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Josef Martinez inks 5-year extension with Atlanta United

Josef Martinez celebrates Atlanta United's MLS Cup championship in the locker room on Dec. 8, 2018. (Mitchell Northam / Pro Soccer USA)

The reigning MVP and Golden Boot winner of Major League Soccer isn’t leaving anytime soon.

Josef Martinez and Atlanta United FC agreed to terms on a five-year contract extension that will keep him with the MLS Cup champs through 2023.

Specifics of the deal were not disclosed, but it’s likely Martinez’s new deal will pay him more in annual salary. In 2018 — a season in which he scored a league-record 35 goals in 39 games — he earned a total of compensation of about $1.3 million. This made him the third highest-paid player on the Five Stripes and just the 29th highest-paid player in the league. Martinez had three years remaining on that deal, club president Darren Eales said last month.

If a team from abroad does come for Martinez, this longer deal with Atlanta United will make his transfer fee more expensive.

But the Venezuelan Viper — as he has been called by Atlanta play-by-play voice Kevin Egan — doesn’t have plans to depart Atlanta at anytime in the near future. Despite showing little joy after scoring goals, Martinez has often expressed his affection for Atlanta and the city’s fans.

“This means a lot to me because of the affection that the fans have shown me, that the fans show all of the players. It’s unique,” Martinez said in a statement. “They recognize the effort that you give and they know you did everything to win, and I think that’s why we love playing here. I have to thank everyone. My teammates, the city, my family and friends, because this is a dream I’ve always had. I’ve said before that I don’t want to go anywhere because this is my home. You can expect more work, more intensity, because that’s who I am. I want to win. I want to do everything for my teammates and for the city.”

Martinez, 25, is beginning his third season in MLS and with Atlanta United. He came to the club in February 2017, just before the start of the Five Stripes’ first MLS season. Martinez initially joined Atlanta on-loan from Serie A side Torino, but the Five Stripes bought him outright last offseason. According to TransferMarket.com, Atlanta paid Torino about $5.2 million for the transfer.

He battled injuries in his first year with the Five Stripes, but Martinez still managed to scored 19 goals in 21 appearances in 2017, showing that he was a real goal-scoring threat. In his sophomore MLS season, Martinez broke the league’s career-record for hat tricks, notching his sixth on July 21 against D.C. United.

In MLS, Martinez averages .93 goals per-game and 1.04 goals per-90 minutes, both of which are first all-time in MLS history.

He is also the first player in MLS history to be named MVP of the league, the All-Star game and the Cup Final in the same season.

“Josef is an exciting, dynamic player and has proven himself to be one of the best in MLS over the past two seasons,” Eales said. “We’re excited to secure Josef’s long-term future in Atlanta and we look forward to celebrating many more accomplishments together.”

Before coming to MLS, Martinez played professionally in Italy, Switzerland and his native country, Venezuela.

In 70 appearances in the Swiss Super League, for FC Thun and BSC Young Boys, he tallied 13 goals and nine assists. He also scored 18 goals in 12 games with the Young Boys’ U-21 side. At Torino, Martinez notched 13 goals and six assists in 76 appearances.

Martinez has also regularly featured for the Venezuelan men’s national team since 2011, scoring 10 goals in 47 appearances.

“Josef is an outstanding player and I’m very excited to have him committed long-term to the club,” Atlanta head coach Frank de Boer said. “As a manager, he’s the type of player you want on your team because he is intensely focused and you can count on him every time he steps on the field. I’m looking forward to working with him and to continuing the great success he’s had with Atlanta United.”

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