Modern-day footballers hold their faith very close to them.
Picture Mesut Ozil in the centre-circle before a game praying, or Kaka donning his famous ‘I belong to Jesus’ t-shirt while on the pitch.
For many, religion is incredibly important, but some hold it close to them in other ways. For the Colombian striker Jackson Martinez, he has a different way of sharing his faith – through the medium of song.
Incredibly, the forward is now a Christian hip-hop artist and in 2018, released his debut album, No Temere.
Translated from Spanish into English, it means ‘No Fear’, a phrase that should be synonymous with the footballer considering the direction his playing days have headed in.
He has been releasing music for a number of years now and his latest single, Escucha, was put on streaming platforms this year.
It’s a bizarre career path to divert towards, but he isn’t the first to choose music over football. You only need to look at former Liverpool striker Djibril Cisse, someone who’s now DJing in French night clubs.
Hip-hop, however, has a stronger connection to Martinez, someone who is using rhythm and blues to share the difficulties of his life.
His career has witnessed one of the biggest drop-offs in recent memory, going from a mega-money signing to someone who is better at rapping than hitting the back of the net.
It’d be wrong to suggest that it’s sad. The 34-year-old is still pursuing something he loves, but it’s rather strange just how much he tailed off on the football pitch.
Born in Quibdo on the west of Colombia, Martinez grew up playing for a side called Independiente Medellin, the same team he burst onto the scene for between 2004 and 2009.
His instinctive nature in front of goal was already apparent, racking up 52 goals in 130 matches, guiding them to the title in his final season.
That wasn’t enough to earn him a big move to Europe but he did earn a switch to Mexico, where Martinez played for Chiapas for three years. Again, he was a prolific force in front of goal, netting 33 in 64 league games.
It was at a similar time that the striker began playing for his national team and then in 2012, Europe finally came calling.
This was Martinez’s big chance of a lucrative contract on the continent and he grasped it with both hands. Off he went to Portugal and joined Porto, a team where he really made a name for himself, replacing fellow countryman Radamel Falcao.
The impeccable finisher soon became feared, consistently finding the back of the net with great regularity. In his first season at Porto, Martinez scored 31 in 43, before adding a further 29 goals to his tally in 2013/14. What happened next? More goals of course.
Martinez ended the 2014/15 season with a career-best 34 strikes in all competitions, form that saw him linked with moves to both Manchester United and Arsenal. Neither took the plunge, however, as he joined La Liga and Atletico Madrid for a fee of £33.3m. Once again, he was following in Falcao’s footsteps.
For a man that grew up playing in Quidbo and Medellin, this was a colossal move and he’d more than earnt it. Unfortunately, he didn’t come anywhere near to replicating Falcao’s numbers of 70 goals in 91 outings.
Martinez had been an unstoppable force in Portugal, giving Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich a run for their money in the Champions League, but for one reason or another, he found life difficult in Spain.
The attacker scored just twice in his opening two league games for Atletico and he was then forced to miss nine matches with an ankle injury. After returning, he found regular minutes hard to come by and consequently joined Chinese side Guangzhou Evergrande for £37m just seven months after he’d headed to Spain.
At this point in time, Chinese football was going crazy. Players like Gervinho, Ramires and Alex Teixeira all moved that summer, before they were joined by the likes of Oscar, Hulk and Axel Witsel.
The Colombian’s spell was another disappointing one, missing 23 matches in his first season with Guangzhou. He cost the club £13.3m per goal, setting them back £11.1m in terms of wage too.
You can call Martinez a flop, but at the same time, he was incredibly unfortunate. Just as he was approaching his peak, injuries played havoc with his career and denied him the opportunity to succeed at the highest level possible.
After leaving China, Martinez came back to Portugal and joined Portimonense but scored just once last term in 10 games. As a result, the ageing forward is now a free agent and searching for a new club. Whether he finds one remains to be seen – his heart and soul looks as though it’s firmly set on music.
He has released five singles alone this year and after forging a pretty successful football career, now has other goals and aspirations.
Who can blame him for turning to music, either? He has been through some incredibly tough times in the last few years and needs to find some solace. Through hip-hop and Christianity, he’s finding exactly that.
- What happened to Freddy Adu – the 14-year-old compared to Pele
- Why the USA could be dark horses at the next World Cup
- Ranking all 20 Golden Boy nominees from worst to best