One of the surprises in Atlético Madrid’s win over Osasuna on Saturday was Carlos Martín, the 19-year-old who replaced right-back Šime Vrsaljko in the 85th minute.
The promising youngster has been one of the bright lights in Atlético’s academy this season, standing out for the B team in Tercera RFEF and earning a first-team call-up as a result.
In just a five-minute cameo up against Osasuna, he showed his flair in every possible way, first beating defenders with his dribbling and then picking up a yellow card as the excitement clearly got the better of him.
But who exactly is Carlos Martín? Most Atleti fans, even of the most hardcore variety, won’t have heard of him, given his rise to the first team — which has sped up significantly over the past few months.
Who is Carlos Martín?
Carlos Martín joined Atlético as a six-year-old in 2008 and has remained a loyal Colchonero ever since. One photo shared since he made his debut against Osasuna shows him in full kit at the Vicente Calderón.
Having risen through the ranks, he was one of the youngsters to benefit from Atlético B’s relegation last summer. As RFEF reformatted the lower leagues, Atleti B were relegated from Segunda B and so were sent to Tercera RFEF, a regional division in Spanish football’s fifth tier. Since making his B team debut this year, he’s continued to evolve.
What’s his position?
Carlos Martín is a flexible, versatile player, unlike some other youngsters who have come through the ranks recently. He can play either as a centre-forward or in an offensive midfield role. In the past, he’s also switched to a wider role, though he is far more comfortable through the middle acting as a centre-forward.
Last season, Diego Simeone appeared reluctant to give a prominent first team role to Sergio Camello or Borja Garcés, who have scored six goals between them while on loan at Mirandés and Leganés respectively this season. That was put down, in part, to the fact that both operate more like a number nine, with Camello offering a more versatile option than Garcés, but neither providing Martín’s flexibility.
Against Osasuna, he came on and primarily featured on the right flank, pitting him up against fellow Atlético youth product Manu Sánchez. His dribbling and bravery to take people on one-on-one is what helps him to thrive in these wide areas, but his background is primarily through the middle.
What’s his form been like for Atleti B?
Carlos Martín (19yo - forward) caught the eye today.— The PaP Podcast LA LIGA CHAMPIONS! (@ThePaPPod) September 28, 2021
• Physical and direct #9 with good back to goal game.
• Mobile player with good footwork and can work the channels equally well
• He’ll need to be wiser with his movements as he doesn’t offer a box presence. https://t.co/9M0Sdivp6W
While he has principally been playing for the B team, it’s clear that there’s a link to the first team in getting the best out of Martín.
After scoring against Parla in the first game of the season, Martín didn’t find the back of the net again until after he was first included in a senior squad fixture for the LaLiga clash with Real Betis on October 31.
Since then, he’s come on leaps and bounds, with a potential first-team role driving him forward. He’s scored in every game he’s played in for Atleti B, and also made the cut for the trip to Anfield to play Liverpool.
Ahead of his first team debut, he scored three times in a week with a brace against Rayo Vallecano B followed by the most recent outing on Wednesday, when Martín was again on the scoresheet against Carabanchel.
Will he play much of a role this season?
The brutal answer is that Carlos Martín is unlikely to feature all that regularly.
Against Osasuna on Saturday, Simeone had already called upon Ángel Correa, Antoine Griezmann, Yannick Carrasco, Thomas Lemar, Marcos Llorente, Matheus Cunha and Luis Suárez. Martín was the last roll of the dice.
Martín featured for Atlético in pre-season, but even then he only played 34 minutes across two appearances up against Wolfsburg and RB Salzburg. He appeared to be behind Giuliano Simeone in the pecking order, though his recent form in the B team appears to have helped him leapfrog his teammate.
With injuries bound to kick in, and Simeone clearly keen to manage the workload on Suárez as the Uruguayan continues to age while enjoying a starting role, Martín may gain further chances to impress from the bench as a substitute. After such rapid growth over the past few months, he will grasp those opportunities with both hands.