Argentina fans celebrate in Qatar advancing to the semi-finals of the World Cup (Reuters)
While all the Argentina players celebrated on Friday with Lautro Martinez scoring the last penalty in their quarter-final clash with the Netherlands, Leo Messi approached another Martinez.
There are three Martinezes in the Albiceleste squad, and all of them are important, but Emiliano is still more than all of them.
He is the man who stopped two kicks in a duel, and the captain thanked him more than anyone.
They hugged together before going to join the rest of the friends.
They are the main heroes in this team - also in the eyes of the fans.
Emiliano Martinez is the most loved character - after the flea.
That has been the case since July 6, 2021, when Martinez saved three Colombia penalties in a Copa America semifinal duel, single-handedly advancing Argentina to the final.
Messi was unable to decide the match alone, despite cooking for Lautro, and the goalkeeper made sure that his big dream and that of the entire country remained alive.
Messi then published on Instagram the picture of the strong hug with Emiliano, with the two crying with happiness and relief.
"I have no words, you deserve it," the captain wrote to his friend.
And after the victory in the final over Brazil, which brought Albiceleste its first title since 1993 and took a giant monkey off the star's back, Martinez declared that he dedicated the achievement to his idol.
"The most important thing is that he won. Like every Argentine, I wanted this trophy for Messi," he declared.
And he really didn't lie.
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This is how this alliance was created, and it continues in the World Cup as well.
She's even gotten stronger now, if that's even possible.
There is no person in the national team whom Messi trusts more than his goalkeeper, and this infuses the man whom everyone has called Divo from childhood a lot of strength.
Martins' start of the season at Aston Villa was not promising to say the least, but in the national team it's a completely different story, and his status was not questioned even for a second.
Nor did he give any reason to doubt him.
He lives in an unimaginable dream, and turns out to be a superhero whenever the team needs him.
Not only against the Netherlands did he keep his ambitions strong.
Also in the round of 16 against Australia, Emiliano was responsible for a tremendous save in the final seconds, while he was enough to leap at record speed from the goal line to the opponent's feet.
He prevented a dramatic 2:2 draw against the underdog, and all the players jumped on him, hugged him and thanked him.
The hugs with him become a recurring motif in this team, as do the tears of happiness.
Now he is two games away from winning the World Cup, which is amazing if you remember where he was when Argentina contested the 2018 World Cup. Martinez had just finished a loan season on the Getafe bench at the time, and no one - except him - imagined that anything useful could come of his strange career.
He was already 26 years old, had completed no less than eight years at Arsenal, but had not been given any opportunity to prove his skills, and Gunners fans were barely aware of his existence.
The choice to sign with the luxury club from London seemed like a rather strange bet at the time, especially considering the results.
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Emiliano Martins (Photo: GettyImages, Clive Brunskill)
In fact, Emiliano himself did not think he would get a contract at Arsenal when he was called for trials in 2010, but felt he had to travel in order to upgrade his CV.
He was a promising goalkeeper in Independiente's academy, a partner in Argentina's youth teams, and was determined to make money from football to help his poor family.
His mother cried and asked him not to leave home at the age of 17, but he had to try his luck - and crossed the ocean in the hope that the visit to Arsenal would open more doors for him.
To his surprise, a contract was put in front of him, and they don't refuse such a thing, even if the chances of making it to the team are slim.
Why stay there for a whole decade?
Mainly because the Argentine had no other alternatives.
Even during the loan periods to teams like Rotherham, Sheffield Wednesday and Wolves in the minor league, not to mention Getafe, they didn't really trust him and didn't give him the first vest.
He was just an unknown and irrelevant janitor, and his family told him more than once that he should return to his homeland.
"I won't come back until I get something here," he declared, and deep down he had faith.
When he finally got the chance, made big headlines and started being interviewed by the leading newspapers in England, Divo discovered his motto.
"It doesn't matter how the movie starts, the most important thing is how it ends," he said.
In his film, it turns out, only commercials were shown for years.
What would have happened if Brand Leno had not been injured at the end of June 2020, in a match against Brighton right after the end of the Corona break?
You never know, but it was Martinez's big chance.
Coach Mikel Arteta made it unequivocally clear that he trusted him, the performances were great, and in a little over a month, Martinez was already a great hero when Arsenal beat Chelsea in the FA Cup final.
From just being there on the list, he became a sought-after goalkeeper, and when he realized that his place in the Arsenal lineup was not guaranteed, he chose to leave after all.
Aston Villa paid 20 million pounds for him, and did not regret it for a moment.
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Emiliano Martins (Photo: Reuters)
So the national coach Lionel Scaloni took him to the Copa América after his first full season in the Premier League, and Debo on the whole was proud to wear the uniform for one game.
When he played alongside Messi in an international tournament, he felt that he had fulfilled all his wishes, even if the stands were empty in the shadow of the epidemic, and the whole tournament felt a little unnecessary given the circumstances.
For Argentina, he was not superfluous at all, and instead of one game, he received six appearances, during which he conceded only twice, and kept a clean sheet even against Salceau in the final.
Thus, within a few weeks, he received the status of a national hero, and this is his label even now.
He is passionate, brave and a great patriot - take, for example, the choice to dye the flag of Argentina on his hair in the current World Cup.
And he is also arrogant, in the positive sense of the word, at least in the opinion of the Argentinians.
Divo really enjoys waging psychological wars against opposing players, especially before taking penalties, where he has turned it into a real art.
The wonderful incident that happened a year ago in a game against Manchester United was extraordinary by any standard.
The Red Devils were awarded a penalty against Aston Villa in the dying seconds, Bruno Penandes stepped up to take the kick, but Martinez approached and said Cristiano Ronaldo should have approached the ball.
It was the perfect thing to do to throw Bruno completely off balance, and his penalty went wide - Martinez didn't even have to try hard enough to stop.
He did the important work even before the kick.
These methods, only in a more refined form, he also used in the penalty shootout against the Netherlands, before stopping the kicks of Virgil van Dijk and Steven Berghuis.
He is Argentina's most dominant goalkeeper since Sergio Guecochea, who signed the promotion to the final in 1990.
Martins also wants a final, and even beyond that.
The trophy, if and when Argentina wins it, he will dedicate as usual to Leo Messi.
And the whole nation is waiting to see their embrace two more times.
FIFA World Cup
Argentina national team