Transfer Tracker

NYCFC sign defender Thiago Martins from Japanese club as Designated Player

Thiago Martins NYCFC


New York City FC have signed Brazilian center back Thiago Martins from Japanese first-division side Yokohama F. Marinos as a Designated Player, the club announced Monday.

The 26-year-old joins the defending MLS Cup champions through the 2025 MLS season with an option for 2026. Yokohama F. Marinos compete in the J1 League and are also part of the global City Football Group umbrella.

“Thiago is a highly regarded defender who is entering the peak stages of his career,” NYCFC sporting director David Lee said in a release. “He has all the attributes we look for in a defender and we believe he will suit our style of play well and thrive in MLS. 

“He’s a strong, quick and technically gifted player who is good on the ball, can play out of the back and will allow us to continue to play a high backline. He’s also a fantastic professional who was one of the captains in Yokohama and will be another strong leader for us both on and off the pitch.”

Martins joins a center-back corps at NYCFC that includes Peruvian international Alexander Callens and Luxembourg international Maxime Chanot. The Cityzens are backstopped by US international goalkeeper Sean Johnson, plus sent homegrown defender/midfielder James Sands on an 18-month loan to Scotland's Rangers FC earlier this offseason.

Martins began his professional career at Brazilian side Palmeiras, where he made 50 appearances from 2013-16. He was then loaned to Yokohama F. Marinos in 2018 before securing a permanent transfer, helping them to the 2019 league championship and featuring in the AFC Champions League.

The move also gives NYCFC depth as they soon enter the 2022 Concacaf Champions League, drawn against Costa Rican side Santos de Guápiles in the Round of 16.

“Everything conspired perfectly to make this great move to New York, I also watched a lot of matches from last season,” Martins said in a release. “I saw we are a team that likes to play attractive and attacking football, have many players that are great on the ball, but at the same time work hard and are fighters.

“It’s no wonder why they were champions, I can tell they have done a lot of work and have an amazing structure here. I know I am joining an amazing group of defenders and am looking forward to training and playing with them all.’’