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Roberto Martinez Shines For ESPN In World Cup Coverage

roberto martinez Roberto Martinez Shines For ESPN In World Cup Coverage

There has been a lot to be thankful to ESPN for during their 2010 World Cup coverage this summer, but the most significant contribution – by far – has been the rise of Roberto Martinez in the role of ESPN studio commentator.

The Wigan Athletic manager is no stranger to soccer punditry. The Spaniard is often seen on Sky Sports television sharing his opinions to the UK audience. But in his role as an ESPN analyst has elevated his profile to a US audience, many of whom are not as familiar with his off-the-field skills.

There’s a refreshing quality about Martinez that makes him stand out so far from others. It’s a combination of the sheer delight he exudes sitting in the chair and talking about the sport he loves. Plus, he has an amiable personality that makes you want to listen to him. On top of all of that, and most importantly of all, he is the perfect pundit. He tells you how exactly what you need to know. He’s educated in the game and can explain tactics in a direct and easy to understand manner.

The best example for me was the half-time analysis by Martinez during the Greece against South Korea match. Martinez clinically described why Greece was having so much trouble in the first half getting into the game and then recommended what formation changes the Greek side needed to make. It was almost as if the Greek coach was listening to Martinez because moments before the second half whistle sounded, Greece made an important change and tried to change things up.

What has been most interesting to me is the ease of Martinez’s approach to punditry and how comfortable and knowledgeable he appears in his role. So much so that he has completely overshadowed fellow and more well known pundits such as Ruud Gullit and Alexi Lalas.

Martinez is a breath of fresh air and someone that US audiences can relate to. He’s well spoken. Even with his accent, he’s easy to understand and exudes confidence. This is a pundit I could listen to for hours. And for ESPN and ABC, that’s a wonderful asset.

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About Christopher Harris

Founder and publisher of World Soccer Talk, Christopher Harris is the managing editor of the site. He has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Guardian and several other publications. Plus he has made appearances on NPR, BBC World, CBC, BBC Five Live, talkSPORT and beIN SPORT. Harris, who has lived in Florida since 1984, has supported Swansea City since 1979. He's also an expert on soccer in South Florida, and got engaged during half-time of a MLS game. Harris launched EPL Talk in 2005, which was rebranded as World Soccer Talk in 2013.
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36 Responses to Roberto Martinez Shines For ESPN In World Cup Coverage

  1. As someone who has had the pleasure of spending time with Bobby, I can confirm that he’s exactly the same in the flesh and this is not just for the cameras.

  2. Cricketlover says:

    I agree that Roberto Martinez has brought much needed quality to the ESPN crew. I rate him very highly as a manager as well. I would like to see him paired with Ruud Gullit more often as I think they are better than any of the other pairings.

  3. brn442 says:

    The fact that Martinez is an actual manager, unlike Lalas, surely helps. Espn has done a wonderful job, they have a stunning studio.

    Off topic, it’s only day four but so far, the refereeing has been decent, spot on with most decisions, no flurry of unnecessary yellow cards like previous tournaments and little patience for diving but again it’s only four and Spain / Italy hasn’t played yet.

  4. UpTheBlues says:

    Martinez and Ruud Gullit have been great so far.

  5. il Bruce says:

    I have enjoyed the coverage. Not too dumbed down this time around. Ruud Gullit has gotten better and better in just the short time he’s been on US TV.

  6. Mike says:

    Agreed on Martinez. Thankfully we have him and Martin Tyler et. al. But John Harkes as the analyst on the U.S. game? Really? Ugh. ESPN’s shining moment was in hiring the real football broadcasters and sparing us J.P. and Tommy Onion Bags.
    Though, one criticism of Tyler; he’s awfully low key on big moments and it’s a bit jarring that maybe the viewer is missing something like an offside flag or a foul away from the run of play.

  7. mw828 says:

    couldn’t agree more. think he is excellent. the others have been okay, but martinez is class.

  8. dlink09 says:

    good coverage from ESPN. for love of the god John Harkes there is no such thing as service in football.. it is called kick or free kick..

