Atlanta United's Josef Martinez: 'This is my Barcelona or my Real Madrid'

Many of MLS's best players have not been its biggest names, but players who sought out a new home or second chance and thrived in the league.

Players like Bradley Wright-Phillips, who scored 105 goals over the last five seasons. MVPs like Sebastian Giovinco (2015) and Diego Valeri (2017).

And Josef Martinez, the 2018 MVP.

Martinez, who shattered the MLS scoring record shared by Wright-Phillips and two other players and led Atlanta United to the MLS Cup title in its second season, was rewarded with a five-year contract extension that will last through the 2023 season.

The Venezuelan, 25, struggled in six seasons in Switzerland (Young Boys and Thun) and Italy (Torino), but he matched his total production in Europe with 19 goals in his first season in MLS and following that up with a record 31 in 2018.

He also scored four goals in five playoff games, including the first goal in the 2-0 win over Portland in MLS Cup.

“This means a lot to me because of the affection that the fans have shown me, that the fans show all of the players. It’s unique,” Martinez said. “They recognize the effort that you give and they know you did everything to win, and I think that’s why we love playing here. I have to thank everyone. My teammates, the city, my family and friends, because this is a dream I’ve always had. I’ve said before that I don’t want to go anywhere because this is my home. You can expect more work, more intensity, because that’s who I am. I want to win. I want to do everything for my teammates and for the city.”

Martinez says fans back home in Venezuela don't under his decision to stay with the Five Stripes, who bought out his contract in 2017.
“They're saying negative things about me because they have a mediocre mentality," he said. "For them, they think I should be playing in Real Madrid. For me, this is my Barcelona or my Real Madrid. It's not about me being a star. This team has 11 stars on the field, plus all the substitutes in the team, plus everyone who works here at the club. That’s the important thing.”

Martinez, who made $1.38 million in guaranteed compensation in 2018, said the salary bump was not a factor in his decision.

“I came from a humble neighborhood, so one dollar more or less isn't going to change who I am,” Martinez said. “I'm not worried about the money. If I was, I'd go play in China. That's not why I chose here. It's because of the affection and the care that everyone has shown me from both the club and the city. That's what's important.”

Photos: Atlanta United

7 comments about "Atlanta United's Josef Martinez: 'This is my Barcelona or my Real Madrid'".
  1. frank schoon, January 17, 2019 at 9:54 a.m.

    I like his body balance on the ball. I hope he stays here for he is great player for young players to study when he's on the ball . I will be looking forward to watching Atlanta play. It will be the first time, in MLS history that I will actually think that I'm watching "soccer".

  2. beautiful game replied, January 17, 2019 at 10:20 a.m.

    INHO, it should be youth development and higher level coaches to note and promote what Martinez brings to the team table.

  3. frank schoon replied, January 17, 2019 at 11:22 a.m.


  4. Bob Ashpole replied, January 17, 2019 at 11:23 a.m.

    Frank, I just watched some highlights and see what you are saying. Martinez is a great finisher and Atlanta are fun to watch. 

    But I did enjoy watching DC United during the Etcheverry years. 

  5. frank schoon replied, January 17, 2019 at 12:09 p.m.

    Etcheverry was great, he had a great touch on the ball when passing, especially with those lousy MLS balls which were very hard as a rock at the time.

  6. frank schoon replied, January 17, 2019 at 12:37 p.m.

    Bob, Body balance is so important when playing street ball or on hard grounds....
    In my days of street soccer the players have to think their moves, the speed of the move, or change in direction ahead therefore you calculate the body stance to make sure you don't fall on concrete. In other words street soccer not only improves your body balance but also it develop your thinking ahead of time, which if you extend it makes the player also more tactically aware in relation to the situation at hand...I think soccer afficionados today really don't understand how important to the development of the player it is to learn to play on concrete... My generation of street soccer players were so much smarter and savvier than kids/players and had better body balance.  It is very noticeable to me that Martinez played a lot of steet ball.
    If you watch 'JINKY" the Jimmy Johnstone story, to me , one of the greatest all time dribblers had a fantastice body balance. He stated that as a kid he would always ,on the way to practice, would walk and balance on top of fences where the pipes /railing a couple inches wide. I as a kid  in Amsterdam  would walk and balance on top railings of bridges going over canals....BALANCE IS SO IMPORTANT. The most important leg for a right footed soccer player is his left leg for that is his balance leg...
    But where have you heard at coaches clinics books  anything about BALANCE
    I would recommend that every soccer association should have 3inch PVC pipes for kids to work on balance.....

  7. Bob Ashpole replied, January 17, 2019 at 4:08 p.m.

    I recall other people talking about the advantage of playing in flat shoes on hard surfaces, as well as recall your mention of it previously. Having played both tennis and basketball on hard courts, I understand what an advantage that was when later in life when I played soccer with cleats. Tennis in particular was outstanding at developing first step quickness and movement in all directions.

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