It’s pretty easy to unveil a great player. It’s much harder to get rid of one.
Only a year into its sporting existence, Atlanta United already feels like an established force in MLS. Its players have made headlines and the team has performed among the best in the league. But if there’s one glaring reminder that Atlanta is still in its infancy as a club, its that the team is still yet to do something as simple as selling a player. Considering that selling players for profits is supposedly one of its core principals in keeping the team economically viable, every day inches us closer to that inevitable reality.
If you dare to google the names of some of our prized players — one Miguel Almiron in particular — you will see some things that might … tighten your digestive tract.
It might be silly season but reports suggesting Boca Juniors have Miguel Almirón as an option if they can’t get Nico Gaitán seem *very* far-fetched. How much would @ATLUTD want for Almirón? Way more than Boca could pay pic.twitter.com/SmxZIny43v
— Peter Coates (@golazoargentino) January 20, 2018
This is not an opinion about this specific report. I think it’s total BS. But in general, the realization that one of our players — one of our favorite players — is on the precipice of leaving is no fun. You feel a range of emotions when a player leaves your club, largely depending upon the circumstances surrounding it. You could feel anything from sorrow to relief to rage. Soccer is a fickle sport, and so are we — the fans. What will we feel like the day Miguel Almiron leaves? The day Ezeqiuel Barco leaves? The day anyone leaves?
How we feel will be determined by several factors, but two in particular. One is the behavior of the player in question. But it’s impossible to know how players will react once negotiations and rumors start swirling. But the other factor, which the club is in complete control of, is the messaging to us — the fans. And this will be a litmus test for many of those executives who have won awards for their tremendous work so far. This will be a tougher test. How will the club package the news that one of our own is leaving?
The dilemma is exacerbated by the league schedule, making things no easier for Atlanta — or anyone else in the league, for that matter. Since MLS play proceeds through Europe’s offseason, the global soccer market is most active smack dab in the middle of our season. And for Atlanta to sell players at maximized profits, as the front office has time and again repeated is part of the plan, those sales have to come while the market is hot and big European teams have money to spend. It’s a sticky situation that makes things tricky for everyone from the marketing team to Tata Martino and his staff. How will the team deal with it?
By now, you’ve realized that this column is really just me asking a bunch of hypothetical questions without any answers. I don’t have the answers, but if there’s one thing I’m confident of, it’s that the club will make the most of what is likely to be a sad situation. The people working behind the scenes at the club are highly competent and creative in their approach. And while it’s true that Atlanta has yet to sell a player, it’s proved that it can indeed make lemonade.