TRANSFER TRACKER STATUS: Loan

UPDATE (Jan. 30) – Atlanta United have officially loaned midfielder Ezequiel Barco to Argentine top-flight side River Plate for the 2022 season, the MLS club announced Sunday.

Atlanta retains Barco’s contract rights beyond this season. River Plate confirmed the deal on Saturday, over 24 hours earlier.

“Ezequiel has been an important part of our success over the last four seasons,” VP and technical director Carlos Bocanegra said in a release. “He helped us win three trophies and is coming off the best season of his young career. We felt that this move made sense for both Ezequiel and the club and we wish him continued success during his loan at River Plate."

River Plate reportedly hold a purchase option on Barco, whom ATLUTD originally acquired in 2018 from Independiente for a then-MLS record transfer fee.

With Barco's departure for 2022, Atlanta now have an open Designated Player spot that they'd reportedly use to sign rising Argentine attacker Thiago Almada from Velez Sarsfield.

UPDATE (Jan. 29) – River Plate have signed Atlanta United midfielder Ezequiel Barco on loan, the Argentine Primera Division side announced Saturday.

As of publication, Atlanta are yet to confirm the Designated Player's departure.

The move, in theory, would open the door for Atlanta to formally sign attacker Thiago Almada from Velez Sarsfield. It's believed that Almada would become a DP alongside striker Josef Martinez and winger Luiz Araujo.

Barco, 22, originally joined Atlanta in 2018 from Independiente for a then-MLS record $15 million transfer fee. He's recorded 17 goals and 17 assists across 81 regular-season games, producing mixed form the last four seasons.

ORIGINAL (Jan. 21) – Atlanta United midfielder Ezequiel Barco is on the verge of moving to Argentine Primera Division side River Plate, according to a report from Cesar Luis Merlo that The Athletic’s Felipe Cardenas also confirmed.

Barco would reportedly head to River Plate on a one-year loan with a purchase option, opening the door for Argentine winger/attacking midfielder Thiago Almada to join from Velez Sarsfield. Atlanta need to lose a Designated Player to sign Almada, and Barco has been viewed as the likeliest to depart with striker Josef Martinez and winger Luiz Araujo their other DPs.

Barco has been linked to numerous South American clubs in recent weeks, with Brazilian Serie A sides Internacional and Flamengo both reportedly interested in acquiring the 22-year-old. Instead, it appears that a return to his native Argentina is near completion.

Barco’s professional career began at Independiente before he joined Atlanta in 2018 for a reported then-MLS record $15 million transfer fee. His output has ebbed and flowed, producing 17 goals and 17 assists across 81 regular-season games.

It was long believed that Barco would head to Europe, following the pathway ex-Atlanta star Miguel Almiron took before joining Premier League side Newcastle United for a league-record transfer fee. ATLUTD also previously sold ex-River Plate star Pity Martinez, with the 2018 South American Player of the Year now at Saudi Arabia’s Al Nassr FC.

Should the deal come together, Almada’s arrival could be completed shortly thereafter. The rising talent would arrive on a $16 million deal, Velez Sarsfield tweeted in early December, prompting a clarification statement from Atlanta.

The 2022 season will mark head coach Gonzalo Pineda’s first full season in charge of ATLUTD. Their season begins Feb. 27 when hosting Sporting Kansas City.