Obafemi Martins

Obafemi Akinwunmi Martins (born 28 October 1984) is a Nigerian footballer who plays as a forward. He is known for his speed on the ball. After leaving Nigeria for Italy at age 16, he has since played for a number of top-division clubs around Europe. He began his senior career in 2002 at Serie A club Inter Milan, before moving to Premier League club Newcastle United in 2006, and then to Bundesliga club VfL Wolfsburg in 2009. Having joined Russian Premier League side Rubin Kazan in July 2010, they loaned him to Birmingham City in January 2011.

Obafemi Martins
Martins playing for Levante in 2012
Personal information
Full name Obafemi Akinwunmi Martins[1]
Date of birth (1984-10-28) 28 October 1984[2]
Place of birth Lagos, Nigeria
Height 1.70 m (5 ft 7 in)[3]
Playing position Forward
Youth career
1999–2000 Ebedei
2000–2001 Reggiana
2001–2002 Inter Milan
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
2000–2001 Reggiana 2 (0)
2001–2006 Inter Milan[2] 88 (28)
2006–2009 Newcastle United 88 (28)
2009–2010 VfL Wolfsburg 16 (6)
2010–2012 Rubin Kazan 20 (3)
2011Birmingham City (loan) 4 (0)
2012–2013 Levante 21 (7)
2013–2015 Seattle Sounders FC 72 (40)
2016–2018 Shanghai Shenhua 40 (19)
National team
2004–2015 Nigeria 42 (19)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only and correct as of 07:44, 3 April 2018 (UTC)
‡ National team caps and goals correct as of 19 November 2015

In club football, Martins has won the Serie A title, the Italian Cup (twice), and the Italian Super Cup, all with Inter. With Birmingham he scored the winning goal in the 2011 Football League Cup Final. He has played European football with Inter, Newcastle and Wolfsburg, winning the UEFA Intertoto Cup with Newcastle. His highest scoring league seasons so far have seen him score 11 goals in the 2004–05 Serie A, and 17 in both the 2006–07 Premier League and 2014 MLS. In international football, Martins has been in the Nigerian squad for the Africa Cup of Nations in 2006, 2008 and 2010, and for the FIFA World Cup in 2010. He played for Seattle Sounders FC of Major League Soccer from 2013 to 2015, scoring 40 goals, before moving on to China.

Martins had two brothers who also played football professionally. His elder brother, Oladipupo Martins, played for Reggiana, Partizan and Innsbruck before retiring from football in 2009 due to heart problems. He died on 8 August 2011 of a suspected heart attack in Lagos, Nigeria.[4][5] Martins' younger brother is John Ronan Martins. The name "Obafemi" translates literally to "the king loves me" in the Yoruba language.[6]

Club career

Early career

Martins joined the local football club F.C. Ebedei, having been scouted by manager Churchill Oliseh while playing on the streets of his hometown. After a year with the club, Serie C side A.C. Reggiana made a move for the player. After a three-month trial, Martins and fellow Ebedei teammate Stephen Makinwa signed youth contracts with the club in 2000. His first season in Italy saw Martins break into the first team squad, and later in the year Serie A sides Perugia and Inter Milan made offers for the forward.[7]

Inter Milan

Martins was signed by Inter Milan in 2001 for a €750,000 transfer fee,[8] and in his first season he scored 23 goals for the youth team, helping them to win the Campionato Nazionale Primavera in 2001–02 season.[9] His form for the youth side led to his first-team league debut the following season, starting in a match against Parma on 22 December 2002 which was won by Inter 2–1.[10]

Martins didn't become a regular member of the first team squad until the 2002–03 season. During this season he was given his first UEFA Champions League appearance by manager Héctor Cúper, entering as a substitute against his future employers, Newcastle United, at St James' Park. He scored his first Champions League goal in a match against Bayer 04 Leverkusen to secure Inter's place in the quarter finals; footage of his celebratory somersaults were subsequently used by UEFA to advertise the following season's competition. He scored again in the semi-final match against Inter's arch-rivals Milan, but couldn't prevent the club losing out on away goals to the competition's eventual winners.[11] In the championship, he scored once in four appearances.[2]

Martins signed a long-term contract with Inter Milan in 2005 which ran until 2010 and was worth around €2.5 million annually.[12] By scoring in the 3–1 win at Anderlecht in the 2004–05 UEFA Champions League group stage, Martins become the first ever teenage to score in three consecutive Champions League seasons.[13] He was also protagonist in team's successful run in Coppa Italia, scoring six goals, including a hat-trick against Bologna,[14] as the tournament ended in conquest.[15] Martins amassed 22 goals in 45 matches across all competitions, setting a new personal best; his good form for Inter earned him a spot in Nigeria's 2006 Africa Cup of Nations squad.[16]

Although he had some success with Inter, scoring 28 goals for the club in 88 league games as well as 11 goals in European competitions, he was sold in August 2006. This was due to Inter bringing in two new strikers; first Argentinian Hernán Crespo was brought in on loan from Chelsea and then the Swede Zlatan Ibrahimović was bought by Inter from Juventus.[17]

Newcastle United

After Martins submitted a transfer request,[17] Premier League club Newcastle United completed a deal with Inter for the striker on 24 August 2006 for €15 million.[18] Martins signed a five-year deal. He was paraded in front of the Geordie fans before their UEFA cup tie against FK Ventspils, and inherited the club's cherished number 9 shirt, vacated after the retirement of the club-record goalscorer Alan Shearer in April.

