Unsettled Martinez Should Be Liverpool's Top Priority

Alexander Hassenstein

Back in the Champions League and with a transfer budget to match, word Javi Martinez has become unsettled at Bayern Munich should be news to hand Liverpool their top summer target.

Liverpool's centre halves make for easy scapegoats when the club concede a goal or three, but in an attacking system as unbalanced as has been played this season, mistakes are inevitable. A system that isolates defenders, increasing both the opportunities for mistakes to occur and for those mistakes to then lead to opposition scoring chances, exchanges an increase in defensive lapses for a more dangerous attack at the other end.

Against Crystal Palace, Liverpool drew the game because of those defensive mistakes. But those mistakes all came after Liverpool scored a third goal and pushed eight and nine deep into the Palace half in search of even more goals to chip away at Manchester City's goal differential advantage. Those mistakes came because the defence was left isolated and vulnerable and Palace, contrary to Liverpool's hopes, hadn't already conceded defeat and given up.

All of which means that if Liverpool want to improve their defence, the first place to look for reinforcements might not actually be in defence. Steven Gerrard's attacking qualities are still of obvious value, but despite half a season in the deepest midfield role he's far from a solid option when it comes to screening the backline and maintaining positional responsibility, and his decision to push on after Liverpool's third on Monday was key in the subsequent collapse.

Were he at his pre-injury best or playing in that deepest role instead of Gerrard, Lucas might have been a better option. Yet the Brazilian remains a step off his best pace and with Rodgers unwilling to swap his and Gerrard's positions, he lacked the stamina to do dual duty as shuttler on the edge of the diamond and cover for Gerrard in its deepest role. He may still be able to effectively play the deeper role by himself, but playing alongside Gerrard leads to problems.

Which is a roundabout way of getting to the rather fortuitous news that Javi Martinez is unsettled at Bayern Munich. The 25-year-old midfielder is amongst the most tactically, technically, and physically adept players at his position. Before getting lost in the shuffle at Bayern thanks to Pep Guardiola's resistance to playing a double pivot, he was regularly counted alongside Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sergio Busquets as the game's best holding players.

He is also flexible, able to drop back into defence or push on into a more box to box role. In the past, while he was at Athletic Bilbao and first being courted by the likes of Bayern, he was a player well beyond Liverpool both financially and due to the club's absence from the Champions League. Now, with Liverpool having secured their return and with it a transfer budget to match, he's no longer the sort of player beyond the club's grasp.

Not if he's unhappy at Bayern, which it appears that he is. Early whispers suggest interest in England from the likes of Arsenal and Manchester United, while a £25-30M return to Spain with either Real Madrid or Barcelona could also be on the cards. If he does leave Bayern, Madrid will likely be favourites. There's no reason, though, that Liverpool today wouldn't be a more appealing option for him than Arsenal and, most certainly, United.

The need for a player with his talents is clear. If the will is there, there's no reason why this club can't once again compete for the likes of Martinez and players of a similar calibre. They may not get him—they may not even try to get him when everything's said and done. It's no longer foolish, though, to imagine Liverpool competing for his signature. They might even be one of the favourites to land him if they tried.

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