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ATLANTA, GEORGIA—With Argentina, Atlanta United 21-year-old midfielder Thiago Almada might have a remote chance of competing in the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Before this month’s friendlies against Honduras (Sept. 23) and Jamaica (Sept. 27), the Albiceleste’s final warm-ups before Group C play begins in November, the Atlanta United playmaker was listed on the provisional roster.

Almada was on head coach Lionel Scaloni’s first list of 32 players, and the 21-year-old might make his adult team debut after playing for the U23 (3), U20 (7), and Olympic (2) teams. Almada has four goals and 10 assists in his first season after moving from Velez Sarsfield to Atlanta earlier this year for a reportedly MLS-record $16 million transfer price.

He joins Gonzalo “Pity” Martinez, who was selected by Scaloni in 2019 as an Argentina call-up, as the second member of the Five Stripes to acquire such a designation. Recently, Almada has been picked as the second-best 22 and under player in MLS.
The league record for an incoming transfer was set by Almada’s February 2022 move from Velez Sarsfield for an estimated $16 million, thanks to Atlanta’s penchant for splashing the dough.

Almada’s contribution of a club-high 17 goals and assists thus far has paid off for that investment, earning him a September call-up to Argentina’s senior side in time for the World Cup. Due to the unfortunate events surrounding Ezequiel Barco’s time with the Five Stripes, Almada’s voyage will always be viewed with a degree of caution. But he has accepted this professional step and everything that comes with it, indicating that a costly outbound move in the style of Miguel Almiron (who joined Newcastle United in January 2019) could be in his future.

Almada is the real deal; fans may need to give him some time. Scouts consider him as a magician on the ball and a master artist who creates chances for those around him. Earlier, United FC head coach Orlando Pineda hoped to integrate Almada into the team’s system soon. “I think whenever Thiago is ready to go,” Pineda said.

“Obviously, we’re going to integrate him progressively also on the fitness side because we have to ensure that he’s healthy and fit for the rest of the season. So no rush, honestly. But at the same time, we are excited to see him on the field and connecting with the fans and all that. So, as soon as possible is my answer,” Pineda added. Pineda said Almada is a dynamic playmaker with an attacking mindset. “He’s very good at arriving inside the box, so we think that we’re going to have a lot more presence inside the box with him,” he said. The United earlier signed Almada to a contract through 2025.