After lengthy negotiations with Ajax, Manchester United signed 24-year-old Argentine centre-back Lisandro Martinez for a reported fee of €57 million plus an additional €10m in future add-ons.
United’s first choice was Martinez’s teammate Jurien Timber who can also play on the right, but once the player declined a move after speaking to Netherlands manager Louis Van Gaal, Erik ten Hag moved for Martinez.
Martinez’s 5ft 9in height is admittedly short by conventional standards for a centre-back, but his skill in reading the game and his aerial ability is excellent.
He is an intelligent footballer whose skill and athleticism help him frequently win the ball off the opposition with precision tackles and an aggressive ball-winning approach.
Lisandro Martinez is an excellent passer
According to the pizza percentile chart, his in-possession proficiency is his biggest asset. Martinez is an excellent ball-playing defender – a blessing for any ball-dominant side.
This attribute not only helps in the team’s build-up but his passing and ball distribution ability serve as an extra offensive weapon for his team.
He completed 81.83 passes per 90 last season, the highest amongst centre-backs in the Eredivisie, which highlights his superb passing ability. He completed 14.4 progressive passes per 90, the most among centre-backs. His 28.88 forward passes also outperformed 98% of Eredivisie centre-backs.
A big reason for United’s poor build-up system last season was their centre-backs’ weakness in ball progression. Harry Maguire completed 3.08 progressive passes per 90, the highest for any United centre-backs but relatively average for Premier League quality.
Therefore, in terms of ball progression, Martinez is far better than United’s other centre-backs. On that basis, he could be Ten Hag’s essential outlet to maintain United’s vertical play.
Another excellent attribute of Martinez’s profile is his outstanding long-passing ability. Last season in the league, he completed 7.46 long passes per 90 with 61% accuracy. In addition, he tried to spread the ball towards the midfielders or switched the play through the right side of the field.
Martinez could unlock United’s attack
A large part of Martinez’s chance creation came from line-breaking long passes. He aimed most of his long passes at wingers.
United could score many goals from his line-breaking final balls toward Jadon Sancho or Marcus Rashford, who may make runs behind the opposing defence.
Martinez completed 7.36 progressive carries per 90, the highest among Eredivisie defenders. Most of his progressive carries were through the centre channel.
As a result, he frequently fell under pressure from the opposing forwards. But his descent dribbling skills and ability to make quick turns helped him break the opposition’s first line of pressure and continue the build-up.
An Aggressive, No-Nonsense Defender
Martinez’s greatest strength is his ability to defend aggressively. His tackling success rate, quick interception ability and ball recovery rate in the opponents’ half all reflect how good he is as an aggressive defender.
If the opposing striker drops deep to receive the ball, Martinez immediately rushes after him and charges aggressively, preventing him from turning. It is also clear from his defensive action map that he often prefers to push high up from his line to take part in defensive challenges.
When the opposition tries to attempt long balls towards their forward, he steps in front of the target man and tries to intercept the ball.
His aggressive behaviour sometimes opens up free space behind the line. However, due to his speed and quick ball recovering ability, even in such cases, the opponent’s strikers cannot get many advantages.
Due to his short height, Martinez should be weak in the air. But he had an aerial success rate of 66.15% in the league last season, better than 93% of centre-backs in Eredivisie. The main reason behind his success in the air is his ability to anticipate opposing strikers’ decisions quickly.
Martinez’s performance over the previous season has elevated him to one of the most sought-after centre-backs in European football.
From United’s perspective, he is an ideal addition to their squad who can bring new dynamism to the team.
However, it will be interesting to see how quickly Martinez adapts to the Premier League’s fast-paced and physical style of play and how much he improves the Man Utd side.
- Brentford vs Manchester United Preview – Prediction, how to watch & line-ups
- Manchester City vs Bournemouth Preview – Prediction, how to watch & line-ups
- Frenkie de Jong determined to stay at Barcelona despite threats and Premier League interest
- Barcelona ready to sell Sergino Dest amid Man Utd & Chelsea interest
- Harvey Elliott pens new Liverpool deal