Javi Martinez – Future Spanish Captain
**Gary Linton writes and podcasts for Lovely Left Foot, The Football Project and French Football Weekly. You can find him on Twitter @Linton1388 where he mostly gets abuse from Andrew Gibney and Dave McFarlane.**
So the La Liga season is finally over, the dust has just barely settled and one player I was hugely impressed with was one that’s impressed me in previous seasons, whether it’s as a midfielder, a defensive midfielder or as he’s been seen this season as a centre back. That player for me is the future captain of Spain, Javi Martinez.
Since his career at Athletic Bilbao started he’s grown with every passing season, winning titles and accolades such as the UEFA European Under-19 Football Championship in 2007 and 2010 La Liga Breakthrough Player of the Year. This award has also been picked up by such players as Carles Puyol, Xavi and Iker Casillas. To go and top all that off, he was also a part of Spain’s World Cup winning side in 2010. And if that wasn’t enough he then went back and won the UEFA European Under-21 Football Championship in 2011.
In the middle of winning all these trophies and awards he’s helped engineer a turnaround in a side that fought relegation in his first season with the club. Since then he’s been at the centre; the heartbeat, the engine, that has helped Athletic mount a climb in the league, finishing 13th, 11th, 8th and just last year 6th in La Liga, along with some cracking cup runs and European trips.
This season we’ve seen a different side to the young Spanish footballer. He’s been instructed by the new manager Bielsa to play as a centre back and my God has he done just that! He’s been very good for Athletic Bilbao in the league but it’s some of his performances in this season’s Copa Del Rey and of course the Europa League that have stood out. People started to chat about him as well as others after Athletic managed to pull off a sensational win over England’s champions at the time, Manchester United.
In 2007 Martinez was a big player in the European under 19’s championships when Spain won it in Austria, scoring a vital penalty kick in the semi-final game against France. Also in 2011 Javi Martinez took the younger Spanish side, the under 21’s to cup glory in the European Championships. He captained the side to the cup; something I feel may become something of a norm for the Basque man.
He’s not been included in the Spanish national team yet for the European finals but that’s just because of the success of Athletic and himself this year. The reason he’s not included is because the players that are in the Copa Del Rey final don’t get called up until after that match, he’s a certainty to be included though. One of the main talking points in not just Spain but in world football is, will he play at centre back in place of the injured Carles Puyol?
The fact he’s not naturally a centre back might discourage Vicente Del Bosque in choosing him in that position but I don’t think that should be a reason for it. If he’d just purely like to go for the likes of Sergio Ramos or Gerard Pique at the back instead then fair enough, but for me Pique hasn’t even been included in the Barcelona set up for the last dozen or more games and for me shouldn’t then be in the starting XI for Spain. Javi Martinez on the other hand has played over 50 games this season and been tremendous in over 80% of those games.
No matter what happens come these European Championship finals, Javi Martinez at the age of only 23 will become a regular Spanish player for around the next decade, most likely replacing the likes of Xavi and then Iniesta or maybe even replacing the likes of Puyol who obviously is getting on, just depending on which position he takes up in the future.
So with the likelihood of Martinez being in and around the squad for the next decade it’s surly just a matter of when rather than if he’ll ever captain his country. He’s done it at youth levels and trust me, one day Javi Martinez will be both captain of Athletic Bilbao and the Spanish national team.