After a couple of days of reports/rumors, a pretty significant voice in the soccer works -- the BBC -- is now reporting it as a done deal: Sounders DP forward Obafemi Martins to China’s Shanghai Shenhua.
Here is what Sounders general manager Garth Lagerwey had to say this afternoon from Walnut, Califonia, where the club is training.
“I can tell you that Oba’s not here with us in this phase of camp,” he said. “We’ve had an approach from a Chinese club for his services. It could take a while to have that resolved, and there’s really nothing else we can add at this point, but hopefully we know more by the end of the week.”
The deal would be massive -- Martins is the Sounders two-time goals leader, signed a contract extension last season, and is among their most popular players. He also has a unique chemistry with forward Clint Dempsey. He led Seattle with 15 goals last season and got back on the radar of the Nigerian national team.
However, the presence of Dempsey, Nelson Valdez and now Jordan Morris seemed to create a glut of star forwards -- if you can have such a thing -- with one left over even in the Sounders new 4-3-3. That may or may not continue if Martins departs. Obviously that’s a question for coach Sigi Schmid, and he hasn’t yet addressed Martins’ potential move.
What changed isn’t something we yet know, and something that we’ll be reporting as information arrives. There also will be questions about filling the DP spot, and how quickly anything must be done for the incoming player -- assuming there is one -- to be available for CONCACAF Champions League semifinal series, which begins Feb. 23 in Seattle vs. Club America.
“I don’t think (the Martins issue has any impact on CCL training) in the sense that we’ll go forward with this group,” Lagerwey said. “That’s who we’ve been training. Those are the guys that are here, those are the guys that we’re going to rely upon, and that’s the group that by and large is intact from last year, that did pretty well at the end of last season. We’ll do what we need to do. We have contingency plans. If that third DP spot opens up it gives us a lot more roster flexibility and an ability to implement our long-term vision for this team. And if it doesn’t, then we’ll have Obafemi Martins back, and that will be a good thing, too.”