Atlanta United is close to finalizing an agreement that would see 2018 MLS most valuable player Josef Martínez leave the club, freeing him to sign with Inter Miami.
Atlanta is planning to use its offseason buyout to pay a portion of Martínez’s salary, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the deal who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about it. An offseason buyout allows a club the chance to free up the corresponding salary budget space, which removes Martínez as a designated player from Atlanta’s roster.
Martínez is then expected to sign with Miami, which will pick up the remainder of his salary, which will be under the $1,650,250 threshold that would require a designated player (DP) spot. The structure of the deal is similar to the one that saw Jozy Altidore leave Toronto FC and join New England last season. Martínez had a base salary of $3.75 million last season, according to the MLS Players’ Association release.
Martínez is currently in Miami meeting with the club, sources said.
MLSsoccer.com’s Tom Bogert first reported the teams were discussing a deal for Martínez.
It would mark the end of one of the most prolific and memorable player-team partnerships in MLS history. Martínez, 29, 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.
Now, he seems likely to line up for a conference rival.
(Photo: Dale Zanine / USA Today)
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