Toni Martinez: A long term investment or dead money?

It wasn’t too long ago that Toni Martinez was the great hope of West Ham’s future. Things didn’t quite go to plan for the youngster in East London though and he now finds himself plying his trade outside of Europe’s big five leagues. At just 41p a share and finding the net on a regular basis his name has popped up on the FI forum at various points over the course of the season. Here we ask the question whether investing in him is a masterstroke or just plain madness.

Who is Toni Martinez?

Spanish born Martinez spent the lion’s share of his youth career with Real Murcia before joining the more prestigious setup at Valencia as a 16-year-old. His first appearance in Valencia colours came in a youth match as an 89th minute sub. Despite being on the field for 60 seconds, it didn’t stop him scoring. It was a bit of a false dawn though as things hardly boomed into life. By the 2015/16 season though, Martinez had begun to make an impression in the under 19 side with a goal involvement every two games. 

The Hopeful Hammer

His performances failed to win him a senior appearance for Los Murcelagos but he dropped on the radar of West Ham. Then Manager Slaven Bilic decided to shell out nearly £3m for his signature. It looked like being smart business too as Martinez began banging goals in for fun in Premier League 2; 10 goals and two assists in 11 games is not to be sniffed at. It earned him a loan move to Oxford United of League One and although he wasn’t nearly as prolific, three goals – including strikes against Newcastle and Middlesbrough in the FA Cup – and two assists in 863 minutes wasn’t a disastrous first taste of senior football.

The next campaign got underway with Martinez back in the PL2. He was again finding the net with ease notching nine goals in 13 games. Alongside this, Martinez was featuring for the under 23 team entered into the EFL trophy where he scored a further two goals. His displays earned him a place on the first team bench for a handful of Premier League matches but he ultimately failed to make it onto the pitch. That wasn’t the case in the FA Cup though and he struck his first – and only – senior goal for the Hammers in a 1-0 win over Shrewsbury.

Struggling in Spain

Another loan spell followed with West Ham keen to get Martinez regular senior football. A move to the second tier of Spain didn’t work out though with Real Valladolid only giving him 200 minutes of action. By the 2018/19 season, it appeared that the West Ham hierarchy had given up hope of Martinez realising his potential and two under par loan spells – with Rayo and Lugo in La Liga 2 – only yielded three goals in 31 appearances – albeit most of his game time coming from the bench.

Showing promise in Portugal 

12 months ago – almost to the day – West Ham waved goodbye to Martinez. The former Spanish under 17 international penned a deal with newly promoted Liga NOS side Famalicao. The new boys, who won promotion as runners up, were not expected to pull up any trees in the top tier but they’ve done exactly that with a fifth place finish firmly in their hands. Martinez has played a huge role in their season too.

During his first taste of Liga Nos he took just five minutes to find the net with what proved the crucial goal in a 2-0 win over Santa Clara and his involvement has remained steady if not sublime throughout the campaign. There is just one game remaining in the league with Martinez having hit double figures in addition to laying on five assists. That gives him a goal involvement every 141 minutes across league fixtures alone but that improves to every 133 when you throw the Taca de Portugal Placard into the mix. Famalicao were every neutrals favourite team in that tournament too as they reached the semi-finals. 

Despite a goal in each leg from Martinez, which took his tournament total to four, his side fell to a narrow defeat at the hands of Carlos Vinicius’ Benfica. The good news off the back of that defeat though was that it means Benfica and Porto face off in the final. Due to the league structure for European qualification it means Famalicao will qualify for the Europa League should they hold onto fifth spot.

What does the future hold for Toni Martinez?

Martinez clearly has what it takes to contribute at what is a decent level – albeit Liga Nos is inferior to the top five leagues. He hasn’t been linked with any moves of note though. That said, his team have raised eyebrows and some will have caught the eye. Whether Martinez is one of them remains to be seen. You’d imagine he’ll need another year of finding the net on a regular basis or going through a prolific patch in the Europa League to get an opportunity to move back to a PB league.

All things considered, it’s what we’d describe as a speculative punt at best and his story should perhaps serve as a warning to those who back unproven youngsters with big money a tad too soon.

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