Atlanta United confirms loan of Ezequiel Barco to River Plate

Sept. 18, 2021 - Atlanta, Ga: Atlanta United midfielder Ezequiel Barco (8) reacts after scoring a goal off of a free kick during the first half against D.C. United at Mercedes Benz Stadium Saturday, September 18, 2021 in Atlanta, Ga.. JASON GETZ FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

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Sept. 18, 2021 - Atlanta, Ga: Atlanta United midfielder Ezequiel Barco (8) reacts after scoring a goal off of a free kick during the first half against D.C. United at Mercedes Benz Stadium Saturday, September 18, 2021 in Atlanta, Ga.. JASON GETZ FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Atlanta United confirmed on Sunday that it has loaned Ezequiel Barco to River Plate for the 2022 MLS season. The MLS side said it retains Barco’s rights past the 2022 season. The Argentinian powers reportedly also hold an option to purchase Barco for between $7-8 million.

Barco was purchased by Atlanta United before the 2018 season for a reported fee of $13.8 million, then the highest total paid by an MLS club for a player.

Barco had 81 appearances in regular-season games, with 64 starts, 17 goals and 17 assists. The club won three trophies while Barco was on the roster.

“Ezequiel has been an important part of our success over the last four seasons,” Atlanta United Vice President Carlos Bocanegra said in a statement. “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.”

The loan opens a Designated Player spot on Atlanta United’s roster that is expected to be filled by another young Argentinian playmaker, Thiago Almada. The club has confirmed that it holds the player’s MLS rights.

River Plate confirmed the acquisition of Barco on Saturday.

Barco becomes the third Designated Player sold or loaned by the club. The first was Miguel Almiron to Newcastle for more than $20 million. The second was Pity Martinez to Al-Nassr in Saudi Arabia for $17.6 million. The team has bought down several players from DP status, including Hector Villalba, Marcelino Moreno and Alan Franco.