Atlanta United star Gonzalo Martinez is reportedly attracting interest from Gremio. While a sale may seem ill-advised after only one year in MLS, it might not be all wrong.
You could forgive Atlanta United for their investment in Gonzalo ‘Pity’ Martinez. A South American Footballer of the Year, a seemingly ideal replacement for the outgoing Miguel Almiron, and an intended blossoming partnership with two speedy outlets, Ezequiel Barco and MLS MVP Josef Martinez, as a DP attacking triumvirate.
Given the need of the team, the opportunity to invest, and the make-up of the attacking players already in the squad, you can see what Atlanta United had in mind when they ploughed much of the Almiron money back into Martinez.
But after a year in MLS, it is fair to say that the investment has not played out as hoped. Martinez is still a very capable creator and certainly improved in the latter stages of the season, suggesting that he might rediscover his best form in future years as he better adapts to North American soccer, but he didn’t quite set the league alight as was widely expected. He is the MLS record signing, after all.
And so, just a year later, when reports link him with a return to South America, this time with Brazilian club Gremio allegedly calling, it is not completely ridiculous to think that Atlanta United should at least consider the benefit of selling.
This might seem wild and backwards, but Martinez has not delivered on his value and if Atlanta believe they can recoup his transfer value and reinvest that in a more suitable replacement who can better deal with MLS, especially the athletic style of the league, something that stented the slower, more nuanced Martinez, it might not be the most foolish move in the world.
There is obvious risk attached. Martinez is supremely talented, and should he finally figure MLS out, he could yet be a league-MVP-calibre player who could bring an MLS Cup and then some to Mercedes-Benz Stadium. In fact, Atlanta United head coach Frank de Boer tipped Martinez to have a ‘major impact’ in 2020 and beyond earlier this offseason:
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"“I think if he continues how he played the last two games, he has to understand, and I give him the compliment, that’s the Pity I want to see. He’s involved in attacking and defending. If he shows that, there’s no doubt he has a major impact in MLS and for us, of course.”"
It seems backwards to sell one of your best and most talented players after they have been at the club for just a year. But given his performances over the 2019 campaign, allied with his struggles to adapt de Boer, the personal rifts that have punctuated his first year north of the border, and the apparent misalignment of styles, any potential sale should not just be dismissed out of hand either.
If Gremio are willing to stump up the cash, Atlanta should at least consider the possibility of a sale and the potential reinvestment that could occur with the Martinez cash. Technical director Carlos Bocanegra gave an emphatic ‘yes’ when asked if Martinez would return in 2020 earlier this offseason, so take the reports with a major pinch of salt, but it would be foolish to not consider every opportunity.
Does this mean that Atlanta United should sell Gonzalo Martinez? Well, probably not. With just one good year, he will add inordinate value to his price that Atlanta can bank a year later, perhaps even negotiating with a wealthier European club. But that doesn’t mean they should not consider the possibility. It is not all wrong, whatever the initial reaction to the reports may be.