Argentina’s surprise hero in America’s Cup – goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez, Messi’s first trophy with a top national team


One of the highlights of the past America’s Cup was the psychological battle between the Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez with the Colombian national team in the semifinal penalty shootout. “I know you’re nervous. Look in my eyes. I will devour you, I know where you will hit ”, – after these words Martinez calmly pulled the blow Jerry Mina… Also, the Aston Villa goalkeeper parried shots Sanchez and Cardona and brought Argentina to the final.

Surprisingly, two years ago Martinez was a deep reservist for Arsenal, although he has been in the structure of the London club since 2010. The Argentine skated on leases, and spent the 2018/2019 season with Reading in the Championship. At one time he was dragged to England by Arsene Wenger, who drew attention to the young goalkeeper “Independiente” at one of the pre-season tournaments.

For Martinez, who grew up in poverty, it was the chance of a lifetime: “When I played for Independiente, I saw my family twice a month. The rest of the time I lived in the academy of the club – there I was fed, dressed. It was more economical that way. I remember my father crying – he had no money to pay the bills. It depressed me. I wanted to fix it, football was my only chance. ” Shortly after speaking with Wenger, the 18-year-old goalkeeper told his mother: “I’m going to England. I want to help my family. ” And flew to London.

Emiliano Martinez

Emiliano Martinez

Photo: Scott Heavey / Getty Images

It was impossible to break into the Arsenal base back then because of the fierce competition. Almunia, Szczensny, Fabianski and Mannone fought for a place at the gate. And even as Fabianski and Szczensny broke down, Arsenal brought retired Jens Lehmann back in the second half of the 2010/2011 season. Therefore, the coaching staff ran in Martinez in the youth team and was looking for a rental option.

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In 2012, Martinez played several matches for the club’s base for the first time – for example, he took part in the legendary League Cup game with Reading. The match ended with the victory of Arsenal with a score of 7: 5, and Pavel Pogrebnyak scored one of the goals against Martinez.

Arsenal won, losing 0-4. Arshavin took part in the legendary comeback
Arsenal won, losing 0-4. Arshavin took part in the legendary comeback

However, the path to regular play in the starting lineup was still closed. Goalkeepers changed, each of whom was superior to Martinez – Cech, Ospina, Leno. The Argentinean at that time traveled to different clubs – Rotherham, Wolverhampton, Getafe, Reading.

The situation changed at the end of the 2019/2020 season, when Arsenal’s main goalkeeper Leno was injured and left for a long time. Arteta confided in Martinez, with whom the team won the FA Cup. In addition, Martinez became one of Arsenal’s best players at the end of the Premier League season. In nine matches, the Argentine has made 33 saves with 81% success rate and an average of 1.05 xGA. Despite the small sample size, this was a very reliable indicator.

The 27-year-old goalkeeper instantly attracted interest among the Premier League clubs. But first, Martinez wanted to get guarantees from Arteta about the game at the base. However, the coach said that, most likely, Bernd Leno will remain the first number. Soon Martinez announced his departure from Arsenal and without unnecessary scandals moved to Aston Villa for € 17.4 million.

Initially, English experts were skeptical about Martinez’s choice – Aston Villa miraculously did not fly to the Championship, demonstrating weak play throughout the 2019/2020 season. But Dean Smith rebuilt Aston Villa in the offseason thanks to point reinforcements, which had a good start in the new campaign. One of the new heroes of the team was just Martinez, who pulled a penalty from Landstrom in the first round against Sheffield.

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The only team in the Premier League that has not yet lost points is Aston Villa. What is this?
The only team in the Premier League that has not yet lost points is Aston Villa. What is this?

Despite the setbacks in the second half of the season (when Jack Grealish was kicked out due to injury), Martinez showed a high level of play and became one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League in many statistics. In terms of the success rate of saves, he was second only to Ederson (with a minimum – 78.2% versus 78.3). Became the second in the number of clean sheets (14). He also scored the best number of goals averted (+7.6 Post-ShotxG, roughly speaking, saved the team from more than seven conceded goals).

“I am in the best shape in my entire career and the most important thing for me is playing time. Fighting to become the number one Argentina national team, this is my dream. Aston Villa is a huge club and I had no doubts about moving here. Everyone thinks that the transition from Arsenal to Villa is a step back, but personally I think that this is a step forward in my career, “Martinez shared his thoughts on the development of his career.

Lionel Scaloni, head coach of the Argentina national team, had no doubts about the choice of the main goalkeeper. Martinez took a seat in the frame and had the America’s Cup at a crazy level. In addition to his ingenious penalty shootout against Colombia, Martinez scored several important rescues in the final against Brazil.

Photo: Buda Mendes / Getty Images

Martinez was recognized as the best goalkeeper of the America’s Cup, over the past year, his transfer value has grown from 8 to 30 million euros – at the age of 28 he finally became a real star. Aston Villa and the Argentina national team may not worry about the goalkeeper position – it seems that Martinez’s career is still just beginning.

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What else did Martinez remember? First, the celebration of victory with Messi and respect from him: “At times it was difficult, but we have Amy, and he is a phenomenon. We trust him. ”

And secondly, vivid performances after victories.

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