National Writer: Charles Boehm

Tata: Josef Martínez won't return to Inter Miami for 2024 season


Josef Martínez did not take part in Inter Miami CF’s season finale, a 1-0 loss at Charlotte FC on Saturday evening, and afterwards head coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino confirmed the Venezuelan’s time with the Herons is almost certainly over.

“He has not traveled because it is very difficult for him to continue in the institution [club] for next season,” Martino told reporters at Bank of America Stadium. “We were talking and decided it was the most prudent thing. … To travel this last game would be to make him take a totally unnecessary risk.”

The 30-year-old striker scored seven goals and one assist in 27 MLS appearances (1,741 minutes) for IMCF this season, the lowest output of his MLS career to date, though he did also contribute 3g/2a in the Herons’ seven Leagues Cup matches as they hoisted that trophy in dramatic fashion in August.

Martínez joined Miami last winter after a sensational six-year run with Atlanta United in which he scored 103 goals and 17 assists over 144 combined regular-season and Audi MLS Cup Playoffs matches, highlighted by his capture of the Landon Donovan MLS MVP and Golden Boot presented by Audi awards in 2018 as he led the Five Stripes to an MLS Cup title.

Suárez en route?

But he’s largely struggled to sustain his explosive best since suffering a torn ACL in the 2020 season opener, an injury which required multiple follow-up surgeries in subsequent years to clean out debris and scar tissue and treat an infection. Beyond the dip in end product, Martínez’s numbers also dropped in expected goals, goals per 90 minutes, assists/90 and a range of other advanced data amid IMCF’s wider difficulties this season.

Josef’s departure would also inevitably dial up the noise around Miami’s long-reported interest in Luis Suárez. The Uruguayan legend has repeatedly expressed interest in MLS over the years and is set to leave Brazilian side Grêmio at the end of their current campaign in December despite being only halfway through his two-year contract with the Porto Alegre club. Grêmio previously fended off IMCF’s interest during the summer transfer window, according to multiple media reports.

Earlier this year Suárez, 36, said the demands of the Brazilian calendar were taking a toll on his body, particularly his knees, both of which have undergone surgeries earlier in his stellar career. The close friend and former FC Barcelona teammate of Lionel Messi appears to be firmly in the Herons’ sights again, based on Martino’s statements earlier this week.

“Within our analysis of the upcoming season, and the needs we may have, we have an analysis with Luis and an analysis without Luis,” Martino told reporters on Thursday. “So when the moment arrives to make Suárez’s situation with respect to Inter Miami official, we’ll be prepared to go in the corresponding direction.”

What else?

In mid-September, Miami signed Ecuador international Leonardo Campana to a long-term contract extension through at least the 2027 MLS season. And, big picture, the Herons will surely look to fine-tune the attacking pieces around Lionel Messi as the Argentine megastar gears up for his first full MLS season in 2024.

Josef, who's played seven MLS seasons and meets the age requirement (at least 24), would be eligible for free agency. With 105 goals, he is ninth in the league's all-time goals chart.