31 games into the season and Atalanta United are currently occupying 2nd place in the Eastern Conference. They’ve clinched their playoff berth, and being just four points off New York City there is still the chance they can claim top spot.
However, those chances have taken a huge blow over the weekend with the news that star player Josef Martinez is out indefinitely after suffering an injury. The 26 year old was taken off in the 3-1 win over San Jose on Saturday, much to the disappointment of manager Frank de Boer.
The timeline for his return is not yet known, and tests are still taking place to determine that. One thing is for sure, he has already been ruled out of Friday’s game against top club NYCFC, a game they had to win if they are to take control and land the Eastern top spot.
This really couldn’t have come at a worse time for Atlanta United, they had been playing some very good football and Martinez has been a massive part of that.
The Venezuelan is once again showing his force as a goal scorer in the league, a year after picking up the golden boot award last season. He scored 31 goals from 34 regular season games last season, and already has 26 from 28 this season, it was feasible to think that if fit he would be able to better his 31 goal season.
He was also on his way to a world record attempt. This is currently held by Lionel Messi, who has scored in 21 games in a row, Martinez was up to 15 before injury struck, a personal accolade that would obviously have put the spotlight on him personally.
He was already on the radar of a few Premier League clubs, with reports suggesting that Newcastle and Everton were interested in trying to sign the striker during the January transfer window. Further goals, especially if he had broken the record held by Messi would have certainly alerted more teams to his talent, and could have created a real bidding way for his services in Europe.
Instead, Atlanta United could feel a double-pronged blow starting with what happens to them during the remainder of the season. A player as important as Josef Martinez is impossible to replace, and the team are going to all have to up their game to try and collectively replace what he offers the team. However, that is certainly not going to be easy and the chances of Atlanta United picking up some silverware this season have lengthened considerably because of this injury.
Then there is also the affect it will have on any potential sale price this winter. If Atlanta United do want to cash in, they may now not get as much as they were expecting. With an injury to overcome, this will temper enthusiasm over Martinez in Europe and some interested parties may back off, leaving fewer clubs to fight for his signature.
Whatever happens in the future, this is a real blow for Atlanta United, even more so if it is confirmed that Martinez will miss most of the remainder of the season.