Jackson Martinez' reward system is out of whack. As humans, we tend to repeat behaviours that proved fruitful for us in the past in the hope that they will prove fruitful in the present and future. This is how habits are formed. Jackson Martinez once had a habit of putting the ball in the back of the net, but he is caught in some weird parallel universe where that doesn't happen anymore despite Martinez doing the same things he has always done.
The same shots that were rewarding Martinez with goals at Porto and the exact same runs and touches and movements that made him one of the most sought after strikers in European football no longer come with goals as their end result. Neither the Colombian striker nor his Argentinian manager know what to do.
It was the 82nd minute against Rayo Vallecano when Diego Simeone had decided his €35 million summer signing's race was run. Martinez walked to the sideline with his head hanging low, sagging into his red and white jersey, almost embarrassed to be receiving the applause of the home crowd. Simeone made it a point to urge the fans to cheer even louder. He put both his hands out with his palms to the sky and waved them upwards as he does in the Vicente Calderon when his team need an injection from their 12th man. It wasn't the team that needed an injection on this occasion, it was one man.
He had spent 82 minutes running around, trying to make things happen, except the harder he tried, the worse it got. It's a credit to the man that he still has the energy and the will power to turn his goalless streak around but nothing's doing. This has been the story of Jackson's season and despite Simeone's attempts to get his confidence back, it is proving a futile endeavour.
Against Celta Vigo in the quarter final on Wednesday night, he lasted 58 minutes before Simeone had seen enough to conclude that Jackson was not going to score. His touch looked better and he had one chance that the keeper saved but ultimately, he failed yet again before being replaced by Correa.
There are, of course, problems with both selling and keeping Jackson Martinez provided his current spell continues deeper into the season. By keeping him and possibly trying to offload him in the summer, you are really hoping that Borja Baston is the answer because at that point the transfer ban will be in full effect and buying, or at least registering, new players is impossible. Fernando Torres will be a year older next year and based on his current form and worrying dip, this is cause for concern.
In selling Martinez, you are possibly losing money on a player who has proven he is capable of scoring goals and who is a player that Diego Simeone loves. You must also guarantee that a player is coming in this transfer window because once it closes, Atletico will not be able to purchase a replacement until the summer of 2017. He has worked hard at every juncture and it will make two strikers in two years that Diego Simeone could not integrate into the team. These issues are cause for concern going forward, but what is left to be done?
Atletico Madrid do have options regardless of what you have heard. The only problem is that they have to make a move soon if they intend to bring someone in because of their transfer ban. The options are: offering a king's ransom for one of Mauro Icardi, Odion Ighalo, Diego Costa or Edison Cavani. There is no guarantee that any of these players will want to move in the middle of the season but Atletico have to, at least, intimate their interest.
They can also call Borja Baston back from his loan spell at Eibar where he has scored more than 100% more goals than both Fernando Torres and Jackson Martinez combined. He has 13 in all competitions while Atletico's current duo have five. You also have Option C, or "the option that we don't really like" as it is better known. Atletico Madrid can keep Jackson Martinez and hope for the best.
Based on recent form and the fragility of Atletico's title challenge, the best option for both parties is to set him loose before a Roberto Soldado at Tottenham Hotspur situation arises, bring in another number nine and recall Borja Baston in the summer to reinforce a position that could very well prove the undoing of Atletico's promising season.