So, you want a Designated Player. You need someone who will really set the tone for your squad, someone who will lead the team on and off the field. If we learned anything from The Beckham Experiment, it's that a player casually looking for a payday will not succeed in MLS, no matter how talented they may be. The competitive drive needs to be there, and the willingness to buy into the MLS system, even if they might have disagreements with it.
A player also needs to be up for the physical rigor of the league. MLS is not the most technical league in the world by a longshot, but it does have a habit of chewing up fragile skill players who are used to getting fouls called when their arms get brushed. This is a difficult balance for most luxury DPs. You want a name brand, someone who brings experience and success from the top levels of world soccer, but that will also be up for the competition, physical play, and poor conditions MLS can bring. On top of it all, you want someone who will be able to contribute right away, but that can stay for at least a couple years at the top of his game. To this rather tricky set of ideal requirements, I humbly submit Andrés Guardado.
Did you watch that highlight video? Go back and watch that highlight video. It'll make my job easier.
Guardado is the ideal engine to put into the Atlanta midfield. First and foremost, he's a ridiculously skilled player. He scores crazy goals from outside the box. He scores scrappy goals inside the box. He can play on the wing, and he can play in the center. He can play in a deep-lying role and cut crazy through-balls into a forward's feet on the break, and he can chip in crosses and assists at the edge of the box. And while he can make a defender miss on the dribble, his best moments can be defined by their clinical and efficient excellence. This skill should also translate to MLS, as he has years of CONCACAF experience to go along with his European success.
Guardado is certainly up to the physical play and defending duties MLS requires as well. He's faced far worse conditions in CONCACAF qualifying than he ever will in MLS, so there really aren't any worries there. And at 29, Guardado still has at least a few years of great soccer left in him.
Finally, his marketability certainly won't hurt. Guardado is probably the best Mexican soccer player on the planet right now. Gio Dos Santos caused a minor earthquake when he moved to Los Angeles last season, and he has produced precious little for the Mexican national team over the last few years. Guardado has captained the Mexican side on several occasions, and while LA certainly has a larger Mexican fanbase than Atlanta, the influence of Mexican fans (both those willing to support the team in person and curious Liga MX fans who are willing to give MLS a shot on the television) would be a wonderful and necessary boon to the growth of AUFC and MLS as a whole.
Basically, Guardado will not come cheap. He has one year left on his contract at PSV after this season. PSV may or may not be willing to sell in the summer or next winter, but if MLS were to bid on him, they would certainly have to overcome big offers from Liga MX, not to mention other offers from around Europe. Whether or not MLS appeals to Guardado is also a variable factor to take into consideration here. If he's not interested in growing the team and winning in MLS all that much, he could be more poison than antidote.
As a piece of pure speculation and assuming that Guardado would want to come to MLS should they bid on him, he's the perfect DP to kickstart Atlanta's eventual XI. His versatility in the midfield will be invaluable in a long season and the process of figuring out a squad made from all new signings and a couple different drafts, and his leadership, tenacity, and grit on the field will give Atlanta a set of teeth to go along with his attacking prowess. If you want someone who is almost a sure bet to improve your team, Guardado is about as close to a sure bet as you can get.