Inigo Martinez 21 Defender Real Sociedad
Inigo Martinez is one of those players that everyone has probably heard of or at least seen a small snippet of his play in the last year, without perhaps full realising who he is. So far the 21 year-old’s career has been defined by four moments; two good and two bad.
The two very good reasons are both pretty spectacular goals that Martinez scored for Real Sociedad. Inigo is the centre-half that struck twice from inside his own half around this time last year. Both were much better goals than are usually seen scored from the other half of the pitch. Neither were speculative punts that got lucky, nor were they opportune instances following the opposition goalkeeper scrambling from his box and making a poor clearance. In both instances, Martinez steadies himself, spots the goalkeeper foolishly off his line and drills the ball into the top of the goal. There was real intent and execution in both shots. Quite why the goalkeeper for the second goal wasn’t adequately prepared for Martinez and his range is baffling.
The other two reasons take the form of another pretty outrageous goal, as well as a silly red card. Inigo was dismissed for Spain under-23s while playing in the Olympics this summer. He was sent off in the first half for a muddled foul as Spain tried to recover from going a goal down to Japan in their opening match of the competition. It came as a bit of a shock for world football; as after triumphing at Euro 2012 and picking a very strong squad for the competition at the London games, the Spanish were the outstanding favourites for the Gold medal.
Finally, the Real Sociedad defender also did this to David de Gea in a Spanish under-21 game. Thankfully, there is much more to the 21 year-old than being the scorer of spectacular and ludicrous goals. That said, there is nothing wrong with a player combining the sublime and the ridiculous in almost equal measures. It makes his development at least a little bit interesting for now.
Central defence and perhaps defence in general is an area that Spanish football is looking a little light at the moment. There are an abundance of forward thinking and forward playing teenagers breaking through, desperate to establish themselves in the Primera Liga and eventually the senior national team; but not so much that competition at the back.
In some ways that has made Martinez’s ascent into the under-21 defence a little easier although, becoming a competent defender at a young age is a tougher ask as their mistakes are magnified more for the world to see. In Inigo, there is a really good defender that just needs refining. He has a habit of getting caught the wrong side of his marker and at times, can be caught in two minds about what to do with the ball under pressure. His ball-playing ability tells him that he should try to pass and play his way out of trouble whereas his natural instincts as a defender call for the ball to be punted into Row Z.
Martinez isn’t afraid of putting himself about, making any challenge or throwing his body in the way of a shot. He should become a top quality defender for club and eventually country.
He won’t be in contention for the next World Cup squad but if he continues to work hard, apply himself to honing the defensive side of the game and continues to pop in shots from his half of the pitch; he’ll be front and centre to start the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign in the place of the retiring Carlos Puyol.
“Over his injuries and now focused on being the heart of Real Sociedad's defence, he's aggressive and agile in the same package. Spain aren't producing too many centre-backs, and they might not need to if Martinez fulfils potential. Puyol MK II quite possibly.” - David Cartlidge (Spanish Football Correspondent)
“To smash one brilliant goal from the halfway line may be seen as fortunate. Two and you have to give him his props. But a decent season for La Real was followed by a miserable Olympics where his dismissal in the defeat by Japan capped a disastrous Spanish campaign.” - John Dobson (European Football Correspondent)
“Most will remember him for two goals from his own half last year. He's taken to the Spanish U-21s team very well but like most youngsters has also had his downs, the biggest coming when he was sent off for the Spanish Olympic team in the opening against Japan. He'll learn though and continue to adapt. He’s the future of the Spanish national teams defence.” - Gary Linton (Inside La Liga)
C+ Hard work and concentration needed to get to the next level