Emi Martinez has revealed his agent has already asked where he sees himself playing his football next season but he’s parking the conversation until after the FA Cup final.
Having joined the club a decade ago, the Argentine finally has his shot at winning silverware in Arsenal colours.
After six spells out on loan and watching countless keepers come and go, the 27-year-old finally moved up the keeper pecking order last summer to become back-up to number one Bernd Leno. While a move in the right direction, he’s again had to be patient this season, making do with game time in the League Cup and Europa League group stages in the period up to Christmas.
When Mikel Arteta picked Leno to play against Olympiakos, it looked like the writing might be on the wall for the player, but solid performances in the FA Cup were laying the foundations for a stunning end to the domestic campaign.
Since replacing Leno, who picked up a knee injury in our second game back after lockdown, Martinez has arguably been the club’s most eye-catching and consistent performer. Could he take over from the German? Is he an asset worth cashing in on? Both questions have been raised by supporters in the last few weeks.
For the moment, we’re all hoping he can maintain his standards for one final game of a very long campaign. Ahead of the trip to Wembley, Martinez was in a confident and bullish mood.
“I don’t think anyone wants to be a second goalkeeper,” he said. “Especially if you believe so much in yourself.
“My agent called me the other day and said: ‘How do you feel, what do you think about next season?’
“I said I don’t want to talk about next season. I have a contract with Arsenal. I need to play in the final and have my mind clear.
“Whatever happens in the final and next season, it happens. It’s football. I can go anywhere but I have a two-year contract left in my Arsenal career. Let me win that trophy and ask the question again.
“Hard work pays off and now is the time. Now is my time. I have been fighting 10 years to win trophies, not just to reach a final.”
Like so many footballers, Emi’s rise to the top has been built on the sacrifices of those around him. He even remembers watching his parents forego meals so that there was enough food for him and his brother to eat. He’s desperate to pay them back, especially as he subsequently left home very young to follow his dream.
“It was a bit emotional [when the final whistle went in the semi-final],” Martinez said.
“Not because we beat City, who for me are one of the best teams in Europe right now, but more because of how much I have been fighting to play in a final with the club I love.
“It has been 10 years since I joined the club and at the final whistle everything goes through your head. I wish the fans and my family would be here for the final, obviously with 90,000 or 80,000 people in Wembley, something you don’t play every day.
“I wish my whole family was there [on Saturday]. Like I said, we came from a poor, poor family and for them to see me there winning a trophy in front of 90,000 people and getting a medal would be something.
He added: “I remember for my Champions League debut against Anderlecht, [my Dad] flew 27 hours to reach that game and he was crying all 95 minutes!”
“I am so far away from home. Because of lockdown, I have not seen my mum and dad for a year. It will be tough, but I will be thinking about them when I play.
“I remember the day that me and my brother ate and not my mum and dad. So 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. So I know what they did for me to reach the top where I am now.”