Atlanta United likely buying out Josef Martinez’s contract

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

The King is leaving.

After a season of discontent, Atlanta United reportedly is in the process of buying out the contract of standout striker Josef Martinez, according to reports from MLS and The Athletic. Atlanta United declined to comment.

Martinez, the MLS MVP in 2018 after leading the Five Stripes to the championship, and the club reached a breaking point last season that couldn’t be repaired.

Martinez once was one of the more feared strikers in MLS, capable of scoring with his right foot, left foot or head, scoring 77 goals in his first three seasons.

He suffered a torn ACL in the first game of the 2020 season at Nashville that sidelined him the rest of the season. He hasn’t been the same player since, scoring 21 goals the past two seasons.

Last year was characterized by the club suspending him for a week after he got into a shouting match with manager Gonzalo Pineda following a loss at Portland. Pineda said the suspension was the result of several incidents of poor behavior by Martinez.

The buyout of his contract, which had one year remaining and an option for the 2024 season, is another step in the club’s makeover under new President Garth Lagerwey. The team already had shed more than $2 million in salary with the sale, loan or trade of several players. Martinez had a guaranteed salary of $4,141,667 as of September 2022, according to the MLSPA. He was the 12th-highest-paid player in the league.