Javi Martínez at Minuto 116
Javi Martínez is the cover story of the February issue of magazine Minuto 116. The interview with him is quite amusing, especially when the talk shifts to those famous “ratones,” video game tournaments and the fate of his World Cup medal. There are also a piece written by his brother Álvaro – complete with childhood photos! – and a farewell letter from Javi to Luis Aragonés.
Managing to avoid the new player hazing ritual of singing in front of the entire Bayern team is a sign of genius, no?
Yes, when new players arrive or are promoted from the youth team, they normally have to sing, well make a speech and sing. But since I could not speak German, I told them I couldn’t because I didn’t know how to say anything (laughs). I got out of it and didn’t have to do it.
How do you adapt to a country with a language as difficult as German? How well do you speak now?
Well, I’m learning German bit by bit, it’s complicated. But we can say that I am already able to communicate quite well with my teammates and express myself in basic German, I can speak with them and maintain a conversation, although not a very profound one.
How is your life in Munich? Do you miss Spain?
Of course, I’m a very home-loving person. It’s not only when I’m in Germany. For example, when I’m in Spain, I also miss my family and friends a lot. It’s true that I’ve been able to adapt better than I expected. I didn’t know how it would go because I’ve never been away from home, but thanks to God I’ve adjusted quite well, my family comes to visit once in a while and I’m very happy here.
To go to the World Cup, you had to postpone a trip you were planning with friends along Route 66. We imagine it was worth it…
Yes, we had it almost completely planned. We were going to travel in a motor home and it was a trip that I really wanted to take, but, thanks to God, I couldn’t make it. It’s still pending, because in the last several years, I’ve had commitments with the national team: World Cup, Olympics, Eurocopa… and well, I hope this year I won’t be able to do it either, since that will mean that I’m going to the World Cup.
Your friends are very important to you. In fact, some of them live with you in Munich, no?
Yes, I live with four friends from home. I’ve known them since I was two and they’re like my family. One of the first things that I said when the possibility of Bayern came up was that I wanted my family or friends to go with me. My family was unable to do so and my parents said, “why don’t you take your friends?” And the truth is that they’ve been a very important source of support for me.
You’re very attached to your roots, to where you come from. You wear a red scarf of San Fermín during all the celebrations. What does it mean for you? Is it your lucky charm? Do you have any other manias?
Yes, well, it’s a small tribute for my home, Navarra. In addition, it happened that the final of the World Cup coincided with the Sanfermines and I wanted to make this tribute. They liked it a lot there and I did it again when I won the Champions with Bayern.
Your former team, Club Deportivo Arenas, has named its field after you. That’s quite an honor for someone who’s only 25, no?
Yes, the truth is that it made me very happy. They named it after me two years ago, because of the World Cup, and yes, to me it’s quite odd. I follow Arenas on Twitter, and many times they write, “this afternoon, in the Javi Martínez…” It’s a bit startling! (Laughs).
Your parents say you were a bit mischievous as a child…
Yes, quite. Now I’m a bit more responsible, but as a child, until just a while ago, I was always playing and I broke many things at home. I was always getting into mischief. My brother can confirm that, because we were always fighting and there were times when I pulled a… it’s that I can’t say “putada.” Some “faenas” (laughs).
You told us that your restaurant in Ayegui, Durban, is one of your dreams.
Well, not the cooking part (laughs). But it made me very happy because it was for my family, so that they could work and work together on something. And the truth is that it’s going very well. We’re very happy and you all are invited to visit.
One of your favorite pastimes is FIFA. What are your thoughts about seeing yourself in it? Has your animated self become better since you joined Bayern?
Yes, I like it a lot. I’m always playing with my friends. We created a league where we chose the players. For example, I play using Bayern and we have to choose the players, which aren’t the default ones. I wanted to select myself, but the one who got to choose ahead of me chose me and wouldn’t sell me to me! I even offered money to buy myself and he just wouldn’t sell. When I see myself, I think it’s strange and I even say, “¡Joe! They made me so slow! They could have made me a bit faster!”
How was it singing with El Mentón de Fogarty?
They’re friends of mine in Bilbao. During the six years I spent there, I made great friends, including the guys in El Mentón, who are great. We made a bet and I told them that if we reached the final, I would sing live during a concert, but due to the circumstances I wasn’t able to go… which is good, because while I am a singer, it’s only in the shower (laughs).
What was the change from Athletic to Bayern like?
It was a radical change. You change everything: the language, the country, the food, the teammates, the coach… everything! It’s normal that such a huge change requires a time of adaptation. You get there and you don’t know anything about the city or the people, and you need a month or two or three to adjust. Thanks to God, my teammates and club treated me very well. That allowed me to adapt faster.
How are the “ratones” in your knee? You had suffered a major injury to your ligaments.
(Laughs) I was trying to explain about the “ratones” in the way the doctor had explained it to me. I had no idea and it sounded a bit strange, but yes, I had a piece of ligament that became detached. It’s called the “ratón articular,” which is why I said it like that (laughs). It’s good now, the knee is perfect and all the problems I had at the beginning of this season are already forgotten.
