Jackson Martinez was conspicuous by his absence. Had Radamel Falcao successfully battled through his current injury troubles and been a part of this World Cup with Colombia, it would have been understandable. But Martinez was instead left on the bench by Jose Pekerman for the opening two games, only to start in the final group game against Japan.
Martinez struck twice against Japan on Tuesday night, two clinical finishes that only reinforced those questions aimed at the coach for leaving the Porto forward out of the opening two games. Carlos Bacca and Borussia Dortmund’s newly-signed Adrian Ramos also had to contend with places on the bench, but Martinez’s domestic form with Porto over the past two seasons has his star shinning brightest.
Arsenal’s need for a new centre-forward this summer has reportedly led them down the path to enquiring after Martinez’s services. It’s been said that contact has been made by both parties, but recent reports indicate Porto may be looking to tie up a new deal for their star striker.
Based on his performance against Japan, it’s easy to get carried away with what Martinez could potentially bring to a club like Arsenal. Both his goals were expertly taken, the calibre of finishing that may not be present in Olivier Giroud’s game.
Despite Teo Gutierrez being selected as Colombia’s first-choice forward for the first two group games, it was evident just how much of a step up in quality Martinez brought to the team’s attack. Gutierrez may have a goal and an assist to his name at these finals, but – and regardless string of controversial incidents – his club scoring record in South American football in recent seasons is far off matching what Martinez has produced while playing in Portugal.
There are, however, lingering doubts about Martinez at the highest level for his club. This isn’t Radamel Falcao MKII, despite the similarity in what they’ve produced in front of goal for Porto. Falcao has been a success wherever he’s been, it didn’t matter which league it was or the opposition. Martinez, on the other hand, hasn’t been prolific or even convincing playing in European competition for Porto over the past season, registering just three goals in 11 European games.
There are pitfalls to signing players from Porto. Not only is the Portuguese Liga a step down from the Premier League, it should also be known that many of the club’s players have arrived directly from South America and their success with the club can be attributed to the Latin environment and familiarity.
It’s not to say these aren’t good players. It’s not to say Martinez couldn’t replicate his scoring record elsewhere. The disappointing return of just three goals across the Champions League and Europa League last season could have been a direct result of Porto’s general poor form throughout the season and not solely due to the player. But there is something odd about the lack of concrete interest in the player. Porto are always going to be a tough club to negotiate with, but that hasn’t stopped others around Europe buying from them.
There is a risk to signing a striker set to turn 28 who hasn’t experienced football in Europe outside of Portugal. There is a concern about his link-up play and whether he’s the right fit for this Arsenal team. On his scoring record alone, he looks ideal. But other factors need to be considered. At anything above £30 million, he doesn’t look good value for money, not in a summer when forwards like Mario Mandzukic and Mario Balotelli are available.
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