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Atlanta United sign MLS MVP Josef Martinez to five-year contract extension through 2023

Josef Martinez agreed to a five-year contract extension that will keep with Atlanta United through 2023, with the MLS MVP calling the Five Stripes his Barcelona or Real Madrid.

The Venezuela international and MLS MVP has been one of the league's most productive players over the last two seasons, scoring 54 goals in 60 MLS games (including playoffs), including an MLS record 31 goals last campaign.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Martinez said the new deal was more about his comfort in Atlanta and not about securing more money in another league. 

"Surely right now in Venezuela, they're saying negative things about me because they have a mediocre mentality. For them, they think I should be playing in Real Madrid," Martinez said. "For me, this is my Barcelona or my Real Madrid. It's not about me being a star. This team has 11 stars on the field, plus all the substitutes in the team, plus everyone who works here at the club.

"I came from a humble neighborhood, so one dollar more or less isn't going to change who I am ... I'm not worried about the money. If I was, I'd go play in China. That's not why I chose here. It's because of the affection and the care that everyone has shown me from both the club and the city. That's what's important."

With Atlanta losing head coach Gerardo "Tata" Martino and rumours swirling around the future of star playmaker Miguel Almiron, the news of Martinez's contract extension serves as a huge boost for the defending MLS Cup champions.

"In addition to breaking the league's scoring record, his work ethic and determination were rewarded by being named League MVP, and most importantly, MLS Cup champion with his teammates," said Atlanta United President Darren Earles. "We're excited to secure Josef's long-term future in Atlanta and we look forward to celebrating many more accomplishments together."

Since arriving in MLS -- initially on loan from Serie A side Torino -- the 25-year-old has scored 50 regular season goals, 11 more than any other player (Nemanja Nikolic with 39) has scored during that time frame. Martinez has already hit an MLS-record six hat tricks in that span and is averaging .93 goals per game and 1.04 goals per 90 minutes in MLS regular season play, both all-time marks for the league.

New Atlanta United coach Frank de Boer was also thrilled with the news saying "Josef is an outstanding player and I'm very excited to have him committed long-term to the club.  

"As a manager, he's the type of player you want on your team because he is intensely focused and you can count on him every time he steps on the field. I'm looking forward to working with him and to continuing the great success he's had with Atlanta United."

Martinez and Atlanta United open up the season on Feb. 21 in Costa Rica against Herediano in the CONCACAF Champions League and begin their MLS Cup title defense on March 3  away at D.C. United.

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