Monday, July 15, 2024

La Liga: Five things you may not know about new Barcelona star Inigo Martinez

FC Barcelona have confirmed the arrival of Spanish international Inigo Martinez on a free transfer from fellow La Liga side Athletic Bilbao. Martínez has signed a two-year deal which ties him to the Blaugrana until the summer of 2025 and will shore up the best defensive line in Spanish football which conceded just 20 goals in 38 league matches last season.

A technically gifted defender, Martinez is comfortable with the ball at his feet and is crucially at ease playing on the left side of the centre-back pairing, something coach Xavi Hernández was keen to reinforce this summer.

Martínez has been a big name in Spanish football for many years now, but here are five things you may not know about the newest Barca star:

Has a habit of scoring from his own half!

Inigo’s first-ever goal in the top flight was in October 2011 in a Basque Derby, scoring the consolation in Real Sociedad’s 2-1 defeat to Athletic Club at the Reale Arena. If that wasn’t impressive enough, however, he scored his third professional goal one month later in exactly the same fashion, this time to hand his side a dramatic 3-2 win over Real Betis in stoppage time. His exploits drew praise from former Real Sociedad legend Xabi Alonso, who was playing for Liverpool in England at the time and who had also scored from similarly long-range in the past: “He’s my idol!” he wrote on Twitter.

Spanish international from youth to senior level

Born in Ondarroa, a seaside town roughly equidistant between San Sebastian and Bilbao, Inigo took his first steps in international football with Spain’s U20 side in 2011, making his senior debut in 2013. He has since won 20 caps for his country, scoring once in a 2-2 draw with the Czech Republic in the 2022 Nations League. He was also part of the Spain squad at the 2012 Olympic Games but won’t have fond memories of the competition as he was sent off on his tournament debut against Japan.

Highest-profile player, to ever jump across the Basque Derby divide?

Having come through the ranks at Real Sociedad, he was a mainstay for the Txuri-urdin for years before making the move to Athletic Club in January 2018 after the club from Bilbao paid his €32 million release clause.

Despite the strong shared identity of the two clubs and the famously friendly derby atmosphere among fans, very few players move between the two at the senior level – the most recent high-profile move was current Real Sociedad keeper Alex Remiro – and Martinez drew a lot of criticism in San Sebastian for the decision.

He came up against his old club in the rescheduled 2020 Copa del Rey final (played in 2021), only to lose 1-0. His conduct after the match, when he made a point of genuinely congratulating his former teammates despite his disappointment, drew significant praise in the media.

Athletic Club’s most expensive player of all time

The €32 million transfer fee that Athletic Club paid Real Sociedad for Martinez was the biggest ever outlay for a player in the club’s history, significantly more than the second-most expensive transfer on the list: full-back Yuri Berchiche’s €24 million move from PSG to San Mames in 2018.

During his five seasons at Athletic Club, Martinez quickly became an on-pitch leader for the side, making 177 appearances and scoring eight goals in all competitions.

He is only the second player in history to play for Real Sociedad, Athletic Club and FC Barcelona

The move from Bilbao to Barcelona was once a common one, with the likes of Spanish internationals Andoni Zubizarreta and Julio Salinas as well as coach Ernesto Valverde running out for both sides in the 1980s and 1990s, but Inigo Martinez is the first player to play for both clubs in almost 15 years since Santi Ezquerro made that same jump in 2005.

He is also the latest in a long line of players to play for both FC Barcelona and Real Sociedad, joining a list which includes Claudio Bravo and Antoine Griezmann.

However, he was just the second player in history to play for all three sides after Jon Andoni Goikoetxea, who won the 1992 European Cup with Barça in between spells with the two Basque sides.



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