Such is the sky-high demand for Messi mementos in his homeland that, according to Martinez, the number of shirts with the Paris Saint-Germain star and Albiceleste captain’s name and number on the back runs into the 100s every time the national team plays.
While Messi himself will only wear a handful of those over the course of an international break most are given away to other players, opponents, coaches, staff, fans, corporate sponsors and charities.
Naturally Martinez, who won the Copa America alongside Messi last summer, has one of them himself, and it takes pride of place in his collection at home.
The Aston Villa goalkeeper was happy to show off his impressive wares while giving fellow Premier League shot-stopper Ben Foster of Watford a guided tour of his house during an interview with Amazon Prime Video Sport.
After taking Foster around the rest of his house, Martinez drew attention to his rail of match-worn jerseys. While Foster was left to look on in envy, Martinez revealed the truly inordinate number of Messi jerseys made available every time he plays for Argentina.
Martinez said: “I asked the kit man, when I went to the national team, ‘how many shirts does Messi give out per game?’ He said ‘we do 200-300 shirts per game for Messi!’
“We’ve got two international games and they make 650 Messi shirts. They print them up and they are ready to go because they know sponsorship, players, staff, even the managers want one. So it’s 650 every two games.”
For context, standard practice for top-level professional matches is usually for each player to have three shirts with their name and number available per match — one for each half, plus a backup. Printing up hundreds of replica Messi jerseys for every single international game might sound excessive, but it just shows the extent to which kit providers have to deal with a barrage of requests for souvenirs from eager fans each and every time the two-time world champions play.
Martinez then joked that he gets just two shirts per year in comparison to the hundreds provided for Messi. However he did add that he has spotted a few young fans with his nickname “Dibu” (named after a character in an Argentine cartoon series with whom he is said to share a resemblance) on the back in recent years as his fan club continues to grow.
“I went down to Argentina to see my father and I saw, on the street, five or six little kids aged six to nine all with the Martinez shirt,” he said.
“That’s something I want to see. I don’t want to see an adult with my shirt on. I want to see those young kids. I love it.”
ESPN’s Adriana Garcia contributed to this report
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