ATLANTA, GEORGIA—The accolades for 21-year-old Argentine midfielder Thiago Almada in Major League Soccer continue. 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 cautiously. 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 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.

“We’re going to integrate him progressively 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, connecting with the fans. 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 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.