Losing a player like Obafemi Martins is a tough pill to swallow almost no matter the circumstances. The Nigerian international scored 40 goals and had 23 assists in a little less than three full seasons in Seattle. Few players in MLS history have produced that much, that quickly, and by all appearances Martins was poised for another standout season.
But what makes Martins' decision to move to the Chinese Super League even tougher is that the Sounders almost certainly will not receive any sort of Allocation Money windfall.
Why? Based on the information we gathered during the Fredy Montero-transfer saga, the Sounders would have needed to recoup the fee they paid to secure Martins' services (that Martins technically paid his own buyout is almost certainly irrelevant as he was certainly repaid by the Sounders) as well as the over-the-cap portion of his salary. The Sounders effectively paid a €3 million transfer fee (at the time it was the equivalent of about $4 million) and an additional $6.5 million in salary (about $5.2 million of which would have been over the cap).
To start getting allocation money, the Sounders would have needed to secure a transfer fee of somewhere in the neighborhood of $9 million. The latest report suggests the sides have agreed to a fee of about $3 million. It's also fair to assume Martins was looking for a raise on the $3 million salary he was paid last year, but the Sounders were almost surely unlikely to be in a mood to give him one less than a year after they agreed to nearly double the first contract he signed with the team.
While none of this will come to any comfort to Sounders fans, it's worth remembering that allocation money effectively rewards teams for doing good business. Martins may have been every bit as good as the Sounders had hoped he would be, but they didn't sign him on the assumption they were going to flip him for a profit. Martins was brought to the Sounders to impact their on-field product in the here and now, not as an investment.
The timing for the move is obviously far from ideal. The Sounders have a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal in nine days and even if they move quickly on a new signing, it's hard to imagine that deal being completed within the 48 hours of the match he'd need to be in order to be eligible. As long as they leave one of their 30 roster spots open, though, the Sounders would be able to add that player if they advance in CCL.
Still, Martins' potential transfer is not pure downside. In addition to the free Designated Player spot, the Sounders' soccer budget also gets a tidy influx. While the transfer fee won't be able to be used on allocation money, the Sounders should receive at least two-thirds of the fee in cash have a great history of reinvesting that money. When added to the roughly $3 million Martins was due to make, the Sounders should have about $5 million in their budget they didn't have before. They almost always have a working list of potential DP targets, and it seems fair to assume they'll start calling agents almost immediately -- if they haven't started already.
That new player will also, almost by definition, will want to be here. For all of Martins' positive attributes -- and he's almost definitely the best player to ever suit up for the Sounders -- stability has never really been his thing. Every offseason since he arrived, there have been rumors of Martins looking elsewhere. Martins is a player who's seemingly always looking for his next move, and his three seasons with the Sounders was as long as he's been anywhere since he left Newcastle in 2009 after three seasons. Shanghai will be his ninth professional club.