Imagine young Emiliano, after a day at the beach of his home town Mar del Plata in North-East Argentinia, encountering a divine visit at the darkest hour of the night. Emi hears the sweetest voice telling him “to work hard at his local football club and good things will come to him”. “What do you mean with good things”, he mumbles still half asleep. “Well you will, one day, become the goalkeeper at the home of football, situated in North London”. “Ah” says Emi, much more awake now, “so I will become a hero for many years and the fans will sing my name again and again. We love you Emi we do, we love you Emi we do?” “Well I did not say that but you will one day make the fans very proud and happy. Sleep deep and well, Emi, adios.”
Imagine then becoming the second choice, ‘cup’ goalkeeper at any club, and especially at Arsenal. You get so close to playing for a great team and first team action week in week out – who hasn’t dreamed of this? – but you just have to wait and wait. Is there a more difficult position in football than being the nr.2 goalkeeper? Sooo close yet so far? With just 70 career league performances it has been a long nine years in the UK (and one season in Getafe, Spain) for Martinez.
Then, finally, came his moment. A bad injury to Leno meant that Emi’s unchallenged German competitor for the nr1 spot had to miss the rest of the season. “This is your moment” he told himself, and boy how he took it! I don’t think I have ever seen a more dominant, spirited and highly effectively nr2 goalkeeper stint ever. Martinez made a huge difference and was as important to our great run in the FA cup as Auba was on the other end. He gave us so much joy with fab stop after fab stop, his courageous striker-confrontations and sheer aerial dominance in the box. I have seldom seen a big, tall man get down so quickly to the ground as Emi did.
As a result, we will always remember Emi fondly and there are no hard feelings at all regarding his departure.
Every nr2 goalkeeper with a bit of pride about them will want to play first team football. Villa are giving him this chance and he just had to grab it. And even if it all goes up the proverbial he will always have these past summer months with us to look back to.
Live that dream Emiliano even if it is no longer at THOF. All the best at Villa and thanks for the great 2020 footie summer.