After six seasons, one final loss, and €1.24 billion spent in transfer fees, Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City superteam finally won their inevitable Champions League. While the Qatari-backed investment and financial fair play breaches have caused controversy off of the pitch, few can say that on the pitch, they haven’t deserved it.
City won Group G easily, scoring fourteen goals and conceding two. In the Round of 16, they pummeled RB Leipzig 8-1 on aggregate, before facing Bayern in the quarter-finals. Some crucial mistakes by Bayern defender Dayot Upamecano and lethal finishing meant that the English side was essentially guaranteed a spot in the semis after the first leg. In the semis, City again thrashed Real Madrid to set up what many assumed would be the easiest matchup of all — a final against an Inter Milan side that had already been swept aside by Bayern.
However, Inter Milan held on before losing to an incredible Rodri shot. The Italian side really made life difficult for City and could have beat them but not for some attacking struggles. While Lautaro Martínez’s performance has been criticized by some, his performance is actually proof that Bayern should sign him.
His Defensive Work
Martínez was essentially the only Inter forward attempting to do something off of the ball. Edin Džeko started the game trying to press high, but it became clear he didn’t have the legs and he was subbed off before the hour mark. Romelu Lukaku was even less involved, featuring instead as a traditional target man and not pressing at all.
Martínez, on the other hand, was everywhere. When City pushed forward, he dropped back to help out. When Ederson was guiding the ball out of bounds, Martínez brushed the goalkeeper aside and kept the ball in play. And for his “miss” — more on that later — the only reason Inter could’ve scored on that play was because the Argentine sprinted between Manuel Akanji and Ederson to take advantage of a bad back-pass.
This is what fans envisioned Sadio Mané would bring to Bayern – a relentless presser who would challenge the defense and win the ball back. However, the 31-year-old was not as committed to pressing this season, covering only 6.5 kilometers per game according to the Bundesliga website. According to the Serie A, Martínez was much more involved in Inter’s game, covering close to 9 kilometers per game.
His Capabilities as a Leading Attacker
One of the criticisms over a move for Martínez is that he’s used to playing in a dual-striker system. Inter tends to play a 3-5-2 with either Lukaku or Džeko alongside him, while Martínez was used as a second striker at the World Cup.
However, as Martínez showed against City, he’s perfectly capable of playing as an isolated striker. The Argentine created many of his own chances and was often left chasing after through balls by himself as the other two strikers were unable to get involved. The result? Good, but not great — Martínez was unable to score but still looked threatening and gave City a few scares.
At Bayern, Martínez would not be as isolated, as he would be helped by the CAM and wingers (assuming Tuchel sticks to the 4-2-3-1). With Müller, Musiala, and co. creating chances, he would thrive.
Lautaro Martínez has been incorrectly blamed for costing his team the match when he missed a seemingly golden chance in the 58th minute, with his 1v1 shot blocked by Ederson. That’s not the case at all — Martínez clearly looked up to see if Lukaku was open (he wasn’t) before attempting a no-look shot from a bad angle on one of the best goalkeepers in the world. Not exactly easy.
It’s true that Martínez isn’t exactly Robert Lewandowski — he won’t score every chance from any distance, and he’s not going to challenge the Bundesliga goalscoring record. However, he is an excellent striker who has scored 20+ goals in consecutive Serie A seasons. He also scored the winner in a fierce derby match vs AC Milan in the semis.
This is what Bayern desperately needs — not a new Lewandowski, just a striker who can score goals consistently. Martínez can do that.
Martínez is the striker Bayern needs — he’s a great presser, can feature as the lone striker, and is a good finisher. He’s also under contract until 2026, so he wouldn’t be the cheapest signing in the world — Transfermarkt estimates his value at €80 million — but the best strikers rarely are. However, Inter Milan also has had some financial difficulties, so it’s possible he could be available for less. Anything around €60-70 million would be an absolute steal.
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