Reaching for the star

Dave Woodhall on a World Cup winner and who he might be playing with next.

I was looking at Twitter on Tuesday evening and ‘Aston Villa’ was trending. Usually when that happens it’s because we’ve got beat or sacked a manager but this one was down to our very own Man of the Moment Emiliano Martinez. Not content with winning the World Cup with what he does best, namely playing in goal, but also what he does best after that, namely winding up the opposition, he seems to have declared war on the entire French nation.

As a result, a load of French Twitterers have been having a go at him, although to be honest they’ve had to take their place in a very long queue. There’s been wannabe media stars who’ve had him sold to every major club in Europe, Arsenal supporters who for some reason think his ability is down to all that time spent in their reserves, Manchester United supporters who think he’s about to sign for them just because, the usual gathering of Newcastle supporters who hang on every word ever said about the Villa on account of a banner thirteen years ago, and a lot of people who can’t get their heads around the idea that Only Aston Villa have got one of the most talked-about players in the world in our team.

Unfortunately there are also a few of our own who think we should/are bound to sell him because that’s what we do. And we can get that mindset right out of the way because whatever we used to do, we can’t do it anymore. To repeat what’s been said before, Unai Emery didn’t come here to finish eighth and we only managed to bring him in by making some cast-iron guarantees of how he’ll be helped get where he wants to. They didn’t include selling our highest-profile player the minute his value goes up.

Emi’s raised our profile as well as his. The world will be looking at us, thinking he’s off, and they’re going to be in a for a surprise when the flow of talent goes in the opposite direction. Appointing Emery was a statement of intent in itself; bringing in a big name or two in January will be the next step. Whether it’s Joao Felix, Marcus Thuram, or whoever, a world-class player will keep the momentum going and make sure that everyone realises we mean business. I know we say it twice a year, but the upcoming transfer window is not only important, but this time the level of player we usually gaze at wistfully are gettable. It’s what we do.