Following Atlanta United’s first full training session of the preseason, manager Frank de Boer spoke to the media and confirmed something everyone has been talking about all offseason. The Dutchman admitted that finding a central midfielder to replace Darlington Nagbe is the team’s biggest remaining goal in the transfer market.
The loss of Nagbe is huge. This can’t be overstated. The team brought Emerson Hyndman back on a permanent deal from Bournemouth to help fill the massive hole in the lineup left by Nagbe, however, it seems that De Boer would still prefer to see another impact player brought in as a replacement.
“For me, with the loss of Nagbe, we need to find a good replacement for him,” De Boer said.
“Of course, we will not get him back, with his quality. But another player can have different qualities than Nagbe and can fill that gap. Hopefully we’re going to see a midfielder [added]. For me, that’s most important.”
Central midfield wasn’t the only position singled out by the Atlanta manager when asked about his transfer market hopes. He also mentioned left back and George Bello’s inexperience and injury issues last season, saying he hopes some cover is brought in there as well.
“George Bello didn’t play much last season, only one or two games. So, it’s very important we don’t put all our money on George to play all season at left full-back. We have to monitor him also. Hopefully he’s doing well and can play 15-20 games. So, we also need cover there.”
Coincidentally, the two players the club have been linked to the most this offseason just happen to be a central midfielder and a left back. The Cerro Porteño duo of Santiago Arzamendia and Mathias Villasanti have been strongly linked with moves to either MLS or Atlanta. Considering De Boer’s wishes, they both make a ton of sense. Whether or not they both fit financially is another matter.
Despite there being just over a month of preparations remaining until the team’s first officially scheduled match of the season, De Boer isn’t panicking when it comes to transfers. He concedes that players could still come and go and all he can do is remain patient and work with what he has.
“I know how it goes in the world of soccer. As a coach you want these moves to happen as fast as possible, but you also know in reality it’s not always like that. At the end of the day, someone can always arrive on your roster or leave. We have to accept that. I will not panic, that’s for sure.”
De Boer also commented on the much-talked about departure of Leandro Gonzalez Pirez. While fans are looking for a side to blame, the manager seems to believe the move was what both parties desired. De Boer mentioned that Gonzalez Pirez wanted a new environment and he expressed his desire to Carlos Bocanegra to bring in new players to change the team’s energy.
“I know that Leandro wanted a new environment. After three years, sometimes it’s good for players to move on to get that spark with new energy. It also works for both sides. To have new players, new energy in the locker room. I told Carlos that I wanted some new players in the locker room to bring some new energy. Nagbe is gone. Leandro is gone. Both were very good players, they contributed fantastically for Atlanta United. Other players have to step up now.”
The era of change is truly upon us. It seems like even more could be on the way if De Boer’s comments hold weight.