How Aston Villa’s South American ‘crew’ have helped this special talent settle in

Philippe Coutinho is a ‘frightening’ prospect for opposition defences says keeper Emi Martinez

<p>Emi Martinez says the South Americans at Aston Villa enjoy great on and off the field relationships. Picture: Stuart MacFarlane via Getty Images.</p>

Emi Martinez says the South Americans at Aston Villa enjoy great on and off the field relationships. Picture: Stuart MacFarlane via Getty Images.

Aston Villa goalkeeper Emi Martinez has revealed how an excellent team spirit and special bond among the club’s South American players has allowed the ‘unreal’ Philippe Coutinho to set Villa Park alight.

The 29-year-old Argentinian shot-stopper – bought from Arsenal in a four-year deal worth up to £20m in September 2020 – has become close friends with Brazilian star Coutinho since his loan arrival from Barcelona in January.

Speaking to Watford’s former Blues and Albion keeper Ben Foster for Amazon Prime Video Sport, Martinez said Coutinho had stepped up to fill the void left by Jack Grealish’s departure and believes the 29-year-old is only going to get better as he readjusts to English football.

Martinez, who is married with two children, said: “We’ve got a nice little South American crew here and we all get on tremendously well.

“Phil lives four or five minutes away from me and he’s got three kids and they all come to our house, so there’s a great relationship there.

“He’s a very humble person, a lovely boy and you wouldn’t think you were speaking to someone who’d won the Champions League with Bayern Munich a couple of seasons ago and had played such wonderful football at Liverpool.

“Phil, myself, Douglas (Luiz) and Emi (Buendia) go bowling once a week and there’s no doubt having each other around has really helped everyone, especially Phil coming in.”

Steven Gerrard was key to bringing the Brazilian to B6. Picture: George Wood/Getty Images.

What does Coutinho look like in training?

It’s absolutely unreal what Phil does in training,” said Martinez.

“The other day he was just chopping past players for fun and at the end of training I just stood there clapping him. Everyone just wanted to walk off!

“When you see him twisting and turning with the ball, it’s just like ‘Oh my God’. He’s unreal with the ball at his feet.”

How much influence did Steven Gerrard have on bringing Coutinho to Villa Park?

“It was massive,” added Martinez.

“He knows the boss very well and that’s important. Phil had struggled with injuries at Barcelona and had some surgeries, so it was important he could go somewhere and settle in quickly with the World Cup coming up.

“Villa are a big club and he knows the manager likes to play out from the back which is just what appeals to him.

“He needed games. We play with two number tens and Phil knows how to play for this manager.”

Emi Martinez and Steven Gerrard have both reaped the rewards of Philippe Coutinho’s arrival. Picture: Marc Atkins/Getty Images.

Has Coutinho filled Jack Grealish’s shoes?

“They are both amazing players and Jack was on fire for us last season,” said Martinez.

“I remember watching Jack and saying it was like watching Messi with a right foot.

“Phil has been unreal though. Against Leeds he did so many amazing turns.

“He wins you a foul or a corner when the team needs it and he’s such a danger from free kicks which are things we were missing since we lost Jack.

“As Phil gets fitter and fitter he’s only going to get better and that’s frightening for other teams.

“If we’d had Phil in the team all season, I feel like we could have finished in the top seven. That’s where we are looking now.”

Philippe Coutinho tormented Leeds United. Picture: Stu Forster/Getty Images.

A message from the editor:

Thank you for reading. BirminghamWorld is Birmingham’s latest news website, championing everything that is great about our city - reporting on news, lifestyle and sport. We want to start a community among our readers, so please follow us on Facebook,Twitter and Instagram, and keep the conversation going.