Happy retirement, Martin
At the highly successful career IAN McFARLANE looks back Martin Demichelis of former Manchester City defender
HE HUNG up his boots at the end of the season and, in my opinion, Martin Demichelis was one of the most underrated defensive lynchpins in recent history.
Born on December 20, 1980 in Cordoba, Argentina, he started out at Complejo Deportivo and Club Renato Cessarini before one of the country’s big-hitters, River Plate, came calling.
He cut his teeth in the youth set-up until being looked upon as good enough to be called up to the first team.
He was part of the squad which won the Argentine Primera Division on two occasions – in 2002 and 2003.
In his time with ‘Los Millonarios’, he scored his only league goal against Rosario Central, but, more importantly, showed thorough awareness, game-reading and defensive nous far beyond his years.
This was also the first of three chapters working under the Chilean coach Manuel Pellegrini.
Next, he was snapped up by the German giants Bayern Munich for a fee of around € 4.5 million. This would be the most successful and trophy-laden period of his career.
In the period spanning 2003-2010, Demichelis would play alongside world-class talent such as Michael Ballack and the Brazillian Ze Roberto (who placed Demichelis in his favoured XI of players he has played with, high praise indeed).
He won a total of 11 honours with Bayern and also finished a Champions League runner-up in 2009/10.
At Bayern, Demichelis had success under Felix Magath before Ottmar Hitzfield turned him from a defensive midfielder into a central defender, a move which paid dividends.
Things turned frosty for him at Bayern once Louis van Gaal took over and it became inevitable he would move on.
Pellegrini was eager to work with Demichelis again and brought him to La Liga’s Malaga. In his time there, the defender helped his new side survive relegation and then finish high enough to contest Champions League football for the first time.
Talking of firsts, Demichelis would also score Malaga's first Champions League goal with a trademark header in their 2-0 win over Panathinaikos in the play-off round.
After a move to Atletico Madrid on a free turned sour, Demichelis linked up with Pellegrini for a third time at Manchester City.
A visibly rusty Demichelis made a shaky start to his time in Manchester after recovering from a knee injury.
He was guilty of a number of errors, which included giving away a penalty and receiving a red card for bringing down his compatriot Lionel Messi in City’s 20 home defeat to Barcelona.
However, March 15, 2014, was the turning point. After fellow centre-half Vincent Kompany’s early dismissal in the game at Hull City, Demichelis led the defence and the team in general by the scruff of the neck, putting in a man of the match display in a 2-0 win with his defensive know-how.
The upturn in his fortunes was one of the main reasons City pipped Liverpool to the Premier League crown and led to a call-up to Argentina's squad for the World Cup in the summer of 2014. His displays for City dipped in the 2015-16 season and it was no major surprise that, like Pellegini, he moved on. Another spell in La Liga would follow, firstly with Espanyol and then latterly at Malaga, before the defender decided it was time to call it a day in May at the age of 36. Aside from a successful club career, Demichelis also enjoyed a fruitful time on the international scene, amassing 51 caps and scoring two goals for his beloved Argentina. His first goal came in a friendly against Australia in 2007, the other a fortuitous rasper against the Greeks in the group stage of World Cup 2010 in South Africa. In 2014, he played for Argentina against Germany in the World Cup final in Brazil, but had to settle for a runners-up medal after Mario Gotze’s extratime winner. After making 548 appearances and netting 31 times for his various clubs over the years and with his aforementioned international honours, no one can begrudge Demichelis deciding to call it day. Yes, he’s had criticism from the pundits over the years, but most of them can fit their medals in their trouser pockets – Demichelis needs a warehouse to house his. It has been a pleasure following his decorated and entertaining career.