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Lionel Messi heaps enormous praise on Aston Villa star Emi Martinez

Emi Martinez was the hero on Tuesday night as Argentina knocked Colombia out on penalties to book a place in the Copa America final. The Aston Villa goalkeeper produced three saves in the shootout – following a 1-1 draw after 120 minutes. Lionel Messi has applauded Martinez.

Lautaro Martinez opened the scoring after seven minutes, before Porto attacker Luis Diaz managed to squeeze home an equaliser just after the hour mark. Lionel Messi hit the post and Argentina had numerous chances to win, but Colombia took the game to penalties. Martinez stepped up.

Colombia managed to score just two of their five penalties, with ex-Arsenal goalkeeper Martinez producing three saves. He denied Everton’s Yerry Mina, Tottenham’s Davinson Sanchez and then Boca’s Edwin Cardona – all of which went to Martinez’s left. Messi labelled him a “phenomenon”.

“He is a phenomenon. We knew that he was going to stop them. We know and trust him. He deserves it,” Messi said following the penalty shootout win during an interview with big Argentine outlet TyC Sports.

Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

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Martinez stock is rising after Messi comments – can Villa keep him?

Martinez has enjoyed the best 12 months of his career. Joining after a run in Arsenal’s side, Martinez kept 15 clean sheets in 38 Premier League games. That form has continued at Argentina, as he has played five of Argentina’s six Copa America games and kept three clean sheets in the mean time.

His stock is rising. Martinez is making a name for himself in South America and in the direct view of Messi – even garnering rare public praise from the Barcelona legend. Villa need to tie him down to an even longer deal, which currently stands until the summer of 2024 – before others start to want him.

Photo by Neville Williams/Aston Villa FC via Getty Images
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