It’s been a hot-second since an MLS superstar was highly linked with a move to a major European club.
The summer saw New York Red Bulls and USA prodigy Tyler Adams tipped to join RB Leipzig, while Vancouver Whitecaps sensation Alphonso Davies secured a £9 million move to German giants Bayern Munich, a record transfer fee for an MLS player.
Now heading into the off-season and with half the teams in MLS preparing for the Playoffs, teams in Europe are already looking to pluck the best from this blossoming league come the January transfer window, and the one player on everyone’s lips is Miguel Almiron.
The Almiron Story
You’ve seen the name, and you more than likely have seen his FIFA card on Ultimate Team, but who exactly is Almiron and why are some of Europe’s biggest clubs after the Atlanta United #10?
A product of the Cerro Porteno academy in his homeland of Paraguay, Almiron made his name on the international stage when he moved to Argentinean club Lanus at the age of 21 in 2015 where he guided the Primera Division side to both the league title, in which he scored in the final, and the Copa Bicentenario in his second season at the club.
It was then in late 2016 when Almiron caught the eye of both Atlanta United and newly appointed manager Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino, who not only managed Cerro Porteno and won the title with them but also managed Paraguay during their best ever run in a World Cup in 2010, reaching the quarter-finals.
So when Almiron got the call to join Tata in Atlanta and become the club’s first DP signing, of course he said yes.
A Revelation in the Georgia Peach
When Atlanta United kicked off in 2016 nobody expected how well they would take to MLS, and at the centre of their great start to league football was Almiron.
Almiron, as well as his South American teammate Josef Martinez, lit up the American soccer scene with their slick and stylish football that was not only incredibly fun to watch and resulted in extremely high-scoring games, but also created a sports culture in the city of Atlanta that nobody expected to form.
Almiron had a massive part to play in making the Five Stripes THE team everybody in the city got behind, with attendances at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium now averaging around 60,000 fans.
In his first season at the club, Almiron earned a call-up to the MLS All-Star game against Real Madrid, playing 45 minutes, and was named in the MLS Best XI. The Paraguayan also clinched MLS Newcomer of the Year as well as Paraguay’s Player of the Year award, just for good measure.
Despite losing in the first round of the Playoffs to Columbus Crew, Atlanta had cemented themselves as a respected franchise, with Almiron, of course, seen as the shining example of this new breed of MLS teams.
No Sign of Slowing Down
When the 2018 MLS season rolled around, Almiron went from strength to strength. He continued to lead the counterattack with his incredible pace and as a #10, he tended to go for goal more than create chances for other teammates.
And even in a season when Martinez took all the headlines as the Venezuelan demolished the MLS scoring record in record time, Almiron was still considered by many as the main man for Atlanta.
So far the 24-year-old playmaker has scored 12 goals, three more than he did in the previous season, and notched up a respectable 13 assists. Despite suffering a hamstring injury in the third-to-last game of the regular season, Almiron is set to return to action in time for Atlanta United‘s MLS Playoff run.
The big question now for the Paraguayan is what does he do when January rolls around? It’s become pretty obvious that a move to Europe is on, with teams such as Arsenal, Inter Milan, and a number of other clubs from Italy and Spain looking at Atlanta’s star man.
Players coming from America to Europe are a risk few clubs are willing to take, but in a player like Almiron, any side with the money to spend should go in for the gifted #10 who came to the US a boy, and will leave it as a star.