ATLANTA — Atlanta United FC is in the process of selling midfielder Pity Martinez to a Saudi Arabian club. The former South American player of the year failed to meet expectations during his time in Major League Soccer.
Martinez was not in the lineup for Atlanta's 0-0 draw with Inter Miami CF on Wednesday night.
Atlanta will reportedly receive an $18 million transfer fee from Al-Nassr FC for Martinez. That would be a small profit on what the MLS club paid to bring him from Argentina's powerhouse River Plate club before the 2019 season.
On the pregame show ahead of the match against Miami, Atlanta team president Darren Eales said "there's a deal in principle."
Atlanta's players learned shortly before the game that the 27-year-old Martinez would not be in the lineup as he and the team worked to complete the deal with Al-Nassr, one of Saudi Arabia's most popular and successful clubs.
"This is the business that we're in," Atlanta goalkeeper Brad Guzan said. "When this stuff happens, you shake his hand, wish him well and get on it with it. Players come, players go, it is what it is. We wish him the best of luck, and I'm sure he wishes us the best of luck."
Martinez arrived in Atlanta to great fanfare shortly after leading River Plate to the 2018 Copa Libertadores title. He joined a team that had won the MLS Cup championship in just its second season of competition and was looking to replace attacking midfielder Miguel Almiron, who left for England's Premier League.
Despite some promising performances and a pair of titles in the U.S. Open Cup and Campeones Cup, Martinez struggled to mesh with new coach Frank de Boer.
Martinez had just seven goals in 39 league appearances, and his tenure in Atlanta will undoubtedly be viewed as a disappointment.
De Boer was let go in July shortly after three straight shutout losses in the MLS Is Back Tournament, and now the team is cutting ties with Martinez in what has become a transition year for a club that had immediate success and broke numerous MLS attendance records after entering the league in 2017.
Atlanta is 1-1-1 under interim coach Stephen Glass, clearly demonstrating it is no longer one of the top clubs in American soccer. Overall in the coronavirus-affected season, Atlanta ranks ninth in the Eastern Conference at 3-4-1 with just seven goals in eight games.
Atlanta turned in a sluggish showing against Miami, struggling to hang on in the closing minutes against the expansion team. Glass said the news of Martinez's departure affected the team's mindset.
"I'm sure that when you've got a teammate like Pity and you're expecting him to play, it's going to be a disappointment when he's not a part of your group," Glass said.
Guzan said the team can't use the impending departure as an excuse for its poor play.
"We all need to step up that much more," he said. "Guys have been here and played significant minutes. All of us, as individuals, need to step up that much more and shoulder that responsibility."