Real Salt Lake bid farewell to forward and Designated Player Juan Manuel “Burrito” Martinez on Wednesday, as player and club agreed to mutually terminate his contract so he and his family can return to their native Argentina to be closer to friends and relatives.
Reportedly the highest-paid player in RSL history, Martinez signed with the club in August 2015 and rapidly turned heads as one of the most exciting players in MLS. “Burrito” scored seven goals and two assists in his first 15 matches of 2016 as Salt Lake raced out to one of the best starts in the league.
He netted just one goal and one assist in the club's final 18 matches, however, as the Claret-and-Cobalt faded dramatically down the stretch and were eliminated by the LA Galaxy in the Knockout Round of the Audi 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs. Martinez returns home with 10 goals and four assists to his credit in 47 matches (42 starts) across all competitions for RSL.
“It's unfortunate, but there's certain things about soccer that you can't control," RSL general manager Craig Waibel told the Salt Lake Tribune. "He and his wife bought a house, they bought cars, it wasn't like they came here planning not to have it fit like a glove. It just didn't.
“It has nothing to do with the experience or soccer with the club, it literally was a personal decision that he needed to make for his family. When I have a player come in and express the things he expressed, about the concerns he had, it's disappointing because he's such a talented player and someone I really liked and enjoyed as a human being. The human side of this can't be forgotten."
Martinez, 31, spent most of his previous career in Argentina, starring for Velez Sarsfield and Boca Juniors. He also played for Argentinos Juniors, Cucuta in Colombia, Al-Shabab in Saudi Arabia and Corinthians in Brazil, with whom he won the FIFA Club World Cup in 2012.
"I want to thank Real Salt Lake for the wonderful opportunity to play in Utah. The fans were tremendous and I can't thank them enough for their support over the last two seasons," Martinez said in a club release. "I am proud of what we accomplished in 2016 and I want to thank my teammates, the coaches, the club and our supporters for all that they did to make this feel like home."