Atlanta United today announced it has signed Venezuelan forward Josef Martinez on loan as a Designated Player. Coming from Torino FC of Italy’s Serie A, Martinez will join Atlanta pending receipt of his International Transfer Certificate (ITC) and P-1 Visa. The loan deal includes a club option to purchase.
“We’re excited to have acquired another player who’s entering the prime of his career and who has already experienced top competition in Europe and South America,” Atlanta United president Darren Eales said. “Between Serie A, Europa League and various international competitions with the Venezuelan National Team, Josef has already proven himself on some of the biggest stages in our sport and we’re confident in his ability to make a difference in MLS.”
Martinez, 23, joins Atlanta United with more than 100 professional appearances spread across the first divisions of Venezuela, Switzerland and Italy. He has also been capped by the Venezuelan National Team 37 times and has scored nine goals since making his debut in 2011. During 2018 World Cup Qualification, Martínez has already scored five goals, which places him in a tie for fourth place in CONMEBOL with Chile’s Alexis Sanchez.
In his three seasons with Torino, Martinez scored 13 goals while adding six assists in 76 combined appearances. He burst onto the scene in Italy as a 21-year-old when he netted seven goals with three assists in 40 combined appearances for the 2014-15 campaign. Martinez followed that performance with another four goals and three assists in just 23 appearances last season.
“I'm very happy to be here, this is a great project,” Martinez said. “I was able to see the training ground and the stadium that the club is building, and I knew that coming to Atlanta was the best decision. Also, there is a great coaching staff and remarkable young players. I can’t wait to start to work with my new teammates.”
The Valencia-born forward made his professional debut with Caracas FC of Venezuela’s Primera Division in 2010. Martinez transferred to Young Boys of the Swiss Super League in 2012. After making 21 combined appearances over two seasons with club, he was loaned to fellow Swiss club FC Thun. There he scored eight goals in 18 games in the 2013-14 season and was temporarily the league’s top-scorer. Martinez was then recalled by Young Boys for the duration of the season where he scored twice and added four assists over 18 matches. In the summer of 2014, Martinez transferred to Torino.
Internationally, Martinez made his Venezuelan National Team debut on Aug. 7, 2011 in a friendly against El Salvador. Since then he has represented La Vinotinto in World Cup Qualification matches for 2014 Brazil and 2018 Russia, and Copa America 2015 and Copa America Centenario 2016. At the Copa America Centenario, Martinez scored the game-winner against Jamaica in a group stage match at Soldier Field in Chicago on June 5, 2016. The strike helped Venezuela advance to the knockout round after finishing second in Group C, behind Argentina. In 16 World Cup Qualifying matches he has scored five goals.
Martinez joins teammates Hector “Tito” Villalba, 22, and Miguel Almirón, 22, as Atlanta United’s third Designated Player, all of whom bring top-flight experience from South America.