In the dying minutes of Bayern Munich’s 0-0 draw with Liverpool in the Champions League, Javi Martinez hit the deck clutching his leg, eating up some valuable clock during stoppage time. A few of his teammates came to his aide to help stretch out his leg, but after the match, both Kovac and Martinez admitted that the Spaniard was, in fact, faking the cramp in his leg.
In an interview with Sky Sports (via AZ), Kovac explained that Martinez’s theatrics were just a part of the game plan to try and thwart Liverpool’s attack, and that similar tactics were used in extra time during Bayern’s DFB-Pokal win over Hertha Berlin:
We all know how it is: it’s shortly before the end and you’re trying to give yourself a little bit of time. Javi has good endurance, he doesn’t get cramps. In Berlin, we also had Kingsley who suddenly cramped up, but it was nothing. You have to bring calmness. That’s what they do well, they have the experience.
Kovac was again asked about Martinez’s play-acting in the press conference ahead of Bayern’s weekend clash against Berlin in the league. He explained that he had no regrets over the fact that he told Sky about Martinez’s antics and said that his midfielder was also probably exhausted when he decided to fake a cramp:
I’m aware of my statement. Maybe that was unnecessary, stupid or naive - I don’t know. I was honest. In the 85th minute after several sprints up and down you just want to take the air out. That’s perfectly normal at this level.
By the same token, Kovac said he feels that other teams in the Bundesliga often try to utilize the time-wasting tactic against Bayern, frustratingly so:
Many of our opponents after only ten seconds of play try to run the clock out. I don’t want to apologize, but I think that’s going in the wrong direction.