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The story of Jackson Martinez, untold riches and the crushing weight of expectation

Some players promise so much but never fulfil their potential.

Others move to China at the peak of the powers and elite football is robbed of their best years.

Strangely, Jackson Martinez falls into neither of those categories.


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OK, so he did end up in China

AFP
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OK, so he did end up in China

The Colombian striker became one of the most feared hitman in Europe after signing for Porto in 2012.

At his most prolific Martinez scored 26 goals in 30 league games and another three in Porto’s Champions League campaign at a goals-game ratio of 0.72.

He also won the Portuguese Golden Boot in each of his three seasons there.

Perennially a transfer target for all of Europe’s major clubs, it was an eight-goal haul from 10 games in Europe in 2014 that convinced Atletico Madrid to make him their second most expensive purchase in history at the time.

The first was another fiery Colombian striker who goes by the name of Radamel Falcao.

A match made in heaven

Getty Images - Getty
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A match made in heaven

One would turn out to be a club legend and go down in the annals of Atletico history as ‘El Tigre’ the other was sadly Martinez.

Arriving in Spain with a hefty €35m price tag and representing a rare splurge in the transfer market from Atleti there was a certain amount of expectation on Martinez’s shoulders.

With prodigal son Fernando Torres returning to the club and Antoine Griezmann making his mark, Martinez had a battle on for his place as a starter, but everything started well scoring from the bench in his second league appearance.

That would be about as good as it got for Martinez in Spain.

You just take a rest mate

Reuters
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You just take a rest mate

Diego Simeone is normally one of the most astute operators in the transfer market but it appeared he badly misjudged how his shiny new toy would fit into the relentless, all-for-one team atmosphere.

Bedding in with the strict system at the Vicente Calderon had taken some time and just as Martinez was feeling confident injury struck.

However, instead of rallying in support of the new star player the Atletico players questioned his commitment to the team.

Then club-captain Gabi said, “We all saw that Jackson didn’t fit into the squad, because of his way of working.”

Beware of the invisible defender on the left of the picture

Getty Images - Getty
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Beware of the invisible defender on the left of the picture

That comment was essentially the kiss of death for Martinez who was soon sold to Gangzhou Evergrande for a Chinese record of €42m and would leave his first massive club with 16 appearances, two goals and two assists.

It was becoming clear that Martinez’s peak years were most likely behind him – he had broken through at Porto at 25 years old and was moving to China aged 29.

Signing a contract worth €12m-a-year in China Martinez was seen to have chosen the Asian riches rather than pursuing the difficult path in Europe.

But just six months into his stay there he suffered a horrific ankle injury and has essentially been undergoing treatment and the recovery process ever since.

Still never missed leg day

AFP or licensors
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Still never missed leg day

Gangzhou’s owners became tired of shelling out millions of pounds for a player that could never get himself fully fit and the club cancelled his contract in March this year.

Meaning Martinez left the club with a return of only four goals in 16 games – a far cry from his lethal Porto days.

A player that had become Atleti’s second most expensive player ever found himself without a club and not even wanted in China less than three years later.

Spanish outlet AS even put him in a list of Atletico Madrid’s worst transfers of the century. Harsh.

Martinez at the 2015 Copa America

CRIS BOURONCLE
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Martinez at the 2015 Copa America

At 31 Martinez would have hoped he could return to a decent standard in Europe, but he has ended up far below expectations.

Six months of free-time put off any of the second tier clubs so Martinez moved to Portugal’s Portimonense, a team that finished 10th in the league last season and have a 9,000-seat stadium.

Having represented Colombia at the 2014 World Cup and even ousted Falcao for a period, any predictions for 2018 back then would have had Martinez as Colombia’s star striker as well turning out for a top European club.

Sadly the crushing weight of expectation and untold riches in China combined with some severe injuries meant Martinez was left without a club instead of bossing Europe.


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