Integral part of City’s defence

Martin Demichelis has rammed his critics’ words firmly down their throats with a series of commanding performances, writes Sean Taylor.

What a difference a year makes. Widely derided following his arrival in England, 12 months on, Martin Demichelis has become an integral part of Manchester City’s defensive unit and has earned himself a new one-year contract.

Demichelis was signed largely as a stop-gap by his mentor Manuel Pellegrini, who coached the centre-back at River Plate in Argentina and at Spanish side Malaga, with City’s defenders suffering a spate of injuries at the beginning of the 2013/14 season.

He was ridiculed for being too slow — and having a ponytail — in the early days of his City career after being signed from Atletico Madrid. Several high-profile mistakes added fuel to the fire that the best days were behind the former Bayern Munich defensive mainstay.

But he rammed his critics’ words firmly down their throats with a series of commanding performances as the Blues clinched the Premier League title last season. He even finished the campaign being lauded by many City fans as the club’s best defender — ahead of captain Vincent Kompany.

And the 34-year-old has won more admirers this season with his consistent performances while Kompany has hit a bad spell of form and Eliaquim Mangala, signed last summer as a replacement for Demichelis for a reported fee of GBP42 million, has had problems settling in — mirroring the Argentina international’s own start at the club.

On March 12 Demichelis extended his stay at the Etihad Stadium until the summer of 2016. City hope the extra year will give Mangala extra time to find his feet and they also anticipate that young Belgian prospect Jason Denayer, currently on loan at Scottish champions Celtic, can step into the veteran’s shoes.

It represents quite a turnaround for Demichelis, something that does not appear totally lost on the player himself.

“I want to say that I am really proud and happy to have extended my contract for another year,” he told the club’s official website.

“Manchester City is a club with a lot of ambition. We want to grow every year. When you get to hold a trophy, it’s the best feeling for any player. I want to say that I will fight for this club and for my team-mates until the end of my contract. I will fight to try and win titles.”

Demichelis insists he and his family are now settled in Manchester, which has perhaps contributed to him being Pellegrini’s preferred partner to Kompany this season, and he is proud of the fact that he has played more minutes in the league than most other players.

“We are happy here — my wife and son are happy here. We are trying to improve our English and I think that’s a good thing for our future,” he said.

“At this stage I am enjoying playing week to week, you can never say what can happen in the future. I don’t want to be arrogant, but if you check the stats I am the player with the third most minutes in this Premier League season. The goalkeeper always has the most, and then comes Yaya Toure, and after that Demichelis. That shows I am a professional player and that I try to keep injury-free.”

Demichelis came through the youth system at River Plate before signing for Bayern Munich in the summer of 2003.

The Bavarian giants won the League and Cup double four times during his seven-year spell at the club, which ended towards the end of 2010 when he was reunited with Pellegrini at Malaga.

© PA Sport