Argentina captain Lionel Messi has praised his compatriot and former Arsenal goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez. Both Martinez and Messi played vital roles in the Albiceleste's Copa America 2021 triumph this summer.
Martinez's recent rise to prominence has addressed one of Argentina's fundamental issues over the years. Since Sergio Romero's heroics at the 2014 World Cup, the Albiceleste have struggled to find a pair of steady hands in goal. The likes of Franco Armani and Willy Caballero have been experimented with, but both keepers made some high-profile errors.
Martinez made his debut for Argentina in June this year in a 1-1 draw with Chile in a 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifier. Since then, he has been irreplaceable in the team. Martinez played the entirety of Copa America 2021, conceding just twice and keeping four clean sheets in six games.
He was on fire once again in Argentina's recent 3-0 victory over Uruguay in a World Cup qualifier. Martinez made some fine saves to keep the scores level in the first half before Lionel Messi, Rodrigo De Paul and Lautaro Martinez netted to help the Albiceleste to a comfortable win.
Speaking about Martinez's brilliance to TNT Sports (via talkSPORT), Lionel Messi said:
“Dibu (Emiliano( Martinez is fundamental. When they come to him, he always responds.”
The Argentina captain added that Martinez has become one of the best goalkeepers in the world at the moment.
“He established himself in goal, and we have one of the best goalkeepers in the world,” Lionel Messi concluded.
Lionel Messi and Argentina reaping the rewards of Emiliano Martinez's departure from Arsenal
Martinez, who was on Arsenal's books for nearly a decade, rose to prominence in the 2019-20 season. New manager Mikel Arteta required the services of the Argentine custodian after Bernd Leno's injury. Martinez responded in kind, keeping nine clean sheets in 23 outings for Arsenal during the campaign.
The 29-year-old also starred in their successful FA Cup run, notably recording a shutout against Manchester City in the semi-finals. However, Arsenal's financial woes owing to the COVID-19 pandemic meant the Gunners had to sell players. Martinez was let go, to the surprise of many fans, as Arsenal chose to keep their trust in Leno.
Aston Villa swooped in for the Argentine goalkeeper, paying Arsenal around £20 million last summer. Martinez continued his rich vein of form during the 2020-21 season, registering 15 clean sheets in 39 appearances for the Claret and Blue.
He then proceeded to bring his A-Game to help Lionel Messi secure his first major international title as Argentina won Copa America 2021. Martinez was particularly impactful in the knockouts. He saved three penalties in the semi-final shootout against Colombia before registering a shutout against Brazil in the summit clash.
Emiliano Martinez remains the first-choice custodian for Lionel Messi's Argentina heading into the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
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