West Ham may well regret not giving Toni Martinez more of a chance during his time with the club, as the Spanish striker is now featuring in the Champions League with Porto.
The Hammers signed Martinez from Valencia in 2016 when he was just 18 and he continued his prolific form with the academy sides, contributing 25 goals in just 29 appearances for the U’21s during his time at the club.
He was sent on a number of loan spells away from West Ham but struggled to make the grade at Oxford United, Real Valladolid and CF Rayo Majadahonda, while he also failed to contribute a goal or assist in any of his three appearances for West Ham’s senior side.
The young forward did impress coach Terry Westley when he scored twice in a 3-1 win against Bristol Rovers in the Checkatrade Trophy.
“His second goal was sublime. The way he got in between people and he saw the keeper and instantly knew he had to take it in one touch, it was a magnificent finish.”
During his time with the blue and whites, he has made 72 appearances and scored 17 goals and featured in their Champions League game against Atletico Madrid earlier in the season.
Few at West Ham would have predicted this trajectory considering his disappointing form out on loan but at just 25, Martinez has made a career for himself in Portugal and could still improve further.
Perhaps if he had been given more time and opportunities to impress with West Ham’s first-team then he could have been more of a success at the club, as his goalscoring exploits with the academy sides suggest that the talent has always been there.
Regardless of his form, releasing a player for nothing only for him to find himself playing in the Champions League a couple of years later suggests that the Hammers were far too quick to pull the trigger on Martinez, and they could have had a quality striker on their hands if they had offered him a clearer pathway into the first team.
Therefore, the decision to release him should definitely go down as a blunder by former manager Slaven Bilic.