When the Seattle Sounders managed to lure Obafemi Martins away from La Liga's Levante, it was considered a coup. His re-signing, which was made official today, won't be seen as so audacious, but it might be more important.
Details weren't released, but various reports have suggested Martins basically doubled his salary and will be sticking around for at least another couple years. Assuming he doesn't suddenly regress dramatically, that's two more years of a talent that is virtually unmatched in MLS.
Since joining the Sounders in March of 2013, Martins has established himself as not just an elite scorer but an underrated playmaker. His 25 league goals are already the second most in team history and his 17 assists have him fourth. By the time this contract runs out, he could very well own both records, especially if he keeps up this pace. His 17 league goals and 19 in all competitions are both single-season franchise records and his 13 assists in MLS play tie the team record.
While Martins' first season in Seattle didn't exactly go as planned, he left no doubts as to what he was capable of when he was healthy. Martins managed to score eight goals and pick up four assists despite missing four of the Sounders' final five regular-season games and eight of the final 13.
More than the injury concerns, there were also rumors that Martins was unhappy and he was linked with numerous clubs during the offseason.
But Martins dutifully reported to Sounders training on time, proclaiming his desire to stay here for the long term. He almost immediately went about showing the Sounders why that might be a good idea.
Despite barely training together in the offseason, Martins and Clint Dempsey had an almost immediate chemistry. Injuries and international absences had mostly kept them from extended time together in 2013, but they quickly realized that the other finally had someone who could keep up with them. Martins' assist to Clint Dempey in an otherwise forgettable loss to Toronto FC in the second game of the season proved to be just the first of many combinations.
As the season wore on and Martins and Dempsey grew more comfortable, their combinations became more audacious. Sometimes it seemed like too much, but it also worked with shocking regularity.
The partnership has helped Martins to the best season of his professional career, bagging a personal record 19 goals and 13 assists across all competitions. He's also thrust himself into the MVP conversation, establishing himself as arguably the most important player in the Sounders' capture of their first ever Supporters' Shield.
What's particularly encouraging is that Martins has been playing particularly well since rumors of an extension first started to surface. Over the past couple months, Martins has scored nine league goals and added four assists. There's always a question as to how a raise will affect a players' motivation and, at least in Martins' case, it seems to have been a positive.