball at his feet, he can use these qualities in the center of defense.
Javi Martinez was keen play down any idea Ancelotti’s smiles a relief after Pep years… did say playing style little bit more direct now…
— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) July 22, 2016
While one can look at his last season at Athletic Bilbao and his first season at Bayern Munich and make compelling arguments as to why he should play in either position, having Martinez in the center of defense can add an extra midfielder to the squad. With the ability to play the ball at his feet and tackling any attacker that comes his way, his height and size makes him a dominating presence in the center of defense. Not playing in a high-pressing style could suit Martinez’s playing style.
If he can get consistent game time at center-back and in Ancelotti’s system, he has the ability to be one of the best central defenders in the world.