The name Josef Martinez may not yet be familiar to football fans around the world, but if the Atlanta United FC striker continues at his current pace, he could end up with one of Europe’s top clubs in the near future.
Blessed with incredible goal awareness and off-the-ball movement, Josef is tearing up the record books for goals per game, expected goal scores, and other metrics used to judge a striker. He may not have scored the most goals in MLS history, but the frequency with which he loses his chances is unmatched. In his first season, for example, Josef scored an impressive 19 goals in 20 games and finished the season as the fourth-highest scorer, despite missing 13 games due to injury.
As far as the Venezuelan footballing landscape is concerned, Josef is something of a pioneer in football. By far the biggest name in Venezuelan football, he carries out his profession in the MLS – a league in which only a handful of Venezuelan players play baseball, but over 500 players in the Major League.
Who Is Josef Martinez?
Josef Martinez was born on 9 May 1993 in Venezuela, a country better known for its production of baseball players. He came into contact with baseball as a child but soon realized that his talents and skills tended more towards the beautiful game of football.
Young Martinez’s passion for the game was so great that he used to travel by bus three hours a day to Caracas and back for training. As a youth, he traveled to Estudiantes, Argentina, for testing purposes, but was rejected due to FIFA’s rule prohibiting foreign players under 18 from signing professional contracts.
Josef Martinez joined Venezuela’s most successful club Caracas Fútbol Club in 2010 and made his debut on 21 August 2010 in a match against Estudiantes de Mérida. After a 70th-minute substitution, his side won 1-0 and scored his first goal for the club in a 2-2 draw with Deportivo Petare on 21 November 2010. In two seasons Josef scored eight goals in 38 appearances.
Martinez was sold to Swiss Super League club BSC Young Boys on 3 January 2012 under a four-year contract. He made his club debut on 5 February 2012 in a match against FC Servette, which the Young Boys won 3-1. Martinez, who is normally used to influence matches from the substitutes’ bench, finally earned his first start for the Young Boys on 21 October 2012. In 37 missions he scored 5 goals. The next season he was loaned to Thun, where he scored 8 goals in 18 games.
Move to Torino
After having played for Venezuela and Switzerland, the time had come for Josef Martinez to make the leap into one of the top European leagues. When the interest of the Italian club Torino was aroused, it was a prospect that Josef Martinez was thrilled by. In June 2014 he moved to Turin for a fee of 3 million euros. He played his first game for the club in the third round of the 2014-15 Europa League with a 3-0 win over Sweden’s Brommapojkarna. He scored his first goal for Turin in the second leg of the same match.
He made his Serie A debut on 14 September 2014 with a 2-0 away defeat to Sampdoria. He scored his first league goal in a 2-2 draw with Palermo on 7 December. Over a period of three years, Josef has played 58 missions with 7 goals. It became more and more difficult for him to get into the starting eleven and he was at best used as a substitute player. Josef was at an age when most attackers are not in the mood for heat banks. He needed playing time and it was only a matter of time before he found admirers willing to price him out of Italy.
In February 2017, the Major League Soccer Atlanta United Turin expansion team made a loan offer to Martinez. The MLS is definitely not as prestigious as the Italian league, but it was a good opportunity for him to revive a promising career that was on the brink of disaster. He made his league debut on 5 March in a home defeat to the New York Red Bulls. A 6-1 win over Minnesota United FC gave Josef his first-ever hat-trick. It was also the first hat-trick in the history of Atlanta United.
Based on impressive performances, Atlanta activated the buyout clause in its loan agreement in return for an undisclosed transfer fee.
Josef Martinez was named MLS Player of the Month for March, and after scoring hat tricks in two consecutive games against New England Revolution and Orlando City SC, he was also named MLS Player of the Month for September 2017. He finished his first season with 20 goals in all competitions and finished fourth in the MLS Goalscorer List and was voted MLS Best XI of the season.
At the international level, Josef Martinez has scored nine goals in 37 appearances for the Venezuelan national team.