Aston Villa’s Emi Buendia and Emi Martinez were named in Argentina’s national team squad on Monday for World Cup qualifiers on September 2, 5, and 9.
Martinez returns to the Argentina setup after playing a major role in the nation’s triumph at the 2021 Copa America earlier in the summer. Martinez was named the tournament’s best goalkeeper and kept a clean sheet in the final.
Buendia attended the pre-tournament camp but narrowly missed out on Argentina’s final Copa America squad. The winger earns his second international call-up and has yet to make his national team debut.
Considering the state of Aston Villa just three years ago, having two full Argentine internationals on the books in 2021 is a testament to how far the club has come. Supporters will be pleased to see Martinez and Buendia called into the Argentina setup, but the call-ups come at a price.
The call ups come at an inopportune time for Aston Villa
With the last of three qualifiers set to take place on September 9 in Argentina, the duo will be unavailable for selection in Villa’s match at Chelsea on September 11. Furthermore, Argentina is a red list country in the UK, and both could be subject to a 10-day mandatory quarantine upon arrival in England.
That means Martinez and Buendia could also miss out on Villa’s match with Everton on September 18 at Villa Park.
The club has dealt with omissions and absences all summer, and several players remain out of the squad as Dean Smith does his best navigating a suboptimal start to the 2021/22 season. The last thing he needs is to lose his world-class keeper and record signing for two matches in September.
Even more concerning is Villa’s lack of a reliable backup keeper. We all love Jed Steer and his exploits at West Brom in the 2018/19 Championship Playoff semis, but if he’s in goal when Villa visit the reigning European champions on September 11, we’re in trouble.
Bertrand Traore is due to return from injury after the international break and could fill Buendia’s hole in the line-up. A deeper squad makes these sorts of situations easier to deal with, but the fact remains that Smith has not yet had a full squad at his disposal, and it’s difficult to establish an identity when your best players can’t play together regularly.
We’ll see how this plays out. Villa may be inclined to reject the call-ups or convince the players to do so. Surely Argentina are aware of the UK’s COVID-19 travel restrictions. Villa could be motivated to step in.