05 August 2013

Jackson Martínez, the signing we're all really hoping for...

With all of the excitement over the Emirates Cup, the talk around Luis Suarez has ebbed a bit, and that's more than fine with me.With Napoli in town, there was bound to be some angst over Gonzalo Higuaín's appearance, but the real drama now might come down to a third club's striker—Porto's Jackson Martínez, scorer of 26 goals in 30 Primeira Liga matches. He's been linked with a move to Napoli, but I doubt that this will come to pass. I'm hoping that Arsène used the Napoli-Porto match as a chance to get a closer look at the dynamic Colombian.

After all, Porto has been in full fire-sale mode in the last few seasons, losing Hulk in 2012 and then James Rodriguez and João Moutinho already this summer. They managed to win the Primeira this past season but will be hard-pressed to do so without the latter two. If Martínez is interested in continuing to compete in European competitions, then, he'll almost certainly be looking to move.

His rise has been quick, but not so sharp as to drive his price to ludicrous heights. In his first season of European competition, his market-value is, depending on whom you ask, in the mid-£20m range, a comparative bargain when compared to the likes of Higuaín or Suarez.

Napoli, who have been linked with a move for Martínez, have a negative transfer balance of £104m over the last five years, and this includes the £54m sale of Edinson Cavani. With the addition of Higuaín, Napoli have five center-forwards on the squad, ranging in age from 19-year old Soma Novothny to 31-year old Emanuele Calaiò, so it strikes me as unlikely that they'd be in the market for yet another center-forward.

Why not pursue him? He's strong, fast, and good in the air, and he's skilled and agile enough to create his own shot. Of course, the Primeira is a step or two down from the Premier League, but these attributes suggest that he could make the adjustment. His transition from the Mexican Primera League seems to have come off without a hitch, and he did well in European competition as well, scoring three goals in eight appearances as Porto advanced to the last 16.

As we look at how best to improve the squad, the Emirates Cup has reminded us that we need more than firepower up-top. We go into the season with five healthy defenders (one left-back, two center-backs, and two right backs, one of these still, um developing), two defensive midfielders who offer very similar skill-sets, and without anyone to challenge Sczcesny between the sticks. With these concerns, it would be risky to put so much of our money where Suarez's mouth is. Inquiring about Martínez's availability might allow us to strengthen the attack and still make one or two more high-quality signings.

After all, let's not make "ambition in the market" with "signing the most-expensive player available." Moving aggressively in the next week or two to add two or three or four players isn't just a away to shop prudently; it might be the best way to build depth and competition within the squad, deepening focus, intensity, and effort throughout. That would be beautiful thing to see.