Manchester United’s Lisandro Martinez has reflected on his childhood in Argentina before pursuing his dream as a footballer.
The 25-year-old is one of the most loved figures at Old Trafford this season and besides his contributions on the pitch, his attitude off of it and love for the club has made him an instant fan-favourite amongst the United faithful.
Martinez started his career, like so many young Argentinian stars, at Newell’s Old Boys. He completed a loan spell at Defensa y Justicia before completing a permanent move to the club in 2018.
His first move into European football was in 2019 when he made the switch to Eredividie side Ajax, with whom he played under current manager Erik ten Hag. After three successful years, in which he won two league titles, the KNVB Cup and Johan Cruyff Shield, Martinez followed Ten Hag to the Premier League to start a new project at the most successful club in England.
Outside of club action, Licha has proudly represented Argentina’s national team since 2019. In that time he has lifted the CONMEBOL – Uefa Cup of Champions, Copa America and more recently, the crown jewels of football – the World Cup. If his outstanding performances on the pitch for United didn’t already cement his place at world-class, that gold medal certainly did.
Licha looks back on where it all began
United’s No.6 spoke to club media this week to look back on where it all started.
“We wanted to read you a quote that you might recognise… “Every time I wake up and I go to Manchester to train I start thinking about my family. How can I not want to go out and ‘eat’ the world? With that strength is that I give everything in each training session and in each game. It is for them, all the people from here, my city, and you feel the support of all of Entre Ríos .” Talk to us about this.”
“Yes, of course. Apart from the huge passion I have for football, something I love to do, I love this sport, you also have to find this motivation to keep giving your all every day. So each time I wake up, of course, I have to be thankful to be alive and to be breathing in this world. And when you remember your family, your friends, the place you came from, those really tough times that were hard to get through, how can it not motivate you? And clearly, it’s going to give you that energy, that bit extra so you can give your all in training and certainly in games.”
“Do you still have friends and family in Gualeguay and what was life like as a child for you in Gualeguay? What memories stand out?”
“I remember my life was playing football. I’d always have a ball with me. And if I didn’t have a ball, we’d either make one ourselves with paper or a cloth or a neighbour or someone would make one. As a kid, I lived in my grandma’s house and we had a yard there where we made a football pitch. I remember going with my cousins and some friends from the neighbourhood and we’d cut down bits of trees. With the branches, we’d put them upright and that’s how we made our goals. And we’d spend every day there. Always playing football.”
“How hard was life as a child and did the early childhood experiences make you the person you are today?”
“I think [the experiences influenced me] a lot. A great deal because that means I never forget where I’ve come from. I also think that there’s something in me that I was born with, which is probably my mentality. I’d see things as a kid that maybe others didn’t but life itself is tough, you’re always faced with tough times and that’s where you need to show your mental strength. It’s true I come from a family in which we didn’t have everything. Nothing ever fell from the skies but my family have always supported me a lot, they’ve instilled many values which make me who I am today and then you start improving as a person, you work on lots of things, you learn, you experience things. So, I’m very proud of everything I’ve gone through and it’s that strength I have today.”
“We heard that when you were younger your dad took you to work on a construction site? Tell us about that story and the impact it had on you…”
“Yes. The thing is, I had two opportunities to move away from home when I was younger but I was really young. I’m someone that likes to be around their family. And I was supposed to go and live in a residence in another city. And I was really young. And at that time, I wasn’t right.”
“How old were you?”
“About 13. Very young. And my parents confronted me. My dad was working as a bricklayer at that time and he said that if I wasn’t going to play football, I wasn’t going to make anything of myself that I should compare football to being a bricklayer and lots of other things. So he set that scene and once my father took me with him. I remember that I had to be there at seven in the morning and I overslept, imagine that! I got there for around 10.30 or 11 and when I arrived my father just looked at me. I remember it like it was yesterday. He looked at me and said, “Do you realise that this isn’t for you? You need to have a career in football. Football is your thing.” And that’s also when the penny dropped for me.”
“Apart from your dad and family, who else had the biggest impact on you as a youngster when it came to your footballing career?”
“Well, I think my girlfriend too. My girlfriend has had a big impact on my life. She’s improved me as a person, allowed me to open my mind but I think lots of people have been key in this sense, coaches as well, teammates, I think they’ve all given me something which has put me where I am today.”