Thank you for your service to the club, @FrancoeEscobar.— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) December 12, 2021
Atlanta United announced it will trade Franco Escobar to LAFC for up to $600,000 in General Allocation Money (GAM). Atlanta will receive $250,000 GAM in 2022, up to $350,000 GAM in future incentives, plus an unspecified share of a future transfer should LAFC move Escobar outside of MLS.
“Franco was a true competitor during his time here and we’d like to thank him for his contributions to the club. We wish him well at LAFC and in his future,” Atlanta United Vice President and Technical Director Carlos Bocanegra said.
Gracias por todos, Franco.
When Atlanta United announced their annual year-end roster moves, one particular decision seemed to catch a lot of fans by surprise. After spending 2021 away on loan with Newell’s Old Boys in Argentina, fan-favorite defender Franco Escobar was returning to Atlanta United.
Many rightfully assumed that we had seen the last of Escobar in Atlanta, and we still may have, but Atlanta United’s Technical Director Carlos Bocanegra threw fuel on the fires of speculation in his end-of-year press conference that evening.
Doug Roberson of the AJC started the press conference by asking Bocanegra about the intriguing contract decisions for Alec Kann and Franco Escobar. Bocanegra shrugged off the part of the question about Kann by saying they were still in contact with him, but he gave a much longer response about Escobar.
He’ll be returning from loan from Newell’s and he’ll be under contract with us for the next year. We still have a lot of decisions to make on that. Our roster is not set at this moment so we don’t have final answers on that. We do have a lot of depth and competition in the backline. Franco is obviously a well-known entity in this league and we’ve had quite a few inquiries and interest in him so, again, we have to make some tough decisions before we start the season at the end of February.
So what is the plan with Escobar?
The club seems to be hedging their bets with their talented and fiery young defender. We do not know the full story as to why he was shipped off from the club last Spring but with a new manager leading the team and an expansion club coming into the league, Bocanegra seems to want to keep all options on the table.
Quality depth seems to be a key focus for Bocanegra. With Miles Robinson, Alan Franco, and Anton Walkes at the top of the center back depth chart, there does not seem to be much room for Escobar there, especially with George Campbell pushing for minutes. But at right-back, Escobar’s preferred position in Atlanta, the club may have an opening with Ronald Hernandez seemingly returning to Aberdeen. With Robinson expected to play a heavy role in the United States National Team’s World Cup Qualifying campaign in 2022, the club could be looking for a versatile defender who could offer depth at multiple positions along the backline. At least, that is what Bocanegra wants potential buyers to think.
That takes us to the “inquiries and interest” part of his answer. Which MLS clubs could be interested in exchanging their xAM and other assets for Escobar? Inter Miami comes to mind, as does expansions side Charlotte FC. What makes Escobar even more intriguing as a potential trade target for suitors in the league is that he currently holds a green card and would not count against a club’s international player slots. With that in mind, potentially a club like Nashville or Columbus could come calling. Expanding our scope outward from there, could a club in Liga MX see Escobar as an affordable addition? The value of what Atlanta United could get for the last year of Escobar’s contract is far from clear, so it comes as no surprise that Bocanegra has not publicly written Escobar out of the club’s plans in 2022.
So, tell us what you think. Do you see a future for Franco Escobar in Atlanta?