Now that Luis Suarez’s transfer to Barcelona has been confirmed (via BBC Sport), Liverpool fans, players and management alike are eager to secure a big-name signing to keep spirits up at Anfield ahead of the 2014/15 Premier League season.
With Alexis Sanchez moving to Arsenal instead of Liverpool as part of a deal for Suarez, perhaps one of the more attainable potential world-class targets has escaped from Brendan Rodgers’ clutch, leaving the Reds manager to set his sights elsewhere on a replacement for the Uruguayan striker.
Swansea City’s Wilfried Bony (per the Mirror) and Southampton’s Jay Rodriguez (per the Daily Mail) have recently surfaced as potential reinforcements up front. But instead of trying to replace the 30-plus goals that Suarez invariably brings a season, Liverpool should be looking to strengthen their defence.
To be sure, Rodgers has already been linked with moves for Southampton’s Dejan Lovren (per the Standard) and Sevilla’s Alberto Moreno (per the Daily Star), but there is another name out there that has been floated as a possible Liverpool target, and would instantly improve their defensive setup.
Step up Javi Martinez.
The Bayern Munich man has already been linked to the Reds in the off-season by the Mirror, and while any pursuit for Martinez would be difficult and likely expensive to bear fruit, he might just prove to be the transfer signing Liverpool need to win a Premier League title.
Javi Martinez: The Complete Midfielder
Let’s start off with considering Javi Martinez as a defensive midfielder, the position he started his senior career in with Athletic Bilbao.
At 6'3'', Martinez represents a fearsome physical package at the base of the midfield, but also an accomplished passer of the ball and tactically and positionally excellent, with accurate and timely tackles a hallmark of his game.
His excellent defensive skills have propelled him to become one of the premier midfielders in Europe, while his complete technical base also allows him to switch from a specialist defensive midfielder into a dominant box-to-box player when needed.
Indeed, Pep Guardiola deployed him as a box-to-box attacker on occasion for Bayern last season, which offers much more of a tactical option to any team.
ESPN’s Graham Hunter once wrote, when Martinez was still at Bilbao, that his abilities “put him in the same class as [Patrick] Vieira as well as Roy Keane, Fernando Redondo, Edgar Davids and the much-underestimated Rino Gattuso (Daniele De Rossi, too).”
Both on paper and on the pitch, then, Martinez would be the ideal world-class option to anchor the Liverpool midfield.
Potential First-Choice Central Defender?
As if a versatile midfield option in the mould of the imperious Yaya Toure weren’t enough, Javi Martinez also boasts the awareness and positional sense to allow him to excel as a center-back.
Guardiola has proved as much already, having played Martinez in that position to great effect at club level. And per Bundesliga.com, Paco Garcia-Caridad, the head of sports station Radio Marca, called for Spain manager Vicente Del Bosque to field Martinez as a central defender in place of the hapless Gerard Pique as recently as in the aftermath of Spain’s disastrous 1-5 defeat to the Netherlands in the 2014 World Cup.
Another Bundesliga.com editorial even claimed that Martinez is leading a football revolution with his reinvention of the much-vaunted libero role in Guardiola’s team, recalling the masterful Lothar Matthaus and the legendary Franz Beckenbauer.
While Martinez, at 25 years of age, is evidently yet to match the levels and legacy of the two German greats, his understanding of the game and defensive intelligence allow him to excel all throughout the central core of the defence and midfield.
Considering Brendan Rodgers’ penchant for tactical innovations, he may well experiment with alternate formations outside of his favored 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1, and a 3-5-2 or 5-3-2—which Rodgers has used prominently—would see a libero/sweeper role become one of the team’s most important positions.
Martinez might even usurp the likes of Martin Skrtel into become Rodgers’ first-choice center-back and marshall a three-man defence featuring the precocious Mamadou Sakho.
A Statement of Intent
Lastly, away from what Martinez would bring to Anfield on a football level—which is a whole lot, and most importantly a unique package that Liverpool currently don’t have—he also brings the weight and stature in the game that would instantly reflect the Reds’ ambitions.
And in the aftermath of Suarez’s departure, the club may feel that they are in need of a big-name signing to both placate unsettled fans and show their intent on competing on all fronts to prospective player signings.
With Bayer Leverkusen’s Emre Can already secured as a potential long-term replacement for club captain Steven Gerrard this summer, Martinez would be a signing who would be able to hit the ground running and establish himself at Anfield.
And who knows—Javi Martinez may well be the ideal heir to Gerrard’s legendary No. 8 shirt. After all, he’s already wearing it for Bayern Munich.