Atlanta United striker Josef Martinez is having a season and start to his career unlike anything seen in recent times in Major League Soccer. In just a season-and-a-half, with a good chunk of that time spent sidelined with injury, he has eclipsed the career record for hat tricks in MLS. This season, he is well on pace to break the the single-season goalscoring record(27), averaging an astonishing 1 goal-per-game ratio.
A player like Martinez is the prototype to be poached by a European club. At only 25 years of age, Martinez has plenty of soccer ahead of him as he hits his prime. His current form is as hot as it can possibly be, and he isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. On top of that, European clubs appear to be showing a renewed interest in MLS as a market to buy players, evidenced by Bayern Munich’s reported agreement with Vancouver Whitecaps to purchase Alphonso Davies for a league-record deal that could reach as high as $19 million.
All of this leaves the question dangling in the ether: How long can Atlanta United keep Josef?
The good news is that the player himself says he’s happy and isn’t thinking about going anywhere at the moment.
“Where am I? I’m here in Atlanta. I’m happy,” said Martinez Tuesday after Atlanta United training. “I don’t pay attention to those rumors or anything. I live in the present. I don’t think about the future. So right now I’m happy in Atlanta and happy with my teammates. “
With the summer transfer window heating up as English Premier League teams feel the pressure of an earlier-than-usual deadline, rumors are flying around social media and the internet at-large. Premier League side Everton and Liga MX’s Club America are the two clubs most heavily linked to the Venezuelan.
“There are no words to describe the significance of Club América and the grandness of that club. But I also think about the significance of Atlanta. [#ATLUTD] isn't a club that needs money. Atlanta doesn't need to sell.”— ATL UTD Fan TV ⚽️ (@atlutdfantv) June 21, 2018
- Tata Martino on Josef Martinez and Club América links pic.twitter.com/LzSlt4Wm0a
These are simply rumors, of course, and in the case of Club America, team personnel and even Tata Martino himself have shot down the rumor. The point is that this is only the beginning for Martinez—a player who, despite his incredible goalscoring form, admits he is still learning the nuances of the position.
“I think what happened on the other teams I’ve played with is that there was always another center forward, or someone who was bigger than me. So I always played with someone,” explained Martinez Tuesday. “Here, I’m learning a lot in the new position. You’re always learning new things. I’m learning how to use my body. But it’s also a credit to my teammates. I’m really grateful for them and all the help that they’ve given me.”
He’s learning quickly. Despite standing at only 5’7”, Martinez leads the league in headed goals since he entered MLS in March 2017. The Atlanta United brass are certainly under no illusion that they will need to continue to keep the team competing at the highest levels in order to satisfy Martinez’s needs and desires as a professional player.
“If you play this game, you have to have the mindset to win, and I’ve always been like that,” said the Venezuelan. “Ever since I was a kid, no matter what game I was playing, I want to win. I think in a competitive sport like this, you have to have that mindset if you want to be successful.”
So fans, rest easy in that Martinez is not going anywhere in the immediate future. But if he keeps scoring goals and this unthinkable rate, how long can it last?