TRANSFER TRACKER STATUS: Buyout & signing
One of the greatest striker-club relationships in MLS history has formally ended, with Atlanta United announcing Wednesday morning they’ve utilized their offseason contract buyout on Josef Martínez – paving way for the 2018 Landon Donovan MLS MVP to sign for Inter Miami CF ahead of the 2023 season.
Martínez, who won’t occupy a Designated Player spot due to the contract percentage Miami are responsible for, fills a key need after legendary Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuaín retired following the 2022 campaign. The Herons also return Ecuador international Leonardo Campana, their second-leading scorer from last year’s turnaround campaign.
Martínez, amid some player-coach controversies, became synonymous with greatness during his six seasons for Atlanta. He scored 103 goals and provided 17 assists over 144 combined regular season and Audi MLS Cup Playoffs matches – memorably bringing home MLS Cup 2018 alongside league-record outbound transfer Miguel Almiron, all in the Five Stripes’ second year of competition.
Martínez, known for his brashness and swagger, grew into a city-wide icon after signing with Atlanta in 2017 from Italian Serie A side Torino. He was under contract with Atlanta for 2023, complicating his ultimate exit to a fellow Eastern Conference foe.
“Josef is a champion and adding him to our group is exciting for us as we head into the 2023 season. He’s been one of the best players in the league since he first arrived and we believe he’ll make a difference here at Inter Miami,” IMCF chief soccer officer and sporting director Chris Henderson said in a statement.
“We’re adding a proven goalscorer with a track record of success in MLS. We’re thrilled to have a player like Josef in our attack.”
The 29-year-old Venezuelan international is the fastest player in MLS history to score 100 goals in all competitions, reaching the mark in just 125 games. He also won the league’s Golden Boot presented by Audi during the 2018 campaign by scoring 31 goals, a then-league-record LAFC superstar Carlos Vela (34) broke the next year.
Martínez, who missed nearly the entire 2020 campaign with a torn ACL, was limited to 26 matches played last year after undergoing surgery to clean out the same knee. He still finished as Atlanta’s leading goalscorer in 2022 (9g/4a), though was suspended in September for an incident that reportedly involved a disagreement with head coach Gonzalo Pineda and flipping over a postgame meal table.
With Martínez's departure, Atlanta have an open DP spot alongside Brazilian winger Luiz Araújo and Argentine attacking midfielder Thiago Almada, MLS’s first-ever active World Cup winner. The club, now led by president and CEO Garth Lagerwey, has a history of spending big and owns the top three most-expensive inbound transfers in MLS history.
“Josef has played a pivotal role in Atlanta United’s history, scoring memorable goals and hoisting multiple trophies for moments that will forever live with our supporters,” Atlanta vice president and technical director Carlos Bocanegra said in a statement.
“He was a foundational piece who was responsible for helping build our brand into what it is today. We cannot thank him enough for his contributions to the club and the community over the last six years. He will always be part of Atlanta United and we wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors.”
Miami’s DP situation for 2023 is less clear around Campana, midfielder Rodolfo Pizarro and potential future moves, though keeping Martínez off that roster slot offers them flexibility after head coach Phil Neville’s group earned the Eastern Conference’s No. 5 playoff seed last year. Teams don’t have to formally classify players as DPs until the Roster Compliance Date, which arrives just before Matchday 1 on Feb. 25.
Martínez, a three-time selection for the MLS Best XI presented by Audi, has twice won the AT&T 5G MLS Goal of the Year (2019 and 2022). He has represented La Vinotinto 60 times on the international stage, netting 13 goals and notching three assists.
Martínez will be formally unveiled to Miami’s fans on Saturday in a special halftime ceremony during Inter Miami’s international friendly against Brazilian side Vasco da Gama, their first match of preseason.
Fans won’t have to wait long for Martínez to face his old team, as Miami host Atlanta for Matchday 11 on May 6 at DRV PNK Stadium (7:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass). The clubs clash at Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium for Matchday 32 on Sept. 16 (7:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass).
READ MORE: MLS Transfer Tracker presented by Avant
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