Things are starting to happen quickly for Atlanta United. After announcing the signing of Ghanaian forward Jeffrey Otoo on June 1st, the club followed that up by announcing the signing of their first homegrown player this past Thursday. Many people are excited about 15-year-old Andrew Carleton and what his signing means for the club's future, but some doubt that he (at only 16 years old when AUFC starts playing) will be ready to heavily contribute when Atlanta United's inaugural season starts in 2017. This is why the next move the team should make is signing a notable player that will get the fan base even more charged up. Enter Andres Guardado. ESPN's John Sutcliffe, who knows the Mexican national team as well as anybody, initially reported on Atlanta United's interest in the Mexican midfielder and Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl further explored the team's interest in one of his articles.
"Principito" (Spanish for "the little prince") would make a fine signing for Atlanta United for a number of reasons. First of all, he's still a very good player and relatively young. He is currently 29, and would only be 30 when next season starts. His signing would show that Atlanta United isn't a "retirement home" like NYCFC (Lampard and Pirlo) or the LA Galaxy (Gerrard and de Jong). It would show that Atlanta United is serious about winning while also signing a well known player. He is a dynamic playmaker that has enjoyed his finest form for the Mexican national team over the last two seasons. It would also be luring a player away from Champions League soccer, which would be a good look for MLS.
Off the field, the signing of Guardado might make even more sense. He is arguably Mexico's 2nd most popular player behind Chicharito, and him coming to Atlanta United would certainly mobilize the Mexican fans living in the Atlanta area. Fans of El Tri are extremely passionate and they stand behind their own, so Atlanta United would be very smart in trying to sign one of their most important players. Technical Director Carlos Bocanegra has spoken before about the team having a plan in attracting Mexican/Hispanic fans, and if signing a player like Guardado is a part of that plan, then it should work out very well.
One drawback to signing Guardado is that he is a player who has been more successful at the international level than at his various clubs. In 127 appearances for El Tri, he has scored 24 goals, including seven in 2015. Since 2005, he has played at Atlas in Mexico, Deportivo La Coruña in Spain, Valencia (Spain), Bayer Leverkusen in Germany, and PSV Eindhoven in Holland. In a combined 306 appearances for his various clubs, he has only scored 32 goals. That could mean a number of things. It could mean that the coaches with Mexico just know how to better utilize him. It could also mean that some of his club coaches might have played him out of position (at Valencia, they tried him as a left back with pretty horrible results). Fortunately for Guardado, MLS isn't Spain, Germany, or the Netherlands (although it's closer to the Netherlands than the other two). Playing in a league that is less competitive than the ones he has featured in before could mean an improvement in club form.
Guardado would not be cheap. According to Grant Wahl's article, he wants between $3.5 and $4 million per season. For a player of his skill, that would seem to be a bargain (especially considering that Clint Dempsey is four years older with a 2016 salary of $4.6 million and Guardado is the better player currently or that Steven Gerrard makes about $6.1 million). The transfer fee might be another story. According to transfermarkt.com, Guardado's value on the open market is a little over $9 million. The largest transfer fee for a player to come to MLS was Michael Bradley at $10 million, but for a Mexican national team player that would attract large fan interest (turning into dollars in the process), it seems like that would be a fair price to pay.
Overall, the pros outweigh the cons when it comes to the possibility of signing Andres Guardado. When you combine both the on field and off field positives of signing him, it seems like it would be a no brainer. There is some worry about his international form translating to the club level, but again, he seems like a player that would do just fine in MLS. "Principito" needs a new castle, and the Mercedes-Benz Stadium would definitely be a nice one.