The established course in the world of football has always led young South American talents to cross the ocean to land in the world’s most emblazoned and watched leagues: the European ones.
In some cases from complete unknowns who turned into meteors or absolute phenomenons, and in others, like Neymar for example, already famous thanks to globalization and his impressive performances in the Brazilian league.
The name of Thiago Almada had been wandering around the notebooks of the talent scouts of Europe’s most important teams for some time, in 2022 Inter seemed very interested in bringing him to Milan thanks to the former Diego Milito’s contacts in the area, who flagged him, already at the time, as a possible crack when he made his debut with the Vélez jersey at only 17 years old.
For 16 mln Euro Almada moved to Atlanta United and the die is cast: he will certainly have a lot of visibility and many possibilities to show his talent.
The interesting decision of the Argentine midfielder opens up a new key for the American League: it could become a springboard for young players who need to play in an increasingly competitive context instead of South American ones, seeing also the important purchases made by the various teams. In a European top or semi-top club, it might be easier for the player to get lost in complex leagues with established team hierarchies and especially in the adaptation to the very tactical style of play; while the MLS seems like a good opportunity and a great new showcase for world football to express players’ talent.
The key characteristics of the player actually make him desirable to many teams: a technical and fast attacking midfielder with a natural ability for assisting who can be placed either between the lines or on the wing of a 3-man attack.
Since the start of the season, he has made 17 appearances with an average of 76 minutes played per game while maintaining an excellent average WSF Performance Index of 6.4.
In fact, he has already totalled 5 assists for his teammates combined with 3 goals. His quality in passing is evidenced by his 85% accuracy with an average of 49 attempts per game of which 42 are completed: an excellent volume considering his position on the pitch! Most important 29.1 of them with 78% accuracy were made in the opponent’s half of the field: it is not a statistic to underestimate since it explains the confidence of the player to play in tight spaces with defenders ready to attack his ball possession, topped by 2.2 key passes.
He has one of the best percentages for successful dribbles among all midfielders in the MLS: 75 % with 2.2 attempts per game; this also results in a significant number of lost balls per game, around 14.
One of his weaknesses, for which he has been questioned mainly by Europe’s top clubs, is his physical size. At 1.71 meters tall and weighing 63 kg, he has a constitution that puts him in a position to be physically dominated by opponents, despite this he attempts around 7 duels per game, winning 3.5 of them with a success rate of 50%.
One of the qualities that can take the former Vélez player to a higher level is the ability to finalize the game: despite 3 goals, he registers few shots on goal, 0.8 with 2.6 attempts per game.
The adventure has only just begun for the just 21-year-old who still has a lot to prove.
Will he set a trend for South American players or will be an isolated case?
by Giorgio Patania, Elisa Zanchetta