Seattle Sounders forward Obafemi Martins announces departure to Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua

UPDATE (February 18, 5:25 PM ET)

Martins has announced his departure on Twitter, but there is still no official word on the sale from the Sounders. Head coach Sigi Schmid addressed the media in a Thursday afternoon conference call and said when asked about Martins' move:

"There's nothing final yet on that so I can't really add anything. As with anything that happens in life, you gain knowledge of it at various times and just cope with it."

ORIGINAL TEXT (February 18, 11:45 AM ET)

Obafemi Martins has left the Seattle Sounders, with the Nigerian striker announcing Wednesday night in a letter to fans that he has joined Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua.

The move was first reported on Saturday, when ESPN FC’s Jeff Carlisle wrote that Martins had caught the eye of several Chinese Super League teams before the BBC reported that he would land at Shanghai. There has been no official announcement by the Sounders.

February 18, 2016

Martins spent three seasons in Seattle, scoring 43 goals in 83 matches across all competitions since signing a Designated Player contract with the Sounders in March 2013. His most productive year with the club came in 2014, when he recorded 17 goals and 13 assists in 31 regular season appearances to help Seattle to their first Supporters' Shield title and fourth US Open Cup crown. He finished second in that year’s MVP voting behind the LA Galaxy’s Robbie Keane.

The 31-year-old, who had 15 goals and six assists in just 21 regular season appearances last year, worked his way back onto the Nigerian national team while with the Sounders, picking up a pair of caps at the tail end of 2015. He has 18 goals in 41 career international appearances.

While losing Martins is no doubt a major blow, Seattle are still very well-stocked up front. Designated Players Clint Dempsey and Nelson Valdez and US international Jordan Morris, who signed a Homegrown deal with the club this winter, will likely form a three-man forward line, giving head coach Sigi Schmid plenty of attacking firepower. Homegrown attackers Darwin Jones, Aaron Kovar and Victor Mansaray and second-year striker Andy Craven will provide depth up top.

Martins is just the latest in a parade of high-profile players who have made big-money moves to China this winter. Argentine international Ezequiel Lavezzi moved from Paris Saint-Germain to Hebei China Fortune on Wednesday, while, earlier this month, Jackson Martinez made a $47.2 million switch from Atletico Madrid to Guangzhou Evergrande and Alex Texeira completed a $56.2 million switch from Shakhtar Donetsk to Jinagsu Suning. Another former Sounder, forward Fredy Montero, also signed with a Chinese club this transfer window, joining Tianjin Teda FC from Sporting Clube de Portugal.

Former New York Red Bulls forward Tim Cahill joined Shanghai Shenhua last offseason, but confirmed on social media on Tuesday that he has reached an agreement to leave the club. Chinese Super League teams are limited to having five non-Chinese players on their roster, and Cahill’s departure cleared the way for Martins to join as Shenhua’s fifth international signing. 

Seattle will begin their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal series against defending champions Club America next Tuesday, when they host the Mexican giants at CenturyLink Field in the series' first leg.