Atlanta United: Selling Pity Martinez is a win, all things considered

Atlanta United, Gonzalo "Pity" Martinez #10 (Photo by Perry McIntyre/ISI Photos/Getty Images).
Atlanta United, Gonzalo "Pity" Martinez #10 (Photo by Perry McIntyre/ISI Photos/Getty Images). /

Atlanta United are selling Gonzalo ‘Pity’ Martinez to Saudi Arabian club Al-Nassr

Atlanta United are reportedly selling designated player Gonzalo Martinez to Saudi Arabian club Al-Nassr. News of the move first broke on Wednesday morning by South American reporter Cesar Luis Merlo and the reported fee is $18M.

Martinez signed with Atlanta United back in January of 2019 and the club reportedly paid $16M, not counting add-ons for former clubs River Plate and Huracan. Selling Martinez for $18M doesn’t net a significant profit for Atlanta, but given the attacker’s production in the last two seasons, this might just be a win for Atlanta.

Short term effect for Atlanta United

This move harms Atlanta United in the short term. With striker Josef Martinez out for the season due to injury, Pity Martinez is Atlanta’s best player. The club is essentially selling its best player in arguably the most important part of the season.

On the surface, this move seems odd because the team doesn’t have a clear replacement lined up. However, the club’s second team, Atlanta United 2, recently purchased 18-year-old striker Erik Lopez out of Paraguay. Lopez is not a direct replacement, but he was signed to the second team with the intention of joining the first team for the rest of 2020.

Lopez’s move to the first team has been unclear since play resumed in the club’s home markets. Numerous reports on Lopez are conflicting as to when he is able to join the first team. With Pity Martinez sold, this opens up a roster spot and cap space to bring Lopez on board.

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Long term effect for Atlanta United

In the long term, this move may benefit Atlanta United. Pity Martinez never fully lived up to his price tag. The midfielder/winger only scored seven goals and 11 assists in MLS league play and just nine goals across all competitions.

His performances were inconsistent, he clashed with then-head coach Frank de Boer, and he never looked comfortable in the team’s system.

With Martinez out of the picture, the team can (hopefully) bring in Erik Lopez. Since Lopez is only 18 years old, he needs a tie to adjust to his new team. He is not a finished product, but with Martinez gone, Lopez can join the first team and begin to acclimate to his new club. This will be beneficial in the long term, assuming Lopez is settled by the time the 2021 season rolls around.

With the club selling Martinez at $18M, the club will likely break even after all this time. This isn’t the ideal way for the situation to play out, but with how big Al-Nassr’s offer is and with how inconsistent Martinez proved to be, this could benefit Atlanta from a financial standpoint in the long run from as well.

This is a win for Atlanta United, all things considered

Remember back in January when the MLS clubs participating in CONCACAF Champions League arrived at their respective training facilities for preseason? Yeah, January felt like forever ago because 2020 has been a roller coaster of a year. And that’s exactly why the decision to sell Pity Martinez to Al-Nassr is a win.

One could argue Atlanta’s season ended when Josef Martinez tore his ACL. Or one could argue Atlanta’s season ended when they lost all of their MLS is Back tournament games and failed to score a single goal. One could also argue the season ended with the firing of Frank de Boer.

So why not sell Martinez now? He’s not producing at the rate expected, and even with the bounce after de Boer’s firing, he still put in inconsistent performances in the two games that followed. If you told an Atlanta fan the club is able to sell Martinez and break-even, that fan would probably see that as a good move.

Martinez, at 27 years old, is not going to generate a lot of interest from clubs overseas (which is where he intended to go when signing with Atlanta). For a significant offer to come in now when Martinez still hasn’t lived up to his billing and with the need to open a roster spot for Erik Lopez, this just seems like the right time to make the move.

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Atlanta isn’t losing much money on this move, if at all. This isn’t the path fans envisioned when the club originally signed Pity. But with everything that’s happened in this crazy year, this might just turn out to be a win for everyone involved.