A Bavarian At Heart
There are different reports in the media each day about his impending departure – and the speculation is to be expected, since a player of his calibre deserves to be playing regularly. Perhaps by the time you are reading this, a deal has already been struck elsewhere, or perhaps he’ll stick around at Bayern for a while longer – as we all know, there’s no such thing as certainty in football.
Javi Martínez made a splash when he signed for Bayern in 2012, becoming the most expensive transfer in Bundesliga history. He’s won eight Bundesliga titles, five DFB Pokals, three German Supercups, a Club World Cup, two Champions League trophies, and most recently of course, a second UEFA Supercup. Much can – and will – be said about the successes and all he has achieved throughout his sparkling career with us. However, like most legendary players, it’s not just the magic he works on the pitch that would be missed if Javi were to leave Bayern after eight years. His personality and enthusiasm shine through in interviews, on social media, and in interactions with fans. Yet there is something else that marks Javi Martínez out as a great match to Bayern Munich: the way he has embraced all things German and Bavarian.
From the moment he arrived, he was absolutely committed to learning German. It’s wonderful to see our new boys’ language learning journeys – especially those where they give their first interviews in German after a few months at the club. Non-German speaking newcomers are immersed into the language as soon as they arrive – all training plans, travel plans and written information is provided only in German. This gives players their first incentive to start learning German, and in turn leads to faster integration on the pitch, where of course all training takes place in German. Jupp Heynckes says that in his wealth of experience working with players from all over the globe “things get a lot easier when you can master the local language”.
Javi seems to have taken this as a personal challenge. A 2018 FC Bayern documentary gave an in-depth insight into how the non-German players learn German, with one-to-one or small group coaching. In these lessons, Javi is all smiles and enthusiasm. His demeanour is not dissimilar to the kid at the front of the class with his hand up shouting “Sir! Sir! I know the answer!”. In the first moments of the documentary, he’s grinning at Juan Bernat who’s struggling to answer a question, light-heartedly mocking him by saying “’sich beeilen’. It means to hurry up! Come on! Haha”.
Martínez has embraced the language with gusto, arguably more so than any other non-German player. “He speaks fluently, trusts himself, doesn’t hesitate and does it all really well” says Max, Bayern’s on-site German teacher. Not only does Javi shine in the formal lessons, but also spends his time watching films and television programmes in German, pausing regularly to ask Max questions about the language. He turns up to German lessons full of enthusiasm for what he wants to learn next. Sometimes Max doesn’t plan a lesson because he knows Javi will arrive with his own ideas – for example playing him a German song he likes and asking if they can spend the lesson translating it. He’s still learning, and still seeing progress. In 2019, seven years after beginning his German lessons with the club, he said “every day I understand my colleagues a little better”. In one challenge for Bayern’s YouTube channel, where he speaks German for ten minutes, he finishes by saying “Max and I work really well together. Hopefully he is proud of me because of this interview”. His German (not to mention his FC Bayern history knowledge) was good enough for him to compete in Bayern’s 120th anniversary quiz in German against David Alaba, a native speaker. When Martínez jokingly complains that it’s harder for him to answer questions because his German isn’t fluent enough, Alaba looks confused, almost annoyed that he would use his poor German knowledge as an excuse, saying “your German is perfect”.
It is not just the language that Javi has taken a shine to. He’s always wearing the biggest smile at Oktoberfest (which he calls “the most beautiful time of the year”), and looks at home in his Lederhose. FC Bayern TV recorded a feature dedicated to him hiking the mountains of Bavaria, one of his favourite hobbies in his time away from the pitch. He takes on Bavarian challenges with glee – even topping the table for the Masskrug challenge. Last year he said “I feel like a Bavarian. I hope I can stay here a long time”.
When asked “what does the Allianz Arena mean to you?” he answers simply, “my home”. None of us knows for sure whether this is the end of this major chapter in Javi Martínez’s dazzling career in Germany. If it is, his statement of such a deep belonging tugs at the heartstrings. It’s hard to see the players we are attached to leave the club. It’s even harder to say goodbye to someone who seems to fit in so well not just with the tactics, the pace and the desire to win, but also with the culture of the club. It is not surprising that Munich has embraced him as much as he has embraced the city. At this point, he’s a Bavarian. Just with a more exotic name!