Being transferred for a club record €40m and moving to a country where you do not speak the language is a sure test of any player's character. It is one, however, that Javi Martínez has passed since joining FC Bayern München last summer from Athletic Club.
Adept in midfield or defence, the 24-year-old has helped the Bavarian giants to a commanding lead atop the Bundesliga and to the brink of the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals. In this interview with Champions Matchday, official magazine of Europe's top club competition, the Spanish international explains why he went to Germany, how he is adapting and where he feels most comfortable on the pitch.
The Bundesliga is not a league many Spanish players come to. Why did you choose Germany?
Javi Martínez: It was clear to me that if I left Bilbao I wanted to go to one of the biggest clubs. Bayern was one of the clubs that most attracted me. They are one of the best clubs in the history of football, so when they approached me I didn't have to think about it much. I wanted to leave Spain to play in other countries and experience other cultures.
How has your first season at Bayern gone so far?
Martínez: We are doing well in the league, the Champions League and the German Cup. I feel very good, more and more incorporated into the team. And the team also feels more comfortable with each passing game. We hope we can continue like this.
How do you feel you have adapted to life at Bayern?
Martínez: I have adapted well because people have been very welcoming. I was scared to come to a new city, with a new language, but I feel really good here. My team-mates have helped me integrate so well, it's as if I have already been with them a long time.
You made your debut in the UEFA Champions League against Valencia CF. What was it like hearing the anthem?
Martínez: It's very nice. I had never heard it live, not even as a fan in a stadium. It gives you goosebumps. We even managed to win that match, so everything went perfectly.
Under Marcelo Bielsa at Athletic you played mostly as a centre-back. How did playing in that position influence your game?
Martínez: Being able to play several positions is very important for a footballer, because the coach can count on you in different areas of the pitch. I have to thank my old coaches for teaching me to play as a defender because it has helped me a lot. Even now, as I play a bit further forward, it has helped me position myself better.
Have you discussed what position you will play at Bayern with coach Jupp Heynckes?
Martínez: He said he had intended to put me in midfield, but after seeing
me last season he asked if I would be comfortable playing in defence if he needed me there. I said it wouldn't be a problem, that I'd help the
team in the best way possible. I feel comfortable in both positions, although until last season I had always played more as a midfielder.
Vicente del Bosque has called you a born leader and likened you to
Patrick Vieira. How did that feel?
Martínez: For the Spain coach to say that makes you feel fantastic. I always try to lift my team-mates and give them energy. I hope I can be half as good as Patrick Vieira, because for me he has always been an idol, a role model – a football great. Mind you, he is Vieira and I'm Javi – we are different too.
This is an abridged version of an article in the round of 16 issue of Champions Matchday, which is available in digital versions on Apple Newsstand or Zinio, as well as in print. You can also follow the magazine on Twitter @ChampionsMag. The quarter-final issue will be on sale from 27 March.
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