Josef Martinez has affirmed his commitment to Atlanta United, saying he 'wants to die' at the club.
The Venezuelan striker is one of just a small handful of players - alongside Brad Guzan and Miles Robinson - to have played in every single season since Atlanta United's inaugural 2017 campaign.
Martinez has become one of the most feared strikers in MLS during that time, scoring 102 goals in 132 games across all competitions despite sitting out almost the entire 2020 season with an ACL injury.
Those goals have helped the Five Stripes to MLS Cup, US Open Cup, and Campeones Cup titles, while they've missed out on the Playoffs just once so far - the season Martinez picked up his injury.
All this success has elevated Martinez to an iconic status rarely enjoyed by soccer players in the United States, with murals dedicated to the 28-year-old around the city of Atlanta and regular calls from fans for a statue to be built in his honor.
Martinez's current deal expires in December 2023, but as stated in an interview with The Athletic, he has no intentions of leaving the club he loves.
“I don’t want to go to another team and start from scratch,” Martinez said. “Never say never, but if it were up to me I’d choose [Atlanta] 1,000 times over. This is my home. I’ve said that many times. The club… no one feels the way I feel about this club. I’ve been here since before we had anything. We didn’t even have a home field. So obviously, I want to die here. This is my home. I’ll be here infinitely.”
Martinez notched 12 goals in just 1,643 minutes of MLS action in 2021. By most striker's standards, that is a healthy return. Especially coming off the back of over a year on the treatment table.
But Martinez is no ordinary striker and expects only the very best from himself and those around him. The 28-year-old admits he needed time to get back to his physical peak, but has revealed his knee is now feeling fully healthy once more - a revelation that might well strike terror in even the best of MLS center-backs.
“I just needed some time off,” Martinez continued. “After coming back from the knee injury, I didn’t really have much time to rest. It was game after game, flight after flight and in the end, I felt that. But [the training staff] told me that the first year back would be like that. Right now I feel a lot better, the knee as well. It feels just like my other knee. I knew I had to play, that there were games I had to be in, and that’s why I have such a good relationship with [Pineda]. He knew that I was playing on one knee. But it’s not the same.”
Martinez and Atlanta United will shortly begin their preparations for the 2022 MLS season, which they begin at home to Sporting Kansas City on February 27.