Player profile: Inigo Martinez, defender, Real Sociedad

Inigo Martinez has come up against some of the best in the world. Photo: PA

Name: Inigo Martinez

Position: Centre-back

Born: 1991

Club: Real Sociedad

Country: Spain

When Real Sociedad qualified for next season's Champions League some of their hottest properties became key targets for club's around Europe.

The man at the heart of the San Sebastian outfit's defence, Inigo Martinez, is certainly one of the most sought after defenders on the continent.

Martinez has just enjoyed the most successful season of his career thus far, having also played a key part in Spain's European Under-21 Championships triumph in Israel.

Given his club debut at the start of the 2011/12, the Basque centre-back has become a commanding figure in the heart of the Txuri-urdin_ defence, forming a formidable alongside Mikel Gonzalez.

A smooth operator on the ball, and superb reader of danger, Martinez really came to the fore after scoring from the halfway line against rivals Athletic Bilbao, which he followed up with an almost identical strike a month later against Real Betis.

These were the stand out moments for Martinez that year, in addition to his Spain Under-21 debut, but ill-discipline saw him sent off twice, and injury cost him the last six weeks of the 2011/12 season.

Despite this, he was called up to the Spain squad for the 2012 Olympics in London, but struggled in a side that were quickly eliminated, including a red card against Japan in their opening game.

Martinez needs to improve his ability in the air. Credit: PA

Since then his stature has grown enormously in La Liga, thanks to him being one of the shining lights in a resurgent Sociedad side, who unexpectedly took fourth in the Spanish top-flight.

Alongside fellow European Under-21 champion Asier Illarramendi, Martinez was heavily praised for his consistently impressive performances in a competitive La Liga, which was a major influence on the Basque team's outstanding campaign.

Being a left-footed centre-back makes him more of a valued commodity in the game, as they are a rarity at the highest level, but as the stats above suggest, Martinez is not the finished article when it comes to aerial duels.

Martinez is extremely competent on the ball, and as indicated by his long-range goalscoring exploits, has the ability to pick an accurate pass over distance.

His style of play has meant Barcelona have taken a keen interest in the defender, as they have struggled to find a consistent centre-back pairing, with Martinez seen as the perfect ally for Gerard Pique at the Nou Camp.

More recently, he has been linked with a move to Liverpool and Wolfsburg, but looks likely to stay at the Anoeta for the duration of Real Sociedad's Champions League campaign.

Martinez was unlucky to miss out on the Spain squad for the Confederations Cup, and will be giving it all to be travelling to Brazil next year for the World Cup, and has every chance of making Vicente del Bosque final 23.

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Makes no sense to me how Real Sociedad can play at such an incredible level in Spain's top league, and not have players in national squad.

Martinez was a key figure in Spain's success in Israel. Credit: PA