Fair or unfair, Marcelino Moreno's arrival in Atlanta is going to come with two big comparisons.
The first will be towards Atlanta United legend Miguel Almiron. The Paraguayan international, who has since moved on in a league-record transfer to Newcastle, was Moreno's teammate at Lanus from 2015-17. Atlanta buying any midfielder from Lanus will come in the shadow of Almiron.
The second is to Pity Martinez, the player he's directly replacing as the club's third Designated Player. He isn't quite a club legend, as the supremely talented attacker never quite found his top form in Atlanta, but was transferred to Saudi Arabian side Al-Nassr FC for a reported $18 million fee.
“If we have to make comparisons, Marcelino is much more in the Almiron vein than another Pity Martinez," Argentine soccer expert Daniel Edwards told MLSsoccer.com. "Marcelino is a player with a little less flash but a little more substance than Pity."
Edwards points to Moreno's versatility, energy and late-arriving runs in the penalty area as for why he plays more like Almiron than Martinez. He is also adept at playing multiple positions, including both an attacking or box-to-box role in central midfield as well as on the wings. Atlanta United technical director Carlos Bocanegra also likened his game to Almiron's, though was quick to point out they're different players.
“When you talk about a utility attacking player that can pop up and get the ball in the net, he’s extremely good at that," Edwards said.
What to expect from our newest Designated Player, Marcelino Moreno 👏 pic.twitter.com/YExTKvNtx7— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) September 22, 2020
Moreno didn't have an exorbitant amount of goals and assists during his career with Lanus, though he is coming off his most productive seasons with three goals and six assists in 20 appearances. The numbers don't tell the full story, of course, and it doesn't mean he won't take a jump in goal-scoring contributions in Atlanta. It's worth pointing out, too, that it was similar for Almiron. He had just four goals and four assists in 40 appearances before moving to Atlanta.
“Looking at the raw numbers is a logical place to start. But looking at Marcelino’s case, because he’s not an out-and-out playmaker or striker, the work he does for the team doesn’t always come out in the numbers," Edwards said. "You look at someone like Almiron, who made the same transition, his numbers were even worse (at Lanus). That didn’t tell the story either, because he was absolutely fantastic for Lanus.”
Almiron had 21 goals and 28 assists in 62 MLS regular-season appearances, helping lead Atlanta to win 2018 MLS Cup.
The transfer also opened more doors for Almiron in the process, something that could be similar for Moreno. Edwards detailed that it's not always easy for Argentines to get on the radar of European clubs outside of the country's two biggest clubs Boca Juniors and River Plate.
"Almiron's move to MLS worked fantastically for him and proved as a springboard to the Premier League," Edwards said. "He wouldn’t have gotten that from Lanus, that’s going to be on Marcelino’s mind. If he has a couple of good seasons in Atlanta, there’s so much more exposure there than he could hope to get in Argentina and that could really be the making of something.”