Obafemi Martins closing on Shanghai Shenhua move - source
Nigeria forward Obafemi Martins is on the verge of sealing a move to Chinese Super League side Shanghai Shenhua from the Seattle Sounders for a transfer fee of around $3 million, a source confirmed to ESPN FC.
The BBC was the first to report that Martins is headed to Shanghai, and that the deal is done, but multiple sources have told ESPN FC that the deal has not yet been finalized.
"With Oba, it's not done until it's done," said one source.
Interest from China first surfaced on Friday, with sources telling ESPN FC that multiple CSL teams were pursuing the striker and now Shanghai Shenhua appears to be close to capturing Martins' signature.
Sounders general manager Garth Lagerwey confirmed talks with a Chinese club.
"I can tell you that Oba is not here with us for this phase of camp," he said. "We've had an approach from a Chinese club for his services. It could take a while to have that resolved. There's really nothing else we can add at this point, but hopefully we know more by the end of the week."
A source with knowledge of the deal confirmed that if the deal is completed, the Sounders will not receive allocation money since the transfer fee isn't high enough to recoup the costs of Martins contract while he was in Seattle.
CSL teams must adhere to a limit of five foreigners, with one of those five coming from Asia. At present, Shanghai Shenhua has a full complement with newly signed Fredy Guarin, Colombian midfielder Giovanni Moreno, Greek defender Avraam Papadopoulos, Senegal forward Demba Ba, and former Everton and New York Red Bulls forward Tim Cahill already on the books, meaning one of them will need to be moved before the CSL transfer window closes on Feb. 26.
The move is a surprise given how productive Martins, 31, has been for Seattle. He joined the Sounders just after the start of the 2013 season, arriving from La Liga side Levante, an went on to score 40 goals and add 23 assists in 80 league and playoff appearances, and was named in the MLS Best XI in 2014.
Yet Seattle has a plethora of forward options, with U.S. international Clint Dempsey, Nelson Valdez, and highly touted youngster Jordan Morris all competing for playing time. Morris in particular looks to be the biggest beneficiary of Martins' potential move.
Martins' move could impact the Sounders, who face an early test on Feb. 23 against Club American in the CONCACAF Champions League.
"I don't think it has any impact on us in the sense that we'll go forward with this group," Lagerway said. "That's who we've been training, those are the guys that are here, those are the guys that we're going to rely upon, and that's the group that by and large is intact from last year that did pretty well at the end of last season. We'll do what we need to do.
"We have contingency plans, and if that third DP spot opens up, it gives us a lot more roster flexibility, and our ability to implement our long term vision for this team. And if it doesn't, then we'll have Obafemi Martins back and that will be a good thing too."
The CSL has made news this month due to the vast sums of money that are being spent. The CSL's transfer record was broken three times in a 10-day span with Brazilian midfielder Ramires moving from Chelsea to Jiangsu Suning for $28.5m on Jan. 27, Colombian striker Jackson Martinez moving from Atletico Madrid to Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao for $47.2m on Feb. 3, and Alex Teixeira moving from Shakhtar Donetsk to Jiangsu Suning for $56m two days later.
Shanghai will be the ninth club for which Martins has played after spells with Reggiana, Inter Milan, Newcastle United, Vfl Wolfsburg, and Rubin Kazan. He also had a loan spell at Birmingham City that included scoring the winning goal against Arsenal in the 2011 League Cup final.
At international level, Martins has scored 18 goals in 41 games for Nigeria, and was a part of the Super Eagles' squad at the 2010 World Cup. He was also played for Nigeria at the African Nations Cup in 2006, 2008, and 2010.