Would you like to return to Spain?
Well, to live, yes, but to play… right now I’m very happy in Munich, I have three years left on my contract and right now I don’t even know what I’m going to do tomorrow (laughs), so thinking about what will happen in three years…
Versatility is one of the aspects that coaches consider when it comes time to select players, since tournaments such as the World Cup and the Eurocopa are long and they need depth in all the positions. Is it an advantage for you that you can play as a centerback and a midfielder? You even played as a forward in the Confecup…
Yes, I believe that coaches value players who can take on different functions, those who can play in the defense or the center of the field, especially in these tournaments, since they can’t choose all the players they would like to. I’m sure Vicente would like to call up 50 players, but in the end he has to choose 23 and I believe it’s important for him to have players who can play in different positions and cover different area.
What do you think about the possibility of Diego Costa being on Del Bosque’s list?
A lot has been said about that, but I believe with or without Diego Costa, the national team has great forwards. Diego wasn’t there in the last concentración, but Llorente was. I had the luck of playing with him for six years and he’s a fantastic player.
Is Spain the favorite for the World Cup even though Brazil won the Confecup?
Well, after achieving all that we did during the last several years, it’s logical for us to be the favorites, although there are teams that will make things very difficult for us. Germany, for example, since I have the luck of spending a lot of time with some of its players. They have a fearsome team.
Is it true that you didn’t take off your World Cup medal for one week?
No, no, no… (laughs) I took it off. I’m a bit of a disaster and it was sto… Well, no, it wasn’t stolen from me. My mother took it because she knows that if I kept it, I would lose it.
What is your Minute 116?
I don’t know (thinks). Thanks to God I’ve had a lot already and I believe that (the actual) Minute 116 was the happiest moment of my life in terms of football.
The heart as a starting point, by Álvaro Martínez.
I’m sure that Javi could have played any sport. From as far back as I can remember, he had the talent necessary to triumph, and not only in football. I played for Bilbao when he was small and I think that influenced him somewhat. From the time he could walk, I saw him hugging the ball all the time, and whenever he could, he would go out and play with his friends. But the place where we really demonstrated our abilities was in the living room of our home. The ball passed by paintings, vases, photo frames and ceramic statues as it went under – and above – the table and the sofas. Our poor mother! We broke a lot more things than we would have liked to. Since I’m nine years older, I could assign blame faster. More than once, Javi was the one to get scolded although I was the one responsible for the disaster. However, he doesn’t resent me for that and we have a fantastic relationship, one between two brothers who share the same passions for football and their hometown. We have a great complicity, a beautiful bond that grew stronger during the six years we spent together in Bilbao. But not just the two of us, but also our sisters Cristina and María, who are also a fundamental part of this very special connection.
As you can see, Javi is a very family-oriented boy. Perhaps because he’s shy, he doesn’t let other people see his personality. But I can assure you that success hasn’t gone to his head despite all that he has won. He’s humble and he knows, since this was what he was taught at home, that everything involves hard work and effort. When he has free time, what he likes doing the most is returning home, to be with his loved ones and eat at our restaurant Durban. And yes, although Cristina handles the day to day, when he comes we allow him to take over the kitchen. He still has his childhood friends because Ayegui is where he most enjoys himself. And yes, he has defects like the rest of the world, but what can I say? I’m his brother and they’re not important to me. He has a big heart and that is his starting point for everything.
If Javi hadn’t been a footballer, I think he would have done something related to languages. He has an incredible gift for languages. I will never forget when he was interviewed on television after just two months in Germany and he answered all the questions in German. Now he speaks very fluently and he’s able to maintain a coherent conversation – at least that’s what he says. That’s one of the qualities I most admire about him, his ability to adapt. On the field and in life.
Farewell letter for Luis Aragonés by Javi Martínez.
If you look back at my career – Osasuna, Athletic and Bayern Munich – and remember that I didn’t debut with the senior team until 2010, it’s clear that I didn’t have the luck of being on any of Luis Aragonés’ teams. However, that’s not entirely true, since I can say that I’m one of the footballers that had the possibility of being played by Luis. It was just a fleeting moment.
It’s true that Luis was one of those persons who just needed a few minutes to make a lasting impression. In my case, 15 minutes. Don’t ask me how it came about, but when I was 16, I received a call from Fernando Torres to play in a charity game organized by the Fundación Óliver Mayor. So I went to Las Palmas to be part of the team made up of Fernando’s friends that would play against Jorge Larena’s friends. I was extremely surprised when I found out that Fernando’s team would be coached by the great Luis Aragonés on that unforgettable night of June 16, 2005.
I remember the game well, but not the result. There’s also something else that I will never forget. It was a phrase, a piece of advice. He came up to me and he told me firmly, “you have to work very hard to make it.” Some time after that game, I found out that during one of those 15 minutes, Luis looked back at me and said, “this boy has something, he’s going to make it.”
I think often of that piece of advice, his advice. He was so right! Here I am, working hard and making an effort to become a better player each day. To win, win and win.