In the summer of 2019, Ajax were in a dilemma. The club had just won their 34th Eredivisie and just missed out on the Champions League final. Ajax had produced a special team stacked with young talent. And now, these players were on the radar of other clubs. Now the club had two options to choose from:
- Keep hold of these players for some more time.
- Sell them, and reinvest the money to generate a new crop of talent.
They took the second option and produced another golden generation within two years. Lisandro Martínez is one of the players to come out of this process. The Argentinian is now plying his trade for Manchester United after an exceptional season for Ajax.
The 24-year-old, who started his career at Lionel Messi’s youth club Newell’s Old Boys, has been one of the top defenders in the Eredivisie. Brought for only €7 million from Defensa y Justicia, the defender has proved that he was worth every penny.
In three years, Martinez has won three trophies with Ajax and Copa America and the Finalissima with Argentina. He formed a brilliant partnership at the club with Jurrien Timber, making Erik Ten Hag’s side a powerhouse. Now, he has started his path of becoming a Manchester United great.
How good is Lisandro Martinez
Lisandro Martinez’s analysis shows us that he plays more with his mind than his feet. Standing at 5 feet 9 inches, the 24-year-old is not the most daunting defender, but his excellent reading of the game ensures he is not the easiest person to deal with. The Argentine is also adept at ball playing. Erik Ten Hag preferred him because he can move the ball forward with his exquisite short and long passing.
His vision ensures that he is rarely caught off guard. He also makes tackles only when necessary, choosing to stay on his feet and snuffing out the danger. Martinez is also a player who goes quietly about his job. Rather than going for a tackle, he waits to intercept the passing lanes to snuff out the danger.
Lisandro Martinez’s performance as a defensive midfielder against Chelsea in the Champions League a few years ago speaks volumes of his quality. So clean and composed for a defender. Very rare technical qualities for a CB. Brilliant. pic.twitter.com/rLRWiDibDo
— Eduardo Hagn (@EduardoHagn) June 19, 2022
His passing accuracy for the last three seasons has been over 88 per cent, which shows his absolute control of the ball. He can also create chances for his team, as is evident by his three assists, the third-best for a centre-back in the league last season.
Martinez is not only a good reader of the game but can also make split-second decisions if the need arises.
This playing style of Lisandro Martinez is accurately reflected in his stats.
Lisandro Martinez stats
Lisandro Martinez’s analysis makes one thing clear. He is an elite passer. Fbref has ranked him among the top one per cent defenders on successful passes, progressive passes, assists, key passes, and passes into the final third.
This is an impressive stat, and with more teams requiring to build up from the back, ball-playing defenders are now worth their weight in gold.
Martinez is also a creative defender. The Argentine completed 1.38 Shot Creating Actions (SCA) per 90 minutes, among the top one per cent of defenders. The same holds for Goal Creating Actions (GCA), and dribblers tackled and dribbles contested. Martinez is also ranked as the tenth-best player in Expected Threats (xT). The xT metric measures how threatening a player is in different parts of the pitch. And despite being a defender, Martinez has better xT than his Ajax teammate Antony and Bruma and is shy of Ryan Gravenberch and Cody Gakpo.
Ball progression (passing) in the UEFA Champions League group stages.
– Daley Blind is simply outstanding
– Lisandro Martínez and Jurriën Timber also perform well in terms of ball progression
— Ajax Analytics (@AjaxAnalytics_) January 3, 2022
Martinez is also quite efficient at what he does. According to Soccerment, the player made 46 interceptions, the 34th best in the league. His tackle numbers are more average. However, Soccerment rated him as the second-best defender in the league behind Timber.
This is because Martinez snuffs out the danger before it even begins through his impeccable vision and reading of the game.
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Lisandro Martinez scout report
Martinez completed the sixth-most passes (1963) in the Eredivisie and was reasonably accurate with it, which attracted the interests of clubs all over Europe. In addition, he has also played in a system that encourages ball-playing defenders. Thus, his playing style had already been one of a CB in an elite side.
He also has the experience of playing in the Champions League. In fact, he was a part of a defence that allowed the third least goals in the group stage. So this has brought him tremendous experience that will be helpful for him in the future.
🥇| Lisandro Martínez has been named the Ajax Player of the Season! He played 37 matches this season. If you look at the stats, totally deserved award:
— All About Ajax (@AllAboutAjax) May 12, 2022
He has also seen success on the international stage with two trophies. Therefore, any club signing Martinez would get a good defender and a player who can also raise the game of his teammates as well.
Lisandro Martinez at Man Utd
After three seasons at Ajax, Matinez finally left for Manchester United and teamed up with his former manager Erik Ten Hag. Manchester United made him their second signing under Erik Ten Hag. However, it wasn’t easy for the Red Devils as they faced competition from Arsenal. Mikel Arteta has strengthened this season by signing Fabio Vieira from Porto.
After a suspect couple of games that had pundits questioning the low-hanging fruit of “Lack of height”, Lisandro Martinez has come storming back. Even in games he struggled, it was quite clear that Martinez was besting his attacker more often than not. It was the sheer number of attacks on his side that gave the feeling of him being prone to aerial duels.
If Arsenal do get Lisandro Martínez of Ajax for less than €40m it would be a steal. He has incredible aerial ability despite not being the tallest (think Roberto Ayala), great reading of the game and can build from the back. Will surely replace Otamendi for Argentina after WC.🇦🇷 pic.twitter.com/dqx6T0mGD0
— Roy Nemer (@RoyNemer) June 19, 2022
United conceded 57 goals in the Premier League last season and had a goal difference of zero. Harry Maguire was especially woeful and earned the ire of fans and pundits alike. Having replaced Maguire in the lineup for now, Martinez’s next step must be a chase for trophies at the club. He has already shown with Ajax how good he can be. Nothing will be sweeter for him if he replicates the success at Old Trafford.