Emiliano Martínez (Mar de Plata, 1992) made a difficult decision last summer. He left Arsenal, his club for the past ten years, to become Aston Villa’s starting goalkeeper.
A change that has only brought him joy. He left the Emirates with two titles under his arm and leaving an iconic image crying on the grass when talking to his family. He left to grow and be a starter and Villa’s record of 15 clean sheets of the club and the Golden Glove of the competition lurk.
In this chat with Efe, ‘Emi’ talks about his past, his current moment and a future in which a Copa América and a World Cup awaits him in which he will finally wear the Argentina Albiceleste jersey.
HIS DESIRES IN THE SELECTION
– Have you already visualized your debut with Argentina?
– I imagined it since I was six years old. Since I started playing soccer I wanted to be the goalkeeper for the Argentine team. It is something that I promised my father from a very young age, before I went to Independiente. It is something that I am going to fulfill. I don’t know if this year, next year or in five, but I think I’m on the right track.
– Is it seen in the Copa América?
– I’m in one of the best leagues in the world, playing every game for a great team like Villa. The possibility is there, but just to play in the Premier I will not go with Argentina. I have to show weekend after weekend that I can be in the national team.
– Is this Copa América and the next World Cup the last chance for Messi to win a title with Argentina?
– It’s the only thing missing in his career. He is the one who won the most in the world. Everybody wants him to win it, just because he’s Lionel. For me it would be a pleasure and an honor to conquer something with him on the court. It would be something incredible for those of us who play with Leo.
– What is it like to be with him when he wears the Argentina shirt? Does it give respect?
– It is the most that can happen to you at a sports level. You are competing with the best in the world. What better than to have Messi in your team? As a goalkeeper I have to try to defend all the balls because I know he is going to score one. It is as if you have a car and you put the turbo. When a ball comes to me I have to put the turbo to give him the chance to score. It would be an honor for me. Everything I work and do would be to help him win. I would be happier if he wins a Copa América or a World Cup than I do. As an Argentine.
THE GOOD PRESENT IN THE PREMIER LEAGUE
– Fighting for the Golden Glove of the Premier. Had you ever imagined this?
– I always set goals for the year and wanted to have more than 10/11 clean sheets at the end of the season. It was one of my goals to score at least 40 points with Villa. When we surpassed it, we began to see the club’s record, which is 15, and we set ourselves that goal. Now we are close and if we succeed we will go for another, which may be the Golden Glove. The reality is that you are competing with the best team in the Premier, which is City, which plays impressive and does not get much.
-Why are things going so well at Aston Villa?
– The signings fit very well in the coach’s system. They did not sign much, but little and what the coach wanted. We won the first three or four games and we met on the court. There were a couple of lows, obviously because there were major injuries. We have ten very important games left and we will see how far we can go.
– What’s Jack Grealish like?
– He’s a good boy. He was born and has loved the club since he was little. He gives everything for him. He is a player that you always need him on and off the court. Today there are great footballers who are betting on the club they love to see it grow and Villa is on the rise, it is clear from the numbers. We are for important things and next year knowing each other more we will be fighting higher. Jack wanted to be a part of that. He wants to be part of making the Villa Grande.
– And why didn’t things go so well at Arsenal? Why didn’t you settle there?
– I wanted to change. I think I succeeded, because I left with two titles under my arm and playing every game in one of the best clubs in the world. I did not leave as a failure, I left super happy, but in the end you want to change your scene after ten years at the club, from so much fighting. I showed what I had to do and that they could have given me the opportunity a little earlier. But I left very happy.
-Didn’t you think about fighting one more season at Arsenal?
– At no time did they tell me that I was not going to play or that I was. It was not a losing battle, because I showed my level, but it was my decision to go through the front door. Nobody told me to stay or go. Nobody told me it was going to be one or two. It was purely my decision. I thank Mikel (Arteta) for letting me go and supporting me in my decision.
– He left after winning the FA Cup crying in the field, talking to the family. Is it the happiest moment of your career?
– Yes, not for having won a final, but for having overcome my frustrations at a professional level at Arsenal. They were many years suffering and having a bad time for not having my chance. Not because I didn’t deserve it, but because they didn’t give it to me. At that moment all the bad Sundays that I have spent when I was not summoned in the club came to me, or I went on loan to places I did not want to go because I needed games. They never sent me on loan to get me out, but to improve myself. That’s why they kept me at the club for so long, because they saw something in me. When I won the cup I took out the anger that I had inside. I am an emotional boy and everything I do I do for my family and that’s why those tears came to my eyes.
– How do you work on that mental frustration of not playing?
– It is very difficult. He was a very passionate boy and when things did not go well he trained too much, he did things he did not have to do just to show that he wanted more. He demanded of me in the gym, in the tests. I was left kicking alone. Sometimes mentally I was not prepared and asked myself “why doesn’t it come to me?” I went on loan to Getafe and because of club things I didn’t play anything. I lost my love of playing soccer. I didn’t feel what I was. There I got a little worried. I started working with a personal psychologist two or three years ago and my son was also born. My career was on the rise and now I have no limits. I want to be one of the best goalkeepers.
– The mind, an aspect that not everyone takes into account.
– I have my personal psychologist who always helped me through bad times at Arsenal. When I left the club we set out to work together because I think we got over the frustration together and now we are reaping the benefits. I grow year after year and it is because of him.
– It would help footballers a lot if this figure was normal.
– What happens is that when you are young you think you don’t need it. You are young and you eat the world ahead. There are some who get the opportunity to play and everything is going well, but at the age of 28 or 29 they are not at the peak of their career. And I am now at this age. Everyone has their own path and obstacles arise in it. Not everyone surpasses them. I managed to overcome them, I overcame those dark obstacles, together with my wife and my family, and now I see the fruit. From so much I suffered now I want to be one of the best in the world.