Arsene Wenger had revealed his admiration for Emiliano Martinez after the goalkeeper’s journey from a reserve at Arsenal to a World Cup finalist with Argentina in Qatar.
Martinez joined Arsenal in 2010, but only made 15 Premier League appearances for the Gunners during his 10 years at the club.
The shot stopper had six loan spells away from Arsenal, including spells at Oxford United, Sheffield Wednesday and Rotherham United.
Martinez made his Arsenal breakthrough in 2020, with the Argentine making nine Premier League appearances and helping Mikel Arteta’s side to lift the FA Cup.
The 30-year-old moved to Aston Villa for £20m at the conclusion of the season and has since become Argentina’s first choice goalkeeper, playing a key role in helping the South Americans’ passage to the World Cup final in Qatar.
Wenger told the Daily Mirror that he was proud of Martinez’s accomplishment, with the former Arsenal boss praising his determination despite the early setbacks in his career.
‘I am very happy for him,’ Wenger said. We were aware of his huge qualities. He was determined and had a desire to learn and a big passion for the game.
‘Sometimes he went out on loan and didn’t even play, but it didn’t stop his belief and motivation.
‘When I see him now play knowing what he went through I admire even more his achievement.
‘Well done Emi, we are proud of you.’
Martinez had also been forced to wait for his chance with Argentina, despite establishing himself as Aston Villa’s first choice goalkeeper.
Geronimo Rulli, Sergio Romero, Agustín Marchesín, Franco Armani, Esteban Andrada and Paulo Gazzaniga were among those to feature for Argentina under manager Lionel Scaloni before Martinez made his Argentina debut.
Martinez started for Argentina for the first time in a World Cup qualification match against Chile in June last year.
His penalty shootout heroics in the Copa America semi-finals against Colombia helped Argentina to win the tournament for the first time since 1993, overcoming arch-rivals Brazil in the final.
Martinez has played a vital role for Argentina at the World Cup in Qatar, with his late save proving crucial in his side’s 2-1 win over Australia in the last-16.
The 30-year-old, who has now earned 25 caps for his nation, also saved two penalties against the Netherlands as Argentina progressed to the last four via a shootout.
Following Argentina’s 3-0 win over Croatia in the semi-finals, Martinez will be tasked with keeping out France’s formidable attack in the final on Sunday.
France are seeking to win back-to-back World Cups having triumphed in Russia in 2018, with the holders having overcome Morocco 2-0 in the last four.
Argentina are bidding for their third World Cup and first since 1986, with captain Lionel Messi confirming Sunday’s showpiece will be his final match at the competition.