Our move to sign highly-rated Valencia wonderkid Toni Martinez was arguably the worst kept secret of the season so far
Slaven Bilic confirmed the deal was close ahead of our 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace last month, and the young Spaniard’s arrival was officially confirmed on Apil 22. But what should we expect from the 18-yearold? Th e main thing we know of the striker is the fact he banged in over 100 goals in just four years for the Mestalla’s youth team before arriving in east London.
To put that into perspective, that’s pretty much the same record Sergio Aguero has enjoyed in the Premier League for Manchester City. Of course, the Spanish youth leagues aren’t exactly at the same level as our top-flight, but the initial signs are that we’ve got a natural goal scorer on our hands. Th ere aren’t many clips of him doing his thing on the internet just yet, but judging by the four minute highlight reel I found of him on YouTube, it doesn’t take long to realise why he is oft en compared to a young Fernando Torres.
Martinez is fast, strong on the ball and loves to run at defenders. His pace and quick feet ensures defenders are regularly fooled by his trickery – put simply, Martinez is showing the early signs of becoming a typical Spanish centre-forward. He likes to get into the box and feed off balls from out wide, which certainly benefits the style of play West Hamve have adopted since Bilic arrived at the club last summer
Bilic claims he’s had his eye on Martinez for a while and you have to respect his judgement. Th e last player he said this about was Manuel Lanzini, who he admitted to doing all he could to bring him to Besiktas – but to no avail. No one had ever heard of Lanzini before he arrived, but he has become of our best players this season. So the arrival of Martinez should be met with excitement more than anything else.
You can’t imagine he’ll slot straight into the first-team next season, and the fact he was paraded in front of the 10,200+ strong crowd at our U21s Cup final at the Boleyn at the end of April, suggests he’ll begin his Hammers career plying his trade with the youth system. But that will suit him. Reports in Spain claimed back in March that Martinez was open to a move to West Ham because he knew his chances of breaking in to Valencia’s first team were slim and that he was excited to work with a manager who likes to nurture and develop young players.
Th e big bonus is that Valencia have allowed Martinez to begin training with his West Ham teams with immediate effect, despite not officially becoming a Hammer until the beginning of July. Th is will give him a few months to settle into his new life in London, get to know his teammates and, more importantly, the style and ethos Bilic is successfully implementing at the club.
So when the time comes for him to make his first-team debut, Toni Martinez should be ready to show the world that he really can be the Premier League’s next pre-Chelsea Fernando Torres.