Barcelona confirmed the signing of Inigo Martinez from Athletic Club over two months ago. While the announcement was only made in recent months, the agreement between the player and the Catalans was said to have been in place for a long time prior.
The Spaniard slots perfectly into Xavi Hernandez’s squad as the backup centre-back, a position that has plagued the team in recent years for its poor quality. With his incorporation, Xavi Hernandez can stay reassured about the depth of the department.
Martinez spoke to Mundo Deportivo earlier this week about a range of topics including his move to Barcelona, his debut, and the competition in Catalonia. Here are the excerpts from his interview.
The centre-back made his debut for Barcelona in the recent clash against Osasuna as he came on for the final ten minutes of the game.
“My debut for Barcelona was nice, but a little strange. We had a lot of pressure, there was a lot at stake. I didn’t feel comfortable, I hadn’t played in a long while. I hadn’t competed, but I needed those minutes. Hopefully, I can play more now,” he said when asked about his debut for the club.
He then revealed the secret behind his tattoos and the deeper meaning he had behind their incorporation, saying.
“Pretty much all of my tattoos have a special meaning to them. I don’t like to speak a lot about it, but I have ones dedicated to my daughters, to my family in general. That is the most important thing.”
Speaking of entities with a special meaning, Martinez revealed that one of Barcelona’s most legendary defenders was his role model.
“Puyol was always my reference as a centre-back. Not because he played for Barça, but because of his style. I also liked Ramos, Hierro, and John Terry.”
The Basque defender was close to signing for Barcelona in 2017 when Ernesto Valverde took over as the manager of the club. He revealed his side of why the move fell through and how he was kept in the darkness about it.
“Yes, at the last moment, it fell through. They said a lot of things, but I really don’t know what happened. I focused on my career in the same way that I had been doing.”
Years later, the same opportunity fell at his doorstep once more and Martinez did not let go. On his move to Barcelona this summer, he said:
“I received a call and I was convinced to join Barcelona. It was hard to leave Athletic because my heart belongs there, and I was very happy, but I took the decision to leave.”
“I think it was the right time to come to Barça. I know that I’m 32, but I can still improve. Also, I have more options for winning titles here than I did at Athletic, it’s a different level. I hope I can enjoy the moments I want the most,” he added.
Martinez’s registration with La Liga was delayed because of Barcelona’s financial situation and the fact that he was not fit to play. Yet, he revealed that his incorporation into the dressing room was unaffected by any of the aforementioned factors.
“My adaptation to the dressing room has been quite easy. The players have all been helping me and I have to thank them for that. I also know some of them from the national team.”
On his desire to play for the National Team again, the defender was confident in his ability to force a call-up in the coming months. He added that he shared a special relationship with the manager Luis de La Fuente.
“I hope to be called up for the national team again soon. In fact, I have always been called up with Luis de la Fuente if I wasn’t injured. If I play well, I can be called up again.”
Martinez was then quizzed on whether he found it difficult to adapt to the Barcelona style of play, to which he said,
“I haven’t been struggling to adapt to the style. Ernesto Valverde already practiced a similar style. I still have a lot to learn and improve, but I feel like the biggest difference is the quality of the players in the squad and the rhythm.”
“Xavi asks me the same thing he asks from the other centre-backs. For him, it’s absolutely crucial to be good with the ball. And apart from that, he also knows that I am very competitive and my defensive qualities,” he added on what the manager expected of him.
Barcelona have been dismal in the UEFA Champions League this season, and many see it to be their prime objective as the squad shapes up. Martinez shared the school of thought as he said,
“Even though the team has changed a lot and we have lots of young players, we’ll try to win the Champions League. It’s complicated, but we know that our squad is good enough.”
Martinez was also full of praise for the young Catalan talent Lamine Yamal, saying, “Lamine Yamal is a very important player for the team, and he’s showing it. The thing is not to put the pressure on him now, we have to go slow with him.”
Finally, he opened up about the unforgiving competition at Barcelona that he faced in the form of Ronald Araujo, Jules Kounde, and Andreas Christensen.
“I’m not worried about the competition here. When you sign for a club as big as Barça, you already know that you have to be at your maximum level to play. Sometimes you’ll play and other times you won’t, but you always have to be available to help the team.”
“All of the players here feel that we’re part of a winning project that will compete for every title,” he added.