Atlanta United has released Josef Martínez after six seasons and the forward has signed with Inter Miami CF, the clubs announced Wednesday. Atlanta will exercise its one offseason buyout on the 2018 MLS MVP. Here’s what you need to know:
- Martínez will no longer occupy a Designated Player spot on Atlanta’s roster since the team is using its offseason buyout on his budget charge.
- Inter Miami will retain a portion of his guaranteed contract on its 2023 club salary budget.
- Martínez’s release comes eight days after The Athletic reported he and Atlanta were close to finalizing an agreement for him to leave the club.
— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) January 18, 2023
The Athletic’s instant analysis:
Martínez’s departure from Atlanta marks the end of one of the most prolific and memorable player-team partnerships in MLS history. The 29-year-old became a fan favorite and star almost immediately upon joining Atlanta for its expansion season in 2017. Martínez scored 19 goals that year and was part of a deadly partnership with Miguel Almirón. He topped those numbers in a record-breaking campaign in 2018, scoring 31 goals and winning MLS MVP and MLS Cup MVP as Atlanta captured the league title. He signed a five-year contract extension after that season.
Martínez was an MLS best XI selection in 2017, 2018 and 2019 and remained the club’s top scorer in 2021 and 2022 after returning from an ACL injury that caused him to miss all but one game in 2020. Despite starting just 12 of 26 games last season under first-year manager Gonzalo Pineda, Martínez still managed to net nine goals with four assists.
He finishes with 111 goals for Atlanta across all competitions.
The relationship between Atlanta and Martínez seemed to deteriorate last season. Martínez was suspended for one week for “conduct detrimental to the team” after a locker room confrontation with Pineda in September. Still, it’s a stunning end for a player considered a club legend.
What happened between Martínez and Atlanta?
A storybook signing that resulted in an MLS Cup championship in 2018 and multiple individual honors for Martínez turned sour over the last several seasons. Martínez had dreams of ending his career in Atlanta, telling The Athletic last year, “I want to die here. This is my home. I’ll be here infinitely.”
Yet, the constant turmoil at Atlanta United, the club’s lowered expectations and the coaching carousel over the last five seasons began to fracture the relationship between Martínez and the organization. A troubling knee injury that occurred in 2020 required several surgical procedures, which hampered Martínez’s production and ultimately contributed to this divorce. — Cardenas
Why did he choose Inter Miami?
Martínez had a no-trade clause, which allowed him to avoid MLS waivers and choose the most suitable landing spot for this next chapter of his career. According to a league source, “(Martínez) was given the opportunity to explore re-assignment within MLS and speak to other MLS clubs. He elected to be re-assigned to Inter Miami CF.”
The mother of his newborn son lives in Miami, and the city’s soccer culture, as well as Inter Miami’s ambition to win, was an ideal match for Martínez. If he can regain his scoring form and stay healthy, and if Inter Miami coach Phil Neville can harness Martínez’s fiery personality, chapter two for Martínez in the MLS has a chance to be a remarkable story. — Cardenas
What they’re saying
“I’m excited for the opportunity to represent Inter Miami and give the best of myself,” Martínez said in a news release. “This is a club with high aspirations and that aims to be amongst the best in the league. I hope to help the team achieve its objectives and leave my mark at the club.”
(Photo: Dale Zanine / USA Today)
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