Rumors. That’s the best part about December to February in Major League Soccer — you never know what’s going to happen. In this case, it’s Fidel Martinez, a forward at Altas.
But this is one of those rumors where Real Salt Lake is just one of the clubs being linked to the player, and if time has taught me anything, it’s that those rumors rarely end with the player ending up in Salt Lake. There are some notable exceptions, of course — Albert Rusnak was linked with Swansea, for instance.
To really get to the bottom of these, we have to look at the motivating factors for these rumors to make it out of hiding.
Agents, often in an attempt to drum up interest in a player, will link them to clubs which are not actually interested in them — or at least not seriously interested. As a result, you rarely see rumors like this with just one club linked. It’s a money thing, really, because they are more likely to get a payday when one club feels like they need to pay more to secure the services of a player.
When they’re two MLS clubs, it’s especially interesting. The bidding war agents are counting on just doesn’t happen in the same way — after all, contracts are with the league. Instead of a bidding war, it’s more of a one-off event — after all, MLS has mechanisms to protect clubs from entering into bidding wars against each other.
But with all that said, let’s look at the rumor.
Fidel Martinez is ostensibly a wide player with some central experience — a considerable majority of his matches have been at left midfield or left wing, according to statistics from Transfermarkt. Could he be a great forward? Sure! But so far in his career, he scores in about every third game in the position. That’s not bad, but it’s not outstanding — that’s reserved for a goal every other game. He’s not the tallest, sitting at about 5-foot-10. He’s scored a fair few headers during his time, so that may not be a limiting factor.
If there’s one thing RSL doesn’t need badly right now, it’s wide players. With Joao Plata, Jefferson Savarino, Brooks Lennon, Sebastian Saucedo and Jordan Allen on the books — or anticipated to be on the books, in the case of Lennon — we’re fairly deep. A player like Martinez, who would likely a command a sizable transfer fee if he wasn’t coming on a free transfer, would be expected to play, and there’s no reason to push Plata or Savarino to backup roles. The only instance in which this move really makes sense to me is if Joao Plata is on his way out — either in the winter window, or in the summer transfer window.
Is there smoke here? Probably. But fire? I’m not seeing it — at least not yet.