Martins made his Premier League debut on 27 August, in the 2–0 defeat to Aston Villa, in which he was stretchered off with a knee injury. It turned out that Martins suffered a severe dead leg and internal bleeding. His unremarkable first few appearances for Newcastle caused manager Glenn Roeder to speak out in his defence.[19]

However, on 17 September, Martins scored his first goal for Newcastle. It was the second goal in a 2–0 victory over West Ham United at Upton Park, and from there his goalscoring form began to improve steadily.

Reports in January 2007 suggested that Chelsea were considering making an offer for Martins' services after his impressive form. These reports were later rubbished by Martins himself,[20] and Roeder stated that although he was interested in signing a Chelsea player, he would not allow Martins to leave Newcastle.[21]

On 14 January, in a 2–3 away win against Tottenham Hotspur, Martins' 20-yard shot rocketed into the net. This strike was clocked by Sky Sports at a speed of 84 mph (135 km/h), making it unofficially the ninth hardest shot ever recorded in football according to the Guardian website.[22] This was his tenth goal for Newcastle. Martins ended his first season on Tyneside with 17 goals in 46 games.

His second season was somewhat mixed. With new manager Sam Allardyce preferring to play Michael Owen and Mark Viduka up front, Martins found himself being used as an impact substitute for the first half of the season. Despite this he managed to score consistently, and when Allardyce was sacked and Kevin Keegan was appointed, Martins found himself being used as part of a three pronged attack along with Owen and Viduka. Martins scored fewer goals in his second season with Newcastle, mainly due to him no longer being the focal point of all their attacks as he was in his first season with them, as well as his season being interrupted with the African Cup of Nations participation with Nigeria in December.

Martins scored six goals in 12 league games during the first half of the 2008–09 season before a torn hamstring ruled him out for several games.[23] It was confirmed on 7 January 2009, that Martins would undergo hernia surgery in Germany the next Monday. He was operated on by renowned specialist Dr. Ulrike Muschaweck. He did make it back in time for the last two games of the season, scoring in a relegation six-pointer derby against Middlesbrough. However, he could not stop Newcastle being relegated to the Championship.[24] He initially reiterated his desire to stay and help the club return to the Premier League for the 2009–10 season, but he eventually left for VfL Wolfsburg. His last game was in a preseason friendly against Leyton Orient, which Newcastle lost 6–1.

During his three-year spell on Tyneside, Martins amassed 35 goals in all competitions from 104 games.

VfL Wolfsburg

On 29 July 2009, Newcastle accepted a £9 million bid from Bundesliga champions VfL Wolfsburg, the transfer was confirmed on 31 July with Martins signing a four-year contract.[25] For his debut, Martins came on as a second-half substitute against 1. FC Köln at the Rhein Energie Stadion, with his team deadlocked at 1–1. He helped in the buildup to the second goal and capped off his first appearance in the Bundesliga with a well-taken goal after dribbling past two onrushing defenders and then coolly finishing from six yards out, slotting the ball past the goalkeeper to the far post.

Rubin Kazan

On 9 July 2010, Martins was sold for a reported €17 million to reigning Russian Premier League champions Rubin Kazan. He signed a three-year contract and told BBC Sport: "I am joining a team of champions and I hope to bring my best to the club to make them even greater." Martins' agent, Nicola Walter, revealed that Rubin met all of the player's requirements and that manager Kurban Berdyev had a "massive role" for him to play, following the departure of striker Aleksandr Bukharov. Martins was able to make his debut with Rubin after 1 August, when the transfer window was opened. On 9 May 2012, Rubin Kazan won the Russian Cup giving Martins his first trophy in Russia.[26][27]

Loan to Birmingham City

Following the birth of his child, Martins requested a move to England to be nearer to his family.[28] On 31 January 2011, he joined Premier League club Birmingham City on loan until the end of the season,[29] with the option of a £5 million permanent deal in the summer of 2011.[30] He made his debut, which had been delayed by the formalities of obtaining a working visa, in the starting eleven against Stoke City on 12 February; he played for 75 minutes as Birmingham won 1–0.[31][32] He scored his first goal for the club, 17 minutes into the FA Cup fifth-round defeat of Sheffield Wednesday, after a strong run.[33]

