The club’s greatest ever player seemed lost for words when he was first asked about the Spaniard’s arrival by curious reporters.
“Javi Martinez?,” Franz Beckenbauer replied. ”I don’t know him. I have never seen him play. He seems expensive. But what’s the difference really when you’re talking about €30 million or €40m?”
This seemed a carefree attitude to the purse strings from a club that has turned in a profit for 29 of the last 30 seasons. But Bayern went ahead and splashed out a Bundesliga record €40 million, a fee that made even European moneybags Manchester City and PSG blanch.
Flush with cash from their run to the Champions League final, Bayern started the bidding at €20 million and refused to take no for an answer from Athletic Bilbao.
Spending €40 million on a 24-year-old defensive midfielder who has started four matches for his country (albeit Spain) was a ”crazy” sum to pay. Not according to Bayern’s long standing detractors but the club’s own president, Uli Hoeness, who must have hoped the Bayern bean counters were still on holiday when he admitted: ”Martinez’s normal worth is perhaps €20 million, €25 million. We decided we will take part in this insanity, for once.”
Bilbao’s transfer demands were ”indecent,” added coach Jupp Heynckes.
Bayern paid up, but that was just the start of the soap opera. Martinez was given a much-publicized medical before Athletic Bilbao even knew he had flown out of Spain. The player’s previous club is furious too — Osasuna want an €800,000 cut from the transfer and are taking the case to FIFA.
Now, matters are getting faintly ridiculous.
Left out of the Spain squad for last week’s World Cup qualifier, Martinez used his spare time to fly back to Bilbao to collect a much-loved pair of old football boots. Spanish media report that he jumped over a training ground fence at 2am, before being stopped by a guard, though the player quickly tweeted that he collected the aforementioned footwear without any fuss.
Bayern’s complete confidence in landing their man came from their willingness to pay the €40 million buy-out clause in the player’s contract.
Such clauses are nominal sums seemingly plucked out of thin air (Lionel Messi’s is somewhere between €250 million and €300 million). Some experts believe they have no legal basis. Designed merely to stop a player being sold, clauses are rarely taken seriously, though Real Madrid famously called Barcelona’s bluff to bring Luis Figo to the Spanish capital for around €60 million.
Though Bayern Munich aren’t averse to spending big (think Roy Makaay, Franck Ribery and Mario Gomez) this was a jaw-dropping deal, because those other buys were for ‘impact’ players, able to make the difference in a tight match with a piece of individual brilliance, or world class finishing.
But two years without a Bundesliga title is an eternity for Bayern, who know that their problem hasn’t been scoring goals.
In 2010-2011, Bayern were the best home team in Germany but conceded a shocking 27 on the road (champions Dortmund let in a miserly 14). Last season, Bayern won only a single point less than the champions at home, but were again let down by away defeats, often dominating matches but being caught on the break.
Hoeness and Co. hope that this is where Martinez comes in. A year and a half ago, Bayern hoped the €15 million spent on Luiz Gustavo would plug the defensive midfield gap. It didn’t, and Heynckes could be tempted to give Martinez his first start for the visit of Mainz on Saturday, even though Bayern have six points from two matches.
If the Spaniard proves the missing piece in the jigsaw, Bayern might not regret their moment of insanity.
Deputy Head Eurosport2
This weekend’s Bundesliga action gets underway Friday with Augsburg v Wolfsburg. The action continues on Saturday with Dortmund against Leverkusen LIVE, and extended highlights of Bayern’s match against Mainz at 17:30. Then it’s Greuther Fürth v Schalke LIVE (18:30). On Sunday we have two live matches: Freiburg v Hoffenheim and Frankfurt v Hamburg.
Highlights of all matches at 19:30 on Sunday. Coverage in North and East Europe.