Young Spanish forward Toni Martinez became the first West Ham United player to score a hat trick at The London Stadium on Sunday and is undoubtedly one of the most prolific strikers at the club, but why has he never made a competitive appearance for the first-team?
Today, we examine exactly why he is continually overlooked by Slaven Bilic and examine what the immediate future might hold for Martinez and his unrivalled goal-scoring talent.
Signing from La Liga’s Valencia in summer 2016 for £1.5 million, Martinez was an instant hit in The U23 side as he kicked off Terry Westley’s men’s PL2 Division Promotion campaign with seven goals in seven games, including a stunner at The Ricoh Arena.
However, the former Spanish youth international was struck by injury soon after but swiftly returned to form in January to make it 12 from 11 fixtures.
The born goal-scorer was soon loaned out to Oxford United in League One to test his talent at senior level and he would continue to excel.
Martinez netted on his debut against Newcastle United, an FA Cup Fourth Round tie, and then again in The Fifth Round away at then Premier League Middlesbrough.
The 20-year-old also managed to fit his first League One goal in with a return to The Development and a brace in the Premier League Two Division Two Play-Off final victory at St James’ Park.
After an incredible first season in East London, the Spaniard attracted vast interest in the summer and was given his first taste of Slaven Bilic’s first-team on the pre-season Tour of Europe.
Scoring in consecutive games against Werder Bremen and Altona 93 was surely the highlight for the young charge. However, when the start of The Premier League season came around, the Matador returned to Terry Westley, but in some form.
Eight goals in ten games later, including Sunday’s incredible performance against Manchester United, and Martinez is banging, if not smashing on the door of a first-team chance.
Physical, quick and with a natural ability to find the back of the net from any angle is something that has been largely missing from the Hammers fold for some time now.
But, with the stat that the youngster has netted more goals than all the outright strikers at the club combined in the last year, surely the most compelling, who has been ahead of him in the pecking order?
Andy Carroll, the forward has continued to rack up a sparse amount of goals and a barrage of injuries and most recently, a red card at Turf Moor that will keep him out on Friday against Brighton & Hove Albion.
An injury-prone and mostly out of favour Diafra Sakho has also been preferred, while Michail Antonio has filled in up front with nine goals in the last campaign.
Martinez also saw the likes of Jonathan Calleri, Simone Zaza, and Ashley Fletcher being used ahead of him and while the summer signing of Javier Hernandez offers more quality, he has only been able to net one goal in his last six appearances.
Surely, the time is now right for an Antonio Martinez, who has scored 23 in his last 26 U23 games, to step up and finally get his shot at making it on the World stage of The Premier League.