After much speculation on who Atlanta United’s third Designated Player would be, we can now rest easy. The club has announced the signing of Venezuelan forward Josef Martinez on loan from Torino. The loan includes an option to buy on the end of it.
“We’re excited to have acquired another player who’s entering the prime of his career and who has already experienced top competition in Europe and South America,” Atlanta United president Darren Eales said. “Between Serie A, Europa League and various international competitions with the Venezuelan National Team, Josef has already proven himself on some of the biggest stages in our sport and we’re confident in his ability to make a difference in MLS.”
Martinez, 23, began his professional career with Caracas at the age of 17, scoring eight goals in 36 appearances with the club from 2010-2012.
After two seasons in the Venezuelan capital, Swiss side Young Boys signed Martinez to a four-year contract. The team loaned him to FC Thun a year into his contract after a subpar first season. However, a resurgence in form saw the forward score eight goals in eighteen matches while on loan, making him top scorer in the Swiss Super League. Young Boys recalled Martinez at this time. He managed four goals in 38 caps before being sold to Torino in 2014.
“I'm very happy to be here, this is a great project,” Martinez said. “I was able to see the training ground and the stadium that the club is building, and I knew that coming to Atlanta was the best decision. Also, there is a great coaching staff and remarkable young players. I can’t wait to start to work with my new teammates.”
Martinez made 58 appearances in two and a half seasons with the Serie A squad. He totaled seven goals, three of which came during the 2014-2015 Europa League.
The Venezuelan received his first call-up to the national team in 2011. Martinez scored against Jamaica in the Copa America Centenario, and also netted his first professional hat-trick in a World Cup qualifier against Bolivia last November.
Before signing with Atlanta United, Trabzonspor, Club Brugge and Newcastle United were reportedly among the clubs keeping tabs on Martinez.
His pace presents plenty of match-up nightmares for opposing defenders. Martinez has seen time at both striker and left winger throughout his career, but look for Tata Martino to keep him on the left to begin the season. The attack of Martinez, Jones and Villalba could be absolutely lethal in MLS.
Welcome to Atlanta, Josef.