Rumour mill: Atlanta United offer big money for Ezequiel Barco & Sporting CP come back in for Pity Martínez

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Two of the Argentinian Superliga’s best players over the past year or so could be lining up for lucrative moves abroad according to reports with ambitious Atlanta United eying a record-breaking deal for Independiente’s Ezequiel Barco and Portuguese giants Sporting CP renewing interest in River Plate’s Gonzalo Martínez.

Atlanta United enjoyed a hugely successful first year in the MLS reaching the playoffs at the first time of asking. Argentine coach Gerardo Martino steered the ship and with some heavy investment, notably in Miguel Almirón from Lanús, Atlanta were credited as one of the top sides in the league.

With that hefty fee for Almirón proving such an astute investment, the MLS club could be looking to repeat the trick with reports of a $14 million offer to Independiente for attacking midfielder Ezequiel Barco.

The 18-year-old has established himself not only as a regular in the Independiente starting eleven with his wonderful dribbling and incisive passing but as one of the brightest prospects in world football.

El Rojo have already fended off reported interest from the likes of Benfica and Zenit St. Petersburg but with Barco’s ever-growing reputation, it seems only a matter of time before the club are forced to cash-in on the teenage sensation.

Atlanta’s reported offer would not only be an MLS record but would match Independiente’s valuation and while Barco has stated that he is unaware of any such interest, it is suggested that if the playmaker wants to move, El Rojo would accept.

Talents like Barco do not come around too often and so even at such a price the transfer would be a tremendous coup for Atlanta. Martino’s side capturing Almirón after Lanús’ league title came as a surprise but signing Barco might even top that.

However, the Independiente youngster isn’t the only exciting attacker to be linked with a move away from Argentina. Sporting Clube de Portugal were said to have tried to prise Gonzalo Martínez away from River Plate last summer but having failed on that occasion could be coming back in with a €10 million.

That is according to reports in Portugal, that claim Sporting have never lost interest in Martínez but see him as the ideal signing to bolster their title bid in the new year.

The figure stated is someway short of the €15 million release clause in Pity’s River contract and while Sporting aren’t willing to go that far, a potential deal that would leave River some part of the ownership and therefore any possible sell-on value could sweeten things.

Martínez endured a difficult start to his River career after joining as a highly touted youngster from Huracán but has silenced his critics over the past 18 months with the consistency that had previously been lacking.

Quick, skillful and with a lovely left foot, Martínez can play almost anywhere across the midfield – equally adept beating his man on the outside or cutting infield to shoot.

River will be keen to retain Pity ahead of another Copa Libertadores run in 2018 but at 24 years of age, Europe could prove too much of a temptation.

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