Category: North America



Porto have confirmed the signing of Colombian forward Jackson Martínez on a four-year deal, after paying Mexican side Jaguares £7 million for the frontman’s services.

Martínez joins the Portuguese champions following three goal-laden seasons at Chiapas-based Jaguares, even captaining the side in 2012 despite still only being 25-years-old. Having began his career in his home country with Independiente Medellín in 2004, Martínez impressed sufficiently to earn a move to Mexico in 2010, making his international bow for Colombia the year before.

4 goals in just 9 games in his first season in senior football, aged 18, showed Martínez’s potential, and although his strike rate dropped to a goal every four games in the following four campaigns, the forward netted an incredible 20 times in 25 games in 2009 to secure a move to Jaguares.

Martínez’s international and domestic success has led to bigger and better things

He maintained his strike rate in Mexico’s top flight, with his 28 goals in 58 fixtures for Jaguares – only founded in 2002 – making him the club’s second-top goalscorer of all time. Described by BBC South American football correspondent Tim Vickery as “an out-and-out goalscorer, a front-to-goal centre-forward who can finish off both feet, and with excellent spring that makes him a threat in the air”, Martínez boasts a frightening combination of speed and aerial ability – he is 6 feet tall – that makes him a real handful for opposition defences.

Although Porto are taking something of a gamble by investing in a forward that has never played European football before, they were not the only club chasing Martínez’s signature: Premier League giants Liverpool had been interested in the forward since March, with Martínez also thought to be on the radar of fellow English top-flight sides Fulham, Everton, Sunderland and Wigan.

However, Porto acted quickly, and were aided by the lack of a language barrier facing Martínez in Portugal compared to England. Jackson will join fellow Colombian James Rodríguez at the club, with Porto’s squad containing a total of 15 South Americans, including the side’s Brazilian captain Hulk.

Martínez’s lack of European experience – combined with the quality of the other attackers on Porto’s books – means that he may not start the 2012-13 Primeira Liga campaign in the club’s starting XI: competition for places is fierce, and Martínez is likely to be behind the aforementioned Hulk as well as Portugal international Silvestre Varela and experienced Austrian forward Marc Janko in Porto’s pecking order.

Although Jackson’s nationality and style of play have drawn comparisons with compatriot Falcao, Martínez has publicly disagreedwith the likening, saying “I hope people will not compare me with Falcao. I am a different type of player, but I promise that I will battle to get goals.”

Porto will certainly hope so – the club sold Falcao for £32 million last season, and, hoping to similarly profit should Martínez prove to be just as successful, the Northern giants have inserted a £31.7 million buy-out clause into their new player’s contract. A poor start in the Premier League next season and Liverpool may be left kicking themselves at what might have been.

Image: http://www.luuux.com

 


Younger than most of its Liga Nacional colleagues, Deportivo Petapa only tasted top-flight football in Guatemala for the first time as recently as 2001. The Canaries were founded in 1979 as Sport Club Petapa Velásquez and  spent their early years in existence in Guatemala’s lower divisions. Their promotion didn’t to the Liga Nacional didn’t last long, and the club have yo-yoed between the first and second flight ever since – they were promoted again before once more suffering relegation in 2009, but Petapa escaped the confines of the Primera División in 2010-11 to achieve a third promotion in a decade.

Petapa's badge reflects their nickname - "the Canaries"

The side’s home ground, the imaginatively-named Estadio Municipal de San Miguel Petapa, holds around 7,000. Heavy rain in the region has forced the club to install artificial turf at the ground to avoid the match postponements which can cause a backlog of fixtures and stop a team in its tracks.

Although it may not boast any instantly recognizable names to European fans, Petapa’s squad features some interesting characters. Goalkeeper Richard Trigueño Foster has won over 50 caps for the Guatemala national side, and after leaving the club for CD Malateco at the end of the 2009-10 season, he returned after promotion to the top flight was achieved the following season. 

Centre-back Marcelo Messias’ career has seen him travel the lengths of the Americas – an early spell at Brazilian outfit Grêmio was followed by stints at Guatemalan and Salvadoran clubs before Messias joined Petapa in 2012. The naturalized Salvadoran has won two caps for his new country, both in friendlies in 2011. 

Forward Rafael Burgos and midfielder Christian Castillo complete a hat-trick of Salvadorans plying their trade at Petapa. Burgos, a promising youngster, has already scored 7 times in 14 games for his country, netting his first international goal on just his second senior appearance, against Costa Rica.

Castillo brings more experience to the side and has enjoyed spells at three clubs in his home country, as well as Club León in Mexico and a stint on loan at L.A. Galaxy. Castillo has played 37 games for El Salvador, scoring two of his three international goals against the USA in 2009.

Slightly better-known in Europe is Honduran defender Milton Palacios, brother of Johnny, Jerry, and Stoke City’s Wilson. Milton has won 15 caps for his country, but a less adventurous career than some of his Petapa colleagues means that this is his first spell abroad.

Castillo's spell at L.A. Galaxy arguably makes him Petapa's most successful player

Finally, experienced forward Sandro Zamboni arrived at Petapa in 2010-11 having travelled the globe playing for clubs in Brazil, Japan, Germany, Qatar and El Salvador. Petapa have done well to secure the services of players who bring both quality and experience to a side that is likely to enter most seasons expecting a relegation battle.

