Emiliano “Dibu” Martínez: a Story of Overcoming, Titles and Controversy

After winning The Best award for Best Goalkeeper, Emiliano "Dibu" Martínez lives one of the best moments of his soccer career. How did he get to the top of Latin American and world soccer?.


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LatinAmerican Post | Theoscar Mogollón González

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Leer en español: Emiliano “Dibu” Martínez: una historia de superación, títulos y polémica

You have to dream big because dreaming is free. The story of Emiliano "Dibu" Martínez begins long before the 2018 World Cup in Russia, but that event was the one that marked a turning point in his life and in his career as a professional soccer player. As the player himself confessed in the Star+ program "En Primera Persona", one of his greatest desires was to take charge of the goal of the Argentine National Team. It was in the match against France in the round of 16, when he promised his brother in the stands of the Kazan Arena that he would fulfill that dream. Three years later, "Dibu" made his international debut in the 1-1 draw against Chile for the Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifiers.

Damián Emiliano Martínez was born on September 2, 1992, in Mar del Plata and from a young age he wore the shirts of almost all the clubs in his city. At the age of 10, he tried out for both River Plate and Boca Juniors, but was not considered by either. Three years later, he had to move alone to Avellaneda when he was selected to play in the training categories of Independiente, a club that kept him until 2009. In that year, and after his participation with the Argentine under-17 team in the South American Championship of said category, "Dibu" made the leap to the reserve team of Arsenal in England.

The beginnings for a goalkeeper are never easy, especially since it is a unique position in the world of soccer. "Dibu" had to jump over his own wall from a very young age and in a country where he did not speak the language perfectly. As expected in an elite club, his continuity under the goal was not going to happen immediately, since he had experienced names like Manuel Almunia, Lukasz Fabianski and Wojciech Szczęsny ahead of him. The best decision for the English team was to loan it out for several seasons to second division teams: Oxford United, Sheffield Wednesday, Rotherham United, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Reading. Likewise, he also had a brief internship in Spain with Getafe in 2017, where he barely played in seven games.

You can also read: The Best Awards: The Dream Night for Latin America

Consolidation and Titles

All those days away from his family, when he was barely a teenager, all those tears and sweat after training, all those hours of mental work and self-improvement, all that sacrifice took effect to meet the Emiliano Martínez of today. On June 20, 2020, "Dibu" came from the substitute bench to make his Premier League debut with Arsenal, four years after his arrival in London.

But his stay with the Gunners did not end as he expected. Thanks to many stellar performances at the end of that season, "Dibu" was described as a brilliant and dominant goalkeeper. By August of that year, he started in the FA Cup and Community Shield finals against Chelsea and Liverpool, respectively, which he won with considerable prominence. However, the return of Bernd Leno, the team's starting goalkeeper, forced the Argentine's departure a month later to Aston Villa.

The transfer figure reached £20 million, an amount that made him the most expensive Argentine goalkeeper in history. Five days after his presentation, "Dibu" made his debut for the team in the 1-0 win over Sheffield United, saving a penalty. His name, unknown to most Argentines, began to echo and make noise in the ears of Lionel Scaloni.

At club level he has not achieved much since then, beyond a few individual accolades such as Aston Villa's unbeaten record in a season. However, the greatest weight of his skills as a goalkeeper has been reflected with the Albiceleste, with whom he has won up to three trophies between 2021 and 2022: Copa América (against Brazil), Conmebol-UEFA Champions Cup (against Italy) and Copa FIFA World Cup (versus France).

Controversies Behind the Character

If there is something that has already become clear, it is that the goalkeeper assumes the leading role on and off the pitch. He is not afraid of anything, he does not get complicated when the moment is pressing. He has a whole repertoire of controversies, especially when it comes to a penalty shootout. His claim to fame comes from those instances, and the first one that went viral was in the 2021 Copa América, when Argentina qualified for the final after eliminating Colombia.

"Dibu" took the rival kickers out of concentration with phrases like "I eat you brother, I'm sorry, but I eat you"; "you are nervous, you are laughing because you are nervous"; "I'll cut it short, look how I eat you"; "I'm going to wait for you, uh, you're scared"; which gave results. That personality made him win the hearts of his people and the hatred of many detractors. With that alone, Emiliano Martínez was already on the soccer map.

In the Qatar 2022 World Cup there were no exceptions and his controversial figure grew even more. In the penalty shootout against the Netherlands and France, he repeated his recital, this time with some extra details. The psychological games were quite favorable, whether it was talking to the opponent, the referee or playing games with the ball. And it is that, as commented in various digital media, FIFA will seek to implement some measures for goalkeepers in the 2026 World Cup to avoid such situations.

Another couple of situations that caused a stir on social networks came after the World Cup consecration. The first happened with a vulgar gesture after being awarded in the final as the best goalkeeper of the contest, as he placed his trophy above his crotch making obscene movements. The second occurred in the team's caravan in Argentina, where he carried a doll with the face of soccer player Kylian Mbappé and made gestures.

Finally, the delivery of The Best award for Best Goalkeeper also had its share of controversy, although not on the part of the player. Many considered that "Dibu" did not deserve the award above Thibaut Courtois, despite his outstanding world. As of the date this article was written, Emiliano Martínez is one of the goalkeepers who have conceded the most goals (31 in 22 games) this season in the Premier League. And it is that this story of overcoming, titles and controversies is just beginning.

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