Josef Martínez will not return to Atlanta United next season, sources have said Athletics. During a one-on-one meeting with Atlanta technical director Carlos Bocanegra on October 20, Martinez was told that he would not be part of the club’s future.
Multiple sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to preserve their working relationship with Atlanta United, said the club has been actively pursuing a new No. 9. Atlanta is expected to sign a striker using a designated player slot, but they must first find a contractual solution for Martínez.
The Venezuelan DP has a guaranteed contract with Atlanta until 2023. According to sources, the contract includes a no-trade clause, meaning Martínez would have to agree to a deal to end his time with Atlanta United before the contract expires.
When reached for comment, Atlanta United declined to comment through a spokesperson.
The next possible step is for the club and Martínez’s camp to negotiate the final year of the player’s contract. In this case, contract purchase is a possible solution. Because of his no-trade clause — likely defined as a no-reassignment clause within MLS — Martínez would become a free agent if a buyout is agreed to and bypass the typical waiver claims for players who are bought out of contracts. Martínez will then be able to sign with the MLS team of his choice.
Under MLS roster rules, an Atlanta United buyout of Martínez would open up budget space for a new signing. Teams are allowed one offseason acquisition per year. The purchase is then considered a club expense. Atlanta would pay Martínez based on the terms of the buyout, but Martínez would technically remain under contract to MLS.
Martínez, 29, became an instant MLS star after he was signed by Atlanta United in 2017 on loan from Serie A side Torino. He signed a permanent deal with DP after just three games during the club’s inaugural 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 Ball of the Year selection in 2017, 2018 and 2019 and was Atlanta United’s top scorer over the past two seasons despite playing in a backup role under Gonzalo Pineda in 2022. He finishes with 111 goals per Atlanta United in all competitions and reached the century in goals scored faster than any other player in MLS history.
His last goal for the club on Oct. 1 against New England was voted the best goal of the 2022 season. That’s the kind of production and impact that Bocanegra and Atlanta United will now try to replace.
Without question, Martínez, his goals and his personality were central to Atlanta United’s spectacular start in MLS. His knee injury in 2020 changed the course of his career and coincided with the club’s decline on the pitch. Martínez and Atlanta United will now go their separate ways and start all over again in 2023.
(Photo by Ira L. Black-Corbis/Getty)