Atlanta United are linked to arguably the top prospect in South America. Where have we heard this before?
After landing the likes of Miguel Almiron, Ezequiel Barco and Pity Martinez (to mixed results), the Five Stripes are reportedly in hot pursuit of Thiago Almada, the 20-year-old rising Argentine star out of Velez Sarsfield. Almada, who's currently with Barco on Argentina's Olympic team in Tokyo, can play as the No. 10 or attack from wide spaces.
But here’s the thing: He played for since-departed ATLUTD coach Gabriel Heinze at Velez Sarsfield. With Heinze gone and the search for a new manager well underway, Rob Valentino is serving in a caretaker role.
So does signing Almada make sense when a manager isn’t yet in place? That’s what the Extratime crew debated during their latest show.
“Almada’s kind of like combining those two things: super high-end young prospect, considered the best player. It shows a lot of ambition and if they get him and he plays as well with Atlanta as he has in Argentina, he’ll fix a lot of things for them,” co-host Matt Doyle said. “But as we’ve seen over the past four years with this team, that’s a big if.”
Given how Pity Martinez didn’t reach his full potential in MLS, and how Barco hasn’t panned out as hoped, co-host David Gass is proceeding with caution on this one.
“Three years ago I would have told you, ‘Who cares who the manager is, who cares what the situation is. If you can get talent like this, you bring it in,’” Gass said. “Atlanta has maybe changed my mind about that because of the way Barco happened and what happened with Pity, which I still can’t explain. It still blows my mind that an in-your-prime South American Player of the Year coming out of River [Plate] just couldn’t find a way to be productive in this league. So, Atlanta’s kind of been the reason that I would say maybe this doesn’t work.”
Is Almada the cure-all to Atlanta’s 2021 season or a band-aid on a gaping wound? Listen to the full Extratime episode for more.