Levante president Quique Catalan has criticised the manner in which Obafemi Martins' departure for Seattle Sounders was handled, but says the player had to leave the club after the way he behaved recently.
The Liga club confirmed on Monday that the player's €3 million release clause had been activated, freeing him to join the MLS club. This came after a fortnight of drama in which Martins had made clear his desire to leave, Levante stated they had no intention of selling, and the forward then missed Sunday’s game at home to Getafe after complaining of stomach problems.
Catalan told Spain's EFE press agency on Monday evening that his club had acted properly throughout the saga, but he could not say the same for everyone else involved.
“When a player does not want to wear the Levante jersey he does not wear it,” he said. “We had decided not to facilitate the move, but the release clause money was paid. It is the best thing that could have happened, because the player showed he did not want, or deserve, to wear this jersey. We have acted like the serious club we aim to be, and not Martins nor anyone else is going to mess around with this club.”
Former Inter Milan, Newcastle, Wolfsburg and Birmingham forward Martins joined Levante on a free transfer from Rubin Kazan last September, signing a two year deal. He quickly settled in as a key player with nine goals in 27 games for the Valencia-based outfit.
Catalan said it looked like Seattle had broken FIFA rules by setting the mid-season exit in motion by talking to Martins without permission.
"In football often times people do what Seattle have done, speaking with a player when he has more than six months left on his contract,” he said. “I will not say what we are going to do now. I do not believe that is important. But is there any club in the world who would pay a release clause without having spoken first with the player?”
Martins himself seemed much more upbeat about the move - which, as of Monday evening, had not been confirmed by the Sounders.
In a series of tweets on Monday evening the Nigeria international looked to play down any controversy and gave thanks to Levante and their fans for how he had been treated during his seven months at the club.
“I will like to thank Levante UD for giving me a great opportunity to play in one of the best leagues in the world,” Martins said.
“This is so difficult for me to do, but I really do love my fans... Levante fans are the best... I will always cherish the time I played here... Wow... finally, I can now announce that I have just signed for Sounders FC..A big step to take in my career. It's a big challenge but I'm ready. I look forward to this new era in my career... I also look forward to meet my new teammates and the Sounders FC fans, my new family... God bless you all... I appreciate all your love, support and well wishes...”