Josef Martinez to leave Atlanta United: Addressing Charlotte FC links & what's next

Chris Smith
Martinez's incredible time with Atlanta United is at an end.
Martinez's incredible time with Atlanta United is at an end. / Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
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Josef Martinez's time with Atlanta United finally appears to be coming to an end.

The Venezuela international is a legend for the Five Stripes, arriving ahead of their inaugural 2017 campaign and going on to score a club-record 111 goals in 158 games across all competitions.

Martinez has won MLS Cup, US Open Cup, and Campeones Cup titles with Atlanta United, while he won the MLS MVP and Golden Boot awards in 2018. As such, he transcended the sport to become an iconic figure around the city of Atlanta.

However, the player's relationship with the club has soured over the past 18 months since his return from an ACL injury suffered early in 2020. Martinez has been involved in multiple confrontations with head coach Gonzalo Pineda, including flipping over a catering table following a 2-1 loss to the Portland Timbers in September.

Martinez was handed a one-game suspension for his conduct, with Pineda revealing it wasn't the first time the striker's behavior had overstepped the mark.

As reported by The Athletic's Felipe Cardenas, Martinez has been told via a face-to-face meeting with Atlanta United technical director Carlos Bocanegra that he is no longer part of the club's future.

The Five Stripes have already begun searching for a DP (Designated Player) striker, however, it's understood that the club must first resolve Martinez's contract, which runs through 2023. Per Cardenas' report, the deal includes a 'no-trade' clause, meaning Martinez would have to give his approval to any deal that would end his time in Atlanta before the contract is concluded.

What next for Josef Martinez?

Following the news of his impending departure, reports quickly linked Martinez with MLS rivals Charlotte FC. However, 90min sources have categorically ruled out CLTFC still holding an active interest in the 29-year-old, with the club already filling all three of their DP spots, including with Poland international striker Karol Swiderski.

That said, 90min has been told multiple other MLS clubs are considering making offers for Martinez, who would likely still command a Designated Player contract but, given his success in the league, would surely fill the goalscoring needs of many teams.

Even post-ACL injury, Martinez has still scored 21 goals in 50 MLS appearances, only 30 of which have come from the start. His most recent and final strike for Atlanta United was a bicycle kick against the New England Revolution that was named MLS Goal of the Year for 2022.


Watch the story of Charlotte FC's journey to MLS in 90min's The Making of Charlotte FC, presented by DoorDash, on 90min channels now. Subscribe to our new US YouTube channel.

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