The penultimate trick of Javi Martínez

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The eccentric Navarrese midfielder decided the Super Cup in favor of Bayern, which negotiates his transfer to Athletic

Not in vain Javi Martínez Aguinaga became fond of sleight of hand from a very young age. After 103 minutes of the European Super Cup with 1-1, the title was in the air, but the man got into the bustle of the Sevilla area with the calm of the magician. Bradycardia. Kimmich threw the corner from the right, the ball was cleared by Diego Carlos, finished off by Alaba and cleared again by Bounou when he found it face to face. Someone more restless would have popped it. He paused, looked at the goalkeeper, and as if he had an entire evening to decide he settled his head and placed the ball in the square with a slight swing of the neck. The winning goal came in slowly as the hero, disheveled with a mane of blonde highlights, smiled in anticipation of the avalanche of colleagues who came to congratulate him. Perfectly aware of giving himself a tribute.

“I don’t know,” he said, when asked if it was his last game with Bayern after a cycle of nine seasons and 22 trophies with the German team. “If on Sunday I am called to travel to Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga, I will give it my all again.”

On Tuesday Bayern summoned him to travel to Budapest to play the final of the Super Cup. Many did not expect it. Since January, he had played just over ten minutes in three of the 12 Bundesliga games for which he had been available. In Champions, he only added nine minutes in the last five days. According to sources in his environment, he never asked for ownership but neither could he bear feeling that the coach did not have him or as a recurring substitute.

He was always happy in Munich. But considering that he is 32 years old, he has felt wasted and his contract ends in 2021, in summer he asked the club to transfer him. Athletic offered to give him a position until he knew the price that Bayern was putting on him. According to him image, were ten million euros that progressively approached five. The negotiation seemed closed this Monday. But it stagnated again.

“I read the newspapers and they said that Javi was already in Bilbao,” said Hans-Dieter Flick, the Bayern coach, on the eve of the final. “So I was a bit surprised that he was traveling with us to Budapest.”

He was never the most gifted of footballers. But few have been more daring and more competitive than him. Flick knew it, that with the open final and Sevilla dangerously threatening Neuer’s area, in the 99th minute he made him enter the game to replace Lucas Hernández. In principle, their mission should be to protect the centrals and free Tolisso and Kimmich. Five minutes later, he scored the winning goal. It was his first goal of the year. An amazing coincidence and a story that repeats itself in a different rhyme. In the 2013 Super Cup he had already scored a decisive goal against Chelsea.

Jupp Heynckes asked for his signing in 2012 after seeing how he adapted to all the positions of the midfield and the center of the defense in Athletic de Marcelo Bielsa. Athletic demanded the payment of the clause of 40 million euros and Bayern agreed in the middle of a long internal controversy. Then the Navarrese broke a record that until then had corresponded to Mario Gómez, a scorer for whom the Bavarians had paid Stuttgart 30 million in 2009. Bayern ended up making the effort for historical imposition. After two years of dominance by Dortmund in all local competitions, the Munich club’s management was in a hurry to regain the title of German football.

There are players blessed by fortune and players who bless their teams. Discreet, funny and optimistic by nature, Javi Martínez raised the spirits of all the teams he passed through. He came from revolting Athletic and lifting the World Cup in South Africa and the European Championship in Kiev with Spain. His time at Bayern was no exception. It left a deep mark. Since arriving in Munich, the team has not stopped winning the Bundesliga. He won eight German league trophies, five Pokal Cups, and two Champions.

They say in Bilbao that his crew is waiting for him, as always. But if he finally leaves Bayern before the Spanish transfer market closes on October 5, he will leave behind another squad and an era that coincides with the golden era of Spanish football. The steering wheel was the first player of the Roja to sign for Bayern and will be the last of the saga to leave after Thiago, Alonso, Bernat, Reina and Odriozola.

Last week, Javi Martínez did not appear in the official photo that the squad traditionally takes to coincide with Oktoberfest. Many interpreted it as evidence that he was no longer on the payroll. However he traveled to Budapest. And against the odds, Flick got him into the final at the climax. The act reserved for the final trick could not have another protagonist.

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