After being one of the hot topics in the transfer world for two years in a row, Jackson Martínez finally got his big move to one of the greats of European football: Atlético Madrid. Since his arrival on July 14, ‘Cha-cha-cha’, who won the golden boot in the Portuguese league three times in a row, certainly couldn’t be accused of suffering from stage fright, scoring a forty yard screamer in his second appearance for ‘los colchoneros’. Juan Camilo Giraldo takes a look at the striker’s story
Name: Jackson Arley Martínez Valencia
Born: Quibdo, October 3, 1986
Profession: Deadly in front of goal
Jackson, named after the king of pop, actually wanted to be a basketball player in his younger years. “I never expressed my deep wish to be a basketball player, but in my heart I always wanted to be one,” he explained to Bocas magazine. “I gave up on the dream because of the difficult situation my family was in. I didn’t have anyone who supported me with that dream. So, I moved towards football, because I saw I would have more opportunities there.”
Jackson’s nickname ‘Cha-cha-cha’ came from his father, Orlando Martínez, who had been a football player at a second division team. Apparently, whenever his father scored a goal, he would celebrate by dancing the famous cha-cha-cha dance. His teammates didn’t hesitate to continue the tradition and the moniker was passed on from father to his more talented son. Jackson says of his father, “He gave up his career after I was born. He didn’t get paid so he chose to give it all up and go to Choco to work and try to take care of his family.”
Jackson’s childhood was not easy. He didn’t have the resources to buy studs or a training kit. “I was always barefoot, my mum told me that I tore the heads off my sisters’ dolls and started kicking them around the house, or that I was kicking cans or stones, all barefoot. That is how my dream started.”
In Quibdo, he soon stood out as one of the better players – he even played twice in the prestigious Pony football youth tournament, famous in Colombia for featuring stars like James Rodriguez and Radamel Falcao in their younger years. Jackson understood that if he wanted to be discovered, he had to go to the big city. At the age of 12, Jackson told his parents that he wanted to go to Medellin to study and become a footballer. In the Antioquian capital he started in the amateur clubs, Deportivo Enciso and Coopebombas, seen as the city’s talent factories. In the regional youth competitions Jackson played and scored against the youth teams of Deportivo Independiente Medellin and Atlético Nacional until ‘the reds’ from Medellin gave him a chance.
In 2004 he debuted at Independiente Medellin, under Pedro Sarmiento. His former manager recalled, “When he came to me, physically he looked in a very weak state. So we prepared him for the game. We started dressing him, taking him to the gym and training him. When I let him make his debut and he entered the pitch the fans started insulting both me and him. They didn’t like him because he looked skinny and weak. He arrived to us undernourished and without resources, but I saw he had a lot of potential.”
In the following seasons Jackson played sporadically, but that changed in 2008, his break-through year, in which he scored ten goals in 23 games. In 2009, Martínez won the league title with Independiente Medellin, which still stands today as the last league title for el rojo paisa and Jackson Martínez was the top goalscorer with 18 goals in 23 games.
Jackson then took his first step onto the international stage, signing with Mexican club Jaguares de Chiapas FC, where he played for a very successful three-year spell. In 2013 Jackson signed for FC Porto in Portugal for 8.8 million euros.
Porto presented the difficult task of following in the footsteps of his successful countryman Radamel Falcao. ‘El tigre’ was a hero in Portugal and Jackson had a lot to live up to. That didn’t stop the ‘chocoano’, who shone in Portugal, achieving impressive statistics – in 143 games he scored 94 goals. He was voted player of the Portuguese league in 2013 and became top goalscorer in the three seasons he played in Portugal.
Here in Colombia, Jackson Martínez has not found outright success with the national team. Facing competition for his position from the likes of Falcao, Teo Gutiérrez and Carlos Bacca, he hasn’t had a lot of chances to earn his stripes. While his nine goals in 38 matches clearly leaves room for improvement, nobody can deny that his two goals in the 2014 Brazil World Cup were valuable.
At Atlético Madrid, Jackson must once again fill Falcao’s shoes to bring more successes to ‘los colchoneros’. With a price tag of 35 million euros around his neck, nothing less is expected.
By Juan Camilo Giraldo