Seattle Sounders GM and President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey confirmed Sunday that a team from the Chinese Super League has expressed interest in acquiring Obafemi Martins, but gave no indication that a deal has been completed to send the star striker out of Seattle.
Lagerwey said Martins did not travel with the team to its current preseason camp in Southern California, and he was unsure exactly when the current situation about the Nigerian international's future will be resolved.
ESPNFC first broke the news Friday night that Martins was being courted by multiple teams from the CSL. The BBC reported early Sunday that the deal to send Martins to SPL club Shanghai Shenhua had been finalized.
"Oba's not here with us in this phase of camp," Lagerwey said. "We've had an approach from a Chinese club for his services, and it could take a while to have that resolved. Hopefully we'll know more by the end of the week."
Martins, 31, was named the Sounders’ team MVP each of the past two seasons and was the runner-up for the league MVP in 2014. He’s scored 40 goals and added 23 assists since joining the Sounders from Spanish side Levante in March 2013.
The Martins news comes less than two weeks before the Sounders will host Mexican side Club America in the first leg of the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals. Seattle will host the first leg on Feb. 23 at CenturyLink Field before playing the second leg at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City on March 2.
The Sounders will open the MLS regular season at home against Sporting Kansas City on Sunday, March 6.
A potential deal for Martins would open up a Designated Player spot for the Sounders, but also create a wealth of questions about the lineup before the beginning of the season. Head coach Sigi Schmid has put Martins up top with strikers Clint Dempsey and Nelson Valdez as part of a new-look 4-3-3 formation during the preseason, but Homegrown forward Jordan Morris is now also an option after he joined the club earlier this month.
"I don't think [the Martins situation] has any impact on us, in the sense that we'll go forward with this group," Lagerwey said. "That's who we've been training. Those are the guys who are here, those are the guys we're going to rely upon, and that's the group that is by and large 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. If that third DP slot opens up, it gives us a lot more roster flexibility, and an ability to implement our long-term vision for this team. If it doesn't we'll have Obafemi Martins back. And that's a good thing too."