They are coming for Miguel Almiron.
At least that’s the rumor. Since the end of last season, transfer talk has swirled around the Atlanta United creative midfielder and the rumors have him going to a top league in Europe. Recently, Darren Eales gave an interview with 92.9 the Fan about the rumors and set the price for Almiron at 33 million Euros. At the very least, this represents a change in tone from the front office from “we aren’t selling Miguel Almiron” to “we are selling Miguel Almiron for a preposterous amount of money.”
A move like this will ripple across MLS and the impact in the world of soccer will be greater than a typical MLS player transferring to Europe. But what would a move like this mean for MLS? Will it change the league with future transfers or will it merely be a one off? Would it change how MLS is viewed in Europe?
The ugly Americans
If you could describe the view of MLS from Europe it would probably be something like: A place we can dump our declining players for them to see out their sunset years and we can organize friendlies against their new teams so that we can cash in on their name recognition for a few more years.
More favorably, it would also be a league that has developed some exciting youth prospects— though that hasn’t always quite panned out. Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, some goalkeepers, Brek Shea, Clint Dempsey, Jack Harrison, Cyle Larin, Andy Najar, Perry Kitchen, Freddy Adu, DeAndre Yedlin, and Geoff Cameron began their careers in MLS and left to test themselves at the highest level to differing degrees of success. Alphonso Davies is the highest profile youth transfer out of the league and Tyler Adams’ move abroad could signal that MLS academies are beginning to produce a pipeline of talent that could go abroad. On the other hand, they are two players from a league with 23 teams in it and could be the exception to the rule.
The land of opportunity
Atlanta United could be on the leading edge of a change in how the league interacts with Europe — not only as a league that collects aging stars and sends potential future youth stars across the pond, but as one that is a stop for South American players like Miguel Almiron on their way to the top leagues in the world.
Tata Martino agrees. The Atlanta manager may have even spilled the beans on a pending transfer, telling the Telegraph, ‘“I don’t think MLS should compete with Europe,’ he says. ‘It should be the middle stop for players coming from South America and then on to Europe. The moment Almiron leaves and goes to your country then I think there will be a different view of MLS.”’
It would be a long way for the league to have come from the days when it brought in a young Marco Etcheverry only to have the Bolivian play his peak years for DC United. Miggy’s pending transfer could ripple through the league and prove the concept that MLS may not be able to hang with the top leagues in the world any time soon, but is capable of showcasing players who are talented enough to compete in European leagues after a season or two.
Almiron may have also sparked the recent wave of MLS general managers signing young Latino players. Aside from Ezequiel Barco, the recent addition of Diego Rossi, Jefferson Savarino, Jesus Medina, Pablo Aranguiz — who all appeared on the MLS 22 under 22 list —seem to fit the mold of Almiron. They are all young attackers who can take over an MLS game and will get ample opportunity to show potential future European clubs what they are capable of on the soccer, baseball, and football fields of MLS.
In business terms, you sign a player like Almiron because he could potentially sell in the future for double or triple his original signing fee. This would certainly be worth it for most MLS franchises who have highly controlled salaries aside from the designated players on their rosters. Turning the estimated $8 million paid for the Paraguayan into $16-$24 million would be huge for Atlanta United and an enticing model for the rest of the league to follow.