Forgotten football stars: Obafemi Martins

Let’s talk about another forgotten football star, the former Nigeria international Obafemi Martins.

Obafemi Martins emerged on the scene at the start of the 21st century, joining Inter Milan in 2001 for a €750,000 transfer fee.

The Nigerian spent his first season with the youth team and established himself as one of the most talented players in Italian football, netting 23 goals to guide the Nerazzurri to the Campionato Nazionale Primavera title (the Italian youth championship) in the 2001–02 campaign.

Martins finally made his first-team debut in December 2002, starting in a 2-1 victory over Parma. He became a regular member of Inter’s starting eleven in the 2003-04 season, making a total of 37 appearances across all competitions.

His best season at an individual level came one year later, when he scored 22 goals for the Nerazzurri, helping them to win the Coppa Italia.

They retained the Cup in the following campaign, as Martins scored the fourth goal in a 4-2 win (on aggregate) over Roma in the final. Inter also won the Serie A as a part of the domestic double that season, which turned out the be the Nigerian’s last one in Italian football.

Martins left Inter on 24 August 2006, completing a move to Newcastle United in a €15 million transfer deal. The striker adjusted well to life in England, netting 17 goals in all competitions in his debut season at the St. James’ Park.

However, his form started dropping from the start of the 2007-08 campaign, which saw the Nigerian lose his place in the starting line up. He left the Magpies in 2009 and spent the 2009-10 season at Wolfsburg, before signing for the reigning Russian Premier League champions Rubin Kazan in July 2010.

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Following the birth of his child, Martins requested a move to England in January 2011 and joined Birmingham City on a six-month loan deal. He played only six official games for the Blues, but earned himself a special place in the club’s history, netting an 89-minute winner in the League Cup Final against Arsenal. The Nigerian practically won Birmingham City their second major trophy in history and first (and still only) since 1963.

He returned to Russia after the end of the season and had a short spell at Levante before moving to MLS side Seattle Sounders FC in 2013. In the United States, Martins finally found his best form. He won the U.S. Open Cup in 2014 and scored a total of 40 goals in 72 league appearances.

The striker switched the USA with China in 2016, signing for Shanghai Shenhua. He played a vital role in the 2017 Chinese FA Cup Final against crosstown rivals Shanghai SIPG, netting in both legs of the encounter.

Martins first scored the only goal in a 1-0 victory for Shenhua in the first leg and then scored the second, in the 3-2 defeat in the second leg, which saw The flower of Shangai win the Chinese Cup on away goals.

The 34-year-old striker is currently a free agent and is looking for a new club after returning from a torn hamstring injury. Where would you like to see him play in the next season?

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