Michael Jackson. Leonardo Da Vinci. Kurt Cobain. Jackie Chan. Marlon Brando. J.R.R Tolkien. Matt Groening. Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino. Lin-Manuel Miranda. Jamie Foxx. Tommy Wiseau. Art Garfunkel. Jacques Cousteau. Michael Bolton. Keith Richards. Jack Kerouac. Henry Rollins. The guy who played Dewey in Malcolm in the Middle. Gary Barlow. Teller from Penn and Teller. Michael Keaton. Luke Skywalker. Claude Monet. Edouard Manet. Gerard Way. Gianni Versace. NationalWorld’s indomitable sports editor Richie Boon. Louis Walsh. Brian Blessed. Chuck D. Ron Howard. Rene Higuita. Chumlee from Pawn Stars. Harry Hill. Chavo Guerrero Jr. Literal Ballon d’Or winner Fabio bloody Cannavaro.
All of these men have two things in common. Firstly, they are all, to a letter, (figurative) giants of their respective fields. Secondly, every single one of them is 5’9” tall.
Another man who is 5’9” in height is Lisandro Martinez. Unless you’ve been living a life of eremitism in some far off cave dwelling, you will be acutely aware of that fact, because it has been reported and regurgitated with a disdainful gusto that would be more befitting of the revelation that he hails not from Argentina, but in fact, from a small village on Pluto.
Martinez’s verticality, or thereof, has been seized upon and ravaged by jurassic pundits and wholly unoriginal “banter”-laden meme pages alike, and has been used as the single, conclusive, incontrovertible, undeniable piece of evidence that he will become yet another monumental flop of Manchester United’s recent recruitment shenanigans.
Forget the fact that he has been capped seven times for Argentina, and is a Copa America champion. Forget the fact that he won back-to-back Eredivisie titles with Ajax. Forget the fact that he is quite literally nicknamed ‘El Carnicero’ - or ‘The Butcher’ - because of his intensely aggressive style of defensive chicanery. Forget, even, that he won 79 aerial duels last season with a success rate of 70%, averaging more duels won per 90 minutes than Harry Maguire, Raphael Varane, Victor Lindelof, or Eric Bailly.
No, no, forget all of that. Martinez is not a lumbering, brutish obelisk of muscle who looks like he stumbled straight out of a Wrestlemania title match with The Undertaker, and therefore, he must, simply must, be eligible for a role as an extra in any potential upcoming remakes of the Wizard of Oz. In the antiquated, house-brick-subtle arena of footballing discourse, there can be no in between.
Of course, the reality is that Martinez will win some headers and he will lose some headers. There will be times when he is shunted off the ball by some tenacious striker or other, and there will be times when he does the shunting. Equally, despite the best protestations and snarling snobbery of the usual ranting suits, the Premier League does not boast an exclusivity on physicality.
The point is, as with most things, there are shades of grey to be considered, and anybody who isn’t willing to realise that maybe needs to do a bit of growing up. Pun intended.