The rise of Dibu Martinez is one of the most intriguing stories in the world of football over the last few years. Not too long ago he was one of the saddest stories that anyone could think about. A guy who got a chance to move to Europe without ever really making a name for himself in his home country after Arsenal came calling. Only to go years without really making an impact in the European game. Dibu Martinez himself has acknowledged that he battled with mental issues throughout those dark days on the Arsenal bench. Today he’s a World Cup winning goalkeeper known all over the world. Perhaps though he’s not necessarily known for the right reasons.
When someone like Dibu Martinez finds success it’s only normal that kids are going to want to emulate him. In Argentina goalkeepers are going to be dancing during penalty kicks and trying to throw off their opponents by yelling profanities at them. Is that a positive contribution to the game? Today I want to take an in depth look at perhaps the most popular goalkeeper in the world as of today. He’s gone back to Aston Villa after the World Cup, and therefore into relative obscurity. Should he be a goalkeeper that bigger clubs take a look at in the coming years? What makes him a special player? Just the penalty antics?
What Are Dibu Martinez’s Main Attributes?
Each goalkeeper has a set of main attributes. There are few guys out there that we could point to and say that they do everything right. I don’t want to take a shot at Dibu so early in the article. He’s just not one of those guys that you would actually point to say that. Penalties are certainly going to be the first thing that comes to people’s minds. There’s a reason though that he’s good at penalties without necessarily being the tallest goalkeeper out there. That has to do with leg strength and timing. He’s a goalkeeper that’s going to be at his best in close range 1v1 situations. We saw that multiple times throughout the World Cup. There’s an argument to be made that those saves were even more important than the penalty kicks.
We can go back to the 1v1 save that he made in the last minute of the game against Australia. That shot came in from well inside the box. What he does perfectly is anticipate that this player is going to be a shooter. So he runs up as quickly as possible to close the gap between himself and the ball. Although the plays are a bit different we saw more of the same in the final play of the World Cup final where he faced a 1v1 play from a frontal long ball. He quickly gets off the line and again closes the gap between himself and the shooter. If I had to point to something as his main attribute it would have to be that. He proved in other spots that he’s not necessarily the best goalkeeper when it comes to handling longer range efforts.
You Can’t Separate The Personality From The Player
When we talk about Dibu Martinez we come across this issue that’s very reminiscent of Latin American goalkeepers of the past. That is the fact that you really can’t separate the personality from the player. In fact if you do what you’re left with is a rather dull goalkeeper. Let’s take Jorge Campos, because he seems to be the perfect example. If you remove the bright color jerseys, and the daring escapes outside the box to assist attacking players you’re left with a goalkeeper that’s a little shorter than you’d like, and that perhaps takes a little too many risks. While at the same time not being as technically sound as you’d hope either. He had this aura to him though, and quick feet that allowed him to create a very unique play style.
Dibu Martinez is not as technically flawed as Campos was by any stretch of the imagination. There is that sense though that if you strip him of the antics he’s just a middle of the pack guy. Really if you look at him as the Aston Villa goalkeeper, and you remove all that he’s done with Argentina that’s exactly what he is. That probably sounds like the biggest criticism ever, but it’s not meant in that light. In fact having a personality as a goalkeeper can help you move up in the world. It helps you stand out and get noticed. Otherwise, you’d just be another guy, and Dibu seems to have figured that out, and that’s why his antics keep getting crazier and crazier. At this point you can’t separate the player and the persona.
Does He Deserve A Move To A Bigger Club?
To be honest the answer here seems to be a clear no! Once again this is not something that I’m saying to tear this man down. As I mentioned though, he certainly shines with Argentina, and he’s decent for the most part in the Premier League. It’s not like he’s tearing up the league! On top of that, there are not a lot of places that he could go to that would be a better team than Aston Villa, and that currently need a goalkeeper. Let’s stay in the Premier League to try and solve this puzzle. Which teams are better than Aston Villa, or more popular that need a goalkeeper? Man United, Chelsea, maybe even Tottenham?
Keep in mind that Dibu is a 30-year-old goalkeeper, so it’s not like he’d be injecting youth into any dressing room. Again it’s not like he’s tearing up the league to the point where bringing him on instead of De Gea, Mendy, Kepa, and the Chelsea mess, or even his rival Lloris would make too much sense. Ironically that move to Tottenham seems the most likely. Particularly if the London based squad think Dibu is an upgrade over Lloris, and has more years left. Even the most passionate Argentina fan would have to admit that the upgrade that Dibu could provide in any of these situations is minimal at best.
