Ezequiel Barco is staying put in 2019, despite transfer rumors and reports linking him to big European clubs, Atlanta United president Darren Eales told an audience at the Atlanta Press Club on Friday.

ATLUTD’s showcase signing during the winter of 2017-18, Barco got his MLS career off to a slow start in his first season. But the 20-year-old attacker has made marked strides in 2019 and his impressive performances for Argentina at the FIFA U-20 World Cup have fueled ample buzz about the possibility of a high-profile move across the Atlantic, with Serie A powers Napoli the latest to be linked.

The Five Stripes, however, are in no hurry to deal their prime asset.

“[Barco will] definitely be here until the end of this season,” Eales said, in remarks originally reported by Dirty South Soccer. “There’s actually no doubt about that.”

Taking a more prominent role in the wake of Miguel Almiron’s record-breaking transfer to Newcastle United, Barco has bagged four goals and an assist in his first eight MLS matches (six starts) of the season.

Eales praised the young creator and hinted that Atlanta will be more eager to display him in the shop window in future years. Reports suggest that per the terms of Barco’s move from Argentinean side Independiente, a 2019 sale would force ATLUTD to share a dramatically bigger cut of any transfer fee with his former club.

“He’s been a great case [showing that] these players aren’t robots. Different players take different time to settle,” said Eales. “Barco’s now producing what we hoped he would when we first signed him, and he’s got a really exciting future ahead of him. The reality is, if he keeps playing like he is, I have no doubt we’ll get lots of calls, whether it’s Napoli, Manchester United, Arsenal, Real Madrid. We’re going to get big clubs after him and I’ll have the fun then of sitting back and pitting them against each other.”

Eales also addressed a range of other topics; read Dirty South’s report for a full rundown.