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Player Profile – Lisandro Martinez | Who is United’s Newly Signed Versatile Defender?

Lisandro Martinez, Ajax, Manchester United

Manchester United have completed the signing of Ajax defender Lisandro Martinez as their third signing of the ongoing transfer window. The Red Devils have paid a hefty fee of around £47million (€55m), with another £8.5million (€55m) payable in add-ons.

The transfer reunites Lisandro Martinez with Erik ten Hag at Old Trafford. The duo had worked together for three seasons at Ajax in the Eredivisie. The Dutch manager deployed the Argentine as a centre-back, left-back, and defensive midfielder with great success.

Lisandro Martinez, Manchester United
Image obtained via Just Arsenal

Lisandro Martinez: Forged in Argentina

Lisandro Martinez had youth stints with Club Urquiza (2002-2006), Club Libertad (2006-2014) and Newell’s Old Boys (2014-2017). He also spent a one-year stint at Argentine club Defensa y Justicia before moving to The Netherlands in 2019.

During his stint at Ajax, the Argentinian centre-back earned the nickname “Butcher of Amsterdam” for his passion and commitment on the field. However, the 24-year-old admitted that he prefers the moniker he earned in Argentina: “Pitbull”. The defender admitted in an interview:

“When I’m on the field, I forget the world around me and want to win at all costs. Yet the comparison (to a butcher) is not entirely correct.

“I also have to rely on my technique. I will never consciously injure an opponent.

“In Argentina, they called me The Pitbull. That covers my playing style better. I bite into my opponent.”

Lisandro Martinez made his professional debut for Newell’s in 2017. The Argentine played just one game in the 2017-18 season and was packed off on loan to Defensa y Justicia.

He made an instant impression, starting 21 of the 27 league games. Defensa acquired 50% of the player’s rights in June 2018. Lisandro managed 46 league appearances across two seasons for Defensa y Justicia, managing 3 goals and as many assists (stats via transfermarkt).

Development at Ajax

The Eredivisie Champions came calling for him in 2019. The Dutch club had just seen Frenkie De Jong, Hakim Ziyech, Matthijs de Ligt and Lasse Schone – all leave for other clubs in the same window. Lisandro Martinez signed for Ajax for a reported fee of £5.9 million. The defender signed a 4-year deal with an option to extend for a fifth.

Ajax sporting director Marc Overmars profiled Martinez for fans who did not know much about the player:

“Martínez is a left-footed player who can play in multiple positions at the back. He is a defender who wants to play forward. He brings along a certain mentality that we can use well here, comparable to what his fellow countryman Nico Tagliafico shows. 

And Lisandro is still young, so we expect that he will develop further into an even better player in the coming years.”

The defender’s role at Ajax varied as per Ten Hag’s requirements. The fans expected the Argentine to fill the void left by De Ligt’s departure in the 2018-19 season. However, with the development of Perr Schuurs and the availability of Joel Veltman, Ajax had some solid options who could partner Daley Blind in central defence.

Lisandro Martinez 2019-20 Heatmap (Image Obtained Via

The defensive midfield position, however, looked bare. Hence, Ten Hag integrated Martinez into a midfield role alongside Zakaria Labyad or Donny van de Beek in a double pivot. The Argentine put in a stunning season, establishing himself as a quality option for defensive midfield in the league and the Champions League.

15 of Martinez’s 24 league appearances in the 2019-20 season came from the midfield. He played the other 9 games in defence.

In the 2020-21 season, the Dutchman found a quality midfield pairing in Edson Alvarez and Ryan Gravenberch. As a result, Lisandro Martinez was reinstituted in the team’s backline. He took up the position beside Daley Blind.

Throughout the 2021-22 season, the 24-year-old played on the left side of the central defence. Jurrien Timber had a breakthrough season beside the Argentinian international, while Daley Blind was moved to left-back.

Lisandro Martinez 2021-22 Heatmap (Image Obtained Via:

Across three seasons, Lisandro Martinez aggregated 120 appearances for Ajax, scoring 6 times and assisting 6 more (stats via transfermarkt). A key component to the 24-year-old’s success has been his commitment and willingness to cover multiple positions as required by his manager, Ten Hag. Martinez has excelled in whichever role he has been deployed in so far.

Role At Manchester United?

Lisandro Martinez could basically play two positions for the Red Devils:

1. Central Defence

United have struggled at the back in recent seasons despite trying various combinations. Martinez could be deployed as a centre-back in an attempt by Ten Hag to shore up a leaky backline.

2. Defensive Midfield

United have also failed to bring in reinforcements for the defensive midfield role. Ten Hag could deploy Martinez in a DM role, alongside Fred or Scott McTominay. This would provide more flexibility to the set-up, without compromising on defence. If Frenkie De Jong is signed, Ten Hag could attempt to form an ex-Ajax double pivot too.

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Lisandro Martinez represents a fantastic investment for Manchester United. It could be argued that the Red Devils would find very few players of the Argentine’s quality and versatility in today’s market. It remains to be seen how Ten Hag plans to exactly fit Martinez into his project. Nevertheless, the fans can be equally excited about the 24-year-old playing in the defence or midfield.

What do you think of Lisandro Martinez’s transfer? How should United line up with their newest signing? Let us know in the comments.

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Adithya Ravi
Football enthusiast. Stat enthusiast

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