Inside Emi Martinez’s bid to become the world’s best goalkeeper at Aston Villa

Emi Martinez arrived at Aston Villa from Arsenal in September 2020 with a laminated list of goals, one of which was to become the best goalkeeper in the world.

That may have seemed like an admirably lofty but somewhat unlikely ambition for someone who had never even been the number one keeper at his club, let alone on the entire planet, at the time.

Martinez joined Dean Smith’s newly promoted team just a few days after turning 28. In the previous decade, he had only made 13 Premier League starts for Arsenal, who had loaned him out six times to lower leagues or abroad.

However, after only two and a half years, the charismatic Argentina international may soon require a new career goal as he prepares to face his former club this weekend.

That same locker at Villa’s Bodymoor Heath training facility is now bulging with World Cup and Copa America winners’ medals, and after being named the Golden Glove trophy for being the best keeper in Qatar, he has just been named on a shortlist of three for the individual accolade he craves at the 2022 Fifa Best Awards.

It’s been a long road, one he’s taken with his long-time goalkeeping coach at Villa, Neil Cutler, who convinced him to move to the Midlands and became his close friend and unofficial psychologist.

“To go from being a number two keeper in the Premier League to winning a World Cup in such a short time is a unique path,” Cutler told BBC Sport.

“His will to do whatever it takes to get where he wanted to be was just massive, and his passion was so evident, which is why I tried so hard to get him to Villa in the first place.

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