Barcelona are about to complete the signing of Real Sociedad's centre back Iñigo Martínez. According to Diario Sport, the announcement is imminent while Noticias de Gipuzkoa, the newspaper which provided the scoop a few days ago, report that the Basques club and the Catalans are simply negotiating the fee and it is merely days until the deal is confirmed.
Though he has made his debut with Spain and is considered one of the most talented players in La Liga, Martínez has always been overshadow by Gerard Piqué and Sergio Ramos, arguably the best two defenders of the league. Here are five facts you might not know about the 26-year-old international ahead of his career-defining Nou Camp move.
Aspiring to beat Sergio Ramos
Though his main duty on the field is tackling, winning aerial duels and avoiding goal situations, Iñigo Martínez has a natural born talent to score goals. His left foot is a sniper rifle and, occasionally, he resembles a NFL quarterback providing assists or raking passes to a teammate running into space.
Apart from his technical abilities during the games, which will like a glove in Barcelona's tiki-taka style, he is a superb free kick taker, a huge threat from set pieces due to his outstanding jump ability and he has even scored two goals from his own half. Martínez has played 222 games with Real Sociedad, scoring 17 goals.
Given that the Basques do not regularly fight for silverware or have a set-piece artist with the accuracy of Toni Kroos, his goal record should skyrocket upon moving to the Catalan giants.
A modern day Roberto Ayala
During his first preseason as a professional, Sociedad measured the jumping ability of their players by measuring how high they soared from a standing start or with a run up. Martínez is a small player (5 ft 10 in) in comparison to the most well known defenders, in fact, in that 2011/12 preseason he started playing alongside Jon Ansotegi, who was 6 ft 4 in. However, his strength and jumping ability meant he jumped the highest. He rarely loses aerial duels despite his lack of height and is regarded as a modern day Roberto Ayala, the former Argentina defender who was colossal in the air.
Aggressive beyond limits
Martínez's style cannot be related to Pique's, his future partner in the Barcelona's defence. He loves slide tackles, embraces the physical battle and he moans constantly, particularly when referees make decisions against his teammates. He was shown a yellow card on nine occasions last year and he constantly uses his Twitter account to even complain about officials, though he has learned to do it subtly in order to avoid punishments.
Involved in two car accidents
The Spain international is passionate about cars but has been involved in two car accidents. The first, in 2014 came after a meeting with some teammates (Carlos Vela, Markel Bergara and Asier Illarramendi, who was playing for Real Madrid at that point), when he destroyed his Audi R8. The accident was the talk of the town because according to Diario Marca, he did not wait for an ambulance or the police, and he left the car alone in the road and departed the "scene" in Vela's car in order to avoid being photographed by passers by. He did not succeed. Iñigo then suffered another collision last January, after a car allegedly skipped a red light, according to Diario Sport.
Part of Spain's new golden generation
The year of 2013 was one of the best of Martinez's career. He led Sociedad to the fourth place - he played in the Champions League a year later against David Moyes' Manchester United - and he won the Under-21 European Championships alongside the likes of David De Gea, Álvaro Morata, Isco Alarcón, his friend Illarramendi and Marc Bartra. His manager was Julen Lopetegi, Spain's current coach, something that plays into Martinez's favour of Iñigo when it comes to achieving one of his main goals since he was a kid: playing a World Cup.
Iñigo knows how important is to play for a top European club in order to increase his chances of playing at a major international tournament. He signed a new deal with Sociedad a year ago. However, the player imposed a clear condition. His buy clause should remain low, at €32m. A clear sign that he was looking for an opportunity to play for a European giant. The dream is about to become a reality in the coming days as Barcelona close in.