The weird, hyped, and spectacularly okay ride of Gonzalo “Pity” Martinez through Major League Soccer is over after about 20 months.
Multiple reports say that Martinez, 27, has been sold to Saudi Arabian club Al-Nassr for a fee of $18 million.
That is a profit on the MLS record fee paid to River Plate in January 2019, though whether the club paid $17 million as was rumored at the time or $14 million as The Athletic said Wednesday will determine how much (Transfermarkt has it just under $16 million).
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There will be a rush to brand Martinez as either a flop due to his inability to light the league on fire or a success because Atlanta was good and made a profit on him.
In reality, Martinez was a good player who played pretty well in MLS, and Atlanta’s ability to get that fee for him in this financial environment is huge. When a team spends eight figures on an attacker in MLS, that player should be part of the MVP discussion (Only Martinez, teammate Ezequiel Barco, Inter Miami’s Rodolfo Pizarro, and LAFC’s young Brian Rodriguez have featured purchase prices above $11 million).
WhoScored.com credits Martinez with 2.1 key passes, 2.5 shots, and two dribbles per match in his only full season (2019). That’s top 25 in MLS in the first two categories and top 20 in dribbles.
His career numbers with Atlanta United, 11 goals and 14 assists in 54 matches, weren’t a big improvement on the pace he set with Argentine powers River Plate, where he scored 30 times with 28 assists in 145 appearances.
The Five Stripes won the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and the Campeones Cup, and finished six points off the East’s top spot after winning just one of its first six matches in the 2019 season. Martinez set up a goal as Atlanta lost to Toronto FC in the MLS Cup Playoffs semifinals.
Martinez had played in 10 matches for the Five Stripes this season, including Saturday’s 3-1 loss to Orlando City. He has four goals with three assists this season, a good chunk coming in a CONCACAF Champions League tie versus Honduran side Motagua.
But his star faded in a big way while Stateside, as Martinez added only one more Argentina cap to the two he brought with him.
He’ll play for former Benfica boss Rui Vitoria at Al-Nassr, joining a team with former Watford man Nordin Amrabat, ex-Porto defender Maicon, one-time Liverpool backup keeper Brad Jones, and Nigerian national team striker Ahmed Musa.
— Felipe Cardenas (@FelipeCar) September 2, 2020