Aston Villa aren’t messing about in the transfer market this summer.
Evidently keen not to sit back and admire the stellar work of his side last season, Dean Smith has wasted no time in looking to strengthen his squad in a bid to better their solid 11th-placed finish from the 2020/21 campaign.
Having already fended off competition from Arsenal to secure the signing of talented midfielder Emi Buendia, the Villans are now mooted to be pursuing Bayer Leverkusen’s Leon Bailey and Chelsea forward Tammy Abraham.
The fact that Smith is concentrating all of his efforts on adding to his attacking options speaks volumes for how content he is with his side’s backline, and the man at the heart of Villa’s mean rearguard is Emi Martinez.
The recently-crowned Copa America winner has been one of the main reasons behind Villa’s rapid transformation from Premier League strugglers to a side capable of beating any team on their day.
90min recently revealed that Villa are desperate to tie Martinez down to a long-term deal after he emerged as a target for a top European side, and if they do secure his future it’ll be the best business they do all summer.
Aside from the addition of Matty Cash last summer, Villa’s back four was exactly the same in the 2019/20 campaign when they scraped to safety on the final day at West Ham as it was last season.
However, they would concede a whopping 21 goals fewer – surely a right-back can’t make that much of an impact, right? Correct, he can’t, but a new goalkeeper certainly can.
Martinez’s £20m arrival from Arsenal has completely transformed Smith’s side’s backline, and suddenly players like Tyrone Mings – who can, let’s be honest, look a little lost at times – has a goalkeeper behind him barking out orders and organising the defence.
Of course there’s been other factors such as the continued development of Ezri Konsa, but the impact Martinez has had on Villa’s side as a whole can’t be underestimated.
Villa haven’t been afraid to splash the cash in recent years, but their business model has been based on signing good players who can be improved, and the likes of Ollie Watkins and the aforementioned Cash are both prime examples of such.
Neither were signed on the cheap, but both could be sold for double the price Villa paid if they opted to part ways this summer, and Martinez is probably the best example of the lot.
£20m for a second-choice goalkeeper who’d spent his entire career either playing second fiddle to poor Arsenal shot-stoppers or kicking about in the lower leagues seemed like ludicrous money, yet once again Villa’s scouting system came up trumps and were they to sell the Argentina international now they’d get at least double the price they paid.
What makes Martinez’s career prior to moving to Villa Park even more mind-boggling is that every time he was given the chance to impress he did exactly that.
Whenever he was asked to step up for Arsenal he played well and in his various loan spells with teams like Rotherham and Reading he was superb, but Arsenal just seemed adamant he wouldn’t be given his chance.
Still, not that Villa will care about that.
It may have taken until he was 28 years of age to establish himself as a number one, but Martinez has finally cemented his place in a starting XI and he’s part of a club that’s full of ambition.
We don’t care if Villa announce the signings of Abraham and Bailey tomorrow, if they tie Martinez down to a long-term deal and ensure he’ll be playing the best years of his career at Villa Park then it’ll be hands down the best business they do this summer.