Tata Martino left the team, Miguel Almiron joined Newcastle United, and Josef Martinez was sidelined with a knee injury, so it wasn't surprising to see Atlanta United struggle in the meantime.
And now that Gabriel Heinze was supposed to restore order and lead them back to their winning ways, his feud with the team's all-time top scorer looks like a bomb that's ready to explode.
The Athletic: Martinez Will Leave If Heinze Stays
The Venezuelan star continues to train on his own and Heinze just acknowledged that it was his decision, as there's no kind of fitness injury, even after a short bout with Covid-19 during the Copa America:
“He doesn’t have any kind of fitness problem or injury,” Heinze said, as quoted by The Athletic. “It’s absolutely my decision that he trains away from the team. He’ll continue to train on his own. I have my reasons and I’m very clear on those reasons,” he said. “I don’t send messages to anyone via the press.”
Heinze added that he doesn't take into consideration a player's résumé when putting together a team, clearly taking another shot at the guy who netted 88 goals in just over 100 caps for United:
“When I evaluate a roster I don’t consider (the players’) experience,” Heinze added. “I evaluated the Atlanta roster from last season, the players who would continue and those who wouldn’t. I’m very happy with the young players. Again, I’m very happy with the group that I’ve formed. I know the boys are going to improve. I haven’t veered from what I told (Darren Eales) I was going to do. So in that sense, there’s no problem. But again, I don’t analyze (a player’s) experience. I like to work with players who are committed, whether they’re experienced or not. I could care less. I think this team is together and talented, and I’ll fight for that.”
Sources close to the situation also told The Athletic that Martinez's presence and influence in the locker room could make this an even bigger issue, as he could force the front office to choose between the team's icon or its newly-appointed coach:
“Josef is influential in the locker room, a young locker room,” a source told The Athletic. “Josef’s likely to be the one who will object to the team’s overtraining. Josef is basically at the point right now where he’s like, ‘It’s either him (Heinze) or it’s me."
Truth be told, this wouldn't be the first time Martinez is involved in a similar situation. Months ago, he was in the spotlight for stating that he didn't even know who his lifelong teammate Salomon Rondon was.
But it's also worth saying that Heinze has done nothing to show that he deserves another shot with the team. So it seems like Atlanta United have an uncomfortable decision to make right away.