Martinez to continue wild ride

  • Last Updated: May 18 2013, 18:43 BST

If there is a snippet of information about Javi Martinez that underlines how good he is, it is this.

Javi Martinez: Cost Bayern £40million from Bilbao
Javi Martinez: Cost Bayern £40million from Bilbao

In 2006, Martinez became the third most expensive player in Athletic Bilbao history when the proud Basque outfit shelled out £5.5million to get one of their own from Osasuna.

It was a transfer remarkable for two reasons. First, Martinez was only 17 but, even more significant than that, he had never actually played a first-team game.

The measure of Martinez's talent is that, even at such a tender age, there were no doubts what Martinez would go on to become.

Manchester United experienced it at first hand last season when Martinez displayed staggering assuredness in central defence as he produced two commanding performances to keep the Red Devils at bay in what turned into one of the most complete performances Sir Alex Ferguson's men had ever faced in European competition.

Yet when Bayern Munich smashed the German record to pay almost £40million for the 24-year-old last summer, Jupp Heynckes was not buying a centre-back.

For prior to Marcelo Bielsa's arrival in Bilbao, Martinez had operated in central midfield.

Indeed, in five seasons following his switch from Osasuna, he had been a virtual ever-present in that position.

And how pivotal Martinez has become to this dazzling Bayern side.

As Heynckes looked to marry defensive solidity with powerful forward play, Martinez's authoritative presence allows Bastian Schweinsteiger to rampage forward in the manner of old.

Martinez compensates for Schweinsteiger's occasional loss of tactical discipline. If his team-mate sometimes goes missing, the 24-year-old never does.

Amusingly, ahead of that epic Champions League semi-final win over Barcelona, when Bayern scored a staggering seven times over the course of the two legs without conceding once, Martinez described himself as the most German of all Spanish footballers.

In Munich, they liken him to Steffan Effenberg, which is a pretty big compliment considering his achievements for the Bavarian giants.

His debut season has not been entirely straightforward. Euro 2012 followed by the London Olympics was a pretty tough summer, leaving Martinez tired when he arrived and unable to locate his top form with the immediacy he would wish.

However, he is committed to the cause, as evidenced by the language lessons he has taken five times weekly, news of which has gone down well in Munich and helped buy Martinez a bit of time to find his feet, which he has now done.

With Martinez guiding them through, Bayern have already reclaimed the German title after two years of Dortmund dominance. On June 1 he will try and help his team overcome Stuttgart in the DFB-Pokal final.

Before that is the Champions League showdown with Dortmund and Bayern's quest to erase the memory of final failures in 2010 and 2012, against Chelsea on their own ground, by claiming a fifth title - the same as Liverpool and a number only exceeded by Real Madrid and AC Milan.

Martinez already has World Cup and European Championship medals to his name, but he played only a minor role in those Spain successes in 2010 and 2012.

Probably of equal value is the 2011 European Under-21 Championships triumph, when he was captain, playing in midfield.

Spain coach Vicente del Bosque has described Martinez as a complete player. Manchester United defender Phil Jones has been spoken of in the same manner but the England man has a considerable amount of work to do before he can be positively compared.

When he was a kid, Martinez once got into severe trouble with his mum for dropping his brother's schoolbooks into the kitchen sink, then turning the tap on.

If Martinez has his way, it will be Dortmund's European dream getting soaked on Saturday.