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Originally published March 15, 2013 at 9:21 PM | Page modified March 16, 2013 at 7:36 PM

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Obafemi Martins finally arrives, ready to play immediately

Sounders FC has announced the long-awaited signing of Obafemi Martins, and the DP forward might even be featured in Saturday's rivalry game against the Portland Timbers.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Saturday

Timbers @ Seattle,

5 p.m., NBC Sports

Obafemi Martins

Position: Forward

Height, weight: 5-7, 154

Birth date: Oct. 28, 1984

Hometown: Lagos, Nigeria

Citizenship: Nigeria

Pronunciation: Oh-bah-fem-ee

Previous Clubs: Inter Milan (Italy, 2001-06), Newcastle (England, 2006-09), Wolfsburg (Germany, 2009-10), Rubin Kazan (Russia, 2010-12), Birmingham City (loan; England, 2011), Levante (Spain, 2012-13).

YouTube video from user christineuk82

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Obafemi Martins has signed and arrived.

It may have taken Sounders FC nearly a month of traveling back and forth from Spain, dealing with a team in Levante UD that didn't want to give up its star forward, and making room on the roster, but it is finally done.

The acquisition was officially announced Friday and sent ripples across MLS.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, per MLS and team policy, but Martins will be a designated player for the Sounders, giving them the maximum of three. He will wear No. 9 — a number traditionally reserved for a team's top forward, and one that has been unused here since Blaise Nkufo wore it in 2010.

The long process wasn't a painless one for Martins, particularly because of his former team.

"Levante, they made things a little bit not easy," the 28-year-old said at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport upon arrival. "But I'm glad to be here."

Martins could play as soon as Saturday's 5 p.m. game at CenturyLink Field against Portland, according to coach Sigi Schmid.

"He hasn't had a chance to train with us yet or get to know the names of his teammates," Schmid said, "but what's really great and encouraging is his desire to want to be here, his desire to undertake the journey and wanting to be part of where we're at, be part of the rivalry.

"He knows the importance of the game ... and he wants to be part of that. His loyalty is to the Seattle Sounders and I think it's a good example that he's showing by the effort that he's making in getting here."

Martins admitted he's a bit tired and hasn't practiced in the past few days, but he's ready to play: "That's why I'm here."

In the bigger picture, Martins could be the missing piece for a team desperate for a forward and someone to step up in the big playoff games.

Owners said over the offseason that the team's strategy toward DPs had changed, and money would no longer be an obstacle in the pursuit of top-level stars. The Martins signing cemented that commitment by going into one of the top leagues in the world (Spain's La Liga) and taking perhaps the best player of one of its teams.

"This move is consistent with our promise to the fans," said majority owner Joe Roth in a news release. "Our supporters are the best in Major League Soccer and deserve a team that competes each and every year."

Martins played 12 years in top leagues in England (Newcastle), Italy (Inter Milan), Germany (Wolfsburg) and, most recently, Spain — collecting 103 goals in 316 games. He also has 18 goals in 38 appearances for the Nigerian national team, having participated in one FIFA World Cup and three African Cup of Nations tournaments.

International duty will be calling again soon, and Martins is expected to fly out Sunday for a March 23 World Cup qualifier against Kenya.

But first he wanted to meet his new teammates and coaches as well as the Sounders' fans.

"I've been watching the games and they're crazy about football," Martins said. "They love the game. I want to really see how it's going to be."

Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or jmayers@seattletimes.com.

On Twitter @joshuamayers

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