Jonas Martin: “I’m looking forward to sharing this challenge”
Jonas Martin is a man of his word. He gave his to Racing a few weeks ago now, and nothing was able to make him change his mind, whether it be offers from other clubs, or the wish of current Real Betis manager Quique Setién to keep him a little while longer in order to play him in the La Liga club’s pre-season friendlies. On Tuesday, 27-year-old Jonas, born on 9th April 1990 in Besançon (eastern France), signed a three-year deal at RC Strasbourg. He comes full of desire, very keen to take part in the Alsatians’ challenge and you can sense that he is very happy with his choice.
A long road led him here. Jonas grew up in the Franche-Comté region, starting out at US Rigny before joining his father’s club in the nearby town of Gray. The family then moved south to Nîmes. In his time at Les Crocodiles, Jonas showed not only his teeth, but all of his budding talent, too. Montpellier then attracted the bright young player and integrated him into their academy. Before heading off to Real Betis at the start of last season, Jonas would spend twelve years in Hérault besides a loan spell at Amiens in Ligue 2 in the 2011/12 season. He got a taste of the Champions League in London on 21st November 2012, in a 2–0 defeat to Arsenal in which he played the last twenty minutes. Jonas Martin spoke to us about some of the events in his young career so far.
JONAS AND MAXIME LAUREY
“I know the coach, mainly from having played against his son, Maxime, who is a friend of mine. I played against Maxime when I was at Nîmes, and then with him when I came to Montpellier. But the one I know best is “Fabi” (Fabien Lefèvre, one of Thierry Laurey’s assistants). He was my manager in the Under-15s and Under-16s at Montpellier.”
MAN OF THE MATCH IN THE COUPE GAMBARDELLA FINAL
In 2008, Jonas Martin won the Coupe Gambardella with a 2–0 win in the final against Nantes. L’Équipe named him man of the match and gave him a rating of 8/10. He got both assists in the match. “That was a great generation, with Rémy Cabella, Younès Belhanda, Abdelhamid El Kaoutari and Benjamin Stambouli. Of course, I had ambition but I wasn’t planning that far forward. I wanted to progress, I wasn’t looking any further ahead than the next two years.”
STAYING WITH THE NUNS AT THE ‘BABY JESUS INSTITUTE’
“At Montpellier, the academy youngsters were housed with the nuns at the Institut Enfant Jésus (‘Baby Jesus Institute’). Yeah, it seems strange. I remember mostly that it was very strict”. On Jonas’s arm features a tattoo representing Christ.
BATELLI AND COURBIS LIGHT THE FUSE
“At Montpellier, I started out as a pro under René Girard. I wasn’t always a starter, so I went to Amiens, to get some game time. There, Ludovic Batelli was the first person to put me in the heart of midfield, my true place, or at least the one I prefer. When I came back to Montpellier, Rolland Courbis kept me in that position. At the time, there was competition from Rémy Cabella and Morgan Sanson who was bursting onto the Ligue 1 scene. Rémy Cabella’s departure then allowed me to assert myself as a central midfielder for good.”
INJURED IN A CLASH WITH MESSI
On two occasions, injury would halt Jonas’s momentum. The first time was when he was unable to honour a call-up to the French Under-21s with a ligament tear in his right ankle. The second time, he was only just reaching out to touch his Spanish dream. “It was in the first league match, a 6–2 defeat away to Barcelona. I got hurt in a clash with Lionel Messi. That was actually the start of a difficult period.”
“After that, I was out for two months. This time, it was my left ankle that was injured. Things got more complicated when Gus Poyet, the manager who signed me, was sacked”. His successor, Victor Sanchez, didn’t make him a regular starter. “But I fought, I didn’t give up. In the end, I came back for the second half of the season”. All in all, Jonas still played around twenty matches, scoring two goals. “I didn’t completely waste my time, and I also have the memory of a magnificent city where you can eat out at 11pm.”
A PERSONAL JOURNEY AT STRASBOURG
“With Racing, it all happened very quickly. I’m not coming with any feelings of revenge, just an enormous desire to share the club’s challenge of staying up. I still have a lot of room for improvement. Everything I’ve heard about this club is exciting. I had the idea of returning to France in the back of my mind, and Strasbourg is a big city with a very good club. I need to play and to be surrounded by a healthy changing room atmosphere and I know that I will at Racing. I’m looking forward to it all. Here, I really get the impression that I’ll be able to take part in a great personal journey.”
In Jonas we trust.