An obviously unsettled Josef Martinez ended the season in frustration Sunday, reportedly refusing to talk with media and instead directing them to speak with club decision-makers Carlos Bocanegra and Gonzalo Pineda. Media got their chance to do just that today, so here is a transcript of what was said by both Atlanta United’s vice president and head coach.
Doug Roberson (AJC): Josef Martinez, has he asked to be traded or transferred? And he is in is he in the team’s plans for next season?
Bocanegra: Thanks for that, so, yeah, fine with Josef. Obviously, he’s a competitive person. You know, he’s been fantastic with the club for the six years. He’s done fantastic things for us. So we understand what he means here and what it means to the club, and spoke to his agent, like I spoke with many of the other players’ agents. Throughout the year we have touch points and we will be speaking with his as well as others’ in the coming weeks and just having discussions. But there’s been nothing decided, Doug. You know, we’re still going to have discussions. We need to we need to talk with with him and other players as well. So that’s kind of where everything stands right now.
Felipe Cardenas (The Athletic): I mean, what do you what do you anticipate that conversation being like with Josef and his representation? Is it about remaining a big part of the club moving forward and 2020 threes and an extension is it? How would you categorize that conversation? And then, second question, you mentioned the veteran players that you brought in, the injuries just really decimated this team. Even if these players come back it just feels like the spine of the team should be upgraded. Is that a priority? In the offseason?
Bocanegra: With the conversations, I haven’t spoken with Josef or his agent or any of the other players or their agents yet. So those talks — we just need to have an open discussions with everybody and kind of take account for how people are feeling, where we are, thought process, so I don’t want to speculate on anything right now that that I don’t know. As far as the players coming back, obviously with Brad, Miles, obviously we would like to have Ozzie back next year as well. You saw Santi Sosa stepped in and did a fantastic job when he was healthy this year for us. So we feel pretty good about that. There will be a few positions that you know, spoke with Gonzalo and the group, how we’re looking to potentially approach next season and look to improve upon but there has not been anything finalized on that.
Joe Patrick (Dirty South Soccer): Bluntly, is there a future for Josef Martinez at Atlanta United as a Designated Player?
Bocanegra: Yeah, guys, I appreciate it. We haven’t had any of these discussions with him and nothing’s been decided. You know, Josef’s an Atlanta United player. He’s under contract next year. We have an option for him in the following year. So I understand it’s a topic that people want to speak about, but we haven’t made any decisions. We haven’t spoken to the player at length and get his thought process either. So I don’t want to speculate on anything. Surrounding that topic.
So. There’s that. Here’s what Pineda had to say:
Doug Roberson (AJC): When we tried to approach Josef after the regular season finale, he said “Pineda is over there. Bocanegra is over there.” Can you explain, or what do you think he meant by that? And you describe your relationship at one point is still being good. Is it still good? Is it tenable or salvageable going forward?
Pineda: Well, I cannot tell you why he said that. Probably you should ask him. Specifically why? I don’t know. But I’m here so you can ask any questions you want and my relationship with him, I assume is good. I mean, to be honest, yes. Obviously, we don’t speak quite as often as probably in the past, but I have nothing against him. I don’t think he has anything against me. So in my point of view, we are good. I expect, you know, once his role kind of changed, him being such a good competitor — not being happy about it. Yeah, I can understand that. And I can take it, but I cannot say that my relationship with Josef is bad.
Felipe Cardenas (The Athletic): You’ve told us that you have a lot of experience in locker rooms. I know this your first really full year as a head coach, but the experience is there in your own words, having been a player at the highest level and being an assistant at top clubs in MLS. So where do you think the the relationship with Josef has gone wrong? I know you just said you guys are fine. But you guys were developing a very close relationship at the beginning of the year. How do you manage that? And is there a way forward?
Pineda: Well, I think its what I just said, Felipe. Once you do change the role of a big player like Josef, that is going to impact a little bit his mood. And I completely knew that, and I can understand. I can expect that from a very competitive player like Josef not being a starter. So that’s okay. To me, I have to manage that. But the point is, he has been very effective. And I think that’s the most important part for me is I have to look for the whole for the whole team. That was my decision. And, well, I don’t think also the relationship has gone as far as you think it’s gone. I think I can very easily speak with Josef. I have. I have nothing to hide. So I don’t think the relationship has been poor, bad or anything like that. We shake hands. We we talk here and during the training sessions and with no problems, so I think there is no major issues on that relationship as you may think.
So make of all that what you will. Bocanegra spoke in the press conference as Pineda has earlier this season about the team’s need to be clinical in the box. But Pineda rightly pointed out that Josef did that well down the stretch. The question is whether Josef is, or can be, the team’s leading forward game in, game out. If not, it doesn’t make sense for the club to keep him on the roster as a Designated Player. But that said, the player is still under contract and is under no obligation to change his salary terms or roster status.