Emi Martinez – From League Two to World Cup winner.
As Emi Martinez saved Kingsley Coman’s penalty in the 2022 World Cup final, a number of English lower league clubs will have taken some pride is his heroics.
The Argentina goalkeeper is currently the first-choice stopper at Aston Villa, but a place on the World Cup winners’ podium is a far cry from how he has spent the last 12 years in England.
Emi Martinez at Arsenal.
Initially brought to Arsenal by former Gunners boss Arsene Wenger in 2010, Martinez was only 17 when he made the journey to North London from Argentina.
With Polish duo Wojciech Szczesny and Łukasz Fabianski already in place as Wenger’s first and second-choice goalkeepers, Martinez needed to bide his time, while gaining experience during a number of loan spells.
The first of these moves came when he was brought to League Two outfit Oxford United on an emergency loan, playing the final game of the 2011/2012 season as they lost 3-0 to Port Vale.
Martinez looks solid… 🤷🏼♂️😅
Congratulations @emimartinezz1 👏
— Oxford United FC (@OUFCOfficial) December 18, 2022
In September of that year, he made his Arsenal debut in a 6-1 League Cup third round victory over Coventry City, before making a second appearance in the memorable 7-5 win over Reading in the next round.
Another loan would follow during the 2013/14 season, this time to Championship side Sheffield Wednesday, with whom he made 15 appearances.
It was the following season that Martinez began to make something of a breakthrough at Arsenal, playing in four Premier League games and two Champions League matches, with Szczesny and David Ospina both suffering from injuries throughout the autumn.
However, Martinez would be packing his bags again towards the end of the season, as he made the move to Rotherham United, with whom he would make eight Championship appearances.
Further moves to Wolves, Getafe and Reading would follow over the coming years, before an injury to Bernd Leno in June 2020 finally provided Martinez with his big break.
View this post on Instagram
With the season having just resumed following the Covid-19 outbreak, Martinez would keep his place for the remainder of the season, and for the FA Cup Final against Chelsea on August 1st.
It was after this 2-1 victory for the Gunners that the goalkeeper would give an emotional interview on the Wembley pitch, when he would have had no idea about what the next couple of years would bring.
His performances earned a move to Aston Villa the following month, with Leno by then back between the sticks at the Emirates Stadium.
— Match of the Day (@BBCMOTD) August 1, 2020
World Cup glory.
A full international debut would arrive in June 2021, and it didn’t take long for Martinez to become the first-choice goalkeeper for Lionel Scaloni’s side.
Now with winners’ medals for the Copa America and World Cup around his neck, the 30-year-old will be reflecting on an incredible turnaround in fortunes from those journeyman days in the lower divisions.
Most of those former clubs have taken to Twitter to congratulate their former goalkeeper, and nobody can say that his World Cup win wasn’t hard-earned.
(Header pic: @emi_martinez26 on Instagram/Oxford United)