TRANSFER TRACKER STATUS: Signing

A lengthy transfer saga has concluded with Atlanta United announcing Wednesday that they’ve signed Thiago Almada from Argentine Primera División side Vélez Sarsfield.

The attacking midfielder joins as a Designated Player and his contract runs through 2025.

He arrives on a reported MLS-record $16 million transfer fee (per Velez Sarsfield), a mark Atlanta previously set when acquiring attacking midfielder Ezequiel Barco from Independiente in 2018. To make room for Almada as a DP, Atlanta loaned Barco to River Plate for the 2022 season.

“After an extensive and in-depth due diligence process, we have exercised our exclusive option to permanently transfer in Thiago,” VP and technical director Carlos Bocanegra said in a release. “He’s a player we’ve been tracking for a long time and he’s shown that he’s one of the best young players in South America over the past few seasons.

“We feel that his abilities fit well with the kind of attacking soccer that we want to play at Atlanta United and we’re confident that he will be able to play at a high level in Major League Soccer.”

Almada joins striker Josef Martinez and winger Luiz Araujo as DPs in Atlanta for the 2022 campaign, giving the 2018 MLS Cup champions a high-octane offense for head coach Gonzalo Pineda’s first full year at the helm.

Almada, 20, recorded 24 goals and 11 assists in 100 all-competition appearances for Velez Sarsfield, shining in the Copa Libertadores before joining Atlanta. He’s also featured extensively for Argentina’s U-20 and U-23 national teams, highlighted by representing his home country at the 2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

“Thiago is a talented player who will add quality to our attack in the final third,” Pineda said in a release. “He’s very good at taking on defenders and creating chances for himself and his teammates. We’re very happy to welcome him to the club and look forward to integrating him into the team as quickly as possible.”

Atlanta now have several of the most expensive incoming transfers in MLS history, with Almada ($16 million), Pity Martinez ($15.5 million), Barco ($15 million) and Araujo ($12 million) all among the top six.