Emiliano Martinez will complete a remarkable journey when he fulfils a lifelong ambition of playing in the FA Cup final against Chelsea on Saturday.
Martinez was ready to leave Arsenal because he was fed-up of being loaned out and yet now he is on the brink of the biggest achievement of his career.
A career forged after growing up in a loving family but in real hardship in Argentina.
The Arsenal goalkeeper has played a huge role in the club’s march to Wembley after coming in for injured first-choice Bernd Leno in the first week of Project Restart.
And it is testament to why you should never give up on your dreams.
Martinez, 27 even roped his wife and son into helping with his training in lockdown to make sure he was ready to grasp his opportunity to make his whole family proud.
He said: “As soon as I win, I want to celebrate with my boy and my wife – that’s the circle of life. But yes, I wish my whole family was there.
“We came from a poor, poor family and for them to see me winning a trophy in front of 90,000 people and getting a medal would be something. I wish the fans were there, it’s going to be a different final but I’ve worked all my life for this.”
Incredibly, Martinez is Arsenal’s longest-serving player, signing professional forms in 2012 after coming over as a teenager from Independiente.
He said: “In my mind, there was no way I was going to leave my family. It was not a poor, poor background but my family struggled a lot in financial terms.
“When my agent called with an offer to sign for Arsenal, I saw my brother and mum cry, saying: ‘Please don’t go’. But I had also seen my dad crying late at night because he could not pay the bills.
“I had to be brave at the time, because I said ‘yes’ for them.
“I remember the day that me and my brother ate – and not my mum and dad. I know exactly what they’ve been through.
“I was living in Buenos Aires and I would only see them twice a month, when I travelled, because they couldn’t afford the petrol to go and see me play. I know what they did for me to reach the top.”
After six loans, he had grown frustrated and wanted to establish himself. When Leno was then taken off in the first half of the defeat at Brighton on June 20, his big opportunity arrived.
Despite Leno being the club’s No1, Martinez’s professionalism and determination is underlined by wife Mandinha and son Sandi helping him.
Martinez said: “My wife was saying to me in lockdown, ‘Why do you train so much?’ I thought I might have my chance, I might do it – and look, I have it.
“I have a full-size goal in my garden. As soon as it happened, the fitness coaches sent us a programme. That is something I have been doing since the lockdown so when I came back with the team I was feeling great.
“I have a ball launcher, someone has to feed the balls. My wife used to throw the balls but she was terrible at it.
“I was playing with my boy, he was trying to put the ball inside the ball launcher as well. It was tough, I was exhausted by nine o’clock!”
Martinez made a promise to himself and his family when he left Argentina that he would return home one day with a medal which is why he will not even entertain the thought or idea of going back to being No 2 again.
He said: “Whatever happens in the final and next season, it happens. It’s football. I can go anywhere but I have two years contract left in my Arsenal career. Let me win that trophy and ask the question again.“
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