EXCLUSIVE: Emi Martinez praises ‘world class’ Kylian Mbappe and plays down infamous doll row during Argentina’s wild World Cup celebrations
The enigmatic South American goalkeeper, who plays his club football in the Premier League for Aston Villa, helped Argentina to World Cup glory at Qatar 2022.
He lined up against Paris Saint-Germain superstar Mbappe in what proved to be an epic encounter at the end of that tournament, with the France international beating him on three occasions to become the first man to register a hat-trick in the World Cup final since Geoff Hurst for England in 1966.
Martinez was to have the last laugh, though, as Argentina prevailed in a nerve-shredding penalty shootout, allowing wild scenes of celebration to be sparked from Lusail to Buenos Aires – with the Albiceleste’s reliable last line of defence helping himself to a Golden Glove award.
The 30-year-old caused controversy with his antics when collecting that prize, before going on to make more headlines back in Argentina when he was pictured holding a doll with Mbappe’s face on it during an open-top bus parade.
Martinez came in for criticism over what he has always maintained was a bit of fun and no slight on a fellow World Cup winner, and he remains eager to point out that he holds PSG frontman Mbappe in the highest regard, telling GOAL: “World class player, what can I say. He was rapid. He was great. He was powerful and he scored four goals past me (including a penalty in the final shootout).”
Martinez went on to say of the infamous doll incident that attracted more attention than he could ever have imagined: “There was a lot of people, a lot of toys in the bus parade. Imagine there is six million people throwing things at you so you're going to receive loads of things. There was obviously a lot (toys) of French players or Holland players… that's Argentina and the fans trying to show it makes you laugh. It was nothing more than that, just celebration.”
Mbappe – who has been named as the new captain of the France national team - is currently plying his club trade alongside Argentina captain Lionel Messi in Paris, with Martinez adding when asked if Mbappe can take important lessons from the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner: “Yeah, Messi is obviously the best ever player to play football so everyone learns, not just him, even Neymar and all the players that are there at PSG will learn from him.”
Martinez has benefited from working with Messi himself, with the Best Men’s Goalkeeper prize collected at the recent FIFA Best Awards after forming part of Copa America and World Cup-winning squads across the most memorable of 18-month periods.
Check out the full episode of Kit Collector on GOAL's Youtube channel.