The news has been expected for quite some time now, but Atlanta United officially announced today that center back Alan Franco has been sold to Brazilian side São Paulo FC.
#ATLUTD transfers defender Alan Franco to São Paulo.— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) January 5, 2023
The rumor first appeared just prior to Christmas, being reported by a handful of South American journalists including Andre Hernan of UOL Esporte and Gabriel Sá of Jovem Pan Esporte.
Atualizações sobre Alan Franco: com a proposta já na mesa, o São Paulo conta com a vontade do jogador, que tem bases salariais já alinhadas, como ponto positivo no negócio. O Atlanta faz jogo duro, de praxe, e pede um pouco mais. Negociação pode/deve se arrastar.— Gabriel Sá (@OGabrielSa) December 23, 2022
It was initially suspected that São Paulo FC were pursuing a loan deal for Franco, but anyone who’s been following Atlanta United understands that another loan wouldn’t be in the Five Stripes’ best interests. Significant amounts of money are already tied up in the Ezequiel Barco to River Plate and Eric Lopez to Banfield loans, so the club always needed to find a way to steward this transaction in a more favorable manner.
As it turns out, Atlanta United are reportedly receiving a $2.33 million, or 12.5 million Brazilian Real for 80% of Alan Franco’s rights. Atlanta United left the fee undisclosed. Perhaps more importantly, this clears up his $667,500 compensatory hit on Atlanta United’s books.
So, what now?
The move clears yet another center back spot in addition to the ones previously left vacant by George Campbell’s transfer to Montreal in mid-December and Alex de John’s exodus at the end of the season. A hopefully resurgent Miles Robinson will likely be championing one of those slots as he enters his comeback season to regain his status as one of MLS’ and Concacaf’s best defenders. Meanwhile, Juanjo Purata will be eager to continue making a positive impact of his own since his midseason arrival in 2022.
Another positional option is Noah Cobb, whose homegrown contract went into effect on January 1st of this year. However, it seems ill-advised to try and force the youngster (17!) into any significant amount of first team minutes, despite Carlos Bocanegra’s recent rave reviews of him.
Carlos Bocanegra speaking about soon-to-be homegrown center back Noah Cobb on a call with reporters tonight: "This kid has future national team player written all over him."— Joe Patrick (@japatrick200) December 22, 2022
Let the record show the club is high on Cobb.
Falling in that same line of thought would be Efrain Morales, another young defender who simply shouldn't be thrown to the wolves in the manner George Campbell was - admittedly out of necessity - in 2022.
Andrew Gutman has shown he can play as a third traditional center back in a pinch, but again, that was a decision made out of necessity during a less-than-ideal stretch of injuries. Head coach Gonzalo Pineda has shown his affinity for the 4-2-3-1 formation, so conventional wisdom would place Robinson and Purata as main options with Cobb or Morales as potential late game (or emergency) subs, but that won’t suffice for the majority of the season. It would be a fairly safe bet that the Five Stripes are looking to shore up Alan Franco’s replacement with a tried-and-true veteran center back to compete for significant minutes with Miles and Purata.
Two names for Five Stripe fans to keep an eye on as the offseason progresses would be Alexander Callens and Aaron Long. While neither may come to fruition, they’re both more than capable options that would fill many checkboxes in terms of ability, roster rules, and hopefully price.
Regardless of any new acquisitions, thought, the Alan Franco move definitely opens up plenty of options for the front office for their next move. What do you think of the deal? Be sure to sound off below!