Atlanta United president Darren Eales has won the prize for Best Executive, presented by Nolan Partners, for the World Football Summit Industry Awards. He spoke to AS after winning the honor, and among the topics discussed was the profile of players signed to MLS and how Atlanta has shifted the mold.
Instead of opting for one or more big-name veterans of European leagues, Atlanta signed three young South American stars as their first Designated Players in Miguel Almiron, Hector Villalba and Josef Martinez.
"Three wonderful players for Atlanta United but in all honesty if you’d asked our fans at the time we signed them most people didn’t know who they were. But they were really effective for us on the pitch and they helped us become the team that won the MLS Cup after two years," said Eales.
Eales also explains that in 2017, Almiron – who was subsequently sold to Newcastle United, for a record transfer fee – had the top selling shirt in MLS, beating out a much bigger name in Bastian Schweinsteiger.
"Obviously he’s a great player – Bayern Munich, Manchester United, German national team – but what we showed was that Miguel could sell more shirts than him. It proved we could create stars, it wasn’t just about going out and getting stars. You didn’t need to sign a player at the end of their career to sell tickets and shirts. If you could put an exciting product on the pitch and sign exciting young talent you could create stars.
"I think we demonstrated that in our first year and I’m pretty excited about how the league is going forward now with more and more exciting young talent coming into the league to all clubs, and that’s good for the growth of the game, it’s good for MLS, and I’m excited that Atlanta United has played its part in that."
You can read more from Eales' interview over at AS.