MLS Focus: Is Atlanta United’s Josef Martinez the new Samuel Eto’o?

Josef is leading the charts with 30 goals in 32 matches as mentioned earlier. He has a world class striker in Zlatan Ibrahimovic who is pilling pressure on the young striker to keep scoring if he plans on going home with that accolade. Zlatan is at 21 goals in 25 appearances.
— Tinotenda Magiya, FirstTouch Africa

We never seize to commend the good in someone and Josef Martinez’s goalscoring record this season in Major League Soccer is a thing of beauty. The Atlanta United forward currently sits on top of the scoring charts with 30 goals in 32 matches. Not many players in any soccer league across the globe can maintain such red hot form in as many matches. Nonetheless, one can draw some similarities between Josef Martinez’s tale and that of a Barcelona legend by the name, Samuel Eto’o. Here's why.


Tough time at a big club

Josef Martinez #7 of Atlanta United FC controls the ball against Vladim Demidov #6 of Minnesota United FC during the second half of the match on March 12, 2017 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Atlanta defeated Minnesota 6-1.  (March 11, 2017 - Source: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images North America)

Josef Martinez #7 of Atlanta United FC controls the ball against Vladim Demidov #6 of Minnesota United FC during the second half of the match on March 12, 2017 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Atlanta defeated Minnesota 6-1.

(March 11, 2017 - Source: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images North America)

Josef Martinez did not have the best of times at Torino , where he scored 13 goals in a total of 76 appearances spread across 3 years. He was simply not prolific enough which meant that the club could not trust him to lead the line at the Italian Serie A club. Samuel Eto’o is no different to the scenario. The retired Cameroonian forward was once in the Real Madrid books, believe it or not. He failed to make an impact in the Spanish capital and was eventually offloaded to Villarreal in 2000. All these circumstances did not deter the two players mentioned above from their thirst for success as they found their way to the top. Josef Martinez found his mojo at Atlanta United in the Major League Soccer and Eto’o made it at Barcelona.


A fight for the Golden Boot

Challenging for the golden boot is a dream for the traditional striker. Josef is leading the charts with 30 goals in 32 matches as mentioned earlier. He has a world class striker in Zlatan Ibrahimovic who is pilling pressure on the young striker to keep scoring if he plans on going home with that accolade. Zlatan is at 21 goals in 25 appearances. This healthy competition is similar to that which kept Samuel Eto’o at the top of his game in Spain. The thought of a fit Raul at the Santiago Bernabeu pushed the African striker to keep scoring. In 2006, Eto’o pipped Raul to the Pichichi Award, an accolade reserved for the highest goalscorer in the Spanish La Liga. He managed a total of 26 goals in a full season. What's left is for Josef Martinez to secure the award and be like Eto’o.

Style of play

Jose Salomon Rondon #9 of Venezuela is congratulated by Josef Martinez #17 after scoring a goal during a game against Guatamala at Lockhart Stadium on June 1, 2016 in Boca Raton, Florida.  (May 31, 2016 - Source: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images North America)

Jose Salomon Rondon #9 of Venezuela is congratulated by Josef Martinez #17 after scoring a goal during a game against Guatamala at Lockhart Stadium on June 1, 2016 in Boca Raton, Florida.

(May 31, 2016 - Source: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images North America)

Besides, Josef Martinez’s role in the Atlanta United team drives home the comparison between him and perhaps one of the most decorated African footballers of all time. Both players prefer position number 9 on the pitch where they score goals for fun. Much like Eto’o, the Venezuelan international is a fox in the box capable of scoring with both his head and his feet. His predatory instincts can be related to those of the Eto’o who was a focal point in the Barcelona attack that famously dismantled Real Madrid, 5-0 win at the Santiago Bernabeu. How close? Not so much though as Eto’o delivered at the highest stage with his club.

Managers today encourage players to have a football brain and play with confidence no matter what. By so doing, they try to make sure that their philosophies flow throughout the team and that the forwards become team players. Josef Martinez has already provided 4 assists in total on top of his requirements of being on the finishing end of things. The 25 year-old is seen making key passes here and there with a pass completion rate of 80.8%. Well, Samuel Eto’o was that and more. He was a complete footballer who complimented the mesmerizing talent in Ronaldinho. Eto’o was unselfish at times which made his team’s attack unpredictable. I think Martinez is gradually getting there.


Afterthought

What you are seeing in Martinez, we have seen before in an African legend. Samuel Eto’o commanded respect in a rich Barcelona team full of international stars. He was reliable whenever called upon and Josef Martinez looks to be following in the footsteps of the retired Cameroon international. If he maintains this form over a number of years, could he challenge for a place in the National Soccer Hall of Fame?