Aston Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez has reflected on his switch to Emirates Stadium back in 2010, admitting he never wanted to join Arsenal.
Martinez initially linked up with Arsenal from Independiente for £1.1 million, leaving his family in Argentina to take up a new challenge in Europe at 17.
The shot-stopper spent the next decade trying to force his way into the Gunners’ first team but has now claimed that he would have preferred to stay in his homeland and continue his development at the start of his career.
Martinez, who completed a £20m ($28m) move to Aston Villa from Arsenal in September 2020, explained he only left Independiente so he could provide stronger financial support for his family.
“Arsenal came to look for me and Pepe Santoro [a coach at Independiente] told me that the train only passes once in a lifetime,” the 29-year-old told Spanish publication El Pais. “My family and my agents thought the same. So, the decision was more for them than anything else.
“I didn’t want to go. I did not regret it, but I wanted to play in Independiente. For a while, I thought: ‘If I stayed, in two years I will make my debut.’ My family] lacked a little financially. I did it more for that than sports.”
Martinez was sent out on loan to Oxford, Sheffield Wednesday, Rotherham, Wolves, Getafe and Reading during his time with Arsenal as he was forced to watch Petr Cech, David Ospina, Wojciech Szczesny, Lukasz Fabianski and Manuel Almunia receive regular minutes ahead of him.
Bernd Leno was also ahead of the Argentine in the squad pecking order for a time, but the German suffered an injury towards the back end of the 2019-20 campaign that gave his understudy the chance to step up.
Martinez rose to the challenge and helped the Gunners win the FA Cup while earning plaudits for his performances in the Premier League, but head coach Mikel Arteta ultimately decided to re-instate Leno as No1 after his return.
Arsenal then accepted Villa’s transfer offer for Martinez, and he has since established himself as one of the top keepers in English football while also becoming Argentina’s first choice.