Obafemi Martins

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Obafemi Akinwunmi Martins (born 28 October 1984) is a Nigerian footballer who plays as a forward. He is known for his speed on the ball. After leaving Nigeria for Italy at age 16, he has since played for a number of top-division clubs around Europe. He began his senior career in 2002 at the Italian Serie A club Inter Milan, before moving to the English Premier League club Newcastle in 2006, and then the German Bundesliga club VfL Wolfsburg in 2009. Having joined Russian Premier League side Rubin Kazan in July 2010, they loaned him to Birmingham City in January 2011.

In club football, Martins has won the Italian Serie A title, the Italian Cup (twice), and the Italian Super Cup, all with Inter. With Birmingham he scored the winning goal in the 2011 Football League Cup Final. He has played European football with Inter, Newcastle and Wolfsburg, winning the UEFA Intertoto Cup with Newcastle. His highest scoring league seasons so far have seen him score 11 goals in the 2004–05 Serie A, and 17 in both the 2006–07 English Premier League and 2014 MLS. In international football, Martins has been in the Nigerian squad for the Africa Cup of Nations in 2006, 2008 and 2010, and for the FIFA World Cup in 2010. He played for Seattle Sounders FC of Major League Soccer from 2013 to 2015, scoring 40 goals, before moving on to China.

Martins had two brothers who also played football professionally. His elder brother, Oladipupo Martins, played for Reggiana, Partizan and Innsbruck before retiring from football in 2009 due to heart problems. He died on 8 August 2011 of a suspected heart attack in Lagos, Nigeria.Martins' younger brother is John Ronan Martins. The name "Obafemi" translates literally to "the king loves me" in the Yoruba language.[

Club career

Martins joined the local football club F.C. Ebedei, having been scouted by manager Churchill Oliseh while playing on the streets of his hometown. After a year with the club, Italian Serie C side A.C. Reggiana made a move for the player. After a two-month trial, Martins and fellow Ebedei teammate Stephen Makinwa signed youth contracts with the club in 2000. His first season in Italy saw Martins break into the first team squad, and later in the year Serie A sides Perugia and Inter Milan made offers for the forward.

Inter Milan

Martins was signed by Inter Milan in 2001 for a €750,000 transfer fee, and in his first season he scored 23 goals for the youth team, helping them to win the Campionato Nazionale Primavera in 2001–02 season. His form for the youth side led to his first-team league debut the following season, starting in a match against Parma on 22 December 2002 which was won by Inter 2–1.

Martins didn't become a regular member of the first team squad until the 2002–03 season. During this season he was given his first UEFA Champions League appearance by manager Héctor Cúper, entering as a subsitute against his future employers, Newcastle United, at St James' Park. He scored his first Champions League goal in a match against Bayer 04 Leverkusen to secure Inter's place in the quarter finals; footage of his celebratory somersaults were subsequently used by UEFA to advertise the following season's competition. He scored again in the semi-final match against Inter's arch-rivals Milan, but couldn't prevent the club losing out on away goals to the competition's eventual winners. In the championship, he scored once in four appearances.

Newcastle United

After Martins submitted a transfer request, English Premier League club Newcastle United completed a deal with Inter for the striker on 24 August 2006 for €15 million Martins signed a five-year deal. He was paraded in front of the Geordie fans before their UEFA cup tie against FK Ventspils, and inherited the club's cherished number 9 shirt, vacated after the retirement of the club-record goalscorer Alan Shearer in April.

Martins made his Premier League debut on 27 August, in the 2–0 defeat to Aston Villa, in which he was stretchered off with a knee injury. It turned out that Martins suffered a severe dead leg and internal bleeding. His unremarkable first few appearances for Newcastle caused manager Glenn Roeder to speak out in his defence.[

VfL Wolfsburg

On 29 July 2009, Newcastle accepted a £9 million bid from Bundesliga champions VfL Wolfsburg, the transfer was confirmed on 31 July with Martins signing a four-year contract. For his debut, Martins came on as a second-half substitute against 1. FC Köln at the Rhein Energie Stadion, with his team deadlocked at 1–1. He helped in the buildup to the second goal and capped off his first appearance in the Bundesliga with a well-taken goal after dribbling past two onrushing defenders and then coolly finishing from six yards out, slotting the ball past the goalkeeper to the far post.

