Player to watch: Jackson Martinez gives Porto scoring spark

Porto striker among highly sought-after group of Colombians including James Rodriguez, Radamel Falcao and Adrian Ramos
Porto's Colombian forward Jackson Martinez, left, vies with Benfica defender Andre Almeida during the Portuguese League Cup semi-final second leg match at the Dragao stadium in Porto on April 27, 2014. Francisco Leong / AFP
Porto's Colombian forward Jackson Martinez, left, vies with Benfica defender Andre Almeida during the Portuguese League Cup semi-final second leg match at the Dragao stadium in Porto on April 27, 2014. Francisco Leong / AFP

In a banner year for Colombia, few players have matched the consistency and production of Jackson Martinez. The Porto striker, who led the Portuguese league in scoring the last two seasons, appears destined for a lucrative transfer next month, even though he has found it difficult to establish himself as a starter for Colombia manager Jose Pekerman.

Colombian renaissance

This is a vintage year for Colombian football. A first World Cup appearance this century ended in narrow defeat at the quarter-final stage and many plaudits. Then a first appearance since the 1990s by a Colombian club in a major continental club final, last week’s Copa Sudamericana, where Atletico Nacional lost to Argentina’s River Plate. In 2014, individual Colombian attacking talent was sought like never before: James Rodriguez joined Real Madrid, Radamel Falcao went to Manchester United, Adrian Ramos to Borussia Dortmund.

In demand

For much of the last transfer window, it seemed likely Jackson Martinez, right, the powerful Porto striker, also would move to a more glamorous league. His consistent flow of goals (56 in 72 league matches) in Portuguese football guarantee enquiries will be made ahead of January. Porto signed Martinez, now 28, from Mexican club Chiapas in 2012 for €9 million (Dh41.1m), and expect January bids to start at four times that.

Record ahead

Martinez is on course for a rare treble, if he remains with Porto. He was the Primeira Division’s leading scorer in both 2012/13 and 2013/14, and he leads with 10 goals this season. Nobody there has finished top scorer three times or more since the Brazilian Jardel, of Porto, in 2000.

Benfica’s nemesis

Martinez, rested in midweek as Porto sauntered to top spot in their Uefa Champions League group, will lead the line against table-toppers and domestic title-holders Benfica tomorrow. He can expect to be tightly marked. He scored in each of Porto’s home wins, in league and cup, against the Lisbon club last season. Porto, second, trail Benfica by three points.

Pecking order

In another era, Martinez might have become the figurehead striker of his national team. But being a contemporary of Falcao, who preceded him to Porto, of the River Plate forward Teofilo Gutierrez, as well as Dortmund’s Ramos and Sevilla striker Carlos Bacca, means he faces competition for a starting place in Colombia’s first XI. Pekerman often prefers to use him as an impact substitute, deploying his acceleration and athleticism against tiring defences.

Must-see match: Roma face tricky return to Serie A

Roma have no time to dwell on their disappointing exit from the Uefa Champions League, with Sunday’s trip to third-place Genoa threatening to deal a blow to their hopes of catching Italian league leaders Juventus.

A 2-0 loss to Manchester City at the Stadio Olimpico left Roma third in their Champions League group, dropping them into the Europa League and leaving manager Rudi Garcia turning his thoughts to next season’s campaign in Europe.

“To make sure we qualify for the Champions League, we need to have a great season and starts with Sunday’s game against Genoa,” Garcia said. “The Europa League is a good competition and we’ll try and go all the way, but our main objective is still Serie A.”

Roma are second in the league, three points behind Juventus and six ahead of surprise packages Genoa.

Genoa have taken advantage of struggles by Napoli, AC Milan and Inter Milan to rise up the standings. They handed Juventus their only domestic defeat of the season, winning 1-0 at the Luigi Ferraris Stadium on October 29.

Genoa are unbeaten in their past nine league matches, a run that included victories over Milan, Udinese and Juventus. Their last defeat came against Derby della Lanterna rivals Sampdoria, who won 1-0 at Genoa on September 28.

The clash between Genoa and Roma is one of several high-profile matches this weekend in Italy. Juventus host fourth-place Sampdoria on Sunday, while fifth-place Napoli travel to seventh-place Milan in the late match.

sports@thenational.ae

Follow us on Twitter at @SprtNationalUAE

Published: December 13, 2014 04:00 AM

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