Top Stories

Report: Sounders sell Obafemi Martins to Shanghai Shenhua

Photo by Jennifer Buchanan/USA Today Sports
Photo by Jennifer Buchanan/USA Today Sports

One of Major League Soccer’s best attacking teams is reportedly parting ways with one of its best attacking players.

The Seattle Sounders are set to transfer veteran Nigeria forward Obafemi Martins to Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua, according to a report from the BBC. Martins had been linked this winter with a move back to the English Premier League, but will be the latest recognizable name to join the Chinese Super League via a deal that is expected to be worth a few millions.

Martins’ abrupt departure from Seattle will come as a surprise given how productive the speedy 31-year-old striker has been for the Sounders. Since arriving at the club in 2013, Martins has scored 40 goals and assisted on 23 others in 72 regular-season matches.

Losing a Designated Player of the caliber of Martins will make things tougher on the Sounders in 2016, but they still have three quality options to lead the attack in Clint Dempsey, Nelson Haedo Valdez, and recent addition Jordan Morris. Whether the Sounders sticks with the new 4-3-3 formation they have been trotting out in preseason remains to be seen.

Shanghai Shenhua is no stranger to landing big-name players. The club has previously employed the likes of Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka, and currently has Tim Cahill, Freddy Guarin, and Demba Ba on its roster.

What do you think of Martins’ reported move away from the Sounders? How big of a loss would this be for the MLS club? Should the Sounders stick with a 4-3-3 formation or revert back to a 4-4-2?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. Only an idiot would imagine that this was the Sounders’ idea, or their desire. Shenhua came to Martins with an offer he couldn’t refuse, and he didn’t refuse it. And why should he? The Sounders would have had to match a crazy-money bid to keep him here. That might have made sense for the short term, but with 3 DP forwards older than 30, and with Jordan Morris now under contract, they thought long term and decided to spend the money and the DP slot instead on younger players. So criticism of Oba is off base, because he doesn’t owe any team any “home town discount,” even though we all wished he would have stayed, and criticism of the Sounders is off base, because they have a strong base without him, and would have had to go younger sooner or later.

  2. Look, the idea is not MLS out bid CSL, but keep somewhat close in salaries and transfers for International stars. CSL is overpaying because: positive attention, bringing better T.V. deals because of stars, prestige to league and will improve development of chinese players.

      • Yeah most of the guys heading out to China are from Africa or South America and the size of the paycheck trumps quality of life issues. Most European ballers would go for the USA if given the choice of MLS vs CSL, esp. if they have wife & kids

  3. worst possible move ever for Sounders. They have nothing in the pipeline that is as good as Martins or that can combine up top better with Dempsey. Oh well,

    • They still have 3 good forwards in Dempsey, Valdez and Morris and a hgp, jones, in the wings. Its a big loss but they will still be contenders, especially if they reinvest in the backline.

      • OK…

        So two of the names you mentioned are complete unproven.. While Valdez may not even be in a lime green kit by season’s end..

        Let’s see that Sigi Schmid tactical genius in action.

      • Yes Beto, Sounders have 3 good forwards yes, but Obafemi Martins good forwards none….0. China is buying every good player around the world they can that can impact their league. No coincidence Martins is headed there.

  4. The Chinese Super league will surpass the MLS if they don’t start bringing in richer ownership groups building world class 40,000 stadiums in prime locations.

    Garber already talking about Building a $60 million mickey mouse stadium in St Louis when you can just use the same waterfront concept scaled down to 40,000 for the St Louis rams.

    Garber needs to leave

    • You know any investors willing to on up the capita needed for such stadiums, or know of politicians who’ll green light said stadiums? Sure China might be spending vast amount of money now, but after the novelty wears off and players see that money can’t buy everything then their popularity will wear off.

    • Stadiums are not revenue drivers, tv ratings are the key drivers. All you want is a great atmosphere in the stadium that translate well during television viewership and in person, live coverage. You do not need 40-50 thousand for that.

      • I think that the EPL gets more than 10 times more money from TV rights than does MLS. Yet, Arsenal expanded their stadium a couple of years ago, as did Man City and both Liverpool and Leicester City have plans in the works. Many other teams are looking into expansion, so they don’t agree with you.

      • Agreed. T.V. ratings come from mainly “real” stars, maybe strong league performance, and good games. And selling one top three MLS stars for $3million just lowers value of MLS, and negative International image of MLS, and far superior image Chinese league. MLS won’t gain no new International fans from such negative press.

