Hypothetically Ezequiel Barco will come into Atlanta and be one of the best dribblers and most electric players in the league.
Hypothetically Ezequiel Barco will be the finishing piece on potentially the most explosive front-line MLS has ever seen.
Hypothetically Ezequiel Barco will bring a swagger that is inexplicable for someone of his age.
Hypothetically Atlanta United will complete the deal for the 18-year-old Argentine and fire off one hell of a firework in an offseason where numerous MLS teams have started bringing in young South American players.
Surely that all sounds fantastic, yes?
Well go ahead and re-read all of that without the ‘hypothetically’ on the front end, because Ezequiel Barco is coming to Atlanta.
After what feels like an eternity, Atlanta’s favorite telenovela is coming to a close with The Five Stripes completing the move for Barco for a reported $15 million and a percentage of any future sale going back to Independiente. That percentage will depend on when Atlanta moves Barco to (presumably) Europe. And make no mistake about it; Barco is destined to cross the Atlantic with Atlanta set to enjoy his work and rake in the majority of his potentially massive cost.
The drama may be over but now the real work begins. Most fans in Atlanta have only had a limited view of what Barco can do during the Copa Sudamericana. Next is to see what he shows in training and then, in less than a month, what he can do on the field in a friendly going at what is hopefully full speed.
That immediate future is important not just for Atlanta United but for the league as a whole. Barco’s arrival moves everyone beyond the ‘what if’ into the ‘what now’ stage. Teams around MLS can look at what was negotiated and see what is possible for them, should they decide to go to deeper waters and look for the bigger fish. And while the presence of Tata Martino no doubt plays a role in Atlanta’s ability to recruit South American talent the fact that the front office not only got the deal done after a dramatic saga but got it done on terms that are allegedly to the team’s liking. If MLS plans to chase big talent down the road, they are going to have to prove they can stand their ground in negotiations.
It is hard to pinpoint what Barco’s season could look like for Atlanta United. It is very risky to put goals and/or assist benchmarks only hours after the deal is done. He could be the sort of player who makes everyone else better while not necessarily filling up the stat sheet in pretty areas (see: Darlington Nagbe) or he could be a double-digit guy in both categories (see: Tito Villalba) or it could be anywhere in the middle.
What fans can do is get excited for one of the best young talents on this side of the Atlantic, and because of the Barco Saga Atlanta United is built to win hardware in 2018.
At least, hypothetically.