Argentina debut: Messi praises Atlanta United’s Thiago Almada

Thiago Almada Argentina

You can consider Lionel Messi among those who are impressed by Atlanta United attacker Thiago Almada

The seven-time Ballon d'Or winner sang Almada’s praises after the 21-year-old’s senior international debut in Friday night’s 3-0 win over Honduras in Miami, Florida.

“Thiago plays loose,” the Paris Saint-Germain forward said postgame. "He’s very fast and he has a lot of 1-v-1 ability. He’s very clever and he’s not afraid of anything. He goes at you.” 

Almada subbed on against Honduras in the 54th minute for Sevilla midfielder Papu Gomez, with La Albiceleste already up 2-0. He completed 20-of-22 passes (91%), attempted one shot, created one chance and logged four recoveries.

Almada was one of several youngsters called in by Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni, looking to impress ahead of their 26-man roster being named for the 2022 World Cup in November and December. In Qatar, Argentina are drawn into Group C alongside Mexico, Poland and Saudi Arabia.

Almada could make his second senior appearance in Tuesday evening’s friendly against Jamaica. Both of their opponents this international window are from Concacaf, though didn’t qualify for the World Cup.

Ahead of the 2022 MLS season, Atlanta United signed Almada from Velez Sarsfield for a reported league-record $16 million transfer fee. He’s posted six goals and 11 assists across 27 games (23 starts), plus placed second on this year’s 22 Under 22 presented by BODYARMOR list.

Scaloni reportedly sees Almada as a big part of Argentina’s future, encouraging a move abroad to one of Europe’s top leagues in the future. Atlanta have a track-record of such deals, establishing a league-record outbound transfer when selling Paraguay international Miguel Almiron to Newcastle United for a reported $27 million in 2019.