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Football | Germany

Martinez showing his worth for Bayern

Spain international Javi Martinez believes he has now arrived at Bayern Munich after doubts about whether the club was wise in splashing out a Bundesliga record €40 million for the midfielder in August.

After a slow start, 24-year-old Martinez has won over the Munich faithful, playing an integral part in Bayern's six-match winning run in the league since the winter break.

Martinez scored his second goal for Bayern with a header in Saturday's 6-1 thrashing of Werder Bremen, with his all-round performance singled out for praise by chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.

The defensive midfielder signed from Athletic Bilbao believes he has in particular benefited from the winter break, which enabled him to get the rest he needed.

"Unlike the summer, I had a two-week vacation over Christmas, more time off than I've had in years. It did me a world of good and I think I can be even better in the second half of the season," he told the club's website in an interview published Tuesday.

By his own accounts, Martinez arrived tired in the summer after a protracted transfer on a five-year contract. He had played for Spain at the Olympics and had only 11 days off during the summer break.

The lack of proper rest, as well as the adjustment to a new environment and the style of play in the Bundesliga, meant he needed time to settle into the side.

"The transition isn't easy and you have to allow time for it. But I think German football suits me well. It's physical and direct, and I like that," he said.

There has, he says, also been plenty of help from teammates to help him settle in.

"Everyone knows it's all new to me here, and they help me whenever they can," he said.

"I'm getting special help from Bastian (Schweinsteiger), Luiz (Gustavo) and Tymo (Anatoliy Tymoshchuk), the lads who I tend to play closest to on the pitch."

The high price tag - €10 million more than the previous record paid by Bayern for Mario Gomez - was never a problem, as he explained on his arrival in August, saying: "I know that €40 million is not peanuts. There is no pressure on me, it actually is more of a motivation."

Martinez obviously never need to convince coach Jupp Heynckes as he has been nearly an ever-present in the side, appearing in 20 of the team's 23 Bundesliga games.

From next season he will need to impress a Spanish coach, with the arrival of former Barcelona helmsman Josep Guardiola to look forward to.

Rummenigge, perhaps referring to the doubters in the first half of the season, said the club knew what it was doing in paying out so much for the Spaniard.

"We were hoping Martinez would really get going after a full preparation phase, and it's proved the case," he said. "As we can now see, he's exceptionally valuable to the club when he's physically fit."

The Munich media appeared to be finally won over after Martinez shone in Bayern's 3-1 at Arsenal in the Champions League last week.

"Martinez has arrived!" was a headline in Munich's Abendzeitung. "In coach Jupp Heynckes, his chief is his biggest fan," it said. Heynckes believes Martinez "is one of the reasons Bayern has conceded fewer goals than ever before."

Martinez is now relishing one of the biggest matches of the season in Germany - Wednesday's quarterfinal cup clash with Borussia Dortmund, the champions of the past two seasons.

Bayern have now built up a 17-point lead over Dortmund in the Bundesliga. They finished 1-1 in the league in December, but Bayern have not forgotten their 5-2 defeat to Juergen Klopp's side in last season's cup final.

"Obviously, the Bundesliga fixture in early December is still fresh in the memory. It was a good encounter and very intense," he said.

"I'm expecting the same in the cup quarterfinal, although there's even more pressure because it's a knockout match. But we're ready."

Martinez was not around to taste the bitter final defeat to Dortmund last season but admits there is a sense of seeking revenge in the team.

"I saw highlights of the match on TV. This rematch does have a little bit of a revenge feel to it. It's an additional boost to our motivation," he said.


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