Rooted in Bavaria
Photos: © Amelie NiederbuchnerJavi Martínez settled in quickly at FC Bayern. At a time when the question of identity is discussed in football more and more, he stayed true to himself and to his club for nine years: a great role model. As a farewell, we say: Gracias, Javí!
On a stroll, Javi Martínez stopped abruptly, in the middle of a sentence, and bent over. He picked up a dirty piece of paper: trash, here at the shore of the Isar. "It can't stay here", he said, keeping it in his fist until he saw the next bin. A small gesture that should be a matter of course: there are many signs near the Isar telling the public to protect the environment. But only few care for nature as much as Javi Martínez does. "I love the Isar, I love the entire city of Munich," he said. A small gesture as a telling symbol of preserving his home.
When Javi Martínez joined Bayern from Bilbao at the age of 23 in the summer of 2012, he did not think he would go on to spend the bulk of his career and his best years as a footballer in Munich. He soon put down roots, with close ties for him and his family with two children. "Munich has become our home," he says: "When I spend a week with my family at home in Ayegui, I miss Munich." Martínez is from the mountains of Spain, and he says the countryside is beautiful there too. "And now take a look around here, you can go to the forest by foot or by bike, you can take a bath in the clear river: which other city can match that?"
Against the tide
From the very beginning, Martínez felt he would like to stay at FC Bayern, "preferably forever. It's always been important to me to understand the people, the region, the culture, the language. It helps build identity, and identity is important to me." He knows he swims against the tide at a time when many people reorient themselves again and again, looking for more, more of anything. Mostly money? Javi Martínez joined FC Bayern for €40 million, making him the most expensive transfer in Bundesliga history at the time. But he has never been an outrageously expensive globetrotter; instead, he turned out to be an investment worth every cent, paying back the trust put in him. His eyes have always been open, and the day he gave out clothes and toys at Munich main station at the beginning of the refugee crisis is unforgettable. Last year he helped people hit by the coronavirus crisis.
The 32-year-old remembers his start in Munich very well. FC Bayern had lost the *Finale dahoam*a few weeks beforehand, and other clubs would not have recovered from such a setback as quickly. "They came so close, they would have deserved it, they suffered so much, the players and the fans," Martínez recalled. "But I looked in the faces of Philipp Lahm, Basti Schweinsteiger, Manuel Neuer in training every day, and I saw: there's something very special about this club. This absolute will to win the title."
Martínez collects titles galore
What happened in the next months is (footballing) history. FC Bayern won the first treble in the club's history in Martínez' first season. In the final at Wembley, many thought Javi Martínez was the man who had been missing beforehand. He has won nine German championship titles, five DFB Cups, two Club World Cups and the Champions League twice. Scoring two decisive goals in two finals, he became Bayern's Mr Supercup.
"At such a big club you have to perform every day, and if you ask me FC Bayern is a club you don't leave unless you have really good reasons. Unfortunately, nothing lasts forever in football, so it's time to say Servus. But my heart will always belong to this club. To wear FC Bayern colours out on the pitch, for the club's great fans: I'll never forget that. I enjoyed every single day here."
Before getting into his car and waving goodbye, he threw the piece of paper in the bin. A classy and clean goodbye: a role model until the end, both on and off the pitch. Servus, Javi Martínez – thank you for nine great years, and thank you for putting down roots here!
Jérôme Boateng talks about his farewell and the definition of a modern defender: