Thursday, May 23, 2024

Girona on Verge of History: Martin Aims for Champions League, Second Place Finish

HomeSports NewsGirona on Verge of History: Martin Aims for Champions League, Second Place...

Ivan Martin is living the dream. The 24-year-old Girona midfielder has gone from anonymous squad player to talisman for one of Europe’s most improbable underdog stories. In an astonishingly candid interview with Spanish daily AS, the Bilbao native pulls no punches as he discusses his side’s sensational push for Champions League qualification.

Media Madness Descends on Catalan Minnows As Martin sits down with the reporter, he can’t help but remark at the bizarre media circus that has engulfed his modest club in recent months. “It’s getting ridiculous now – the cameras, the journalists buzzing around wanting to stick a microphone in your face,” he says with a wry smile. “Can you believe they even have a proper press line set up for us at Montilivi? It’s mental!”

The Basque schemer admits this unprecedented exposure has been a major adjustment for the Girona squad. “Listen, I absolutely hate doing interviews. But I guess it means we must be doing something right if all these big outlets are sniffing around,” he concedes. “A few months ago this would have been utterly unthinkable for a selling club like us.”

Daring to Dream of Champions League Glory
Indeed, qualification for Europe’s elite club competition seemed an impossibly distant dream when Girona kicked off their 2022/23 La Liga campaign last August. Martin recalls how the mere notion of gatecrashing the Champions League was simply taboo in the dressing room.

“We didn’t even dare utter those words out loud, it was like a cursed phrase that would immediately jinx us!” he reveals. “Our one and only target was hitting 40 points to survive. That was it – the absolute ceiling of our ambitions.”

However, as Michel’s fearless side continued defying the critics and climbing the table, it became impossible to ignore the painfully conspicuous elephant in the room. “I mean, what were we supposed to do, just pretend it wasn’t happening?” Martin says with a laugh. “There came a point around the winter break where we all just went ‘stuff it, let’s give this Champions League dream a real go!'”

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The former Villarreal man insists the players channeled their burning desire for continental football without ever being blinded by overconfidence. “Don’t get me wrong, we said one thing publicly but behind closed doors we genuinely believed we could do this. We knew we had the quality to mix it with the big boys if we stuck together.”

Chance to Leapfrog Barca Into Second Spot On Saturday, Girona’s giddy dizzy run could reach stratospheric new heights as they face mighty Barcelona in a potential title decider at Montilivi. A victory would remarkably see the unheralded minnows vault into second place ahead of their illustrious neighbors in the race for automatic Champions League group stage entry.

For a club that was competing in Spain’s third tier just six years ago, the prospect is nothing short of unimaginable. Even the usually unflappable Martin can’t conceal his child-like giddiness at the challenge awaiting Xavi’s star-studded side.

“Imagine the absolute scenes, beating Barca to go second and basically seal our Champions League debut all in one go? It would be Pamplona-level madness in Girona I’m telling you – parties on every street!” he says excitedly, eyes bulging. “But listen, we know it’s going to be a wholeass mission against those dudes. Expect a total bloodbath out there.”

The midfielder’s nonchalant dismissal of Barcelona’s might is emblematic of the carefree, free-spirited attitude that has underpinned Girona’s fairytale voyage. Martin makes it abundantly clear his team has zero intention of suffering an inferiority complex regardless of opposition.

“We truly believe we can beat anyone or get turned over by anyone on our day – that’s just how mentally strong this group is,” he states defiantly. “We’ll show the Catalans ultimate respect like any opponent, but scary-name fear factor? Nah, not having any of that here brother.”

Earning La Liga’s Respect the Hard Way Martin reveals Girona finally began earning the respect of their elite La Liga rivals once results emphatically backed up their early-season hype as considerate top four dark horses.

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“At first the big fish would just try to boss us physically, you know? There was zero need for tactical game plans because they just expected to steamroll us every week,” he explains. “But as soon as we started picking up statement wins, that dismissive mindset quickly changed.”

“Suddenly we’re getting teams parking the bus, hitting us on the counter, resorting to the dark arts to slow our rhythm. Grinding out results against that caliente became the real test of our Champions League credentials.”

The all-action midfielder is hugely satisfied at the hard-earned respect Girona have accrued through their blood, sweat and tears. “These days, everyone knows they’re in for an absolute scrap when they see our name, simple as,” he says conclusively. “We are 100% legit – write us off at your peril.”

Could Miracle Men Finish Second? For all his bravado, even the perpetually positive Martin has to pinch himself when quizzed on the outrageous possibility of Girona pipping Barcelona to the La Liga runners-up spot and a place in the Spanish Super Cup.

“Haha, easy tiger! Let’s take this one obstaculo at a time shall we?” he chuckles at the interviewer. “Qualifying for the Champions League would be an indescribably massive achievement in itself. Everything else after that is just an insane bonus to be honest.”

However, the former Mirandes loanee can’t resist dreaming just a little when pushed on the tantalizing prospect. “Listen, if we somehow did pull off finished second too, it would practically break reality as we know it right?” he says, struggling to uphold his modest facade. “The stuff of pure legends stuff!”

“But let me be crystal clear – Barca will be going full enajenado trying to secure that Super Cup ticket after their European shocker. Either way, it’s an almighty task, but if anyone can do it, it’s this crazy bunch of Girona lunatics!”

The National Team Dream
On an individual level, Martin’s sustained excellence has inevitably generated speculation he could receive a first call-up to the Spanish national team ahead of this winter’s Euro 2024 tournament.

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The dynamic midfielder tries his best to play down the links, but can’t disguise his burning ambition to represent La Roja. “Every Spanish player dream of pulling on that shirt one day – it’s like our highest calling,” he admits somewhat sheepishly. “Whether I’ve done enough yet to make that squad is not for me to judge.”

However, Martin does confess he has allowed himself the occasional fanciful daydream of international heroics akin to Andres Iniesta’s iconic 2010 World Cup final winning strike. “I’m definitely guilty of envisaging that kind of stupid stuff all the time!” he says with a thunderous cackle. “Scoring a lastminute stunner to win a major trophy for Spain – can you even imagine the utter delirio?”

Simple Pleasures and Barca Celebrations As the absorbing interview draws to a close, the effervescent Martin is asked how he manages to relax away from the adrenaline-soaked drama of Girona’s fairytale season. His response is typically uncomplicated and laidback.

“I’m really just a stupidly simple dude at heart bro – video games, bowling, hanging with the mandem, that’s pretty much my downtime in a nutshell,” he shrugs casually. “Nowadays I’m mostly grinding [battle royale hit] Fortnite to be honest. Way less tilty than getting worked up over FIFA for my own sanity’s sake!”

Finally, Martin is quizzed on whether he has any outlandish celebrations planned should Girona make history by qualifying for the Champions League against Barcelona this weekend. The interviewer braces himself for an inevitably anti-climactic response, but the laidback star can’t resist one last moment of mischievous cheekiness.

“Plans? Nah, you know I try to stay pretty guarded on that kind of thing…don’t wanna 326 it!”, he replies with his trademark devilish grin.

“But who knows, maybe I’ll finally shave off this crazy caveman hair situation if we get over the line,” Martin adds with a raucous laugh, running his fingers through his unkempt locks to emphasize the point. “Either way

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Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee is a prolific author who provides commentary and analysis on business, finance, politics, sports, and current events on his website Opportuneist. With over a decade of experience in journalism and blogging, Mezhar aims to deliver well-researched insights and thought-provoking perspectives on important local and global issues in society.

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