Emiliano Martinez has claimed he wasn’t targeting Kylian Mbappe during Argentina’s World Cup celebrations.
Martinez was a leading figure in La Albiceleste’s celebratory antics after beating France on penalties in the final in Qatar.
The Aston Villa goalkeeper’s gamesmanship proved vital in the shootout before he celebrated his Golden Glove triumph in rather lewd fashion. He was filmed asking for a minute’s silence for Mbappe and then spotted with a baby doll baring Mbappe’s face on the team bus.
However, Martinez claimed his gestures weren’t premeditated and pointed to Mbappe’s success against him during the final.
He told France Football: “I held it [baby doll] for like two minutes and I threw it away, that’s all.
“How can I make fun of Mbappe? He scored four past me. Four goals in a final! He must think I am his toy baby! I have huge respect for Mbappe.”
Martinez was one of the first people to console Mbappe on France’s defeat. The Paris Saint-Germain forward scored a hat trick before netting in the shootout, doing everything possible to drag Les Bleus back into the contest having been 2-0 down at half time and 3-2 down during extra time.
“I told him he should be proud of himself and keep his head high, because he played a fantastic game and that he was one of the best players in the world,” he revealed on his words to Mbappe after the World Cup final.
“‘He was flying, we could not stop him.”
Mbappe himself has previously dismissed any interest in a war of words with Martinez, saying in December: “They are not my problem. I don’t have energy to waste on such futile things.”