However, Petapa suffered a horrible Apertura campaign from July to December. The side finished bottom of the twelve-team league, despite just one loss at home. The damage was done on their travels – Petapa lost nine and failed to win any of their eleven away fixtures.

Thankfully, the club’s situation has been greatly improved by their Clausura campaign. Petapa lie sixth in the table with six games remaining. This increase in fortunes has been aided by an improved away form, although it remains the side’s Achilles heel in their bid to secure safety. Petapa are currently in ninth place in the aggregate table, just three points clear of the relegation zone. Their successful Clausura may just save their bacon – had they endured another poor campaign in 2012, the Canaries would almost certainly be steeling themselves for a bottom-placed finish and a return to the second division. 


Rohan Ricketts’ career may have taken a path away from the spotlight since the winger left Tottenham Hotspur in 2005 – but it has certainly been interesting. In the space of four years, Ricketts has played for six clubs in a staggering five countries.

Born in Clapham, south London, in 1982, Ricketts joined capital-based Arsenal in 1999, making his debut in a League Cup tie against Manchester United  in November 2001. This would be his only appearance for the club and a year later Ricketts became just the fourth footballer to leave the Gunners for Spurs, their fierce city rivals.

Although Ricketts enjoyed more playing time at Tottenham, making 30 league appearances in three years at White Hart Lane, he again failed to hold down a regular starting place, which is understandable for a young player at a big club. Loan spells at Coventry and Wolves followed, and in 2005 Spurs allowed Ricketts to move to the Molineux on a permanent basis.

The deal initially appeared to be a success, with Rickets playing regularly early on in his Wolves career, but once more he found himself out of favour and being shipped out on loan, this time to Queens Park Rangers. Released by Wolves in May 2007, Ricketts joined Championship side Barnsley, but a recurring theme was emerging. An unhappy spell yielded just 10 appearances before the winger was again released in April 2008.

Ricketts' career has seen him play in the Premiership as well as the German fourth division and in Moldova

Deciding his future lay abroad, Ricketts immediately signed for Toronto FC of the Major League Soccer in the US. Again, the spell began brightly – Ricketts scored four times in 27 games in his first season. However, the arrival of Dwayne DeRosario pushed Ricketts down the pecking order and his fate was sealed in June 2009 when Toronto released him to free up wages to allow for the signing of Ali Gerba. Toronto may well have been ruing their loss – Gerba would play just 11 times for the Reds, scoring one goal.

Ricketts could easily have called time on his world tour then, and he almost did. A return to the UK looked likely but at the last minute Aberdeen pulled out of a deal to sign him, citing budget constraints. Having been denied the chance to play in the SPL, Ricketts did what any sensible footballer would do – sign for catchily-named Hungarian side Diósgyőri Vasgyárak Testgyakorló Köre (or DTVK for short).

It was a move no-one, including Ricketts himself, would have predicted a few months before, and unsurprisingly the player seemed unable to settle in his new surroundings. Just one outing for DTVK’s first team was supplemented with a handful of reserve appearances before Ricketts wrote the next chapter in an interesting life story by joining Moldovan giants Dacia Chişinău in August 2010.

Predictably, his stay was again short – Ricketts played just four games in a three month spell. He announced his departure from the club on Talksport, expressing anger at Dacia’s reluctance to pay wages. Ricketts then travelled to Germany to take part in trials and in January 2011 joined SV Wilhelmshaven of the Regionalliga Nord, the German fourth division. A period of relative calm followed, but four months and 12 games later Ricketts announced a return to England was on the cards.

Trials at Southend and Stevenage showed the effects of Ricketts’ travels had impacted the standard of his footballing ability. He admitted his time at Stevenage was a “shock to his body” after spells at lower-league clubs and lower-rated leagues. However, with no concrete offers provided at either club, Ricketts set off for Irish champions Shamrock Rovers. The decision looked to be justified by the carrot of Europa League football which allowed him to play against former club Spurs in the group stage. However, Ricketts didn’t have time to reflect on his return to one of football’s biggest competitions – in January 2012 he was released by Shamrock and once more found himself without a club.

The midfielder is glad to be back in England with League One's Exeter City

A unique path back to English football was completed on 22nd March when Ricketts signed for League One strugglers Exeter City. A lot has changed since his last spell in England – when he left Barnsley in April 2008, Exeter were busy finishing fourth in the Conference. The Grecians even briefly threatened to grab promotion to the Championship but now they face a relegation dogfight in their attempts to avoid a return to League Two.

Ricketts was clearly pleased to be back in his home country, saying: “I’m just grateful for the opportunity because I’ve been playing away from England for four years so I’m relishing the chance to get back in.”

His career has been eventful and varied and Ricketts should have plenty to write and talk about should he choose to continue a burgeoning media career after retirement. Saving Exeter from relegation, however, is his primary aim, and he knows it won’t be easy: “I’ve won FA Youth Cups back-to-back, I’ve won a league in Ireland, I’ve been involved in FA Cup ties, but for me this would be major because it’s all against us in terms of points”.

No matter who you support, you have to hope he manages it.