Atlanta United President Darren Eales spoke Friday at an Atlanta Press Club event hosted by GPB’s Rickey Bevington, and Darren did what he does best: he broke some news while sprinkling in some funny one-liners.
For example, he called the referee from Atlanta United’s match vs. the Charleston Battery “rubbish,” sarcastically gloated about setting the record for lowest attendance ever at a U.S. Open Cup match (zero), and spoke about why he won’t be satisfied with anything else than Atlanta being named a host city for a World Cup 2026 semifinal match.
But the big news for Fives Stripes fans came when Eales quashed the rumors swirling around on social media about Ezequiel Barco’s possible transfer to Europe. (One recent report had him going to Serie A club Napoli.)
“[Barco will] definitely be here until the end of this season,” Eales said. “There’s actually no doubt about that.”
That’s as definitive as he’s likely to get at an event open to the media. Eales went on to say:
“[Barco’s] been a great case about these players aren’t robots. Different players take different time to settle. Barco’s now producing what we hoped he would when we first signed him, and he’s got a really exciting future ahead of him. The reality is, if he keeps playing like he is, I have no doubt we’ll get lots of calls, whether it’s Napoli, Manchester United, Arsenal, Real Madrid. We’re going to get big clubs after him and I’ll have the fun then of sitting back and pitting them against each other.”
Below are some of the additional highlights from the rest of his conversation.
On Josef Martinez:
“What helped us in that [winter transfer] window, we showed that there’s not one size fits all. Josef Martinez was the MVP. He’s already been to Europe, so he perhaps knows the grass isn’t always greener. He was someone we were able to secure on a long-term deal. That’s the fun thing, as this league grows, it’s not going to be one-size-fits-all.”
On MLS teams competing in CONCACAF Champions League:
“We’re at an inflection point now where, if our challenge and our test is to compete against Liga MX clubs, we have to find a way to help those [MLS] clubs, particularly those clubs that are winning the Cup and going to play in Champions League, be more successful. And that is, more salary, frankly, to spend on players, and work it out so they’re not starting the competition in our own preseason.”
On the importance of the U.S. Open Cup:
“If you win it, firstly it’s a trophy. So we’re not shy about wanting to get as many trophies as we can at Atlanta United. But also, if you win it you qualify for the CONCACAF Champions League, so it’s got quite a lot of prestige.”
On Atlanta’s soccer media (ok, this one’s a bit of a shameless plug):
“We were really fortunate we had the AJC, Doug Roberson, following us from the very start. We had Dirty South [Soccer], which is a blog that’s been hugely successful, they were there right from the very start.”
Thanks for reading, Darren!