Messi labels Emi Martinez ‘phenomenon’ after Villa star’s Copa America heroics

Emiliano Martinez enjoyed a superb debut campaign with Aston Villa last season, and he’s taken that form into the Copa America for Argentina.

The 28-year-old saved three penalties in the shoot-out with Colombia in their semi-final encounter, thus helping his nation secure a place in the final against Brazil this weekend.

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Martinez has been impressive throughout the tournament, keeping three clean sheets in five appearances while conceding just two goals.

Having played such a pivotal role for Argentina, it’s no surprise that his teammates value his importance so highly, no one more so than Lionel Messi.

“We have Emi, who is a phenomenon,” Messi said after the match, as quoted by The Athletic. “We knew that he was going to stop them. We know and trust him. He deserves it.

“We achieved the goal of being able to play all the games and now we are going to the final.”

Praise from a player of Messi’s stature says it all in terms of how far Martinez has come over the past 12 months in particular, having emerged as one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League to now delivering on the International stage too.

The shot-stopper equalled Villa’s club record of 15 clean sheets last season, and while his priority for now is to help Argentina win one more game to lift the Copa America trophy, he’ll return to Villa for pre-season looking to build on last year and continue to play a fundamental part in our push to break into the top six.

Villa finished in 11th place last season, an improvement on the 17th-place finish the previous year. Having added Martinez’s compatriot Emiliano Buendia and Ashley Young already this summer, there will hopefully be further reinforcements to help us launch a sustainable assault on the European qualification spots.