HANOVER, N.J. — There’s no doubt that if Atlanta United lose Miguel Almiron in the winter transfer window, as has been heavily rumored, it would be a pity.
But according to New York Red Bulls midfielder Kaku, the Five Stripes will have a ready-made replacement in Gonzalo “Pity” Martinez.
The 25-year-old Argentine has reportedly signed for Atlanta for €15 million. Martinez is still on the books of River Plate, who he helped lead to a 2-2 draw against Boca Juniors in the opening leg of the Copa Libertadores final at La Bombonera on Sunday, the same day Almiron guided Atlanta to a 3-1 win over New York City FC in the second leg of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
“He’s a great player. I don’t know if they’re actually going to sign him or he’s going to stay with his current club, but overall if he did come here I’d be super happy for him because he’s really a good player, especially for this league,” Kaku said through a translator. “I’ve known him since I was a kid and we have the same agent as well. I see him being more like a Miguel Almiron-kind of player.”
Kaku said Martinez sought out his advice on joining MLS, just as he did with fellow Argentines Ignacio Piatti of the Montreal Impact and Diego Valeri of the Portland Timbers.
“I just told him the league is continuing to grow and it’s something that can help him,” Kaku said. “It would be a good benefit for him and for his career, hopefully if it goes through and also for MLS to have him here.”
Their connection goes beyond the same agent. Kaku and Martinez were teammates at Huracan.
Martinez was the club’s No. 10, while Kaku, two years younger, came off the bench.
“I’ve always looked up to him because he was a good person to look up to, to play that position,” Kaku said. “He’s always been a great player. I just tried to learn as much as I could when I played with him.”
Kaku said he’s unsure if Atlanta’s fluid coaching situation has affected Martinez’s decision — the reports of his signing came before manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino announced he’s stepping down at season’s end.
But Kaku knows what he’ll do first if the two meet in MLS next year.
“First and foremost, I’ll want to beat him,” Kaku said. “If we do get to play against each other that would be great. I’m going to congratulate him, but with Atlanta not knowing who their coach is going to be at the end of the season, I’m not sure they’ll be able to bring him over, but if he does it will be great for the league.”
Kaku said he’s already exchanged jerseys with Martinez, when Argentina played Colombia in an international friendly at MetLife Stadium on Sept. 11. Martinez handing Kaku his La Albiceleste shirt for Kaku’s Red Bulls jersey.
“But if he does come to MLS,” Kaku said, “he owes me a jersey.”