It's right there in the first two lines of the press release announcing the new signing:
Atlanta United today announced it has acquired Gonzalo “Pity” Martínez from Club Atlético River Plate of the Argentine Superleague.
Pretty good! River Plate are one of the world's great clubs – arguably the greatest in South American history – and they feed a steady stream of attackers to the rest of the world. Erik Lamela, Lucas Alario, Gio Simeone, Teo Gutierrez... all River Plate guys of recent vintage. Go back further and you work your way through the likes of Pablo Aimar, Marcel Gallardo, Ariel Ortega, Enzo Francescoli, all the way back to Alfredo Di Stefano. Stay in MLS and you get Mauro Diaz and Tomas Martinez.
This is a club with that pedigree. They know how to create guys who create goals. It's a good place to shop, and has been for 70 years.
A 25-year-old attacking midfielder who was named the 2018 South American Footballer of the Year...
And now we're talking about something entirely new and unique for MLS clubs. Diaz was a great talent – Best XI-caliber – and one of my favorite MLS players of all time. Tomas Martinez had an under-the-radar excellent first full season in MLS, putting up 5g/13a for the Dynamo. Neither were regulars, let alone featured players for River Plate. When Dallas and Houston went after them, they were competing with mid-tier Portuguese league teams for their services.
Pity Martinez wasn't just a regular for River Plate, and wasn't just a featured player. He was literally the best player on the continent, the driving attacking force that led La Banda to their fourth-ever Copa Libertadores win, the star winger who'd pushed himself up from obscurity and into the Argentine national team player pool.
Atlanta were not competing with the likes of Braga or Belenenses for his services. Truth be told it didn't feel like they were competing with anyone – this signing felt like a fait accompli, all but announced months ago. That says quite a bit about both Arthur Blank's checkbook and his ambition.
Pity is justifiably the league's and the team's record signing given his age and accomplishments, with a price tag reportedly north of $15 million. He will be the second South American Footballer of the Year to play in MLS, joining Carlos Valderrama. Valderrama was 34 when he signed with the Tampa Bay Mutiny.
The MLS Cup champs, who took 69 points in the regular-season and just re-signed the reigning MVP and and Golden Boot winner, who is also 25 years old, just added this guy. If talent is the prime determinant of success (it usually is), I'm gonna go ahead and call Atlanta United favorites to repeat.
Of course, talent is not the only determinant of success. They now have to worry about fit both on the roster (Pity is, for the time-being, their fourth DP – teams are allowed only three) and on the field (sometimes great players don't mesh).
You can see that he's a goalscoring, left-footed winger. He can play on either side of a front three – and that's relevant since new head coach Frank De Boer is likely to line his team up in a 4-3-3. It's also relevant because Miguel Almiron is still there, and he's likely a winger in the 4-3-3. Tito Villalba is still there, and he's a winger in a 4-3-3. Ezequiel Barco is still there, and his best position in a 4-3-3 is still up for debate.
One or both of Almiron and Villalba are likely to be gone in the next week, as both have attracted significant interest in the global transfer market. Barco could also be out, on loan somewhere south of the Rio Grande or even south of the Rio de la Plata, if it comes to that. You could fit two of these guys together around Josef Martinez, but not all four. Even three would be a crowd.
This is a problem every GM in MLS would love to have. This is a selection headache no manager in MLS has ever had.
And this is the era Atlanta have inaugurated over the last three years. First it was a record outlay for Almiron, who will almost certainly be sold for a record fee this window or next. Then it was a record outlay for Barco. Now they've raised the bar yet again with Pity.
River Plate, currently the best team in South America, just fed their best player into MLS, to the reigning MLS Cup champions. There are 23 other teams out there right now trying to figure out how to keep up.