As a soccer fan in the city of Atlanta, if you haven't heard the news by now, you must have been living under a rock: on January 19th, Atlanta United confirmed its purchase of the Argentine teen phenom Ezequiel Barco from Independente for an MLS-record $15 million transfer fee.
And if the team's social media is any indication, they are hoping he will be a stalwart at attacking center mid for years to come.
So, why all the hype? What makes this kid worth that much? And how will he jive with the other high-profile players Tata Martino and company have signed this offseason?
Here's the rundown on the ATL's new #8.
Name: Ezequiel Barco
Country of origin: Argentina
Position: Attacking center midfielder
Price: $15 million
Pedigree: 5 goals in 38 appearances with Independiente in Argentina's Primera Divison, 8 appearances with the Argentina U-20 team, scored the penalty that won the 2017 Copa Sudamericana.
Why is he coming to Atlanta United?
This question has several answers, but only one has been confirmed to public knowledge, so let's start there: the bank-breaking transfer fee would be persuasive to any player, but beyond that, it is thought that Tata Martino's massive influence in Argentian and South American soccer played a role.
How will he be used?
Barco figures to be a force in midfield, which will be helpful as the team looks to fill the hole left there after Yamil Asad's departure in December, although the team's relentless pursuit of Barco might have contributed.
He will likely play on the left wing, where he was most successful during his previous tenure. It is still possible given his versatility that he would play at the forward position. If Martino opts for a 3-5-2, the attacking trio of Martinez, Barco, and Almiron would tear up any field they step foot on.
Why the hype?
First off, the signing of a top South American talent to MLS instead of one of the higher-profile European teams is unprecedented. Atlanta United have set a new bar for ambition in this league.
Secondly, for one so young, he is a very technical player, clearly possessed of an outsized talent that is being compared to Messi's and Atlanta great Chipper Jones. They don't call him "The Creator" for nothing.
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