Speculation that Atletico Madrid could be looking to offload centre-forward Jackson Martinez, just six months after signing him from Porto for €35 million last summer, does appear to make a certain amount of sense.
Jackson has yet to really settle at the Estadio Vicente Calderon, finding it difficult to adapt to Diego Simeone’s ultra-demanding fitness and tactical demands, and to date scoring just three goals in his first 22 appearances across all competitions for Atletico.
This is quite a comedown for a player who was linked with many of Europe’s top clubs, from Chelsea to Arsenal to AC Milan, as he scored 28, 25 and 29 goals leading a hugely successful Porto side across the last three seasons.
Jackson seemed to many observers a complete centre-forward, strong holding up-play with his back to goal, powerful in the air, and lethal inside the penalty area.
That confident, forceful player has not yet been seen at the Calderon, where he has struggled to make any kind of impact. An injury picked up on international duty with Colombia has not helped, but the general feeling is the move has just not worked out so far at all.
“Forwards live off goals and they have a need to score,” Simeone said last week. “At other teams he did not begin well, and then, bit by bit, he improved. The others can benefit from his strength [in open play]. Although he would feel more comfortable with many more goals, clearly.”
This made it look as if Simeone was keen to persevere with the player, and give him time to turn things around. Jackson then started last Wednesday's Copa del Rey game against Celta Vigo, but again did not impress, and was hooked off with an hour played. AS reported that the pair had exchanged words at the break - with the coach not happy with the effort his number 11 was putting in.
Jackson was again on the bench for Sunday’s La Liga clash at home to Sevilla, where he got the last 15 minutes with Atletico chasing a winner against 10 men. But he touched the ball just once in that time, never looked close to getting a chance to score. He has now gone over 450 minutes, across 11 games, without finding the net.
Such a situation has lead, unsurprisingly, to increased speculation that Atletico might look to try and cut their losses as soon as possible. Simeone of course has to talk positively in public, but the club’s hierarchy might be tempted to recoup as much as possible of the club record fee they paid for a player who turns 30 later this year.
Last week brought speculation that Tottenham were readying a €30 million bid as they looked for another centre-forward to take the burden off the over-worked Harry Kane. Manchester United also look like a team in need of a traditional number nine who can hold the ball up and score regularly, as Jackson did at Porto.
Chelsea have also regularly been linked with Jackson through the years, and late last month his agent Henrique Pompeo spoke when rumours arose of a potential swap deal that could see Diego Costa return to the Calderon.
“Jackson wants to be a success at Atletico, and he will be, but it's the club that decides his future,” Pompeo told AS . “This is football and nobody knows what the future holds, but Jackson isn't a player who leaves a club unless it's through the front door. He loves the club, although obviously he would have preferred to have got off to a different start on a personal level. He's had to adapt to a new mentality, new playing style, and a thousand other things, and then he was injured.”
The situation is also complicated by the fact that Atletico’s other strikers, top scorer Antoine Griezmann apart, have also been having poor seasons in front of goal. Pacy young Argentine Luciano Vietto, a totally different type of striker, is currently partnering Griezmann up front to decent success, but has also scored just three times all season. Fernando Torres has the same total, from his 22 appearances, and could be set to leave the club when his loan deal from Milan ends next summer.
Then there’s Atletico’s FIFA-imposed one year transfer ban, although the club have confirmed they will appeal, opening up the likelihood that they will be able to restock their squad next summer.
Homegrown centre-forward Borja Baston, a 23-year-old who has already scored 14 La Liga goals this season on loan at Eibar, is likely to return to the Calderon for the 2016/17 campaign. The club also have very promising Argentine starlet Angel Correa on their books, and Colombian teenager Rafael Santos Borre is already signed for next summer.
All of which means that Atletico’s transfer hierarchy have plenty of thinking to do, and maybe a big decision to make if a sizeable bid from Spurs or anyone else comes in before the transfer window closes next Monday.
“I’m optimistic, thinking that things are going to improve,” he told TV station Cuatro last week. “I keep working. That's the only thing I can do. In my mind I am going from game to game, giving everything for the Atletico Madrid jersey. It always takes a while to adapt. I am not going to run away. While the club think I am useful, and necessary, I will stay. I want to stay and triumph at Atletico.”
Just like Simeone, you would not expect Jackson to say anything else in public. But if given a chance to escape from Atletico with his head held high, you get the feeling he might just take it.