He’s one of the most vital cogs in the LAFC machine, a central midfield linchpin who powers their uptempo style, as well as one of the biggest questions hanging over the club this winter as he entered the final year of his contract.
So the future of Eduard Atuesta has become a pressing topic around the Black-and-Gold. But Bob Bradley offered some encouraging news on that front during a Thursday afternoon media availability.
“I believe that they are either close or have finalized an extension for his contract,” said LAFC’s head coach. “Eduard loves playing here, and obviously, he's an important player and we have really enjoyed how we work with him every day.”
Practically from the moment of his 2018 arrival Atuesta, 23, has been considered one of the most valuable players in MLS both for his ability to contribute on the pitch immediately as well as his longer-term sell-on value. The prospect of him playing out his contract led to speculation that LAFC would have to settle for a lower fee this summer to head off the possibility of him leaving on a free transfer at year’s end.
A number of clubs overseas are said to have expressed interest in the Colombian international, with Brazil’s Palmeiras the most prominent reported suitor in recent months. Bradley acknowledged that both Atuesta and his Uruguayan teammate Diego Rossi won’t be in LAFC colors forever, and emphasized the collective work toward maximizing those eventual outcomes for mutual benefit.
“With guys like Eduard and Diego, they know that we're committed to helping them at the right time move on, because that's their goal,” said the coach. “But in order to do that, that means that every day they have to continue to push themselves and to listen and to be coached and find ways that they can grow as players. The better they play and the more football that they show every time they step on the field, that will produce opportunities.”
FIFA regulations allow players to begin negotiating terms with future employers once they enter the final six months of their contract. But Bradley sounds optimistic that Atuesta’s relationship with him, his coaching staff and the club as a whole is strong enough to head off such a turn of events this summer, pointing to the individual improvement he’s achieved in Los Angeles and the high level of play LAFC have produced for most of their three years of existence.
“Eduard, you can tell just by the way he comes in every day, he appreciates the way we play, the way we've worked with him, the training,” said Bradley. “If there's a day – actually it’s most days, where he still sometimes gets caught in a situation where he tries too much in the wrong moment, and then he knows I'm still going to get on him for that.
“He's an interesting player to work with, because he's got some real creativity and some flair, and we're always trying to help him understand the moments where that's no problem and the other moments where if he sees things a little quicker and plays a little simpler it might be better for the team.”