Before the 2022 season began, New York City FC knew they needed another center-back to compete with Alexander Callens and Maxime Chanot. As a result, they signed Thiago Martins to a contract through the 2025 season. There is an option for 2026.
However, NYCFC shocked everyone by signing Martins to a Designated Player contract. This was shocking, for if there was any center-back who deserved a contract like that, then it was Callens. At the same time, signing DP center-backs in Major League Soccer is rare.
Thus far, Martins has not proved his worth. In 2022, he struggled immensely. After Callen's departure, it was clear the defender had to step up his game in 2023. Fortunately, he did. His performances were cleaner, and he made fewer mistakes. Nonetheless, he should not be a DP.
Yet, Chanot always played at a higher level when he was partnered with Martins. The Brazilian did not have the same talent as the former captain. The same comparison is valid for Callens.
Thiago Martins should not be a Designated Player
In fact, some NYCFC fans blamed Martins' contract as why Callens left the club. The defender wanted a higher salary, but the DP contract impeded such a deal. The team could not have two DP center-backs, so Callens left. This angered some fans since they believed the Pigeons should have never signed him if he would only accept the higher deal.
Heading into 2024, there are concerns Martins' contract can hurt the club. This season, he made a guaranteed compensation of $2,112,000.00. His DP contract and salary could hurt NYCFC's chances of signing a DP-level attacker. Santiago Rodríguez is here to stay. Although, after this season, who knows whether Talles Magno will force a move. In that case, it would open up a spot.
Still, Martins' contract can limit the club's ability to sign the ultimate difference maker. There is no question they need to find a top goal-scoring threat. Plus, he has not proved himself to be one of the best center-backs in MLS. That alone should be convincing enough to start discussions about changing his deal.
Statistically, he is not the best with interceptions. In MLS, he had only 12 all season long. Meanwhile, the team leader was Chanot, who left at the end of August and had 27. The highest in the league came from Yeimar Gómez Andrade of Seattle Sounders FC. The center-back had 73 and was not a DP.
Of the NYCFC players who played ten or more matches, Martins had the highest successful passing percentage, with 90%. Excluding Luis Barraza, he and Chanot were tied with 92 accurate long balls. Although, he did not score a goal this year.
Martins is a good player, and his improvement during the 2023 season illuminates he should be with NYCFC. However, if the Brazilian refuses to change his contract, then the club should look for a team that can take him and provide the desired salary.
No matter what, Martins should not be a Designated Player. As a center-back, he should be one of the best in the league to earn that salary. Alas, he is not. The contract could also hinder the Pigeons' ability to bring big-name players. New York City FC must find a way to change his contract; the future of the club depends on it.