Emiliano Martinez: Argentina's new national hero

Martinez saved three penalties for Argentina in the penalty shootout against Colombia to lead his team to the final of Copa America 2021.

Emiliano Martinez in action for Argentina; Credit: Twitter/@Argentina
By Sreejith C R | Jul 7, 2021 | 3 Min Read follow icon Follow Us

Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez saved three penalties against Colombia to lead his team to the final of Copa America 2021. The Aston Villa man denied Davinson Sanchez, Yerry Mina and Edwin Cardona from the penalty spot after the game finished 1-1 in the regular time. The 28-year-old has been Argentina’s first-choice keeper in the competition and has kept three clean sheets in five appearances so far. However the 195cm tall gloveman hasn’t had the smoothest of career so far. He is a late bloomer who has had to fight his way to the top.

Club career

Martinez started his professional career with Argentine club Independiente in 2008 and soon English club Arsenal came calling, resulting in a move to England in 2010. However, In England he struggled for a breakthrough and spent a large amount of time as a loanee to lower division clubs. Even his first Premier League appearance came in 2012 as an Oxford United player against Port Vale in the final game of the season.

Since then he has been loaned out to Sheffield Wednesday (2013), Rotherham United (2015), Wolverhampton Wanderers (2015), Getafe (2017) and Reading (2019). Meanwhile he made just five Premier League appearances between 2013 and 2019 with his breakthrough season coming in 2019-20.

Arsenal’s first-choice keeper Bernd Leno got injured and Martinez played against Brighton and Hove Albion. He gave a good account of himself in the match and therefore kept his place in the starting eleven for the rest of the season. Martinez even won a silverware as he helped the Gunners beat Chelsea 2-1 to lift the FA Cup title at Wembley stadium.

In the subsequent season, because of his exploits in goal, Aston Villa offered him a four year contract with a transfer fee of GBP 20 million and Martinez moved to Villa Park. The 2020-21 season was a career defining one. He made 38 Premier League appearances and kept 15 clean sheets, which was a new record, for most number of clean sheets kept in a single season, in the club’s history. The record was previously held by Brad Friedel. Meanwhile he was also selected as Aston Villa supporter’s Player of the season.

Exploits with the national team

Although Martinez earned his first call-up to the national team in 2011 against Nigeria when he was asked to replace Oscar Ustari, he had to wait 10 years to get his first national team cap. It was in a 1-1 draw against Chile in the 2022 World Cup qualifiers. Since then he has been Lionel Scaloni’s first-choice goalkeeper and Copa America 2021 is his first major international tournament. He has arguably been the best keeper in the competition so far.

La Albiceleste captain Lionel Messi was full of praise for his team mate after the shootout.

“Penalty Shootout is total luck, but we knew Emiliano will stop at least 2. He deserves it, he is a monster of a keeper. At times it became difficult, but we have Emiliano Martinez who is a phenomenon. We trusted him. We achieved the goal of being able to play every game and now we’re going through the final,” he stated.

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