The list of players in the football world who have played against Lionel Messi and Neymar in their careers is quite long, but it is not so long yet.
The list of players who faced the two superstars in the same year is even shorter.
And the list of players who have faced them while playing for their country is even shorter.
Union midfielder JosÃ© AndrÃ©s MartÃnez is part of this exclusive club. After facing Neymar at the Copa AmÃ©rica this summer in Brazil, MartÃnez in a duel with Messi when Argentina visited Venezuela in a World Cup qualifier earlier this month.
âIt was a great experience for me, I enjoyed it so much,â MartÃnez told The Inquirer this week with the help of a translator. “Any player who plays for his country does so with great happiness and pride.”
These games were the latest highs of a remarkable rise for the 27-year-old from Maracaibo, Venezuela. When the Union signed MartÃnez in December 2019, he had won a national team selection the previous September, but had yet to play for the national team. Vinotinto. Now he is a mainstay for the club and the country.
âIn less than a year my life has changed completely,â MartÃnez said. âI’m just grateful for the people who are there with me, the people who support me. All of my successes, all the things that I have accomplished, I have to thank them for [that], and I dedicate my success to them.
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This support system has helped MartÃnez adjust to a new country and the isolation the pandemic has caused to everyone, including professional athletes.
âI have people by my side in Philadelphia who have won my love and my heart,â he said. âIf it were up to me, I would play my whole career here in Philadelphia, and if I had to go to another club, I wish I could go back to Philadelphia. I love the city, I love the people, I love the atmosphere here in Philadelphia.
MartÃnez is particularly close to Sergio Santos, who, like MartÃnez, raised his notoriety by playing for the Union.
âHe has become a brother to me,â MartÃnez said. âWe respect each other, we communicate a lot, not only on the pitch, but also off the pitch. “
Recently, the Union added a second Venezuelan player to the squad, JesÃºs Bueno. MartÃnez has taken the 22-year-old newcomer under his wing.
“He’s a good boy, he’s a great football player and I hope he gets the chance to shine at the club,” MartÃnez said.
Raising another Venezuelan brought a big smile to MartÃnez’s face. This time, he was a player he could play against when the Union hosts Atlanta United on Saturday afternoon (3:30 p.m., Univision 65 and TUDN): Five Stripes star forward Josef MartÃnez. The two are not related, but they have built a strong bond.
Josef – you’ll hear him often called by his first name on national television – has scored three goals in his last two games, nine in 21 this year and 99 in 124 career games for Atlanta.
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No one will be surprised if he scores his 100th goal in his 125th game for the club. But there’s a chance it won’t be Saturday. Josef suffers from an injury which Atlanta manager Gonzalo Pineda called “knee overload” on Thursday. Pineda told reporters in Atlanta that MartÃnez is from day to day.
There is a good chance that MartÃnez will make the trip. He might not start, but the Union will expect him to play. Atlanta (9-7-9, 36 points) is just one point and one spot ahead of 7th (9-7-8) Union in an Eastern Conference playoff race very busy.
“Although he was injured, he still scored goals,” JosÃ© MartÃnez said of Josef. “Imagine if he wasn’t hurt.”
The two are seated at the same dining table when on national team duty, and JosÃ© revealed they spoke on the phone for an hour on Wednesday.
âAbout personal stuff and football and this weekend’s game,â he said. “He’s a great, great player, he’s a humble person, and he’s someone I take his advice very seriously.”
Oddly enough, they’ve only faced each other once in MLS: the Union’s epic 3-0 Champions League victory in Atlanta on April 27. JosÃ© was suspended for the Union home game in the series due to an accumulation of yellow cards, and they were both at the Copa AmÃ©rica during the Union regular season game in Atlanta on the 20th. June. The teams did not face each other last year due to the MLS schedule altered by the pandemic.
âI know Atlanta United have been one of the best teams in MLS in recent years, but the Philadelphia Union has also gained a lot of respect in recent years,â said JosÃ©. “I hope this weekend game is a good game, a healthy game for the fans, and that the best team on the pitch wins.”
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