ATLANTA — After cutting ties with Josef Martinez, Atlanta United bolstered its front line Wednesday with the signing of Greek forward Giorgos Giakoumakis.
The 28-year-old Giakoumakis comes to Major League Soccer from Celtic FC, where he led the Scottish Premiership in goals and helped the team win both the league title and Scottish Cup.
He has some big shoes to fill in Atlanta.
Giakoumakis will take a designated player and international roster spot, essentially taking over for Martinez after the leading scorer in franchise history was let go by United and signed with Inter Miami.
The signing ends a weeks-long pursuit of Giakoumakis that included reports of him heading to a Japanese team.
In the end, Atlanta got a player it desperately needed to bolster a front line that lacked for offensive punch with the season opener just 2 1/2 weeks away.
“Giorgos is a player who’s been on the club’s radar for a while and we’re excited to bring him to Atlanta,” technical director Carlos Bocanegra said in a statement. “He’s a powerful striker who loves to get in the box and score goals. He plays with a high intensity, works hard and is someone we think will help the team both in the attack and leading the line defensively.”
Martinez was the face of the Atlanta franchise after United joined MLS as an expansion team in 2017.
He set a league scoring record and earned MVP honors in his second year, leading United to the MLS Cup title. Martinez scored 111 goals in 158 appearances for Atlanta in all competitions.
But the striker never regained his dynamic form after a severe knee injury in the 2020 opener knocked him out for the rest of the season. A falling-out with coach Gonzalo Pineda effectively ended his time in Atlanta, prompting the team to buy out his contract so he could sign with the Miami.
Giakoumakis was the Scottish league’s top goal scorer with 13 goals during the 2021-22 season, and he has tallied six goals in 19 appearances this season with Celtic again sitting atop the standings.
Across all competitions, he scored 26 goals in 57 appearances for the Scottish powerhouse.
After staring his career in his native country, Giakoumakis moved to VVV-Venlo in the Dutch Eredivisie in 2020.
He had a breakout year in the Dutch top flight with a league-leading 26 goals in 30 appearances, which led to him joining Celtic the following year.
Atlanta United, which failed to make the playoffs last season, opens the MLS campaign Sept. 25 at home against San Jose.