The Dane has had problems of his own since taking over in June, with the club hit by reports of dressing-room unrest.
But Martinez said: "As a Spaniard I have a great appreciation - and the highest regard - for what Michael achieved with Barcelona and Real Madrid. I would say he was just as influential to Barcelona as Messi is now - he was that special.
"His football career was exemplary. He was a gentleman on and off the pitch.
"The style he represented, along with Johan Cruyff, was probably the start of what we recognise as the Barca of today.
"He won the league with Real Madrid as well, which added to his status as an icon of Spanish football.
"You know there are fans who want to have a go when you return to a former club but I think I got most of that out of the way last year.
"As the Swansea supporters grow to appreciate Michael more and more, I think they will concentrate on me less and less."