Atlanta United signed Gonzalo
“Pity” Martinez, voted the 2018 Rey de America as the best player in the Americas, in one of the biggest signings in MLS history.
After signing Miguel Almiron from Lanus in 2017 and Ezequiel Barco from Independiente, the Five Stripes again showed off their ability to attract top talent in the Superliga Argentina.
Martinez, who led River Plate to the 2018 Copa Libertadores, would be considered the best of trio. Since joining River Plate, he has won two Copa Libertadores titles (2015 and 2018), two Copa Argentina titles (2015-16 and 2016-17) and one Supercopa Argentina (2017).
The 25-year-old attacking midfielder, who cost an estimated $14 million, arrives in the prime of his career and ready to play for Atlanta United after saying it was the club that trusted in him.
But there's one catch.
Atlanta United needs to be roster compliant by March, which means it must unload Almiron or Barco get down to three Designated Players. (It just signed 2018 MVP Josef Martinez to a long-term contract so he is going nowhere.)
The assumption was Almiron would be sold to a club in England during the January window, but there have been no takers yet for Atlanta United's reported asking price of $30 million. That is not surprising since not all big European clubs spend mid-season on the winter market.
Almiron, an MLS Best XI pick in 2017 and 2018, could stay until the summer -- and then move when a suitable buyer is found on the more active primary window for European clubs.
That leaves Barco as the alternative move. Barco, who was acquired for a reported $15 million, was not a factor in Atlanta United's playoff run to an MLS title, finishing with four goals and three assists in 26 games. His playing time declined after a mid-season suspension for an off-the-field incident.
One option would be to loan Barco, who is still only 19, for the 2019 season, but the team to which he went would have to pay his whole salary in order for Atlanta United to be freed of his DP designation.