Nearly two weeks after the first reports, the Seattle Sounders formally announced Obafemi Martins' transfer to Shanghai Shenhua of the Chinese Super League on Thursday. Martins had already bid farewell to Seattle and Sounders fans last week and started training with his new team, but this makes it officially official.
"We wish Obafemi success on his next challenge. Ultimately this transaction gives us roster and salary cap flexibility heading into our 2016 MLS season, including the opening of a Designated Player position," Sounders General Manager & President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey said in a press release. "We have a talented and capable group in our locker room, and we're excited for the year ahead."
This will be Martins' ninth professional club since leaving Nigeria at 15 years old and signing with Italy's Reggiana in 2000. Along the way he became one of an elite group of players who has scored in Europe's four biggest leagues, and the CSL will be the seventh top-flight league in which he's competed.
The Sounders are believed to have received somewhere in the ballpark of $2 million for the transfer, in addition to clearing more than $3 million off their budget and about $450,000 off their salary cap. They'll also have an open Designated Player spot. The current transfer window will be open until mid-May, otherwise the Sounders would likely have to wait until the summer to replace Martins.
At least one report said Martins would clear about $6.6 million, for what's believed to be a nine- or 10-month contract. That's somewhere between double and triple what he'd have made with the Sounders after taxes this year.
In a little less than three seasons with the Sounders, Martins became the second-leading scorer in the team's MLS history with 40 league goals. He added three more in U.S. Open Cup play. Martins also finished with 23 assists, the third most in club history.
The one glaring hole in his Sounders resume was a lack of playoff goals. In eight postseason appearances, Martins never found the back of the net. Martins also never actually played in CONCACAF Champions League, arriving too late in 2013, being injured for much of the 2015 group stage and obviously leaving before the Sounders could play Club America on Tuesday.
In the short term, the Sounders are expected to move Osvaldo Alonso to a Designated Player spot in order to free up Targeted Allocation Money. Alonso can either be moved back to TAM and free up a DP spot or that money can be used to bolster the roster in other ways.