Let me be clear. This article does not take into salary cap, transfer fees. The piece is meant to be a "What if?" and to think about and ponder other players. I understand how the financial side works. So please, do not take this as gospel, I know even signing one of these players ever is in the less than 1%.
Atlanta United was very well stocked with talent this past season. Sifting through the different amounts that are paid to our players, the thought occurred why not try and think of some players that Atlanta could, in reality, afford.
The highest-paid player on The 5 Stripes is the obvious one. The tricky forward that scored more goals in an MLS season in consecutive games than any other player, Josef Martinez. He gets paid $3,000,000 a year. He is followed by Ezekiel Barco at $1,425,000. It is hard to believe that those are the only two players on Atlanta United who make over $1,000,000 a year. Pity Martinez is #3 with $900,000 spent by management last year.
If taken altogether the whole squad right now is totaled at $11,298,861. Which is a relatively low amount given the success the club has had in its 3 years in the MLS. Comparatively Toronto F.C pays their players a whopping $21,244,519, over $6,000,000 of which goes to Michael Bradley (wow). Joze Altidore gets paid $6,332,250 annually (double wow). United is the 8th highest paying team in the MLS. What does this tell Atlanta United fans? Certainly, with the clubs success they could afford better known, higher class players, right? Truthfully sports have become a game of statistics and value. Josef Martinez Value, $11,000,000. He is the second most valued player on the team behind Brad Guzan. This is only by statistical analysis, however. Not to say that Guzan did not pay dividends during the playoffs and the regular season. He was a brick wall for The 5 Stripes for most of the year. During his peak with Aston Villa, he was making 5.7 Million a year.
It seemed like a good idea to look around the world and try to find 5 players that Atlanta United could realistically afford, but that also, more importantly, bring more value to the team. Some of this will not be based only on statistical analysis. The hype around players can sometimes be understated. Like that of Darlington Nagbe, who incredibly only makes $665,500 playing for the club. It’s also fair to say ahead of time that a great deal of this money, in fact over 97% of it, is guaranteed to nearly every player on the first squad.
Allow a preface to say there is no way United could afford all of these players. Although if the wallets decided to open up more. One or two of these players are attainable theoretically.
#5: Kyle Walker: The Man City wing-back is one of the fastest players in the EPL. He is known for his occasional absurd blasts into the upper corners, as well as being a phenomenal defender. The price tag for him, $1,337,091, which seems to be a steal considering the battle-hardened nature of the English Defender.
#4: Trent Alexander-Arnold: This Liverpool product has shown an amazing ability to dash up and down the sidelines throughout his time at Liverpool. He never stops hustling and is also good from set-pieces. Surely a player like him would cost a lot? Less than we pay Martinez, 2,674,349.60USD.
# 3: Jack Simpson: This is the wildcard on the list. A Bournemouth product, he has yet to make a dent in the EPL, but why not give a try on players at their hand in the US before jumping into the toughest league in the world? He has a lot of hype around him, and that’s not too surprising.
#2: Sadio Mane: Everyone in the football universe knows the name, Sadio Mane. He is part of the Liverpool front 3 that can’t be stopped this year. This would be a huge reach for Atlanta, but seeing that Toronto paid Bradley over 6 Million it seemed like a crazy one to be on the list. How much would he cost The 5 Stripes, $6,685,848.00USD? It’s a ton of money, but it’s certainly possible a player like Mane would dominate more than any other player in the history of the MLS.
#1: Olesandr Zinchenko: This Man City LB has had some very impressive moments in the EPL this season. There have been some ups and downs for him for sure, but he is a player. He is considered one of the most underrated players in all of the EPL. He is one of the players that, if he agreed to come, would be a serious addition.
Most of this is just a pipe dream. It doesn’t necessarily mean that it will not come true for other prospects if not this one. United’s strategy of bringing the best players from South America mixed in with others has been a very well-executed process, still, one can’t help but wonder, what if?
If anyone can think of any other players that are even somewhat realistic, post it to the 5 Stripes Maven, and the best will be put up on the Sports Illustrated Maven sight.