    • I agree. I think MLS is short sighted. I’ve been saying for a couple of years that their stadiums should be built so that they can be easily expanded and have said they are building them too small. Look at Seattle and Orlando City. Also, I think NYFC in Yankee Stadium has been outdrawing the Red Bulls. If the Timbers had a larger stadium I’ll bet they could draw twice as many fans.

      • Portland stadium expansion has been in the works for years. Biggest obstacle is the city owns the stadium. . However, winning MLS and over 10,000 wait lists season ticket seekers has some influence to motivate the city for expansion

  5. I’ve thought for awhile the best thing for MLS could be few leagues outside of Europe really emerging and the Club World Cup becoming a major tournament. It’s not going to happen tomorrow but maybe in 20 years, we see millions watching a tournament MLS actually has a path to.
    I also think the less World football is European dominated is good for MLS . Perhaps more people will start to think, there are just many good leagues, I might as well watch the one in my backyard.

  6. China has generally been paying pretty ridiculous sums for many of the players they have been getting. If this is a case of that, then it is a wise move by the Sounders. If they are smart they can get a younger and less expensive dp with a good record and a lot of potential.

    • Yeah…and what’s weird is, only a couple years back one of the biggest Chinese clubs was busy defaulting on payments to players like Didier Drogba…who then went back to England and Chelsea and then ultimately Montreal.

      Wonder what changed.

  7. Interested to see how all of these transfers to China turn out.. anytime you can recover your transfer fee for player in his 30’s that you bought in his 20’s thats good business (if that is what happened). That said for the Sounders thats a big loss. Allowing players to move on is good and recovering transfer fees is even better (if only they shared that kind of info regularly!) But ultimately reinvesting immediately is what the best do, and MLS with all their funny scheduling and transfer rules make it very difficult to keep up. The soccer world is flattening out..

  8. Interested to see how all of these transfers to China turn out.. anytime you can recover your transfer fee for player in his 30’s that you bought in his 20’s thats good business. That said for the Sounders thats a big loss. Allowing players to move on is good and recovering transfer fees is even better (if only they shared that kind of info regularly!) But ultimately reinvesting immediately is what the best do, and MLS with all their funny scheduling and transfer rules make it very difficult to keep up. The soccer world is flattening out..

    • True! I’ve been wondering who else would join Liga MX, The Brazillian Campeanato and Argentina’s Ligue is the next year. I’m surprised that the J and K-leagues have not been more splashy making moves to get “near top tier” talent.

  9. Sounders will still be a threat in mls w/o oba. Probably add another dp in June if not before ? Vela or some other attacking mid.

    • Liga MX was founded in 1943, so that’s 50 years after its founding that they had 3-5 mil transfer fees as “big transfers.” MLS was founded 20 years ago. I guess Liga MX grew too slow then, too.

      • Reading the fee was around $3 million. Martins has been incredibly productive and one of the leagues better forwards since arriving. There’s no questioning his value to the club and even considering he’s 31, Seattle/MLS were negotiating from a stand point of strength.

        When you Especially consider the amount of silly money being thrown around by the Chinese Super League, to only fetch $3 million for his services looks like MLS lost the negotiation. Say what you will about the basis Scott e Dio93’s formed his opinion but he’s not wrong on MLS looking foolish here.

      • MX out grew MLS by T.V. money from U.S., via 1990’s American market. Note: MX was mediocre league, now strongest league in North America, and destroying MLS in Champions league.

        Anything below $3million will buy an average or below average player in Argentina or Brazil. So Sounders seem lose more with such low transfer.

  10. This is a good move. I think Martins is a great player (and as a LAG fan I am thrilled to see him out of the league), but league salary rules being what they are if they can bag a few million then it was the smart thing to do.

  11. If Sounders sold Martins under $7milion = idiots! The Sounders lose natural chemistry between Dempsey and Martins for few bucks

    • Well considering Oba is 31, has never stayed at a team for more than a couple of years, was blocking the development of Morris, and helps provide cap relief plus revenue, I say that the Sounders made out pretty well. They might stutter out of the gates but the season is long, and as we’ve seen before, anything before august and September doesn’t really matter.

      • Quality players like Martins dont ” block ” the ” development” of anyone..

        Morris must prove he can beat someone out for playing like Martins did in the early stage of his career..

        Big loss for the Sounders..

      • @rubejoleberg Well considering that you develop playing, and that Morris is American and his development would benefit the US, I find no problem in letting a “quality” player like Martins to leave.

      • Morris could develop on the Seattle Sounders II, or by coming off the bench, or by starting in the random games Dempsey will miss and Martins would have missed for international duty. Morris still has to show that he’s better than Nelson Valdez before he starts anyways.

Leave a Comment