Emi Martinez has been speaking to ESPN about a possible return to Independiente, how he couldn’t say ‘no’ to Arsenal, and what Mikel Arteta is really like in training.

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 01: Emiliano Martinez of Arsenal is seen with a Always Forward on their back during the Heads Up FA Cup Final match between Arsenal and Chelsea at Wembley Stadium on August 01, 2020 in London, England. Football Stadiums around Europe remain empty due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in all fixtures being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)
Emi Martinez of Arsenal is seen with an Always Forward on his back during the Heads Up FA Cup Final match between Arsenal and Chelsea at Wembley  (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Emi Martinez came to everybody’s attention this season when he stepped in for the injured Bernd Leno.

It’s safe to say that, until the break in football, Leno was one of Arsenal’s few performing stars. Like with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang at the other end, Arsenal would have been in much greater trouble in the league if it hadn’t been for him.

When Leno landed awkwardly after a sly shove from Neal Maupay at Brighton, we all wondered what that meant for our season. We’d seen enough of Emi Martinez to know he was a decent keeper but Arsenal were seriously considering replacing him this summer, and it wasn’t hard to understand why.

Arsenal's Argentinian goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez is mobbed by Arsenal's Scottish defender Kieran Tierney (L) after the English FA Cup final football match between Arsenal and Chelsea at Wembley Stadium in London, on August 1, 2020. - Arsenal won the match 2-1. (Photo by Catherine Ivill / POOL / AFP)
Arsenal’s Argentinian goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez is mobbed by Arsenal’s Scottish defender Kieran Tierney (L) after the English FA Cup final football match between Arsenal and Chelsea at Wembley Stadium in London, on August 1, 2020. – Arsenal won the match 2-1. (Photo by Catherine Ivill / POOL / AFP)

Now, Arsenal want to give Emi Martinez a new deal, which is also not surprising as he was rated top keeper in the Premier League for the percentage of shots he saved this season. Leno came in third.

Six loans and the removal of Gerry Peyton seems to have been the making of Martinez. Now 27, he can rightfully say the Arsenal number one shirt is his and it is up to Leno to take it from him.

On top of his superb performances in goal, Martinez sunk himself even deeper into our hearts after the FA Cup final when the BBC tried to interview him and he couldn’t really speak because he kept on crying.

Emiliano Martinez, Arsenal goalkeeper, sleeps while hugging the FA Cup
Emiliano Martinez, Arsenal goalkeeper, sleeps while hugging the FA Cup

A day later, however, he got himself together and was able to speak to ESPN who asked him about leaving Argentina as a teenager to join Arsenal.

“I was not planning to leave young, I wanted to play in the first Independente and go to Europe,” Martinez said. “It happened as it happened, I could not say no to Arsenal, it was with a lot of effort to consolidate. 

“When I had a trial at Independiente, Pepe Santoro liked my style. There, they introduced me to Gustavo Goñi (his representative), who had just started as a representative and today is like my father. 

“It was hard for me with English [when I first arrived], but at 19 I became a boyfriend to the woman who is my wife today and she taught me everything and I learned everything, it didn’t cost me that much.

“My son speaks all three languages ​​because my wife was born in England but she is the daughter of Brazilians and Portuguese.

Martinez then moved on to Mikel Arteta to say, “Mikel was a great player, always a leader.

“Now as a trainer, he is an animal, he gives us plans and makes us believe that it will work.

“Everything that happens we practice, when we play we are calm.”

Mikel Arteta and Arsenal players celebrate in Wembley dressing room (via Arsenal.com)
Mikel Arteta and Arsenal players celebrate in Wembley dressing room (via Arsenal.com)

The reporter then asked him if he’d return to Independiente one day.

“Returning to Independiente is something that I will never rule out, they are the ones that gave me the opportunity to be in Europe,” Martinez replied.

“But today I cannot guarantee anything, I want to return at a good good level, I would not do it at 35 without [being at] a good level.

“I see my career on the rise, I can’t confirm it [that I would return]. ”

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Writer. Feminist. Dreamer. Gooner. Owner of DailyCannon.com, writing about Arsenal since 2008. Sometimes found in the Guardian, Vice.com & elsewhere talking queer issues, politics & football. If in doubt, assume sarcasm.