ATLANTA ( Associated Press) – Venezuelan forward Josep Martinez, who was a bulwark of Atlanta United that won MLS champions in 2018, was released by the club on Wednesday and immediately signed with Inter Miami.
The change of scenery didn’t come as a surprise, considering Martinez is coming off a thoughtful season under coach Gonzalo Pineda.
But it was still a blow for passionate Atlanta fans, who idolize the 29-year-old Venezuelan. Martinez’s image appears on a mural near Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
After three impressive seasons, which included winning the championship in just the club’s second campaign in the league, Martínez was unable to return to his best form after suffering a knee injury in the opening match of 2020.
Now, he’s off to South Florida.
“Joseph has played an important role in Atlanta United’s history, scoring memorable goals and winning numerous trophies that will live with our fans forever,” said Carlos Boccanegra, Atlanta United’s sporting director. “He will always be a part of Atlanta United and we wish him the best in his future endeavors.”
Martinez had always expressed a desire to finish his career in Atlanta. He was proud to have learned English.
But the bond with the club has become strained, and he will try to liven up his reputation in Miami.
“I am excited for the opportunity to wear the Inter Miami jersey and give my best,” Martinez said in a statement issued by his new team. “This is a club with high aspirations and one that wants to be one of the best in the league. I hope to help the team achieve its goals and make a mark at the club.”
Martinez made his mark at Atalanta, becoming the benchmark for the expansion club after arriving from Torino in Italian Serie A before his debut as coach with Argentine Gerardo Martino in 2017.
He signed 19 goals in 20 games that year. Atlanta qualified for the playoffs.
The 2018 season was much better. He scored a record 31 goals to be crowned the league’s top scorer and was awarded the course’s most valuable player. They capped off the campaign with a title win in the final played in front of over 70,000 spectators in Atlanta.
Martínez capped off another remarkable season in 2019, scoring 27 MLS goals and a total of 33 goals in all competitions. However, Atlanta was eliminated in the conference finals.
At the start of the 2020 campaign, Martínez suffered a torn ACL and was sidelined for the rest of the year. Meanwhile, Atlanta entered a cycle of instability with four coaches on the bench in less than two years until the hiring of Mexican Pineda during the 2021 season.
But Pineda was not all right with the team’s star, who made no secret of his discomfort when he was a substitute last season. Martinez was suspended for one week for what was described as conduct detrimental to the team.