The butterfly effect is a concept that one small action can result in a much larger effect. For example, a butterfly flapping its wings at a specific time and location can result in a tornado.
Neal Maupay was the metaphorical butterfly that flailed its metaphorical wings in the summer of 2020.
20 June 2020 – During a battle with Neal Maupay, Bernd Leno sustains an injury
In the same manner that the pandemic had kept everyone at home during the summer of 2020, Bernd Leno had left Martinez stranded on the Arsenal bench.
The Argentine returned to the club at the beginning of the season after a fantastic loan spell at Reading, but he has since only appeared in a few cup games as Mikel Arteta and Unai Emery both favor Leno.
He needed to start playing if he was going to fulfill his dream of representing his nation in the World Cup, but it was difficult to imagine him doing so given how well his colleague goalie was doing.
Then, 40 minutes into Arsenal’s trip to Brighton at the outset of Project Restart, Leno and Neal Maupay engaged in a tackle for a high ball, and the ensuing collision left the German player with a season-ending knee injury.
Martinez was offered the opportunity to play between the sticks while Leno was away, and he seized it. He performed admirably in the final eight Premier League games, recording three shootouts and averaging four saves per game. He also significantly contributed to his team’s FA Cup victory. His performances were well received.
Aston Villa signs Martinez on September 16, 2020
Martinez put up good performances, but it appeared that he would sit on the sidelines the following season until Aston Villa saved him by acquiring him for for £20 million.
Martinez was now the first-choice goalkeeper at a top-flight team for the first time in his career, and he rapidly started to establish himself as one of the Premier League’s best.
It felt like it would only be a matter of time until requests for him to make his Argentina debut began to increase.
On June 4, 2021, Martinez makes his debut in Argentina
Martinez played second fiddle to Franco Armani for his country’s final four games of 2021, much to the chagrin of Aston Villa and Argentina supporters both.
But at the conclusion of the year, he was granted the opportunity to play for his nation, beginning in the World Cup qualifiers against Chile and Colombia.
It couldn’t have come at a better moment, since his consistent play in those games persuaded Lionel Scaloni to choose him as the team’s starting goalkeeper for the Copa America, which got underway less than a week later.
Argentina wins the Copa America on July 11, 2021, and Martinez receives the Golden Glove trophy
His international career’s long-awaited debut turned out to be much better than he could have imagined as he assisted his nation in capturing its first trophy since 1993.
Martinez was a star performer for them in their Copa America victory, holding four shutouts, allowing only two goals, and saving three penalties in the shootout against Colombia in the semifinals.
His efforts earned him the title of the tournament’s top goalkeeper and, more crucially, guaranteed that he would continue to be Scaloni’s first option in goal moving forward.
12 December 2022 – In the World Cup quarterfinal matchup against the Netherlands, Martinez stops two penalty shots
By the time the World Cup rolled around, Martinez had created a reputation for himself as Argentina’s starting goalkeeper, but he had a mixed first half to the competition, making just two save in the first four games while allowing three shots to go in.
He failed to stop the Netherlands from rallying from a 2-0 deficit to force overtime and penalties by failing to convert any of his open-play attempts against them. But in that penalty shootout, he came alive.
The 30-year-old turned away the first two penalties he faced from Steven Berghuis and Virgil van Dijk, and those stops ultimately advanced Argentina to the semi-finals, where they defeated Croatia 3-0.
Martinez is the hero when Argentina wins the World Cup on December 18, 2022
Similar to the Netherlands game, Martinez was powerless to stop his team from blowing a 2-0 lead in the World Cup final’s closing ten minutes.
But in the waning seconds of extra time, he was able to keep them from losing by making one of the greatest, if not the most crucial, saves ever when Randal Kolo Muani was through on goal. And he wasn’t done there.
Martinez only made one penalty save in the shootout this time, but it was enough for his nation to win the title.
It’s safe to assume that without him, they couldn’t have done it, and Neal Maupay couldn’t have done it either.
Even while he might not be very well-liked in his own France, his Argentinian mother will be a proud woman.
Neal, the role you performed won’t be recorded in the history books, but we will.