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Good news, bad news with Seattle’s ever-closer Obafemi Martins signing

Feb 27, 2013, 5:00 PM EDT

FBL-EUR-C3-OLYMPIAKOS-LEVANTE Getty Images

Here’s the good news about Obafemi Martins, if you’re a Seattle Sounder fan:

The move is almost done. Reportedly, the sides have agreed to terms on a contract that will pay the former Nigerian international $2.5 million per season. Bonuses can take up to $3.5 million. It’s a huge commitment from Seattle at a time when fans were starting to wonder if the gate receipts would translate into an expanded payroll. If the numbers prove true, only three players (Thierry Henry, Tim Cahill, Robbie Keane) would make more than Martins. Whether that salary’s justified or not, that’s a whole new level of commitment.

This guy will also be a great fit with Eddie Johnson. Short, quick, with the ability to burst onto a ball, the 28-year-old is a good complement for somebody whose physicality demands so much attention. You can already see Martins surging onto balls Johnson’s elevated to win. When Johnson pushes the defense in the attacking phase, Martins will be free to poach or exploit space along the line. All the things Martins lacks — size, physicality, and (often) intensity — Johnson can provide, and with the skill in Seattle’s midfield (especially the wide-to-in contributions of Mauro Rosales), Sigi Schmid won’t have to worry if Martins’ ability to link play falls short of Fredy Montero’s.

As far as goals, the tandem could be potent. Both players have Golden Boot-level talent. Their individual threats will prevent opposing defenses from focusing on one man. With two of the league’s top scoring in the same XI, all of Seattle’s potential scoring problems disappear.

Martins can be a game-changing acquisition. If he clicks, he’ll be an All-Star, threaten Seattle’s club record for goals, and help give the Sounders their best chance to win MLS Cup.

But just like any other purchase, there’s an element of risk here. Martins’ acquisition carries more than most.

Martins will leave Levante on a bad note, publicly deriding his club as he’s sprinted for the door. It’s an approach that only reinforces the impressions the attacker’s left while leaving five clubs since 2006 (Levante would be the sixth). A once promising player for Inter Milan, Martins’ professional existence has become defined by transience. The Nigerian has played in England, Germany, Russia, and Spain since 2009.

That club uncertainty hasn’t helped Martins’ place for his national team. When Stephen Keshi remade the Nigerian national team, electing not to call in a series of veterans who had come to symbolize the Super Eagles’ malaise, Martins’ international career was put on hold. Despite 18 goals in 38 international appearances, Martins was deemed surplus to Keshi’s requirements.

He wasn’t the only one. Yakubu Ayegbeni, Peter Odemwingie and Taye Taiwo were also left out. Despite the exclusion of four players who have combined for 203 international appearances, Keshi’s more selective Nigeria went on to claim their first Cup of Nations since 1994.

A less nebulous concern may be Martins’ actual production. It’s been over five years since Martins posted double-digit goals in a league season. Between stops at Newcastle, Wolfsburg, Rubin Kazan, Birmingham City and Levante, Martins has put up one goal every 3.2 games.

And if you’re a Seattle fan, you can’t help but remember what happened with Blaise Nkufo. Christian Tiffert is still on the payroll, for now (he’ll have to be bought out to make room for Martins). Even with a past free of controversy, a player might not adjust to a move across the world. Like any other player, Martins could fail to make the adjustment.

With Seattle Sporting Director Chris Henderson said to be in Spain finalizing the deal, Martins looks likely to come. For the organization, it’s a huge commitment for a player that has the talent to make Seattle’s attack the most dangerous in Major League Soccer. Maybe Martins represents a bigger gamble than other organizations might like, but for a team that’s committed to taking the next step — to going beyond last year’s conference final appearance — he could also be the missing piece.

  1. pensfan603 - Feb 27, 2013 at 5:09 PM

    Its jsut so hard to knwo who will work in this league, im guessing they’ve watched him enough and think he can be great for this team, I hope this works out for them, but on a side note who are they going to bring in as a big dp signing at the time, if i was them i would of kept Estrada up top, and then tried to make a splash in the summer transfer window but they seemed almost forceful to get a player from the La Liga so whatever. That also has to play some factor when you look at how they were lookign at so many others players and almost settled on him, it really makes you wonder if they are making this signing to please the fans or if its really for the better of the team.

  2. wfjackson3 - Feb 27, 2013 at 7:52 PM

    I love what Seattle is doing in getting Martins, but wasn’t Tiffert pretty damn good last year? Why is he the guy to fall on the sword?

    • dws110 - Feb 28, 2013 at 12:49 PM

      The rumor in Seattle (and it’s nothing but rumor, so give it no more credence than that) is that Tiffert isn’t happy, either in MLS generally or Seattle specifically, and he wants out. Regardless of the reason, I’ll be bummed to see him leave, he’s obviously a talented midfielder.

    • Kyle Alm - Mar 17, 2013 at 1:01 AM

      Tiffert was ok, he was just the odd DP out because the real move they wanted to make was for Fredy Montero to depart so they could make room for Eddie Johnson’s next strike partner.

  3. dws110 - Feb 27, 2013 at 8:00 PM

    I have no idea what to make of this deal. I’m shocked that the Seattle FO is throwing that kind of money around; I’m depressed that the Seattle FO isn’t throwing that kind of money at Ozzie Alonso; I’m mighty sad to see Tiffert go; I’m hopeful that Martins may be the missing piece of the puzzle…

  4. pjbowmaster - Feb 28, 2013 at 12:42 AM

    This is a desperate reach….

    • Kyle Alm - Mar 17, 2013 at 1:04 AM

      I don’t agree, but I have to admit that it will be a nagging doubt especially considering that Tiffert, Nkufo,and Ljungberg didn’t work out as well as they thought.

  5. ericsondr - Feb 28, 2013 at 12:38 PM

    I’m hopeful… although I don’t get the keep Shalrie, discard of Tiffert part… I’m sure the FO know’s whats up. Of all the gambles Seattle has made, they’ve remained a threat since their inception. I’m willing to bet that the coaching staff is making a very educated gamble on this decision.

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