Football Features

Emiliano Martinez: Aston Villa penalty hero labelled both ‘annoying’ and ‘the best ‘keeper in the world’

By Squawka News

Emiliano Martinez: Aston Villa penalty hero labelled both 'annoying' and 'the best 'keeper in the world'

Published: 16:30, 19 April 2024

He’s regarded as one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League, but it’s safe to say Emiliano Martinez is loved as much as Marmite.

If he’s on your side, Martinez is nothing short of a hero but if you’re playing against him or supporting the opposing team, he has the ability to get right under your skin.

The World Cup-winning goalkeeper was up to his usual tricks in Aston Villa’s Europa Conference League semi-final second leg against Lille on Thursday night, proving to be the hero for his side with some vital saves in a penalty shootout. However, Martinez being Martinez, he couldn’t simply deny the opposition and then walk away. Instead, he made a ‘shh’ gesture to the Lille supporters, which of course garnered the opposite response with further outrage.

The gesture also earned Martinez his second yellow card of the match; luckily spared a red card thanks to bookings being reset before penalty shootouts.

Even once the shootout was won, Martinez couldn’t help but dance in front of the Lille supporters before going to celebrate with the Aston Villa faithful that made the trip out to France — witnessing their club’s first European quarter-final win since 1982.

“He is very important for us. He has his personality and his personality in the dressing room is very important because he is a leader with his experiences. He has a really brilliant mentality,” Villa boss Unai Emery told reporters. “And then on the pitch, he has his personality and he played fantastic. He saved two penalty shots so of course I am very proud of him. I am very proud of all the players.”

But just like Marmite, one man’s love is another man’s hate.

Martinez’s antics have drawn the ire of a former teammate from his time at Arsenal, Samir Nasri, who doesn’t like the Argentine’s change in character since his ‘shy’ days with the Gunners.

“His behaviour annoys me because he wasn’t like that before. I knew him when he was very young at Arsenal, he was very shy. ‘And now, this behaviour has become his stock-in-trade,” Nasri told French outlet Canal+. “You stop a shot on goal, you don’t need to attack the opposing fans by telling them ‘shh’, frankly.”

Nobody should be surprised at Martinez’s divisive methods. And why would he stop? After all, he was also the hero for Argentina in the 2022 World Cup final penalty shootout against France. A Frenchman himself, Nasri wasn’t finished with Martinez, who clearly touched a nerve.

“There you go, I find it very limiting. Especially since he doesn’t need to do that,” Nasri added. “With his decisive save to deny Kolo Muani in the penalty shootout against France [in the World Cup final] and again this evening…

“He doesn’t need to say “shh” for people to talk about him.”

Martinez hailed as ‘best in the world’ by former Aston Villa midfielder Lee Hendrie

Regardless of Nasri’s feelings, Arsenal might well be wondering if they made a mistake letting Martinez go in 2020 given how his career has panned out since.

One man who hasn’t held back in his praise of the 31-year-old is former Aston Villa midfielder Lee Hendrie, who even went as far as hailing Martinez as ‘the best goalkeeper in the world’.

“He’s the best goalkeeper in the world. I can’t believe Arsenal let him go. Villa into the semi-finals. Let’s have it,” an excited Hendrie told Sky Sports as Villa sealed progression to the Europa Conference League semi-finals, where they’ll face Greek giants Olympiacos. “They didn’t play anywhere near their best but Emery is the manager of the year. They dug deep. Have you got any champagne here?”