Injury concern, Van Dijk rival, world's best - Man United given final Lisandro Martinez verdict

Argentina and Manchester United defender Lisandro Martinez
-Credit: (Image: JUAN MABROMATA/AFP via Getty Images)

Manchester United centre-back Lisandro Martinez was feeling the love from his domestic and international teammate Alejandro Garnacho this week after another brilliant display for Argentina.

Martinez scored in the Copa America quarter-finals against Ecuador but was denied the winning moment late on thanks to Kevin Rodriguez's equaliser. The World Cup holders eventually progressed to the semi-finals on penalties with Lionel Messi the only player to miss from 12 yards during the 4-2 shootout victory.

After the game, Garnacho branded Martinez 'the best in the world'. It follows Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola's comments following the FA Cup final that 'the butcher' is at least one of the world's top five defenders. “Lisandro Martinez is top five centre-backs in the world,” the Spaniard said after the game. He made the difference on this game by playing passes through our defence.”

It has all got us thinking at MEN Sport where the centre-back ranks among his peers. Here is what our United writers had to say.

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George Smith

For all of United's injury problems last season, nobody was missed more than Martinez. The Argentine is arguably the most important player to Erik ten Hag's style and that was proven with his performance in the FA Cup final, resulting in Pep Guardiola admitting he "made the difference" with his passing capabilities.

Signed because of his ball-playing credentials, Martinez, as a package, ranks as one of the best. But is he the best centre-back in the world? You would argue not, but he is certainly on the periphery of that status.

If he remains injury-free this forthcoming campaign, however, he could take over that status, provided he continues to perform to the high standard he has set himself since joining United in 2022. He has, up to this point, been Ten Hag's best signing by quite some distance.

Jack Flintham

Whether he is the best defender in the world is a difficult case to argue but what is certain is that no player in the world, in whichever position that may be, is more vital to their team than Martinez is to United. The 26-year-old was a huge miss for Ten Hag last season when he was on the sidelines and you could see that the Reds were not as defensively sound without him in the squad.

The FA Cup final win over Manchester City was a testament to the type of player he is. His hard work, determination and footballing brain were all on display at Wembley Stadium and for what it is worth, there are few players who have that same cocktail of attributes in their repertoire.

Martinez will easily become United captain one day and he will also become the greatest defender in the world too but he is definitely in the top ten currently.

Kieran Horn

As evidenced by Manchester United's FA Cup final triumph, Martinez is vital to his club and he has proven that also applies with Argentina. Injuries have plagued the 26-year-old throughout the last 12 months with just 11 Premier League appearances to his name.

While it cannot be argued that Martinez is not excellent, putting in those performances on a regular basis is vital to being considered one of the best in the world and unfortunately he has been unable to do that. In all honesty, his centre-back partner Cristian Romero of Tottenham is arguably enjoying a better spell.

Under Ange Postecoglou, the 26-year-old has changed his game completely and become a true leader. Martinez is certainly capable of reaching those levels but Garnacho's message is perhaps a little bit premature.

Amie Wilson

A best-in-the-world claim is always one that gets fans and pundits alike talking, it’s obviously a subjective matter that everyone will have an opinion on. For me, it’s difficult to judge Martinez, simply down to the fact that he had such an injury-hit season.

His return to the squad did have an impact as shown by the FA Cup final that showcased the quality that the Argentine does have. For me, to be considered as the best in the world, he will have to show it consistently throughout next season.

Isn’t the best ultimately the players who are consistently at the highest level? There’s no doubt that Martinez has the qualities to be able to do that.

2024/25 is a big season for the defender. If he can replicate his latest performances over the campaign then he may just be in that conversation. And that will only be good news for United and Argentina.

Josh Holland

As much as I rate Martinez and think he offers something completely different to some of football's other centre-backs, I think placing him in the conversation as the 'best' in that position is premature.

First of all, his injury-hit last 12 months means it's almost impossible to consider him as one of the best. In the world, players like Ruben Dias, Virgil van Dijk, William Saliba, Alessandro Bastoni, Eder Militao and United-linked Matthijs de Ligt are better.

However, Martinez has shown his ability to prove his critics wrong and despite his height, has adapted to the Premier League rather well. His partnership with Cristian Romero compliments each player well with the Tottenham much tougher and physical.

Next season is big for Martinez. With De Ligt likely to join Ten Hag's team, the 26-year-old will be desperate to prove why he's so rated by Garnacho.

Matthew Abbott

Barely a month after Guardiola called Martinez one of the top five centre-backs in the world, his club and country teammate Garnacho has gone one step further. It is hard to argue with the City manager and United winger that the defender is in that conversation.

Martinez may be closer to fifth than first, but his impact on Argentina and United is undeniable. Despite missing much of last season through injury, the defender went straight back into Erik ten Hag's starting XI for the final match of the Premier League season - six days before impressing Guardiola in the FA Cup final.

Even more impressively, Martinez has become an undisputed starter for Argentina at the Copa America after returning to full fitness, displacing former City defender Nicolas Otamendi. Now, neither club nor country can afford to be without one of the world's best centre-backs.