Pity Martinez: The best player in the Libertadores

Martínez will bid farewell to River Plate after the Club World Cup. Here's the history of the star who won over the hearts of every River fan.

Whenever someone shouts Gonzalo, he doesn't turn around.

A nickname is always an opportunity to transform what your parents decided to name you. For 'Pity', it's a lot more than just a way to stand out from the crowd. It's almost like the cape to his superhero character. He is simply known as Pity. Even his mum, who came up with the nickname, doesn't remember exactly what caused her to call her son that. She bought him his first pair of boots and he mouthed "Te amo (I love you)" to the camera after collecting his winner's medal at the Santiago Bernabéu. Love is eternal after all. Since his days growing up in Guaymallén, Mendoza with seven siblings he needed a superhuman mother. His dad, Luis, a builder and his mum Liliana, a house wife, showed him what was important in life. When Pity ran the length of the pitch to score River's third goal he made a 'P' sign with his hand for his daughter, Pilar.

He was walking around the dressing room at the Bernabéu with his mobile phone glued to his hands. He hugged his teammates and kept up to date with everything being said on online. Lucas Pratto has explained how good he thinks Pity is. Shortly after arriving at the club, in one of the first training sessions, the striker said Martínez was the player who caught his eye the most. Pity asked the journalist in question whether what Pratto had really said that. His story had begun - and it involved picking up his first piece of silverware. River won the Recopa in 2015. You might have expected Pity to have hit the ground running after his initial success but that wasn't the case. It was difficult for him to adjust but he soon started to show his quality out on the pitch. He was handed the number 10 shirt after Pablo Aimar didn't make the Copa Libertadores squad due to his fitness issues.

River's history is full of great 'enganches': Beto Alonso set the standard and Andrés D’Alessandro was his idol. He told him that when the two shared the same changing room in 2016. He said that he used to dummy with his left foot and shaved his head when he played in the 'El Sauce' tournaments in honour of D'Alessandro. Although modern football has exploded in every way, Pity was full of the confidence all great Argentine enganches needed to have. In Las Heras he met Goyo Martínez - the man who discovered Diego Maradona - and he asked to take Pity with him to Buenos Aires. Five minutes later and the famous eye for talent was convinced the player would be a star.

His teammates always admit that Pity wants the ball and never goes hiding. They told him that in a group exercise organised by the coaching staff. Michael Jordan explained that he lost more matches than he won but even still, he always wanted to have an important role in the team's decisive moments. Pity has that ability up his sleeve, as he showed in the semi-final against Gremio in a 10-minute spell. Every superhero's story has different chapters. The first bright moment came in the 79th minute on the 7th May 2015 against Boca Juniors. He skilfully took the ball down and was fouled by Leando Marín inside the penalty area. Carlos Sánchez stepped up to score the only goal and send River into the quarter finals of the CONMEBOL Libertadores.

The day in which he earned his place in history was on the 14th May 2017 at La Bombonera. Before the match he asked Sebastián Driussi if he thought he'd score. "We're each going to score one," the striker, now at Zenit, responded.  They listened carefully to Marcelo Gallardo's instructions who told them to get in behind Gino Peruzzi, who was playing at right back that match. "When the ball came to me and I saw that I had the beating of Peruzzi, the first thing I thought about aiming my shot at the near post. I hit it as hard as I could and when it went in, I felt such huge emotion."

In Menzoda, in the Supercopa Argentina, he pulled River ahead against Boca again. Gallardo's team weren't in good form and had to face Boca. The goalkeeper, Franco Armani, had one of his best ever performances for the club. Edwin Cardona gave away a penalty for Boca and Pity stepped up to put River 1-0 up. The next day the supporters created the now famous Pity chant.

He didn't score in the first leg of the CONMEBOL Libertadores final but he did make the difference. In the first half he forced Rossi into a fine save from a freekick. After Wanchope Ábila's goal for Boca, he asked for the ball in the middle of the pitch. He charged forward and released an inch-perfect pass for Pratto to make it 1-1 straight away. He also crossed the ball which Carlos Izquierdoz headed into his own goal to make it 2-2 on the night.

The final chapter is unique. The tears in his eyes were there for all to see. Pity found it tough to make an impact in the second leg of the final due to how well Julio Buffarini was playing for Boca. There's a famous Argentinian saying which is: "The ball always goes to the best players." Gonzalo, Pity or Martínez, whatever you want to call him, was destined to get closer to the achievements of his idols. Armani punched away a cross and Quintero sent the ball forward for Pity to run on to. Nothing was going to stop him. He charged forward and when he reached the penalty spot he guided the ball into the empty net and closed his eyes. When he opened them he made his famous 'P' sign: for Pity and for Pilar.

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