Josef Martinez - Venezuela - 2018

Atlanta United's Josef Martinez could be set for Venezuela return after Rafael Dudamel's exit

Rafael Dudamel has departed his post as coach of the Venezuela national team, which could clear the way for Atlanta United striker Josef Martinez to return to the program.

If he does so, he just might be reporting to none other than Argentine legend Diego Maradona as his new manager.

Only last September, Martinez — responsible for two of the top seven goal-scoring seasons in MLS history — announced in an open letter he would no longer play for his country while Dudamel was in charge. Josef cited a strain in his relationship with the former Venezuela goalkeeper, and the toll he said it was taking on his own mental health.

Dudamel appears to be leaving the program believing the Venezuelan federation has not provided an environment in which he is capable of success in the coming Conmebol 2022 World Cup Qualifying campaign. 

He also suggested a different manager might receive more support from the federation. And a report from Colombian outlet Gol Caracol indicates Maradona — currently the coach at Argentina's Gimnasia — is the leading candidate.

Martinez's last appearances for Dudamel's squad came at this past summer's Copa America, where he came off the bench in three games but still found the net once in 41 minutes of action in El Vino Tinto's quarterfinal run.

Martinez scored five times in Venezuela's disastrous 2018 World Cup qualifying cycle, in which they finished last out of 10 Conmebol sides. Dudamel took over the program in the aftermath of that failure in October of 2017.