In recent seasons, the perception of the MLS has shifted from a ‘retirement league’ to a full scale developmental league. While there are still older, experienced players that join MLS sides (such as Lorenzo Insigne with Toronto FC and Gareth Bale with Los Angeles FC) there are still loads of talented youngsters that MLS clubs sign for relatively cheap and then sell them on to a European club for a hefty profit.
For example, Miguel Almirón has come alive for Newcastle United after joining from Atlanta United in their resurgence under Eddie Howe. A more well-known example may be Alphonso Davies who joined Bayern Münich from Vancouver Whitecaps and has not skipped a beat. These are just a couple of examples of the MLS developing talent and shipping them overseas.
Who is Thiago Almada?
Atlanta United acquired midfielder Thiago Almada from Argentinian side Velez Sarsfield in February 2022 for a fee of $16 million, which is currently an MLS transfer record. When Almada was at Sarsfield, he made 100 appearances and scored 24 goals as well as laying off 10 assists.
Since joining The Five Stripes, Almada has amassed 10 goals and 16 assists in 33 appearances. The Argentinian is doing all of this at the young age of 21 years old and appears to have a very bright career ahead of him.
Thiago Almada has cemented himself in the MVP race in the young 2023 MLS season. At the time of writing, Almada has scored four goals and assisted another four in eight games.
Before the MLS season began, Almada was at the 2022 World Cup with the winning Argentina squad. Although he did not feature much in Qatar, it only furthered his development as he was surrounded by all-time greats such as Lionel Messi and Angel di Maria.
Against Portland Timbers, Almada scored an outrageous free kick from about 32 yards out, his second goal from a free kick this season. In fact, Almada’s first assist in the 5-1 victory over Portland was the 300th assist in Atlanta’s MLS regular season history, which is very fitting considering how influential the midfielder is going forward in attack. That statistic alone is impressive as Atlanta United’s first MLS season was in 2017.
OMG Thiago Almada! 😱
Absolute world-class strike. pic.twitter.com/cxnCYD0Rky
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) March 19, 2023
What does Almada’s future hold?
Thiago Almada looks to have a bright future ahead of him in football. If all goes to plan, it would not be a surprise to see the talented midfielder get a big move to a European side in the coming years. As stated previously, this become the norm in the MLS over the last several seasons.
This is a familiar situation for Atlanta United. Miguel Almirón took the MLS by storm when he joined The Five Stripes in December of 2016. Almirón typically played as an attacking midfielder, and during his tenure in Atlanta he scored 21 goals and assisted 28 in 62 appearances.
Although former striker Josef Martinez (now with Inter Miami) was the center of attention during Atlanta’s first two seasons in the MLS, Almirón ran the show. If Almirón played well, Atlanta played well as a whole and won matches.
So far this season, the same can be said for Almada. During the match against Portland, Almada was everywhere on the pitch.
He would pick the ball up anywhere in the midfield and looked threatening when dribbling towards defenders. The space in which Almada was allowed to operate in was rather questionable from Portland’s perspective, as the Argentine dominated the midfield for the full 90 minutes. Almada truly looks a level above most players on the pitch.
Atlanta United will hope that the young Almada will continue his great start to the season as the club look to get back to their winning ways and playing with flair as they did a few seasons ago. Thiago Almada has the potential to be a top-class midfielder, and it will be interesting to watch where he goes in his career.