UPDATE October 28 6:40 p.m.: Velez midfielder Thiago Almada followed up recent statements (see below) with confirmation today that he will be joining Atlanta United in the upcoming winter transfer window.
Thiago Almada en @tycsports: "Mi salida de Vélez para ir al Atlanta United de la MLS en diciembre parece estar cerrada".— César Luis Merlo (@CLMerlo) October 28, 2021
*️⃣Info: entre clubes está firmado desde agosto y en los próximos días se espera que el jugador haga lo propio. https://t.co/VOQNLVVw7k
“[The Atlanta United move] almost happened a few months, but it was delayed. Everything is on track for December or January. I thought about it with my family and my representative. We decided that if the move happens, we will sign and go.”— Ronald Peña (@ronaldpen_a) October 28, 2021
Thiago Almada on his move to #ATLUTD https://t.co/7Hxjilc185 pic.twitter.com/Jsdz0xZPp7
Recent Atlanta United transfer target Thiago Almada spoke with a reporter in Argentina recently about the rumors that heavily linked him with a move to Atlanta United in the recent summer transfer window in a move that did not come to pass. Thanks to Pulso Sports’ Ronald Peña for bringing this one to our attention.
“The [Atlanta United move] was close. It did not happen, but everything is still on track. Right now I am calm and enjoying [Velez]. I will take the decision with my family, but if an offer comes, I’d like to leave. I prefer to go to Europe.”— Ronald Peña (@ronaldpen_a) October 27, 2021
Thiago Almada on his future. #ATLUTD pic.twitter.com/NYSTAVhW1U
To follow up on this, The Athletic’s Felipe Cardenas followed up with a brief report that despite what Almada says in this interview, there is still a potential deal in the works.
A January move to Atlanta United for Thiago Almada is close to being finalized, I’m told. It’s not done though and the player prefers to go to Europe.— Felipe Cárdenas (@FelipeCar) October 27, 2021
Signing players who don’t want to come to MLS is a risk. Almada wouldn’t be the first ATLUTD DP to struggle with this dilemma. https://t.co/BqneaksDb2
The reporter asks him straight up at the end of this clip which move he’d prefer — MLS or Europe — and Almada unflinchingly proclaims Europe. This answer should signal to fans that no potential move to Atlanta is done until we see a Darren Eales hype tweet. However, a January deal for Almada has seemingly been in the works since early August when Velez reportedly accepted a bid from Atlanta United and reports proclaimed the January move was on.
Se acordó la venta de Thiago Almada al Atlanta United pero se irá en enero.— César Luis Merlo (@CLMerlo) August 6, 2021
*️⃣Vélez transfiere la totalidad del pase y los abogados de los clubes ya trabajan en los contratos.
*️⃣El jugador firmará hasta diciembre de 2025 con chances de extender por un año más. #TratoHecho pic.twitter.com/Oc0G1ZXTBb
The move wouldn’t come without a considerable amount of baggage for the club. After facing sexual abuse charges in the past year (details of which are murky but the player no longer appears to be under investigation considering he’s able to acquire a P1 Visa), his club, Velez Sarsfield, posted a picture to the their instagram of the 20-year old making a racial celebration this summer. (Note for context here: This gesture is apparently common among Velez fans as a reference to the team’s 1994 Intercontinental Cup [now FIFA Club World Cup] Final win over AC Milan in Tokyo in 1994. Now, you may say you don’t care and that’s your right, but we should understand that in Almada’s culture, this gesture is not perceived the way it would in American culture.)
All of this can’t help but make an Atlanta United fan wonder how well he’d be suited to adapting to the United States, MLS and the club itself, particularly considering what we now know for certain that it’s not his preferred destination. In Merlo’s report above from early August, he notes the contract would be relatively short in its duration — a three year deal with an option for a fourth. Teams typically try to sell players before they have less than two years remaining on their contracts.
On the field, Almada has had a successful campaign with a Velez team that is currently in a place that would qualify the club for next year’s Copa Libertadores, a big achievement.