Some truly exceptional Spanish talents have pulled on the famous red of Bayern Munich in recent years – Xabi Alonso and Thiago spring to mind – but only Javi Martinez has had the honour of wearing the captain’s armband.
In an exclusive interview with Bayern’s official club website, Martinez spoke about what it felt like to become the first Spaniard to skipper the record German champions and discussed his welcome retransition from defence to defensive midfield…
Question: You captained Bayern for the first time against Borussia Mönchengladbach. When did you learn you’d be wearing the armband?
Javi Martinez: When we had our snack before the match the coach told me Jerome [Boateng] wouldn’t be playing. Suddenly I was the most experienced Bayern pro in the squad and was handed the armband, that was great. I see it as a great honour to be the first Spaniard to captain Bayern. I’ll never forget it.
Question: Do you take to the pitch in a different way wearing the armband?
Martinez: Not really. The only difference was that I took part in the coin toss. There was no difference during the match. I’ve always talked a lot to my teammates anyway, helped them, spurred them on. That’s perfectly normal for me.
Question: Unfortunately you weren’t able to celebrate a victory after your debut…
Martinez: It was a difficult match, as so often is the case in Gladbach. Of course we didn’t turn in our best performance. We could tell we were missing some players up front. We still fought and tried to achieve at least a draw, but it wasn’t to be. We have to learn from our mistakes and carry on now.
Watch: Bayern’s winning run came to an end in Gladbach
Question: You’re in your sixth year in Munich. Do you automatically assume more responsibility?
Martinez: I’m 29, I’ve been a professional footballer for 11 years. Of course you try to help younger players and pass on knowledge and experience in my situation. I think it’s perfectly normal. But I’m not alone in this respect. We have a number of players who’ve been at Bayern longer than me: Manuel Neuer, Thomas Müller, Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben, Jerome Boateng.
Question: You’ve played in defensive midfield since Jupp Heynckes‘ return as head coach. How does it feel to be back in that position?
Martinez: I’m glad to be playing there again. I feel very much at home there. I’ve played in the position for most of my career, and it feels as if I’d never played in defence but always in defensive midfield.
Question: You were a centre-back for four years. Didn’t you have any problems adjusting?
Martinez: It wasn’t a problem. Of course a few details are different, but they were second nature again after a few training sessions. My teammates helped me a lot. There isn’t much difference between playing in defence and midfield, as we usually dominate possession and attack. Both the defensive midfielders and the centre-backs have to work a lot when not in possession, they must control the match and contain their opponents.
Watch: Javi Martinez – Bayern Munich’s midfield rock
Question: That sounds as if you prefer defensive midfield over centre-back…
Martinez: I’m in two minds. I feel good in both positions, both suit my qualities. I’d say I’m a team player and want to help my teammates where they need me.