Javi Martinez: Manchester United's Realistic Alternative to Modric and Sneijder?

Ben JohnstonCorrespondent IOctober 27, 2011

ARHUS, DENMARK - JUNE 25: Javi Martinez poses with the winners trophy after his sides 2-0 victory during the UEFA European Under-21 Championship Final match between Spain and Switzerland at the Arhus Stadium on June 25, 2011 in Arhus, Denmark.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
Michael Steele/Getty Images

Since we got battered in the 2009 Champions League final by Barcelona and Michael Carrick lost his mojo, we’ve needed reinforcements in the center of midfield. The last central midfielder to join the club was, amazingly, Owen Hargreaves in 2007, although Darron Gibson and Tom Cleverley have made the breakthrough from the reserves since. Given the way the likes of City have moved forward in the midfield, it’s definitely now time to shuffle the pack.

City have steadily improved their midfield options over the last few years. They’re blessed with a variety of players, holders like De Jong and Barry, energetic workers like James Milner and Yaya Toure and the mercurial David Silva, and the blend has matured.

Conversely, when you leave something to fester, you have to throw it out entirely and start all over again. We’ll be there soon if we don’t act in January. Anderson takes two steps forward then three back every few months, Fletcher’s fitness looks to be a worry and whilst Cleverley is one for the future and Carrick is steady, neither are in a position to tear up the number of trees needed.

This hasn’t gone unnoticed by our fans, who have spent months debating whether we’d be signing Luka Modric from Spurs or Wesley Sneijder from Inter. Presumably these clubs accept monopoly money, because we certainly don’t have the readies to bring either player, both world-class performers, to the club.

Instead we’ve had to make do with what we’ve got, Sir Alex deciding to reinforce on the flanks and in defence. Of course, our number one priority was to replace Edwin van der Sar, something our manager has done brilliantly by bringing in David de Gea.

However, there is one name that wouldn’t cost an arm and a leg and would bring us all the qualities that we’re missing. He’s less proven than the other players mentioned but no less exciting. Javi Martinez of Athletic Bilbao.

The Basque kid is imposing at 6 foot 3, talented, creative and a leader, having captained Spain U21 to their recent European Championship win. He’s already won 7 caps for the Spain senior team, which is not the easiest side to get games for in midfield, and holds a World Cup winner’s medal having been part of the 23 that went to South Africa.

Most important for us is that he wouldn’t cost the earth. Of course, he wouldn’t be cheap either, but with the massive Spanish teams well stocked with players in his role and Bilbao unable to match his ambition due to their Basque-players-only rule, it looks highly likely that he’ll need to leave Spain to fulfil his potential.

We need to move sooner rather than later because before we know it Chelsea are going to be in the market for a Lampard replacement and Liverpool will be looking for a Gerrard replacement. Even if that’s not Javi Martinez himself it will be someone top class, meaning someone else will then be in the market… We’re fortunate in that our need to replace Scholes has come slightly earlier, but we need to capitalize on this perverse advantage or it will be wasted.

Javi would also be an ideal January signing as Bilbao are not involved in the Champions League (not since 1999) meaning he’s not cup-tied, and he would be able to gradually integrate himself into an already settled team without too much pressure being placed on him at first. It shouldn’t be a problem to persuade him to join.

We can but hope.