Nigerian striker Obafemi Martins has joined Sounders FC according to a club press release.
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At just 28, he comes to MLS several years earlier in a career than has been the norm. His acquisition is the most ambitious move in the club’s history, possibly since the arrival of Swedish international Freddie Ljungberg in 2009, and maybe even including that.
Martins tweeted the news of his signing last week after apparently buying out his Levante contract himself. The transfer has been on and off in the media for weeks.
The path to Martin’s arrival in Seattle had been paved by the mutually agreed buy out of Christian Tiffert’s contract. The German midfielder occupied a Designated Player slot.
The Nigerian arrives to bolster a threadbare Sounders forward roster in which Eddie Johnson struggled with a natural midfielder Mauro Rosales as his strike partner on opening day against Montreal and again in the CCL away leg against Tigres.
So far this season two of Sounders FC’s three goals have come from defenders. All have come against a side with only ten men.
The Nigerian comes to Seattle with plenty experience of a variety of leagues.
Martins joined Spanish club Levante on a two year contract last September from Russian club Rubin Kazan who agreed to terminate his contract early. He had joined them from German club VFL Wolfsburg. Previously he had stints with Newcastle United and Birmingham City in England.
Perhaps the highlight of his career was his period in Serie A with Inter Milan between 2001 and 2006 where he netted 28 goals in 88 matches plus another 21 in 46 Cup matches. An Italian league title (Scudetto) came in his final year.
Ambitious Newcastle snapped him up from Italy in 2006 as the financial balance of power shift meant even mid table EPL clubs could compete financially with Italian league winners. He replaced Alan Shearer in the Newcastle number 9 shirt which has an almost mythical status on Tyneside. In all competitions, he netted 35 goals from 104 games for the Magpies.
He stayed one year into a four year contract at Wolfsburg before heading to Kazan and a three year contract.In 2012, he won a Russian Cup Winners medal there. During a loan spell at Birmingham City, we won the League Cup, scoring the winning goal in the final against Arsenal, the Blues first trophy since 1963.
Last September he headed to his last European destination, Levante, on a two year contract.
He scored on his debut, a 2-1 win over Basque side Real Sociedad.
He has 32 caps for Nigeria but has fallen in and out with the managers including current coach Stephen Keshi.
After Nigeria’s triumph in the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations, Keshi told local press about ignoring Martins and Odemwingie:
“There were lots of uproars in Nigeria when I dropped Obafemi and Osaze, but I have my reasons for taking that decision, but Nigerians will not understand.
Personally, I felt it was not only skilful players that can do the job for us, but we needed other qualities in the players for this tournament.”
He hasn’t played a competitive fixture for the Super Eagles since the 2-2 draw with South Korea in the 2010 World Cup.
Now he arrives in Seattle to play for a Sounders club with a mixed track record on importing players from European Leagues. Freddie Ljungberg and Blaise Nkufo made some impact on Sounders FC history before deciding the MLS and Emerald City were not good enough for them.
If they were moderate successes, the same could not be said for Christian Sivebaek who barely made a mark, and Christian Tiffert whose contract had to be bought out to pave the way for Martins to occupy his DP slot.
Sounders fans are to hope that Martins will accrue the same popularity in his first year here as Austrian keeper Mike Gspurning who is well respected both on and off the field.
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