For the second time in a month, Atlanta United manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino had to deny reports that he was set to leave Atlanta United for another national team position.
This week, reports emerged that Martino was weighing his options between extending his deal with Atlanta United or taking either the Mexico National Team or Argentine National Team jobs, both of which are open, still months after the World Cup was completed. Martino’s contract with Atlants ends at the end of the season and he’s reportedly told the team’s front office that he’ll decide his future by Monday, though that date is fluid.
While Martino has continued to deny the reports and states his focus lies solely on this weekend’s top-of-the-table clash with the New York Red Bulls, clearly where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Perhaps Martino’s representatives are speaking to the Mexico and Argentina FAs, or perhaps he’s looking to leverage his MLS success into another big-time national team position. Martino of course coached Argentina from 2014-2016, leaving after the final defeat in the 2016 Copa America Centenario in the U.S.
Either way, we’ll know more next week when Martino is supposed to make an announcement. Martino’s arrival in the first place was huge for MLS’ legitimacy worldwide – does Josef Martinez, Miguel Almiron or Tito Villalba make the move to MLS without him? – but losing him may be even bigger, just as Atlanta United is on the precipice of making a deep run in the playoffs. Even if Martino announces he is leaving but stays through the end of the season, it’s unlikely a coach of his pedigree will come right in and replace him, even with Atlanta’s vast budget. There have been rumors that another Argentine, former Albiceleste and Chile boss Jorge Sampaoli would take over, but it’s not clear whether these rumors are grounded in any possible outcome.
For Atlanta United – and perhaps the U.S. Men’s National Team’s sake -, keeping Martino at home in Atlanta is the best possible outcome.