It was hard to wake up on Tuesday as a Newcastle United fan. Transfers unlikely, takeover unlikely, new contract for Rafael Benitez unlikely. Relegation likely.
Fast forward 24 hours and Newcastle have just beaten reigning champions Manchester City. Newcastle fans would have walked into work on Wednesday like Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf Of Wall Street. The best news of all though was that a club transfer record bid had been accepted for Miguel Almiron. The name may be unknown to many English football fans but Newcastle have been tracking the Paraguayan since the summer.
From Paraguay to Argentina…
Miguel Almiron has won titles wherever he has played so far in his career, starting at his local club in Paraguay, Cerro Porteño. In his first year, he had limited involvement while his club won the Paraguayan Primera Division in 2013. When he started to get and more involved in the squad, he attracted attention from the bigger clubs in South America.
After scoring five goals in 20 games for Cerro Porteño in 2015, he signed for Lanus in Argentina where he would make a slow start. A new manager was introduced in 2016, who gave more game time for the Paraguayan playmaker. Lanus went from finishing 13th in 2015 to clinching the Primera Division title in 2016. Although he was only responsible for three goals this season, Almiron was a huge influence in this upturn in fortune. Of these goals, two were particularly important. One was against local rivals Banfield and the other in the Primera Division final against San Lorenzo.
This impressive form resulted in newly founded MLS team Atlanta United shelling out $8 million on him. Miguel Almiron joined as a ‘young designated player’ for the MLS club, and would soon become a fan favourite. In his first season, he scored a respectable nine goals in 32 games including the club’s first ever hat-trick. A great season, Almiron was named in seven team of the weeks and named ‘Player of the Week’ twice. At the end of the season, Almiron was invited to play in the MLS All-Stars game against Real Madrid, scoring in the penalty shoot-out. As well as this, he was named in the Team of the Year and voted the Newcomer of the Year. Finishing fourth in the table and reaching the MLS playoffs was a respectable finish for the new MLS club and their new star.
His second season in America would be the one that would ultimately attract attention though. Atlanta United would go on to win the MLS Cup Playoffs in only their 2nd year of existence. Although Josef Martinez would win the plaudits with 31 goals, Almiron was the heartbeat of the team. Finishing the season with 12 goals and 14 assists in 32 games, the playmaker was behind everything going well at Atlanta. He was once again named in the MLS Best XI and invited to play in the MLS All-Stars team.
This fine form has resulted in Newcastle putting in a record bid for the player. Not only is it a record for Newcastle, but it would be a record fee received for any MLS player. This is a sign that the American league is no longer a place for European players to retire. It’s a pool of quality South American players just waiting to be noticed.
It’s been 14 years since £16.5million was splashed out on Michael Owen, the Geordies will hope that Miguel Almiron has more of an impact than the ever injured Englishman. Could this transfer be enough to convince Rafa to stay at the club?