Josef Martinez will not lie. Last year was very, very difficult for him. Dealing with a pandemic is hard enough, but once injured, it was just too much to recover from a knee injury where he tore his ACL and watched his teammates try to create a positive season with under-four manager Frank de Boer.
“Day by day was the hardest for me,” said the Venezuelan striker, speaking to CBS SPORTS and ¡Qué Golazo !. “Any kind of injury is difficult for a player who is not used to not being away from the pitch for that long and they told me it would be difficult but I never realized it would be so difficult When you live it personally, you see it. It continues to be hard. It’s like a roller coaster. One day you are fine, others you are down. But I thank God and this excellent medical team here in the club, my family and everyone else to help me get through it. ”
Martinez, an MLS Cup winner and MVP back when Atlanta won the trophy back in 2018, carries his heart on his sleeve, but most importantly, he lives for this club and this city. This is home to him. So when he is unable to protect it, it demoralizes him.
Now, as he returns to action, piece by piece, day by day, he looks forward to 2021 as a chance to regain what is his. “The year may be different, but the anxious feeling of returning, the feeling of playing and getting on the pitch that never goes away … and this club must always think of winning.”
Forget the goals as he scores a huge amount. 77 goals in 84 league games for Atlanta to be exact. Martinez just wants to compete and show the league that he is back.
Last month, he spoke to the media and said, “Pa esta de regreso,” [the father is back] and he has taken a few minutes during Atlanta’s CONCACAF Champions League victory against LD Alajuelense and led them to the quarterfinals of the competition.
But he knows it’s about patience and eventually getting back to what he knows best. The thing is, now his work continues under a new manager, the Argentine, former PSG, Man United and Real Madrid star Gabriel Heinze, a student of Marcelo Bielsa, who is a talented manager (comes from Velez Sarsfield) in his own right.
Martinez knows the atmosphere is new in Atlanta and he can feel it.
“I’m very happy to have someone here who still lives football. He lives it more than anyone I know,” he says. “Training is very intense. He asks for a lot of focus, and to give it your 100%. Every ball you fight for, you treat it like it’s your last, and we’re fine at the moment. Train this way. ”
Martinez wants this kind of work, and he laughs at the fact that a Peruvian is currently conducting this interview because he blames the Peruvian food for a slight, slight weight gain when he was out. “I gained 10 kg in one week! This food is killing me!”
Either way, Joseph looks more and more like his old self, and for him, it’s just a victory in itself to get back on the field. “I just want to finish a game. 90 minutes. As a striker, you always think about goals, but for me it’s about finishing the game. For me, that’s the key.”
Atlanta United is very special to Josef Martinez. For him, there is no other place like it and he wants to show his gratitude to the city and the fans by giving it his all on the pitch. “This is my home. Until the day it’s not possible, this is my home. Always.”
Atlanta United visit Orlando City on Saturday at 15 ET as MLS starts this weekend.