That being said, there’s no shame in playing for a club like Aston Villa. Being a Villa regular for years and winning a World Cup seems like a great career when it’s all set and done. With that in mind it’s really hard to see him making a move to a “bigger” club. Maybe if Newcastle come calling that could be interesting!
How Much Does It Really Help A Goalkeeper To Spend Considerable Time Working On Penalty Kicks?
To be clear I’m not really sure how much time Dibu Martinez spends working on penalty kicks during practice. Also, when you’re headed to a tournament like the World Cup or the Copa América we’ve certainly seen that there’s value in being prepared. Whether Dibu Martinez practiced penalty kicks heavily or not it certainly helped the team out that he was ready when the time came. Having said all this, is it worth it for young goalkeepers to spend time practicing penalty kicks for when the situation comes up in a game? I think there are a lot of things that you can do in practice that will for example help you decrease your reaction time. The quicker you react, the better the chance you’ll have of saving a close range shot like a penalty kick.
That doesn’t mean that you should be spending an hour on just training penalty kicks after each training session. There’s an argument to be made that you could better spend that time on other parts of your game. What you could do is take one day a week to work on that particular play, after practice. For example, Fridays before a game are a great time to work on penalty kicks. Usually it’s a lighter practice and coaches are going to be more willing to tackle these types of plays. For the other days of the week though, you’re probably better off working on catching crosses. Doing things like goal kicks and punts after practice can also be a good idea. Anything that’s a bit more useful to you in a game apart from just the one play that’s a penalty kick.
Should Young Goalkeepers Try To Emulate Dibu’s Antics?
One of the things that really rubbed people off the wrong way about Dibu Martinez are his antics. It all started in the famous penalty shootout against Colombia in the Copa América. Dibu would dance and yell things at the Colombian players. He started yelling some unsavory things until the ref told him to tone it down. That ‘s when “Mira que te como hermano” was born. Which is the phrase that he used against Colombian Yerry Mina. The phrase means, “I’m going to eat you brother”. Essentially what Dibu was getting at was that he knew where the shooter was going and that he was going to make the save. Then he danced after being successful and garnered hate from an entire nation.
I already mentioned that you can’t separate the player from the persona with Dibu Martinez. The same is true about other goalkeepers throughout history. Yelling profanities at other teams’ players, is something that I will never get behind. I know the type of language that’s used on the field, so I’m not here to say I’m always super prude. For the most part though you could get into a player’s head with a joke or maybe even a little dance. It has to be part of your personality or persona on the field. Some of us are a bit more playful as goalkeepers, others are serious through and through. What you can’t do is fake it or just completely copy something that you see.
Finding your own persona in goal is actually a good thing. What you do or don’t allow yourself to do should be based on that. Don’t just start yelling things out of the blue. That’s only going to get you in trouble. Particularly if your game doesn’t back up your antics.
The Future For Argentine Goalkeeper Beyond Dibu Martinez
Dibu Martinez seems to be an anomaly amongst Argentine goalkeepers these days. While there have been world renowned goalkeepers from Argentina many of them are not modern keepers. For example, German “Mono ” Burgos is one of the most popular players in the history of Atletico Madrid. However, he was never mentioned amongst the best players in his era. There are a couple of Argentine goalkeepers in Europe, but many of them play for lower profile teams. That’s actually been a constant for Argentine goalkeepers in the modern era. Dibu Martinez actually almost fell into obscurity like many of his countrymen before him. Through his time at Arsenal it was never clear if he was going to get a chance to start regularly for a European club. He may have followed in the footsteps of Sergio Romero.
Romero was with Manchester United for years, but never beat out David De Gea. Even though he played very little club football throughout his whole career he was actually the starter for the national team for the better part of a decade. Simply put, even though Argentina is known for producing competent goalkeepers most of them don’t go on to play for top flight clubs in Europe. In fact, Dibu Martinez at Aston Villa is arguably one of the most successful tenures of an Argentine goalkeeper abroad. Willy Caballero crafted a decent career although mainly as a back-up. Geronimo Rulli has also struggled to find consistency in Europe. The path for Argentine goalkeepers to a top flight team isn’t necessarily a paved one. Therefore, it would not be odd to see the national team struggle after Dibu Martinez hangs up the gloves.