Arsenal and Pochettino will battle over Inter’s brilliant Bull for good reason this summer
Lautaro Martinez has fired Inter into a Champions League final and players of his talent find their way to the Premier League. Arsenal would be a good fit.
Who’s this then?
Lautaro Javier Martínez is a 25-year-old 5ft 9ins Argentinean striker who plays for Inter Milan and scored their winning goal against AC Milan this week to take them to the Champions League final. A World Cup winner, he is one of the best forwards in the world right now and sure to be subject of some big bids for his services this summer from the moneybags English top flight.
The son of a professional footballer, he was born in Bahía Blanca and played youth football for his local club Liniers before joining Racing Club in January 2014 aged 17. Despite suffering from homesickness, he scored freely for the reserve team, netting 53 times in 64 games.
As such a good prospect, Real Madrid and Racing made a deal for him, but Lautaro didn’t want to go to Spain, preferring to stay in Argentina for longer; he eventually made 60 appearances and scored 27 goals. He was South American Youth Football Championship top scorer of 2017.
Inter Milan then turned up, probably wielding one of those massive pepper grinders in a sexually suggestive manner, along with €22.7million and took him to Italy on a five-year contract in July 2018.
He’s played 233 times for them to date, scoring 99 goals and making an impressive 34 assists. This season he’s the second highest scorer in Serie A with 20 goals. At Inter Milan he has won Serie A, the Coppa Italia and two Supercoppas Italiana, and was Europa League runner-up in 2020 – a decent haul for anyone. But as we know, all of this means nothing until you’ve done it in what Graeme Souness would call ‘Our League’, which he will definitely not know due to being foreign and which is apparently superior in every way and will take some adapting to.
He’s been a full international since 2018 having played for his country at youth level. He’s got 48 caps and has scored 21 times. He scored the winning penalty in Argentina’s 4–3 shoot-out victory against the Netherlands at the 2022 World Cup to send his side into the semi-finals, going on to win the World Cup, the Copa America and CONMEBOL–UEFA Cup of Champions.
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Why the love?
He looks like someone, doesn’t he? I’ve been trying to think all day who it is, but can’t bring it to mind. While he’s not one of the big boys in terms of height, he’s got that gnarly, high cheekbone, Argentinean attack dog aspect to his play which means he’s physically very capable of holding his own when up against the hard lads. I mean, look at him, he looks like one of those vicious wee dogs that attack postal delivery workers. No wonder his nickname is The Bull, though Pit Bull would be more accurate given his stature.
He occasionally plays as a slightly withdrawn second striker but the vast bulk of his goals and assists have been as a centre-forward. Having watched a lot of him, I think his biggest asset is his determination and directness. He just looks very hard to stop. He actually started out his youth career as a defender, which is interesting, as you’d imagine being a defender in Argentinean youth football would require you to be very physical, very hard-headed and be prepared to kick and be kicked up in the air quite a bit. That may explain his robust play as a striker.
Given his height he’s never going to be the sort of centre-forward that hangs around the box waiting to nod in a looping cross – though he does have 22 headed goals to his name. He’s more the type to pick it up at the back of the front third and drive forward.
He’s quick across the grass, though not a speed merchant, he’s got fabulous close control of the ball, and like all good strikers, he’ll hit it early before the keeper has set himself. His goal against Milan in the Super Cup this year was typical of that, hitting it early with the outside of his foot. Delicious stuff.
Not short of self-confidence; have you seen his penalties? Heartstoppers. He’s an exponent of the half-stop and stutter to give him time to see which way the goalie is going. It looks great when it works and it’s worked 11 times out of 18 for him, but those seven misses is a relatively high percentage, the sort that would fray your nerves if he was playing for your team.
Three great moments
Look at this. Imagine the pressure. And yet he still does that stutter:
Beautiful early finish:
You can see why he’s one of the hottest players in European football:
He’s scored 50 goals for Inter in the last 101 games and that sort of form means he has been subjected to many transfer rumours, the latest of which inevitably linked him to Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United for a fee of around £80 million. However, it is also reported he will see out his contract which runs until 2026. Yet Inter are up for sale and there are reports that they will have to sell players before they can refresh the squad. If they can get about €100m and get Martinez’s €11m wages off the books it would free up a lot of cash with which to buy the likes of Alexis Mac Allister.
His next contract will be the biggest of his career, so it’s important he joins a club that will suit how he plays and of the English clubs linked to him, Arsenal fit that best of all. That said, new Chelsea boss Mauricio Pochettino is a big fan and has previously said he’s one of the best in the world, so he may be open to some Poch love, along with the obligatory large wheelbarrow Blues bucks.
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