Martins scored the winning goal in the 2011 Football League Cup Final as Birmingham beat Arsenal 2–1 at Wembley Stadium, having been brought on as an 83rd-minute substitute. With one minute remaining in normal time, there was a moment of confusion between Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczęsny and defender Laurent Koscielny as they attempted to deal with a headed knock down from Birmingham's Nikola Žigić. Martins passed the resulting loose ball into the empty net from near the penalty spot.[34] Martins described it as "the easiest goal I've ever scored in my career".[35] After two more Premier League appearances, he spent several weeks out with an injury eventually diagnosed as a stress fracture of the left tibia. After surgery in late April, he faced a recovery period estimated at three to four months.[36]


On 13 September 2012, Martins moved to Levante on a free transfer, signing a two-year contract.[37][38] He made his league debut on 23 September 2012, where he scored his first goal, and the winning goal, in a 2–1 home win against Real Sociedad.[39] Martins scored a brace for Levante in their 3–1 home victory over Granada on 28 October, sending his side into fourth place in the La Liga standings.[40]

Seattle Sounders FC

On 11 March 2013, it was announced that Martins signed with MLS club Seattle Sounders FC as a Designated Player after the club paid a $4 million buyout clause in Martins' contract with Levante. The move concluded weeks of speculation of a possible Martins move to Seattle. Levante had been hesitant to lose Martins mid-season, and had threatened Sounders FC with a tampering lawsuit.[41] On 15 March 2013, the club announced that the signing was official.[42] Martins scored his first goal for the club on 20 April 2013, performing his signature back-flip goal celebration.[43]

On 24 October 2014, Martins signed a new three-year contract extension with Seattle, nearly doubling his annual salary to more than $3 million.[44] The following day, Martins provided an assist for Marco Pappa's first goal as Seattle defeated the Galaxy 2–0 to win the Supporters' Shield.[45] The assist meant that Martins finished with 17 goals during the regular season, a club record, as well as notching 13 assists, a joint-club record held with Mauro Rosales.[44][45][46]

Martins had a very successful 2014 season with the Sounders, his second with the club, and was named as one of three MLS MVP finalists.[47] Martins was named to the MLS Best XI and the Sounders won every game in which he scored.[48] He also won MLS Goal of the Year for a looping goal he shot from an extremely tight angle near the end line into the far netting over Earthquakes keeper Jon Busch.[49]

Shanghai Shenhua

On 18 February 2016, Martins was signed for Chinese Super League side Shanghai Shenhua.[50] On 15 May 2016, he scored his first goal with Shanghai as a late substitute in a 5–1 win over Guangzhou R&F.[51] Martins scored the only goal in the first leg of the 2017 Chinese FA Cup final and scored a spectacular goal in the second. Although their opponents, Shanghai SIPG, won the second leg 3–2, Shanghai Shenhua won the trophy on away goals.[52]

On 31 March 2018, Martins scored his first hat-trick for Shenhua in a 4–2 home win against Hebei China Fortune.[53] However, he suffered a partial rupture of tendon of quadriceps femoris at his right knee in the fifth group stage match of 2018 AFC Champions League against Kashima Antlers on 3 April 2018, which ruling him out for at least six months.[54] On 1 June 2018 it was announced that Martins had been waived from Shenhua.[55]

He suffered a torn hamstring in May 2019, and in November 2019 said that he was seeking a new club following his recovery from injury.[56]

International career

Martins made his debut for Nigeria in 2004 at the age of 19 in the 2004 Unity Cup scoring the second goal, in the tri-nations Unity Cup tournament in London.[57] He was a part of the Nigerian team that finished third in the 2006 African Cup of Nations. Martins scored two goals in the competition, both coming against Senegal in the first round.

His future for the national team has been placed in doubt on numerous occasions after separate incidents of controversy. In August 2006, the Nigerian FA (NFA) website had his date of birth down as 1 May 1978, which would have made him 28 years of age rather than 21. The NFA soon confirmed that it had been an administrative error and apologised for the confusion it had caused. However Martins threatened to quit playing for the national team after the blunder had initially put his move to Newcastle in doubt.[58]

On 6 February 2007, Martins failed to turn up for the 4–1 friendly defeat against Ghana, despite being ordered to play. He later explained his absence was due to the fact he had travelled to Lagos to visit his sick mother.[59] The Nigerian caretaker coach Augustine Eguavoen was furious with Martins and threatened to ban him from the national team.[60] On 14 February 2007, Martins apologised for missing the game but said he believed his mother's health was more important. He also said that he would be available to play for Nigeria in the future.[61] He made his return to the national side on 24 March 2007, playing the full match against Uganda in an African Cup of Nations Qualifying match and won.