Rubin Kazan

On 9 July 2010, Martins was sold for a reported €17 million to reigning Russian Premier League champions Rubin Kazan. He signed a three-year contract and told BBC Sport: "I am joining a team of champions and I hope to bring my best to the club to make them even greater." Martins' agent, Nicola Walter, revealed that Rubin met all of the player's requirements and that manager Kurban Berdyev had a "massive role" for him to play, following the departure of striker Aleksandr Bukharov. Martins was able to make his debut with Rubin after 1 August, when the transfer window was opened. On 9 May 2012, Rubin Kazan won the Russian Cup giving Martins his first trophy in Russia.

Loan to Birmingham City

Following the birth of his child, Martins requested a move to England to be nearer to his family. On 31 January 2011, he joined Premier League club Birmingham City on loan until the end of the season, with the option of a £5 million permanent deal in the summer of 2011.He made his debut, which had been delayed by the formalities of obtaining a working visa, in the starting eleven against Stoke City on 12 February; he played for 75 minutes as Birmingham won 1–0

Levante

On 13 September 2012, Martins moved to Levante on a free transfer, signing a two-year contract He made his league debut on 23 September 2012, where he scored his first goal, and the winning goal, in a 2–1 home win against Real Sociedad. Martins scored a brace for Levante in their 3–1 home victory over Granada on 28 October, sending his side into fourth place in the La Liga standings

International career

He was a part of the Nigerian team that finished third in the 2006 African Cup of Nations. Martins scored two goals in the competition, both coming against Senegal in the first round.

His future for the national team has been placed in doubt on numerous occasions after separate incidents of controversy. In August 2006, the Nigerian FA (NFA) website had his date of birth down as 1 May 1978, which would have made him 28 years of age rather than 21. The NFA soon confirmed that it had been an administrative error and apologised for the confusion it had caused. However Martins threatened to quit playing for the national team after the blunder had initially put his move to Newcastle in doubt.

On 6 February 2007, Martins failed to turn up for the 4–1 friendly defeat against Ghana, despite being ordered to play. He later explained his absence was due to the fact he had travelled to Lagos to visit his sick mother. The Nigerian caretaker coach Augustine Eguavoen was furious with Martins and threatened to ban him from the national team. On 14 February 2007, Martins apologised for missing the game but said he believed his mother's health was more important. He also said that he would be available to play for Nigeria in the future.He made his return to the national side on 24 March 2007, playing the full match against Uganda in an African Cup of Nations Qualifying match and won

Style of play

A fast, diminutive, and agile left-footed striker, who is quick on the ball, Martins is primarily known for his outstanding pace, mobility, and athleticism as a footballer, as well as his striking power, and his strength, in spite of his small stature; he has also stood out for his acrobatic goal celebrations.

Personal life

Martins received his U.S. green card in 2015 which qualifies him as a domestic player for MLS roster purposes

He is married to Ghanaian-Italian Abigail Barwuah, sister of Mario Balotelli. The couple have one child named Kendrick, born in 2013

Honours

Club

Inter Milan

  • Serie A: 2005–06
  • Coppa Italia: 2004–05, 2005–06
  • Supercoppa Italiana: 2005

Newcastle United

  • UEFA Intertoto Cup: 2006

Birmingham City

  • Football League Cup: 2010–11

Rubin Kazan

  • Russian Super Cup: 2012

Seattle Sounders FC

  • MLS Supporters' Shield: 2014
  • Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup: 2014

Shanghai Greenland Shenhua

  • Chinese FA Cup: 2017

Individual

  • CAF Most Promising Talent of the Year: 2003, 2004
  • MLS Best XI: 2014
  • MLS Goal of the Year: 2014
  • MLS All-Star: 2015
  • Chinese FA Cup: Top Goalscorer: 2017

 

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