Martinez, Damm, Barco are Atlanta United’s highest paid players

Josef Martinez and Ezequiel Barco are two of Atlanta United’s three highest paid players, according to information released by the Major League Soccer Players Association on Thursday. The second highest player between the two Designated Players may be surprising.

Martinez will receive annualized average guaranteed compensation this season of $3,891,667 as of April 15. His salary has increased from the $3,058,333 total released by the MLSPA of September 2019. He signed a contract extension before the 2019 season that goes through the 2023 season.

Martinez’s compensation is the fifth highest in MLS this season.

Barco will receive $1,425,000, which is the same salary he received in 2019. The MLSPA didn’t release salary totals in 2020. Since signing before the 2018 season, Barco has 11 goals and nine assists in 59 appearances in regular season games.

Jurgen Damm, who signed on a free transfer during the 2020 season, is the team’s second highest paid player, with a salary of $1,582,509 this season. Damm has three appearances this season. He scored one goal in the Champions League this season and notched four assists in 17 appearances last season. It’s not a true like-for-like comparison, but the player he was brought in to try to replace, Hector Villalba, had a salary of $830,249.96 in September 2019. He had 21 goals and 24 assists in 82 appearances from 2017-19.

As a team, Atlanta United’s salary total is $16,109,978, the fourth-highest in MLS. The team trails Inter Miami ($17.8 million), Toronto ($17 million) and the L.A. Galaxy ($16.8 million). In June 2019, the team’s salary charge was $12,670,769, then the sixth-highest in MLS.

Some of this season’s money is going to players on loan to other clubs. Franco Escobar, on loan to Newell’s Old Boys in Argentina, is receiving $450,000 and Fernando Meza, on loan to Defensa y Justicia, $975,000. Atlanta United President Darren Eales said that the two players were loaned to free space within the team’s budget.

One of the players brought in because of those loans, Alan Franco, who signed as a Designated Player, will receive a salary of $505,500. Transfer fees are not included by MLSPA as part of the formula for the compensation. That is important to note because MLS uses transfer fees amortized over the length of the contract when determining Designated Player status.

Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, the centerback the team has been trying to replace since selling him to a club in Mexico before the 2020 season, received $810,008 in September 2019. Like Gonzalez Pirez, other players who were traded after the 2019 season were Julian Gressel, who is expected to be paid $760,781 this season at D.C. United, compared with $133,000 in 2019 with Atlanta United) and Darlington Nagbe, who will make $1.71 million at Columbus this season, compared with $665,000 with Atlanta United in 2019.

Behind Martinez, Damm, Barco and Meza in terms of salary is Emerson Hyndman, who will receive $900,000. His salary was $360,000 in September 2019. He is followed by Brad Guzan ($805,000), who is the highest-paid goalkeeper in MLS, Miles Robinson ($687,500) and, perhaps surprisingly, Matheus Rossetto ($662,500), who neither scored nor had an assist last season and has yet to appear this season.

The MLPSA released the salaries providing two figures, which can be seen in the chart below. The annual average guaranteed compensation includes a player’s base salary and all signing and guaranteed bonuses annualized over the term of the player’s contract, including option years. For example, a player earning an annual base salary of $500,000, whose contract has an initial term of two years with two one-year options and received a $100,000 signing bonus, has an average annual guaranteed compensation of $525,000 (base salary plus signing bonus ($100,000), with the signing bonus divided by the number of years covered by the contract (four). The average annual guaranteed compensation figure also includes any marketing bonus and any agent’s fees, both annualized over the length of the contract. The figure does not include performance bonuses because there is no guarantee that the player will hit those bonuses.

Atlanta United salaries
These figures include compensation from each player’s contract with MLS. They do not include any compensation from any contracts with individual teams or their affiliates.
Source: MLSPA

MLSPA notes that the average base salary for senior roster non-designated players in $398,725 in 2021. It is more than twice as much as it was five years ago.