ATLANTA, GEORGIA—The Athletic reported that Josef Martinez is not anticipated to join Atlanta United for the 2023 campaign. According to a spokeswoman for Atlanta United, the group declined to comment.
Martinez, Vice President Carlos Bocanegra, and Manager Gonzalo Pineda could not be reached. A person who knows the matter claims that Martinez has continued to train at the team’s practice facility on time. Martinez scored 111 goals throughout his time at the club, 98 of which came in league games. As of September 22, Martinez has a $4,141,667 guaranteed salary.
He has a deal that runs until the 2023 campaign. Martinez must consent to trade, be transferred, or have his contract bought out before the club can try to trade him. Each offseason, MLS clubs are permitted one buyout. Moving Martinez will free up a spot for a Designated Player. Nov. 7–9 is the start of the trade window.
Martinez was added to the squad as the third Designated Player for the 2017 campaign, joining Hector Villalba and Miguel Almiron on loan from Torino in Italy’s Serie A. After three games, that loan became a transfer. After being awarded MLS MVP in 2018 and aiding the team in winning the league championship, he agreed to a five-year contract extension before the 2019 campaign.
Martinez, whose hair frequently changes colors, rose to popularity among fans thanks to his prolific goal-scoring in 2017, 2018, and 2019, when he scored a combined 82 goals. He adored the team’s fans and once compared playing for the city and club to playing for Barcelona. He was brutally honest in interviews, occasionally using foul language that he insisted the translator translate when he wasn’t speaking in English. He also occasionally used odd expressions to stress a point.
On social media, he was active and enjoyed mocking Orlando City. In exchange, Atlanta United’s followers continue to share on social media that the team is erecting a statue of him at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. In 2020, things started to shift. Martinez tore his ACL in the first game, necessitating two surgeries: one in March to remove the scar tissue and another in December to repair the injury.
Later, Martinez claimed that he momentarily thought about retirement. When he came back in 2021, he didn’t seem to have the same agility and assurance, but he still managed to score 12 goals in 25 games. Because of their differences, the team fired manager Gabriel Heinze after just 13 games.
Martinez operated to clear out the knee in April while participating for Pineda, who was chosen to follow Heinze. In 26 games, he scored nine goals overall. He won the MLS Goal of the Year award for his bicycle kick goal against New England.
Martinez’s final year with the team will probably be remembered for his last moments on the field when he applauded the fans while doing a lap and in the locker room after the team’s season-ending loss to NYCFC. When asked if he would talk, Martinez replied at least twice, “Bocanegra is over there, and Pineda is over there.” Before leaving Mercedes-Benz Stadium, he exited the locker room and posed for pictures with some of the team’s younger fans on the concourse. He was dressed entirely in black.
Martinez was a substitute eight times in the final nine games, all losses, before the season’s end. In one of those incidents, Martinez reportedly kicked over a table holding the team’s post-game lunch on September 4 after the team’s defeat in Portland. Another occurred after a demoralizing 3-0 home defeat to Austin on July 9, when Martinez stated that he didn’t believe some players understood what it meant to play for the team and that he didn’t think the roster was being built with winning now in mind.
Bocanegra and Pineda expressed their satisfaction with their connection with Martinez in end-of-season interviews, despite Pineda’s claim that they don’t speak as frequently as they formerly did. When questioned about Martinez’s future, Bocanegra stated that no decisions had been taken.
Throughout the season, Pineda said numerous times that Martinez was no longer the preferred striker because Ronaldo Cisneros and Dom Dwyer were more adept at slipping in behind defenders and applying pressure on them with the ball.
Martinez’s knee ailment and salary may make it challenging to try to trade him. Three DPs are permitted for MLS teams. Several teams had open DP spots at the end of the season. Martinez would be free to sign with any organization if Atlanta United buys him out.