Atlanta United

Atlanta United confirm loan of Ezequiel Barco to River Plate

Chris Smith
Barco will get a fresh start back in his homeland.
Barco will get a fresh start back in his homeland. / Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Ezequiel Barco has completed his loan move to River Plate, Atlanta United announced on Sunday.

The Argentine forward has returned to his homeland for the 2022 season with Atlanta United retaining his rights beyond then as his current contract expires at the end of 2023.

However, River Plate - who officially announced the deal two days earlier - are thought to have a purchase option and it's understood to be highly unlikely that Barco plays for the Five Stripes again.

“Ezequiel has been an important part of our success over the last four seasons,” Atlanta United vice president and technical director Carlos Bocanegra said in a press release.

“He helped us win three trophies and is coming off the best season of his young career. We felt that this move made sense for both Ezequiel and the club and we wish him continued success during his loan at River Plate."

Barco's departure opens up the Designated Player spot required for Atlanta United to complete the signing of compatriot Thiago Almada from Velez Sarsfield.

The 22-year-old forward originally joined Atlanta United from Independiente in 2018 for a then-record MLS fee. Since then, he's played 107 games for the Five Stripes, totaling 19 goals and 18 assists and helping the club win MLS Cup, US Open Cup, and Campeones Cup titles.

Though he's shown flashes of brilliance and scored some stunning goals, Barco has largely failed to reach his potential at Mercedes-Benz Stadium and will now seek a fresh start back in Argentina, who he continues to represent regularly at youth level.

Atlanta United begin the 2022 MLS season at home to Sporting Kansas City on February 27.