Josef Martínez will not return to Atlanta United next season, sources said The Athletics. During a face-to-face meeting with Atlanta’s technical director Carlos Bocanegra on October 20, Martínez was told that he would not be part of the club’s future.
Multiple sources, who have been granted anonymity to maintain working relationships with Atlanta United, said the club is actively pursuing a new no. 9. Atlanta is expected to sign a forward using a designated player spot, but they first need a contractual solution for Martínez.
The Venezuelan DP has a guaranteed contract with Atlanta until 2023. According to sources, the contract contains a no-trade clause, meaning that Martínez will have to approve a deal to end his time with Atlanta United before the contract is signed.
When reached for comment, Atlanta United declined to comment through a spokesperson.
The likely next step is for the club and Martínez’s camp to negotiate the final year of the player’s contract. In this case, a contract buyout is a possible solution. Because of his no-trade clause — likely defined as a no-reassignment clause within MLS — Martínez will become a free agent if a buyout is agreed upon, skipping the typical waiver claims for players bought out of contracts. Martínez would then be able to sign with the team of his choice in MLS.
Per MLS roster rules, an Atlanta United buyout of Martínez would open up budget space for a new signing. Teams are allowed one offseason buyout per year. The buyout is then considered a club expense. Atlanta will pay Martínez based on the terms of the buyout, but Martínez will technically remain under contract with MLS.
Martínez, 29, became an instant star in MLS after being acquired by Atlanta United on loan from Serie A side Torino in 2017. He was signed to a permanent DP deal after just three games in the club’s first season and then penned a five-year extension in January 2019 following a record-breaking 2018 campaign.
That season, Atlanta United won the MLS Cup and Martínez became the first player in league history to win three MVP awards in one season. He was an All-Star, regular season and MLS Cup MVP and cemented his place as one of MLS’ best center forwards of all time.
Martínez was an MLS Best XI selection in 2017, 2018 and 2019 and has been Atlanta United’s leading scorer over the past two seasons despite playing in a reserve role under Gonzalo Pineda in 2022. He finished with 111 goals for Atlanta United in all competitions, reaching the century in goals faster than any other player in MLS history.
His final goal for the club on October 1 against New England was voted the best goal of the 2022 season. That’s the type of production and impact that Bocanegra and Atlanta United will now look to replace.
Without a doubt, Martínez, his goals and his personality have been essential to Atlanta United’s spectacular start in MLS. His knee injury in 2020 changed the course of his career and it coincided with the club’s decline on the pitch. Martínez and Atlanta United will now go their separate ways and start again in 2023.
(Photo by Ira L. Black-Corbis/Getty)