Back in the winter, Inter Miami were reportedly on the verge of signing one of South America's brightest young midfielders from Boca Juniors, then 19-year-old Agustin Almendra.
Seven months later, not much has changed. Almendra is still a Boca Juniors player and is still reportedly on the verge of signing for Miami. Well, two things have changed— Almendra's birthday passed so he's no longer a teenager and, more importantly, Miami are not the only MLS club seriously interested in his signing.
The LA Galaxy have entered the race, according to Luis Gregossi. With Guillermo Barros Schelotto's ties to Boca, and Argentine soccer in general, the Galaxy are an enticing option for the rising talent. It should be an interesting summer.
Guillermo Barros Schelotto quiere Agustín Almendra en @LAGalaxy— Luis Fregossi (@LuisFregossi) August 5, 2020
El ex DT de Boca llamó el volante para preguntarle si le gustaría jugar en la MLS
También sigue en pie el interés del #Miami que quiere retomar la negociación cuando el lunes se abra el libro de pases en USA
Almendra is a hot commodity in global soccer, not just in this hemisphere. MLS Espanol's Ariel Judas likens Almendra's play style (not current talent, yet) to that of Boca legend Juan Riquelme, who also started his career in a deeper role like Almendra currently plays. He's calm on the ball, an excellent passer and press-resistant, but a bit more of a presence in defense than Riquelme was. Judas reckons the reported asking price in the $10 million region is a reflection of interest from European clubs like Napoli, Valencia and others over the last year.
He has made 33 appearances for Boca’s first team, with two goals and three assists for the storied club. Almendra has also featured for Argentina’s U-17 and U-20 national teams, making one appearance off the bench at the 2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Poland.
If Almendra comes to MLS, here's how it'll happen. Let's go down the hole of super-specific roster and acquisition rules.
First, if he's on the Discovery List (there's a very high probability of that), the team that signs him will have to either have his discovery rights or acquire them. This isn't much of a hurdle and the going rate is in the neighborhood of $50,000 to $150,000 in General Allocation Money. It's not something that would torpedo a deal. The Houston Dynamo got $50K in GAM for having Jurgen Damm's discovery right's when he signed for Atlanta United last month, for instance. The Montreal Impact paid the New England Revolution $150K in GAM for Victor Wanyama's discovery rights early this year.
As of writing, no word on which club in MLS has his discovery rights, if any.
Adding Almendra to the roster might be a little bit trickier, but with enough creativity and the right deal structure, it's not much of a hurdle either. Any transfer fee would certainly put him in Designated Player territory, with reports suggesting something in the $8-10 million range. A player's budget charge combines his salary and transfer fee, divided over the length of the deal. If it's a $10 million fee, that alone would push his budget charge to DP territory, even before factoring in salary. The current maximum budget charge that can be bought down with Targeted Allocation Money is around $1.53 million.
Miami have an open DP slot, though are widely reported to be chasing a veteran star with it, while the Galaxy don't. That could be assuaged by executing a loan with an option to buy, meaning Almendra wouldn't be a DP this season, but if the option is picked up (thus the transfer fee paid), he'd be one next year and the Galaxy would have to adjust accordingly. In other words, more time to shuffle things around on the roster.
That possibility is similar to the operation that brought Cristian Pavon to the LA Galaxy in 2019 despite not having a DP slot open. At the time, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Jonathan dos Santos and Romain Alessandrini were DPs on the Galaxy's roster, and the Galaxy brought in Pavon on loan for half the season, before executing the purchase option on Pavon's as they re-shuffled their roster in the offseason, with the departures of Ibrahimovic and Alessandrini freeing up DP slots for Pavon and, eventually, Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez.