Emiliano Martinez was ‘quiet and kept to himself’ during Oxford United loan from Arsenal but Argentina’s World Cup final hero still had ‘swagger’ despite inexperience

    One of Emiliano Martinez’s former teammates has spoken of his surprise at seeing him become a world champion.

    He may be Argentina’s No.1, but it was only ten years ago when s***housery expert Martinez was playing in League Two at Oxford United.

    Martinez has gone from playing in League Two to a World Cup winner in ten years

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    Martinez has gone from playing in League Two to a World Cup winner in ten years

    Martinez’s World Cup win was a sight to behold for the players who played alongside him at loan clubs Oxford, Sheffield Wednesday, Rotherham, Wolves and Reading

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    Martinez’s World Cup win was a sight to behold for the players who played alongside him at loan clubs Oxford, Sheffield Wednesday, Rotherham, Wolves and Reading

    And it’s been quite the journey for the 30-year-old, who only made his international debut in 2021.

    Signed by Arsenal when he was 17, Martinez spent eight years with the Gunners and was loaned out by the north London club for a total of six times – including as recently as 2019 when he was playing in the Championship with Reading.

    He ended up making 15 first-team appearances for Arsenal, having impressed following an injury to Bernd Leno – which the internet’s meme-makers are crediting for Argentina and Lionel Messi’s World Cup win.

    Without Leno getting injured against Brighton in 2020, it’s possible the world – and Argentina – may not have known the talent the Gunners had in their No.2 spot.

    He left Arsenal as an FA Cup winner in 2020 and signed for Aston Villa, where he continued to turn heads and earned his place as his nation’s No.1, and now has a World Cup winner’s medal.

    And one of his former Oxford teammates has admitted he watched the final and Martinez’s success with his mouth on the floor, as he looked back on his emergency loan and brief spell at the-then League Two club in 2012.

    Martinez had six loan clubs while at Arsenal – including Sheffield Wednesday

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    Martinez had six loan clubs while at Arsenal – including Sheffield Wednesday

    Martinez was emotional after winning the FA Cup in 2020 with Arsenal, and left for Aston Villa that summer

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    Martinez was emotional after winning the FA Cup in 2020 with Arsenal, and left for Aston Villa that summer

    Speaking to Hawksbee and Jacobs on talkSPORT, full-back Liam Davis said: “When I saw him sign for Villa I was like, ‘Ah, I remember him from years ago at Oxford.

    “I was thinking he seems to have done quite well for himself, he’s in the Premier League now, I was like, ‘Wow, he’s done alright’.

    “But then I saw him in the international team, and I was just like, ‘Oh, OK!’

    “Then at the World Cup I watched his journey through to the final and I was just thinking, ‘Hold on, is this the guy I played with all those years ago?’

    Martinez is currently at Aston Villa, but there will be plenty of big clubs keen on landing him now

    AFP or licensors

    Martinez is currently at Aston Villa, but there will be plenty of big clubs keen on landing him now

    “And then he was lifting and holding the World Cup… I mean, fair play! Massive well done to him and all credit to him for his work rate throughout the years.”

    Asked if Martinez was a cut above even back then, Davis said: “At the time I think we had a few players come on loan from bigger clubs, and just because they were from Arsenal the fellow [Oxford] players were expecting them to pull up trees, and some of them didn’t. 

    “Coming from Arsenal down to League Two is a bit of a different level of football.

    “But when Martinez came in he was kind of quiet, as goalkeepers are, they just get on with their business. 

    “Even when I saw him play in the final, he looked so much more confident and like he’s grown into himself a bit more, because I just remember him being quiet and getting on with things.

    Martinez produced a rude gesture when picking up the best goalkeeper award at the World Cup in Qatar

    getty

    Martinez produced a rude gesture when picking up the best goalkeeper award at the World Cup in Qatar

    “I don’t remember him having any penalties to save, but I remember he was a good goalkeeper, he was from Arsenal and he looked good for it.

    “He was only 19 at the time, so even he would have had no idea he was going to become an international No.1 goalkeeper. At that age you can fall out of the game.

    “We certainly didn’t think he would become a World Cup winner. But fair play to him!”

    Martinez’s manager at Oxford, Chris Wilder, admits he couldn’t have foreseen the player’s meteoric rise from that clash against Port Vale but with the benefit of hindsight can see the Argentine had the correct mentality to reach those heights.

    “It was the last game of the season, nothing to play for. He’d come through and wanted to play a game of football and he did us a fantastic favour in coming,” Wilder said on Kick Off.

    “I can’t really say I saw an incredible goalkeeper but when young players come down from the Premier League into League One or Two they have to have that swagger, they have to have that confidence, desire and faith in their ability. He certainly had that.

    “He’s a personality, he’s a character. All the best ones are… he’s now taken that to the international stage and truly believes he’s arguably the best goalkeeper in the world and I don’t think anybody could deny him that at the moment.”

    Martinez did his best to get into the heads of his opponents

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    Martinez did his best to get into the heads of his opponents

    He’s certainly not quiet now. Martinez has become a master well known for his s***housery on the pitch, and was at it again on Sunday as he put off Aurelien Tchouameni who went on to slot his penalty wide during the shoot-out.

    His antics have divided opinion, including in talkSPORT Towers, with host Simon Jordan insisting the Villa glovesman ‘cheated’ by putting off the French players and getting in their heads.

    Former Premier League striker Darren Bent, though, insists it was all fair game.

    “I love it,” he told Drivetime. “I don’t have a problem with it.

    “It’s a World Cup final! He may never ever get back there again, so you’ve got to do everything you can to get that advantage. I have no problem with it whatsoever.

    “What was quite funny was that even when he saved just the first one, he celebrated like he’d won the World Cup already! I didn’t even have a problem with that. You’ve only got a problem with it if you lose.

    “It’s part of the game, it’s not cheating.”

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