Seattle Sounders star Clint Dempsey has told reporters that forward Obafemi Martins was within his rights to leave the club for a lucrative offer from Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua, and counted the Nigerian among his favorite to play with.
The 31-year-old Martins, who had been with the Sounders since 2013, will reportedly move to the Shanghai club for a transfer fee of around $3 million, according to an ESPN FC source.
Martins scored 40 goals and added 23 assists in 80 league and playoff appearances, and was named in the MLS Best XI in 2014 during his time in Seattle. On Monday, Sounders strike partner Dempsey backed Martins' right determine his own career path.
"At the end of the day, everybody has the right to choose their own path in their career," Dempsey told reporters on Monday.
"I have a lot of respect for Oba. He's come from a little kid in Nigeria to playing with some of the best clubs in the world.
"He's had a great career. Who am I to tell him anything? All I can say is that I enjoyed my time playing with him. He was one of my favorite teammates I got to play with."
Though they were a strong pair on the field, Dempsey admits he hasn't spoken to Martins since the news of his imminent departure broke.
"I haven't had a chance to talk to him. I had a really good relationship with him on the field. I'm going to miss him," Dempsey said.
"I knew that if I made the right runs, he would find me and vice versa. ... Wherever he goes, he'll be successful."