Atlanta loans Ezequiel Barco to Argentina's River Plate

Atlanta United FC has loaned midfielder Ezequiel Barco to River Plate in Argentina's top flight for the 2022 season.

By loaning Barco, Atlanta opens up a designated player spot for its pursuit of another promising young Argentinian player, Thiago Almada.

The club has confirmed that it holds his MLS rights. The 22-year-old Barco has never quite lived up to expectations with United, though he is a two-time All-Star coming off the best season of his four-year MLS career.

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"We felt that this move made sense for both Ezequiel and the club,'' Atlanta technical director Carlos Bocanegra said Monday. United retained the rights to Barco, who has been an enigmatic performer since his big-money transfer to the MLS club before the 2018 season. Barco has made 107 appearances across all competitions for Atlanta, the seventh-most in club history.

Last season, he recorded career highs with seven goals and eight assists. Barco also has 21 appearances with Argentina's youth national teams.

He played in all of his country's matches at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.

United also announced Monday that it had transferred 20-year-old George Bello to Arminia Bielefeld of the German Bundesliga, making him Atlanta's first homegrown player to make the move to a top European league.