With fewer than four months remaining on his Atlanta United contract, Tata Martino is giving no hints as to whether he’ll agree to extend his deal via his current two-year option or negotiate an entirely new contract to remain with the club.
Tata Martino is determined to play down the story and keep the team focused on the task of overtaking the New York Red Bulls, who could have as much as a four-point lead by the time Atlanta kicks off against D.C. United Sunday. Friday during media availability, he gave no comment when asked about his future, only saying that he is in constant communication with the club.
Atlanta United will be desperate to retain the services of the Argentine. In its first year, he helped attract top talent from around the world and lead the club to the playoffs. Now in year two, Martino has the Five Stripes on the verge of a Supporters’ Shield and MLS season points record.
“Tata is guaranteed through the end of this year and then there are options going forward,” Darren Eales told mlssoccer.com’s Sam Stejskal in July. “But look, the great thing is I think Tata is having a whale of a time – you can see that by just looking at him.”
Unfortunately, while Martino is undoubtedly happy in Atlanta with the team’s performance and the facilities at his disposal, it’s all for naught unless Eales can get his name on the dotted line to extend his contract—something that is unknown at this point.
Atlanta United is approaching an inflection point. On top of the uncertainty surrounding Martino’s future, two of the league’s best and brightest talents, Josef Martinez and Miguel Almiron, are subject to rumors of big-money European moves. The clubs’ former Vice President of Soccer Operations Paul McDonough recently left for an opportunity elsewhere. It’s not doom-and-gloom in Atlanta, far from it. But several very important decisions that will shape the next several years of the club’s trajectory will occur rapidly in the near future.
The first of those decisions may very well be Martino’s. Argentine journalist Cesar Luis Merlo reported on July 26 that Tata Martino spent a month considering the managerial job for the Paraguayan national team before finally rejecting the offer, and that he would decide his future in Atlanta “in the next few weeks.”
Eales and Vice President and Technical Director Carlos Bocanegra will certainly want to know Martino’s intention as soon as possible, as the club is likely forming it’s winter transfer strategy right now. For example, Atlanta’s most recent Designated Player signing, Ezequiel Barco, wasn’t announced officially until late January of this year, despite being linked with Atlanta for so long that he claims he “watched a lot of [Atlanta] games” on TV last season.
With it looking like a near certainty that Atlanta will be losing at least one of its Designated Players this offseason, that means a big-name player will be coming in—one that may likely be persuaded by Martino’s presence at the club. No matter what happens through the rest of Atlanta United’s 2018 campaign, the news won’t be slowing down any time soon.