Argentina put on a stellar performance in the recent 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar when they bounced back from the shocking defeat to Saudi Arabia in the group stage and went on to win its next six games to capture its third FIFA World Cup triumph. The monumental victory was capped off by one of the best finals every football fan had witnessed, with La Albiceleste fought off a strong comeback from the last edition’s champion and won the game through penalties, elevating its winning captain Lionel Messi’s status to the best ever to play the game of football. Apart from Messi, Argentina’s goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez was also an important figure for the eventual champion, as he saved Randal Kolo Muani’s potential last-minute winner and played a vital part in Argentina’s multiple shoot-outs in the tournament.
The 30-year-old Martínez made his international debut in 2021 and immediately became the core of La Albiceleste’s fruitful journey in the 2021 Copa América. During the tournament, Argentina’s no. 1 gained his moment of the competition by saving three penalties in the shoot-out win against Columbia in the semifinal stage. A year later, his heroic displays in the World Cup once again helped his team to lift another major trophy. The eventual champion had a couple of shoot-outs in the knockout stage (Once against Netherlands in the quarterfinal and another against France in the final), in which Martínez’s brilliance ensured Argentina’s victories as a result. These emphatic productions earned him a place in the goalkeeper prize at the FIFA Best awards, cementing his status as one of the best at goalkeeping duties at the moment.
Although the shot stopper had been putting on outstanding acts for Argentina, his name was filled with controversies and eccentricity, as seen when he was celebrating his Golden Glove award and the world title win; The played placed the award around his groyne area and trusted it towards the fans during the award ceremony, he also mocked the opposing French players, most notably Kylian Mbappé in the dressing room and during Argentina’s trophy parade on the street. These bizarre actions certainly was not his first as he had been known to get into opposing players’ heads prior and post-matches.
What Is His Explanation Then?
Unai Emery, head coach of Emi Martínez at Aston Villa, was not a fan of his goalkeeper’s peculiar celebration for the World Cup triumph and spoke about having a discussion with him regarding the matter.
On the other hand, the Mar del Plata-born star came out to clarify that his actions were not meant to hurt anybody, especially the ones in the France national team, saying that he adored French culture dearly. His statement read “I didn’t mean to hurt anyone. Throughout my career I’ve grown up with the French and I’ve never had the slightest problem. You can ask [former Arsenal club-mate Olivier] Giroud what kind of person I am. I really like the French culture and mentality.”
He then added, “The locker room thing should never have come out. When France beat us in 2018, I remember there were songs about [Lionel] Messi. If a team beats Brazil, they will sing about Neymar. There is nothing personal against Mbappe. I respect him enormously. If we sing about him or about Neymar, it is because they are the best.”
Martínez: “Mbappé Is the Best French Player I Have Ever Seen.”
The former Arsenal goalkeeper went on to call his opponent who scored a hat-trick and converted France’s first penalty during the shoot-out in the final, Kylian Mbappé, as the best footballer France had ever produced. He applauded the 24-year-old Paris Saint-Germain forward’s performance in the finale, stating that “After the game I told him that he could be proud of himself and keep his head up because he played a great game and was one of the best players in the world. I also told him that it was a pleasure to play against him, that he almost won this final alone. He is a boy with immense talent. I realised facing him that he is different. When Leo leaves football, he will win many Ballons d’Or.”
With the protagonist himself coming out to make clear about his own controversies, should he deserve to be forgiven then? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section.
Martínez’s opponent in the final, Raphaël Varane had retired from international football for France, joining Hugo Lloris and Karim Benzema in doing so. Read for more details.