Supporters of Atlanta United, please relax.
A report from an Italian news organization over the weekend had Inter Milan and Arsenal interested in Atlanta United playmaker Miguel Almiron, which has caused some of the team’s supporters to go bananas on social media, while others seem to appreciate the interest. This may be the second time that Arsenal has expressed an interest in Almiron, after he was reportedly a Gunners' target last year. He didn't confirm or deny this during training camp back in February, only saying that he was focused then on Lanus and he wasn't sure what happened.
First, you may remember that clubs in Mexico and other places were also “interested” in Almiron and Josef Martinez, but Atlanta United President Darren Eales said the asking price wasn’t nearly high enough. The team allegedly paid a transfer price of $8 million for the 23-year-old Paraguayan dynamo.
Second, what does interest mean? Teams have long lists of players that they are interested in. If they didn’t, their technical directors and scouts aren’t doing their jobs. And, as you'll remember, there were "reportedly" numerous players such as Wayne Rooney and Andres Guardado who were interested in Atlanta United in the past two years, few of which were ever going to be on Atlanta United's roster for a variety of two-sided reasons. Arsenal and Inter Milan's interest may have the same probability as my interest in marrying Salma Hayek: Heck yea, but not likely to happen.
Third, and this is most important: MLS doesn’t have the strongest history selling young (less than 25 years old) internationals (non-U.S. players) to clubs in the stronger leagues. I posted a question on social media weeks ago asking for some of the highest-priced sells. The list, composed mostly by excellent soccer journalist Paul Tenorio, isn’t filled with too many notable names and prices :
Stern John from Columbus to Nottingham Forest for $3.8 million in 1999-2000;
Fabian Castillo from Dallas to Trabzonspor for $2.69 million (loan) in 2016-17;
Carlos Salcedo from Real Salt Lake to Chivas for $2.5 million in 2014-15;
Does this past affect the futures of Almiron, Martinez, Hector Villalba or Atlanta United? No.
As you can see, those prices aren't even close to $8 million, even with inflation.
Almiron, who suffered a hamstring injury almost a month ago, has been one of the better players in the MLS, even if the stats (9 goals, 13 assists) don’t reflect all of his contributions. He was probably the one standout player for MLS in the All-Star game against Real Madrid in Chicago.
Almiron has the speed to match players at the top clubs in Europe, Mexico or South America. He isn’t the biggest, but he doesn’t shy away from tackles. He can be one-footed, which I think is a bigger issue than some want to admit. The list of dynamic one-footed players isn’t much longer than the sales list noted earlier in this story.
Do I expect that at some point Almiron and others will be sold? Yes, but I have no idea when.
Eales has said that developing and selling young players at the right price in the right situation is part of Atlanta United’s business model.
If Atlanta United doesn’t win the MLS Cup this season, I would be slightly surprised if the club wanted to sell or the player wanted to leave as early as the January transfer window.
There are so many questions that would need to be answered: Would Almiron likely play a lot for Arsenal or Inter Milan? Would he play enough to keep him happy? Would that affect his participation on the national team? Would the money offered surpass the $2.3 million annual salary he receives at Atlanta United?
Plus, without knowing the details of Almiron’s contract but based upon similar situations, the league may get a cut of any sale. The sales price may need to be much higher than anticipated for Atlanta United to turn enough of a profit to want to sell the player.