    • McBride says:

      “for love of the god John Harkes there is no such thing as service in football”

      From a very, very quick Google search:

      ‘Crossing: When the ball comes across the field from the sidelines (flank) toward the goal. Also known as service.’

  9. dlink09 says:

    for people who can’t watch live game in office. try ESPN gamecast, they show video clips for goals and short on goals etc..

  10. Jazz says:

    Martinez made me a fan last season, but his commentary has made me a loyal follower. I look forward to hearing more from him.

  11. Kyle says:

    Total agreement here. Martinez appears to be a true class act (but I’m a biased Wigan fan). Sure would be swell to see a Euro place finish some day. His signing Alcaraz just scored!!! Sweet!. Just now! Go Paraguay. Go Wigan.
    Kyle in Montana

  12. tonyspeed says:

    “Even with his accent, he’s easy to understand”

    spoken like a true american…

    • The Gaffer says:

      Tony, I’m Welsh and American – and understand accents very well. But Martinez’s accent, I believe, translates well to a US audience — probably even better than Bruce “Mumbling” Arena!

      The Gaffer

  13. Auslander says:


    Spot on Gaffer, Martinez has been excellent.

  14. Ivan says:

    Agreed about Martinez. Top notch coverage by ESPN so far, both during the games and in the studio. They have learned their lessons from the disaster in 2006.

  15. arizona jack says:


    Martinez is eloquent and informative in his role as a pundit and he is obviously a manager to watch in the future.
    However, as a Swansea supporter i had the benefit of watching him manage our team. He was of course great during his time here – but his biggest problem – the inability to CHANGE tactics when things were going wrong.
    He may be able to see the problems on the field but he sure as hell cant fix them!

  16. Lyle says:

    I like Martinez as well.

    arizona jack,

    i think Martinez had limited talent at Swansea. he did an excellent job for you guys though, and if I were you, I wouldn’t be complaining.

  17. JC says:


    Martinez is great, particularly when compared with Lalas, who is just awful (not Dave O’Brien awful, but Lalas is the real weak spot, imo. And I’m American…)

    As Ivan said, we must give credit to ESPN for learning many lessons from 2006.

  18. Seminole Gunner says:

    Martinez has been the highlight of a really strong effort from ESPN-ABC. They’ve brought in new faces like Gullit and McManaman and blended them well with a couple of established ESPN personalities that can hold their own in a soccer broadcast. I think they have taken the criticisms of the World Cup 2006 and Euro 2008 coverage to heart.

  19. Casey G. says:

    Martinez is excellent, his stuff alone on-air is worth viewing ESPN over the univision pundits and the crap show they have on fox soccer channel called ticket to south africa (has anyone even watched it btw??). its just shocking.

    I’ll also agree that Gullit is getting better and better with every broadcast, and its clearly visible. I’m very pleased with the ESPN Pundits (minus – Lalalalalas). They definitely got it spot on, and how anyone can say Univision’s production, presentation, and commentators are better than ESPN, is just beyond me.

    • The Gaffer says:

      I agree Casey. I’ve been watching ESPN and Univision’s coverage side-by-side, and Univision this time around is very underwhelming and is not nearly as good as ESPN.

      The Gaffer

  20. Gareth says:

    I agree that ESPN has done a balls-to-the-wall job on producing its World Cup coverage. But I was wary at first. Anytime I hear the word “ESPN” and “soccer” in the same sentence, I immediately assume snide and back-handed comments from SportsCenter anchors. Or, maybe even worse, Tommy Smyth (With a “Y”? More like: “Why” did ESPN ever hire his gimmicky-Irish arse?).

    But I have to admit, it took a little while for Roberto Martinez to grow on me. At first, I found him very frustrating to listen to. He seemed to stumble over his analysis a bit too much for me. But once he got through that, it was hard for me to argue with what he had to say. He’s very reasonable and preceptive.

