Depending on who you’ve read or listened to recently, Colombia’s Jackson Martinez is either staying at Porto or going to one of as many as seven of Europe’s biggest clubs.
At various points within the past four months, Martinez has been a shoe in for, or in negotiations with, or sought after by, everyone from former coach Jose Mourinho to Rafa Benitez to David Moyes, from the champions of England to the champions of Turkey to the champions of Italy, to lesser but still prominent teams scattered across the continent.
The transfer hype circus pitched its tent around the talents of Colombia’s second most imposing goalscorer months ago, and the European soccer media has been juggling rumors ever since.
It started in April, when Turkey’s Galatassaray indicated to the Portuguese press it was willing to shell out $58.4 million for the rights to the man they hoped would replace the aging Didier Drogba. But Porto FC, which has shown incredible resolve and savvy in its recent dealings of Hulk and Radamel Falcao, maintained that it was keeping the Colombian superstar in Porto — whether to drive up the asking price or because it genuinely wants to retain the services of one of Europe’s best strikers — and the negotiations ended there.
Except they didn’t.
By the end of May, talk had already circulated that Martinez was wanted by English rivals Liverpool, Chelsea, and Tottenham, Germany’s Borrussia Dortmund, and Spain’s Real Madrid and Barcelona.
Speculation swirled through June, and Tottenham seemed the most likely target. But Porto was reportedly standing firm on the $58.4 million buyout clause written into Martinez’ contract and Tottenham became improbable after failing to sell Gareth Bale as expected.
In early July, Martinez told Portuguese radio, “I am happy to be [playing in Porto],” and “I am enjoying the opportunity to play here, I want to repeat what happened last season [when Porto won the Portuguese championship and made it to the knockout rounds of the Champions league] and win more trophies with Porto.”
His expressed desire to stay in Porto, and the signing of Colombian teammate Juan Fernando Quintero to replace fellow-countryman James Rodriguez, should have put an end to any transfer rumors. But that is not how the European soccer media works, and talk of Martinez leaving for greener pastures redoubled after his comments.
Napoli coach Rafa Benitez told Italian reporters that Martinez was the player he most wanted to purchase heading into training with his new team. Perhaps because of Napoli’s interest, Italian champions Juventus entered the fray as well, and Tottenham, still waiting to sell Bale, reasserted its desire to bring Martinez to London.
But come the end of July, Juventus had purchased Manchester City’s Carlos Tevez, and Napoli bought Gonzalo Higuain from Real Madrid and could no longer afford to meet the steep demands of Martinez’ contract. Tottenham was, and is, still waiting on Real Madrid or Manchester United to dish out for Bale.
Porto and Martinez, it seemed, could finally forget about all the distractions and start getting ready for the upcoming fall season.
Alas, the silence was not meant to last.
In the first weeks of August, Wayne Rooney’s departure from Manchester United to Chelsea was considered imminent by all the most reliable sources in the British media, and incoming manager David Moyes had reportedly okayed the purchase of Martinez in the event that Rooney should leave for London. With the biggest franchise in international sports involved, the conversation reached a previously unexplored decibel level. Tottenham was, and is, still waiting on Bale money. Liverpool was, and is, still waiting to sell Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez.
With only a few weeks before the close of the European transfer window, Martinez is no closer to leaving Porto than he ever was, and no closer to staying, either.
Rooney’s move to Chelsea is now in doubt, as is Bale’s move to Madrid, as is Saurez’ move to Arsenal. There are a lot of what ifs and in the event ofs at play. If Chelsea meets Manchester United’s asking price for Rooney, Martinez will almost definitely go to the Red Devils. If Real Madrid or Manchester spend on Gareth Bale, Martinez could very well go to Tottenham. If Arsenal break the bank for Suarez, Martinez might go to Liverpool. If none of those things happen, Jackson Martinez will be staying in Porto. Even if one or more of them do, there’s a good chance he will anyway.
Tottenham is a mess right now, and has never shown a willingness to spend big on any one player. Things are similarly hectic in Liverpool, and it seems unlikely that the notorious cheapskates at Arsenal will meet the asking price for Suarez. Of the three teams that are still reportedly interested, Manchester United is the only one that can really afford to buy any player they want, simply because they want to. The Marouane Fellaini deal is still pending, and the Red Devils haven’t made any significant purchases in what has been a busy off-season in the English Premier League. But Rooney is injured, and the EPL champions have rejected two bids on him from Chelsea. If Martinez is going to go to England, he is probably going to go to Manchester United, but even that is far from certain.
Meanwhile, it’s entirely possible that Porto really aren’t willing to sell him. They sold Radamel Falcao last summer for a handsome sum, but watched Atletico Madrid flip him for a small fortune a season later. If they think they have something special in Martinez — and 34 goals in 40 games last year says they do — it’s possible they will sit on him, win another Portuguese championship, make another run in the Champions League, and sell him for twice as much when all that’s over.
Parsing through all the smoke in transfer talk as messy as this is a tedious affair. It’s rare that anyone really knows anything for certain until it’s already happened, and watching rumor after confirmed report vanish into thin air is enough to make anyone a skeptic. The only thing we know for sure at this point is that Jackson Martinez is one of the most dynamic talents in all of international soccer. Transfer hype is only ever an indirect measure of ability, but the substance is there for anyone who’s watched him play, and this much talk never happens by accident.