Make no mistake. Ezequiel Barco is an investment.
Atlanta United scouted a young up-and-coming talent in Argentina and decided to take a risk. When Darren Eales went to Arthur Blank and laid out his plan for spending an MLS-record $15 million on an 18-year-old, the ending to that dream wasn’t Barco winning 10 MLS Cups and being considered one the best players in league history. That’s just the hard truth. Eales saw Barco as an investment for the future. Someone who would come to Atlanta, increase their value with great play and then be sold on for a profit. Not too dissimilar from Miguel Almiron.
While Almiron was a proof of concept for Atlanta, the Barco situation is much, much bolder and therefore much riskier. The youngster’s first season in MLS was a worrisome indicator for that investment. If transfer value was a real-time stock, Barco’s would’ve nosedived around midway through 2018. But here we are a season later and he’s proving why he cost as much as he did. His impact this year has been enormous and his recent absence from the team has been felt greatly in the attacking end.
It may seem like Barco’s trip to Poland for the U-20 World Cup with Argentina is nothing more than a hindrance to Atlanta United during a hectic part of their schedule, but it’s way more important than that. Argentina is one of the most prestigious soccer nations in the world and the U-20 World Cup is the most scouted youth tournament in the world. Combine all that with the indication that Barco looks set to feature heavily and this tournament will have inevitable ramifications.
No matter what the individual results are of this tournament for Ezequiel, you can bet it will have long-term implications on a future transfer. As competitive as MLS is, it’s still only MLS. That’s what scouts will be saying coming in. This is a chance for Barco to prove himself on the world stage in front of the most influential eyes in the sport. A great showing and Atlanta United can start preparing Scrooge McDuck money baths. A poor showing and a future transfer may become more difficult for the club to get a decent return on their investment.
Needless to say, the market fluctuations in this tournament for both Barco, MLS and Atlanta United will be quite volatile. Barco likely wants to play at a big club one day. United and the league both want to make bank on a risky investment and prove they are the premier club for young players looking to make a name for themselves to come. This tournament could make both of these scenarios a lot easier or much tougher, depending on how things go.
Here’s how you can keep track of Barco at the U-20 World Cup:
Saturday, May 25 vs. South Africa - 2:30 p.m. on FOX Sports 2 and Telemundo
Tuesday, May 28 vs. Portugal - 12:00 p.m. on FOX Sports 2 and UNIVERSO
Friday, May 31 vs. South Korea - 2:30 p.m. on FOX Soccer Plus and UNIVERSO
All games will be live streamed on fuboTV too. You can get a free trial here.