  21. Carolyn says:

    Totally agree that Roberto Martinez has been the class act at ESPN. The studio analysts, minus Lalas, have been better than expected. I think our expectations weren’t very high so they’ve exceeded them.

    Two complaints I have is that John Harkes seems out of his league commentating at this World Cup with the likes of Tyler, Darke, et al. I also wish some of the American announcers would stop calling goalkeepers goal tenders. Maybe I’m a purist but it just doesn’t sound right.

  22. Vernon Dozier says:

    I love this dude. His Swansea City team and their FA Cup run last year got me into soccer. Wigan has a tough job though, playing his style of futbol in the EPL-game in and game out. He’s done a great job on TV. I said “holy shit’ when I saw him on ESPN the first time. lol

  23. Bossoccer says:

    I have thoroughly enjoyed Roberto Martinez’s commentary on ESPN during this World Cup. It’s great to have someone so informative and knowledgeable. I also agree fully that he has out-shone all the other commentators thus far on ESPN. He has just been great. I was surprised to see that he is 5’11″ after ESPN had him standing upstage from Ruud–who looked like a giant in comparison! And Ruud is only 6’1″. Someone tell the ESPN folks to have Roberto downstage next time so he doesn’t look so wrongly Lilliputian.

  24. Elsa C.S says:

    I definitely agree Roberto Martinez has been the best. I haven’t watch Univision because of him. Diversity can be rewarding.

  25. JR says:

    I agree. I am not the kind of sports fan who likes to spend a lot of time listening to sports commentators, but I cannot get enough of Roberto Martinez. He is very enthusiastic and seems to be genuinely enjoying sharing everything he knows. I’m learning a lot about soccer from him.

  26. JR says:

    I agree. I am not the kind of fan who likes to spend a lot of time listening to sports commentators, but I cannot get enough of Roberto Martinez. He is very enthusiastic and seems to be genuinely enjoying sharing everything he knows. I’m learning a lot about soccer from him. He speaks very clearly. Thank you ESPN! Would be interesting to have an even more diverse group of commentators during the World Cup, like someone from the major non-english speaking soccer countries like Italy, France, Brazil, etc. Soccer just might gain more popularity in the US if they keep this up.

  27. tina says:

    we have always only watched on univision (and JPN and Chilavert have been great!), but this time around we’re switching back and forth and watching ESPN half-time and pre-game commentaries … you are right that Martinez has been awesome! we also love Gullit and Macmananan — it’s great to have ESPN really bring in top-notch commentary

  28. Rob says:

    I love listening to Martinez. He’s very knowledgeable and eloquent about the game and speaks with a lot of passion. I also think McManaman and Klinsmann have done a classy job. I don’t like listening to Gullitt as much as most of you seem to. I just think he has trouble getting his points out sometimes and he’s been wrong about a few things as well. Lalas is an absolute embarassment. I’m American and I cringe every time the host turns it over to him for his so-called brand of analysis. He’s irrationally biased, is very condescending to the other analysts, McManaman especially, but really, whoever he’s paired up with (worth noting, of course, that all of the other analysts on their worst days showed more skill on the pitch than Lalas ever could have). The hosts (Fowler, Ley and Tirico) have all been solid and very informed, and I have really enjoyed all 8 play by play men and game analysts. Even Harkes, who I’ve loathed in the past, hasn’t really riled me up yet. But all of them, Tyler, Harkes, Darke, Ekoku, McCloist, Rae, Mustoe and Healy – solid, very entertaining.

  29. worbo says:

    Roberto is simply class

  30. SantaClaus says:

    I miss Roberto Matinez’s analysis since he’s left to assume his duties at Wigan. I wish he were still around to discuss the Holland – Spain final. Listening to Lalas and McManaman do the analysis just reminds me of how good Martinez is.

  31. hyun says:

    I could enjoy world cup because of you. thank you.
    I read your bio and found out today is your birthday.
    happy birthday to you.
    more than others who left comments here, I miss your analysis.
    hopefully, I can see you on TV again.

  32. Potash says:

    He was biased towards the African teams, especially Ghana.

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