Emiliano Martínez: “Todo jugador necesita un psicólogo” | Deportes | EL PAÍS (elpais.com)
Every player needs a psychologist.
Translation from reddit - not mine.
Emiliano Martínez (Mar del Plata, Argentina; 28 years old) left Argentina at the age of 17. He had not played a single minute in Independiente's first team. He excelled at the South American U-17 Championship in 2009 and Arsenal snapped him up for their youth team. He moved to London a year later, but it took him nine seasons to earn his place under the bar at Highbury. Last summer, Aston Villa signed him for 17.5 million euros. It was the most expensive transfer in history for an Argentine goalkeeper. Already in the orbit of Lionel Scaloni, in the Copa America 2021 he established himself as the keeper of the Albiceleste goal, which this Sunday visits Brazil for the South American qualifiers (21:00). He earned the trust of Messi and the affection of the fans after saving three shots in the penalty shootout against Colombia in the semifinal. "Watch me eat you, brother," he told his opponents before the shootout. The phrase went viral and he became one of the symbols of the new generation of Argentina, led by Lionel Messi, champion of America after 28 years.
Question: How do you live being a meme?
Answer. It is priceless. At the time, I couldn't really enjoy it as much as I do now, the semi-final was played four days before the final. We brought joy to the people, which is the most important thing. We saw many videos of fans celebrating and crying at the Obelisco. I also found out that many young goalkeepers received the videos with the phrase "look how I eat you".
Q. Did you feel comfortable there?
R. Celebrating after saving a penalty or talking to the rivals is not the example I want to give to the kids. But it was what came to me at that moment. In an athlete, behind every success story there is a lot of effort and sacrifice. I left home when I was 12 years old to live in Independiente's boarding house and I had to overcome a lot of adversity before I got to where I am now. That is the message for young people, not a meme or a celebration.
Q. Was your time at Independiente's youth academy difficult?
R. It was a very hard change. Normal for a boy my age, but also because of the environment I found. The food was not good, everything was very dirty and there were four of us in a room. To tell you the truth, it was very weak. But today, with hindsight, I analyze it and I understand that it made me stronger.
Q. Why did you leave Argentina so young?
R. Arsenal came looking for me and Pepe Santoro [his tutor in Independiente's youth team] told me that the train only passes once in a lifetime. My family and my agents thought the same thing. So the decision was more for them than anything else. I didn't want to leave. I didn't regret it, but I still wanted to play for Independiente. For a while I thought: "If I stayed, in two years I would make my debut".
Q. Did you need to help your family?
R. We were lacking a little financially. I did it more for that reason than for the sporting aspect. I knew I could make it to the first team at Independiente. The club trusted the goalkeepers from the youth teams.
Q. What was it like to arrive in London at the age of 17?
R. I didn't know the language. And Wenger told me that the goalkeeper had to speak English. When I get something in my head, I achieve it. In one year I learned to speak English and I even got my driving license.
Q. On the other hand, it took you a while to earn your place in the Arsenal first team.
R. I went from loan to loan. I went through six loan spells before I became an established player. I had spells in Spain and the Championship. Very good experiences in the English second division, but very bad at Getafe. It was the lowest point of my career.
Q. Did you think about leaving?
R. No, but I did doubt if I was going to be able to achieve what I wanted.
Q. And what did you want?
A. To play in the Argentine national team. That was my dream since I started to play when I was six years old. There are a lot of people who fade along the way because mentally they get tired and throw in the towel.
Q. Did you always have that mentality or have you worked on it?
R. I was always strong, but you work at it. I started with a psychologist four years ago. He changed me a lot. He prepares me for every game.
Q. Can you give an example?
R. These are very personal things. I don't know if he wants me to bring out his work. We talk two or three times a week before a game. My head is more focused than ever, win or lose. With the demands of world soccer, I think every player needs a psychologist.
Q. What do you mean?
R. Nowadays, it's very easy to get a message from someone who insults you or discriminates against you. On social networks, you find people threatening you and asking you to retire from soccer. That's why you have to keep your head focused and have a goal.
Q. Is the Premier League the most demanding competition?
R. It is the best there is. Every professional footballer would like to play in England. And everyone who comes from other leagues tells you how difficult it is to adapt.
R. Another level of play and another physical structure. You compete every three days and every team can beat you. But they can beat you seriously. As soon as you relax, they score four goals.
Q. Hard for a goalkeeper?
R. For me it's very good. A lot of aerial play, a lot of footwork. It's my game. You're in contact with the ball all the time, you never get cold.
Q. Is it the same playing against City as against Liverpool, or do you prepare for each game in a different way?
R. I always see with the psychologist how strong the opponents can be and what can happen in the match. And I do the same routine to play against Crystal Palace, against City or against Watford.
Q. Before every game you work with the psychologist, the goalkeeping coach and the coach?
R. Yes, I have three preparations. The mental one, the one for the individual game and the one for the whole team.
Q. Brazil cannot count on nine players because of the Premier League's decision not to release players for the South American qualifiers. How was your situation resolved?
R. The negotiations were carried out by the AFA with the different clubs. I don't know how each particular club did it. I am grateful to Aston Villa, who allowed me to travel.
Q. Is there any difference between playing against Brazil in the final of the Copa America and playing in the qualifiers?
R. Little difference. In the end, you always want to beat them. It will be nice to play against them again, but all we have to think about is to keep on winning to qualify for the World Cup as soon as possible.
Q. Argentina stopped playing for Messi and Messi started playing for Argentina?
R. I was not in other stages. What I have lived with him is incredible, one more teammate and a crazy captain. Extraordinary.
Q. For example...
R. Before the match he gave a talk in which he explained the weaknesses of the rivals and what we had to do. Then he would ask us to sing the anthem all together and hugging each other. Details like that made us more and more enthusiastic. Plus, the obvious: he is a total reference in the game. The message, however, was not that we had to give the ball to the 10. If we had to run 12 kilometers per game, we would run them. But we didn't have to pass him the ball and wait for him to solve everything. In this structure, the idea was to give your life for him. And everyone who played understood that.
Q. It worked with the conquest of the America Cup...
R. From the bottom of my heart, I am happier for him than for me.
Q. How is that?
R. I'm Argentinean. What Argentinean didn't want the best player in history to lift the Cup? And the whole squad understood that. When he was about to lift the Cup we shouted to him: "It's your day". Now, we are going to try to win more things. But the day that No. 10 won at the Maracanã has already gone down in history. That's for life.
Q. How did you experience Messi's departure from Barcelona?
R. Nobody could have imagined it. Now, in these days in the selection, I saw him well. He is involved in PSG. The fact that he plays with Ángel [Di María] and Leandro [Paredes] is positive for the Argentine national team. They are training together every day.