Atlanta United selling Pity Martinez to Saudi club

Atlanta United's Pity Martinez reacts after making a goal against Motagua FC during the first half of a Champions League game Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020, in Kennesaw.

Credit: John Amis

Credit: John Amis

Atlanta United's Pity Martinez reacts after making a goal against Motagua FC during the first half of a Champions League game Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020, in Kennesaw.

Atlanta United has agreed to a deal in principle to sell Pity Martinez to Saudi Arabian club Al-Nassr, pending the player’s physical and his agreeing to personal terms. Club President Darren Eales confirmed the potential sale Wednesday afternoon on a radio station.

Martinez isn’t expected to be in Atlanta United’s roster for Wednesday night’s game against Inter Miami at Mercedes-Benz Stadium because he is supposed to fly to Al-Nassr for negotiations.

The reported fee is $18 million, which is close to Atlanta United’s evaluation, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.

The transfer window will remain open into October. Because Atlanta United and previous manager Frank de Boer parted ways in July with the goal of doing more with this season, it seems probable that the team will quickly try to add a Designated Player to fill Martinez’s slot. The team has several areas to upgrade, including central midfielder and attacking midfielder.

“I don’t want any of our fans to think this is something where we have the deal and sit tight,” Eales told a local radio station with which the club has a business partnership. “No. We’re going to fill that DP slot this window. We have more than 50 percent of the season to play.”

It is unlikely that Erik Lopez that will move into that DP slot because in the collective bargaining agreement that goes into place next season is a clause for adding players younger than 22 at a reduced cap hit. The details of a deal for a young player haven’t been announced, but it makes sense that the club would wait and add him then.

Martinez’s legacy with the club will depend upon your viewpoint.

For every spectacular goal, such as the two against Nashville earlier this season, there would be as many if not more shots nowhere close to being on goal. To be fair, this season he has been more judicious in his shooting compared with last season. Of his 17 shots this season, seven were on goal. Last season, 21 of 79 shots were.

For every completed “blind” pass to a teammate to run onto, there would be several that would result in turnovers. His passing percentage this season is less than 70 percent, which isn’t good for an attacking playmaker.

And then there were the intangibles: hustle, effort and decision-making. At one point last season, de Boer grew so tired of Martinez’s inconsistencies in those areas that he benched him, describing him as “dangerous” to the team.

Another person familiar with the team said Martinez’s always struggled to adapt and that his attitude worsened this year, possibly without having injured teammate Josef Martinez to keep him in line.

Last season, when it was clear that Pity Martinez wasn’t playing as well as expected, de Boer said that it can be difficult for players to adapt to new countries, new leagues, teams, etc. and that patience was needed. Martinez did seem to find a groove in the season’s final third but he still wasn’t playing as if he were a Designated Player.

But de Boer’s relationship with Martinez was rocky. After the benching, Martinez told an Argentine radio station that he didn’t like de Boer talking to the press about him before first talking to him.

After de Boer was let go this season, Martinez said he always respected the manager even if he and others didn’t always agree with his tactics.

If the sale is finalized, Atlanta United’s past two sales of Designated Players would have totaled more than $44 million. Miguel Almiron, whom Martinez was bought to replace, was sold for a reported fee of more than $26 million to Newcastle. Atlanta United doesn’t get to keep all of those revenues. MLS has formulas, and there is money that must be paid to the player’s previous clubs, agent’s fees, etc.