Following the end of Nigeria's 2008 Africa Cup of Nations qualification campaign, Nigeria faced Mexico in Ciudad Juárez for a friendly match. Martins scored two goals in a 2–2 draw.

On 17 November 2007, Martins captained Nigeria for the first time, in a friendly match against Australia for his 19th appearance. On 12 November 2009 he scored a spectacular goal in the 83rd minute against Kenya in Nairobi, thus ensuring Nigeria's qualification for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. At the finals in South Africa, Martins played in just two games for a total of 71 minutes, without scoring.[62] In the first group game, he came on as a 52nd-minute substitute for Victor Obinna.[63] In the third game he was used as a 57th-minute substitute for Nwankwo Kanu.[64] Nigeria exited the tournament bottom of Group B with only one point.[65]

Style of play

A fast, diminutive, and agile left-footed striker, who is quick on the ball, Martins is primarily known for his outstanding pace, mobility, and athleticism as a footballer, as well as his striking power, and his strength, in spite of his small stature; he has also stood out for his acrobatic goal celebrations.[66][67]

Personal life

Martins received his U.S. green card in 2015 which qualifies him as a domestic player for MLS roster purposes.[68]

He is married to Ghanaian-Italian Abigail Barwuah, sister of Mario Balotelli. The couple have one child named Kendrick, born in 2013.[69]

Career statistics


As of 3 April 2018.[70]
Club performance League Cup League Cup Continental Other[nb 1] Total
Season Club League AppsGoals AppsGoals AppsGoals AppsGoals AppsGoals AppsGoals
Italy League Coppa Italia League Cup Europe Other Total
2000–01ReggianaSerie C12020
2001–02Inter MilanSerie A00000000
England League FA Cup League Cup Europe Other Total
2006–07Newcastle UnitedPremier League33112020964617
Germany League DFB-Pokal DFB Ligapokal Europe Other Total
2009–10VfL WolfsburgBundesliga 166100080256
Russia League Russian Cup Premier League Cup Europe Other Total
2010Rubin KazanRussian Premier League 1220050172
England League FA Cup League Cup Europe Other Total
2010–11Birmingham City (loan)Premier League 4011110062
Russia League Russian Cup Premier League Cup Europe Other Total
2011–12Rubin KazanRussian Premier League 811082173
Spain League Copa del Rey Copa de la Liga Europe Other Total
2012–13LevanteLa Liga 2173032279
United States League US Open Cup League Cup North America Other Total
2013Seattle Sounders FCMajor League Soccer 2081010228
China League FA Cup League Cup Asia Other Total
2016Shanghai ShenhuaChinese Super League 269563115
CountryItaly 902817930121013849
England 92283162960011037
Germany 16610008000256
Russia 2031013210355
Spain 217303200279
United States 72404300708343
China 4019121261105932
Career total 3451303622626923100466177



Nigeria national team

International goals

Scores and results list Nigeria's goal tally first.[71]
1.30 May 2004The Valley, London, England Republic of Ireland2–03–0Friendly
2.5 June 2004National Stadium, Abuja, Nigeria Rwanda1–02–02006 FIFA World Cup qualification
4.5 June 2005Amahoro Stadium, Kigali, Rwanda Rwanda1–11–12006 FIFA World Cup qualification
5.17 August 2005Tripoli Stadium, Tripoli, Libya Libya1–01–0Friendly
6.4 September 2005Ahmed Zabana Stadium, Oran, Algeria Algeria1–05–22006 FIFA World Cup qualification
9.8 October 2005National Stadium, Abuja, Nigeria Zimbabwe1–05–12006 FIFA World Cup qualification
11.31 January 2006Port Said Stadium, Port Said, Egypt Senegal1–12–12006 Africa Cup of Nations
13.14 October 2007Estadio Olímpico Benito Juárez, Ciudad Juárez, Mexico Mexico1–02–2Friendly
15.14 November 2009Moi International Sports Centre, Nairobi, Kenya Kenya1–13–22010 FIFA World Cup qualification
17.20 January 2010Estádio Nacional da Tundavala, Lubango, Angola Mozambique3–03–02010 Africa Cup of Nations
18.6 June 2010Makhulong Stadium, Tembisa, South Africa North Korea3–13–1Friendly
19.5 September 2010U.J. Esuene Stadium, Calabar, Nigeria Madagascar1–02–02012 Africa Cup of Nations qualification


Inter Milan[72]

Newcastle United

Birmingham City[72]

Rubin Kazan[72]

Seattle Sounders FC[72]

Shanghai Greenland Shenhua[52]



  1. Includes other competitive competitions, including the Russian Super Cup, the Supercoppa Italiana, the MLS Cup playoffs and the Chinese FA Super Cup.


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