The unknown promise that was used as the engine for drawn Martínez to become the goalkeeper of the National Team

Omar Souto, manager of national teams, anddra Martínez, one of his “chickens”

It happened before, in June 2020, Bernd Leno was injured and, with Mikel Arteta as coach, he finally got continuity at Arsenal, a club that had lent him repeatedly without assigning him a leading role. Long before that explosion that led him to become the most expensive Argentine goalkeeper in history, when Aston Villa invested almost 22 million euros for his token. The phone rang Omar souto, historical manager of national teams, and a father figure to many of the footballers who have known him since they landed in Ezeiza at the age of youth. On the other side of the line was Emiliano Martinez with a request: if I could get him tickets to see the National Team with his brother.

-I can get you the tickets. But promise me that the next time you go to the pitch I will see you as an Argentine goalkeeper, and not to sit on a rostrum.

Souto’s phrase, an affectionate Chicana, and at the same time a stinger, was resounding in the mind of the Mar del Plata goalkeeper, competitive by nature, but then without the chance to settle down to prove his worth. And he gladly accepted the challenge.

I told him because I knew him well. In the South American Sub 17 of 2009 he had been a figure. Everything had been stopped against Uruguay, in the final against Brazil; too. Then we lost it on penalties. From there, Independiente ended up selling it to the Premier League when it was so small, ”explained the manager. In fact ,dra saved five games and received only four goals in that tournament played in Chile, in which the top scorer was an old acquaintance of Argentine soccer: Edwin Cardona, with 7 conquests. Later, he also played the World Cup in the category, held in Nigeria. The national team stumbled in the round of 16 against Colombia (2-3). But Arsenal ended up acquiring his chip for 500,000 euros for 65% of the pass.

Then the known. His procession through Oxford United, Sheffield Wednesday, Rotherdam United, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Getafe and Reading, with the back and forth to Arsenal. But he never lost focus. Just like when at the age of 12 he left his native Mar del Plata to move to Villa Domínico. Or when he did a double shift on his own initiative every afternoon at Independiente, being just a teenager, completing his training with two or three colleagues in the locker room. Or when he added yoga, Pilates, or even boxing classes to his set-up, to stimulate his evolution. Also, the incorporation of a psychologist to its staff. “He has many sessions on the phone, he has been analyzing for about three years. That comes to mind very well. It is firm. He feels very comfortable “, Beto, the goalkeeper’s father, told him Infobae.

In 2020 he rediscovered the path that led him to be an elite goalkeeper. He won the FA Cup and Community Shield with Arsenal and the high-impact offer from Aston Villa appeared. At the same time, Lionel Scaloni summoned him to the Senior National Team, supported by reports from Martín Tocalli, goalkeeping coach. On his first day in Ezeiza, he entered the premises and did not stop until he came face to face with Souto, with whom he hugged. He had kept the promise. He could help the Selection shape its destiny.

Then vertigo. The COVID-19 that continued to appear in the tests that Franco Armani was practiced, the possibility of stopping in the previous Copa América, and the title in the tournament. The key saves, the penalties against Colombia that enthroned him, the “look how I eat you, brother” that pushed him to the poster, the concrete desire to assist Messi to achieve his first title with the Albiceleste at the Senior level, the 28 years of titles drying in past mode.

“It is a phenomenon”He is praised by Souto, who trusted his chicken when he was not even on the radar, when he was looking for his space at the club level, only to jump on the springboard to the National Team. It was there that she challenged him, innocent, almost a wish out loud. Today you no longer need to ask for tickets. The fans buy his, happy to give him an ovation.


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