When Miguel Almiron was born, Major League Soccer wasn’t even a thought.
The idea that he would become one of the highest paid young players in the American league was the last thing on his parents’ mind when the player was born in Paraguay in February 1994.
Yet, 23 years later, the youngster became a hot commodity among four leagues as his native Paraguayan Primera Division, Argentina’s Primera Divison, the Barclays Premier League in England, and America’s MLS all competed for his signature.
In the most unlikely of circumstances, instead of heading to a massive soccer nation like England or staying in Argentina where he was thriving, the player signed with a brand new American club and has turned heads since.
When most 14 year olds play soccer, some have ambitions of making it to the pros and others just play for fun. For Almiron, he turned his passion for the game into something more — a career.
In 2008, Almiron signed with Cerro Porteño in the Paraguayan Primera Division. As he struggled to make it into the first team, the attacking midfielder impressed everyone around him as he had began to display a high soccer I.Q. and many realized they had a major talent on their hands.
His skills led to calls for the Paraguayan U17 and U20 sides.
In 2013, he finally cracked the first line of the team and became a starter when he turned 19. A month after he made his starting debut, he scored and helped the team win the league title later that season.
As he closed his teenage years, everything the boy from the big city of Asunción wanted was coming to life.
Growing Up Fast
After two seasons starting with Cerro Porteño, Almiron signed with Argentine club Lanús and impressed fans in the South American nation.
Almiron led Lanús to two major championships, including just their second-ever Primera Division title during the 2016 season. He also gained a call up to the Paraguayan national team and has been a starting fixture for them as they try to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
After two seasons with Lanús, the young man, now 22, was getting offers to stay in Argentina, return to his country, and then two major leagues from different countries began competing for his signature.
The Paraguayan Prince
As some teams back in his country wanted him to come back home and bolster the league that primed him, Lanús were doing everything they could to keep him. Yet, the world was knocking on his door.
English giants Arsenal was considered the frontrunners almost through the entire summer of 2016, but, in typical Arsene Wenger fashion, he did not want to splash the cash in order to get the rising star.
Almiron was considered by the English press to become Wenger’s replacement for Jack Wilshire who was loaned to Bournemouth last summer. As Wenger had over 100 million to spend, many felt that the Paraguayan player could link up with Chilean Alexis Sanchez and form an attacking trust that would flair the team’s status in England. Yet, it became all that could have been.
As Arsenal, namely Wenger, seemed to drag their feet, there was a new kid on the block that wanted to make some noise.
2017 saw America’s Major League Soccer expand to two different areas – Atlanta and Minnesota.
Atlanta United made noise right away as they signed former Argentine icon and manager, Tata Martino to be their coach. The fan base, which have been foaming at the mouth for an MLS franchise were thrilled to hear the news. With an experienced and winning South American manager, he brought his touch right away by making Almiron a priority.
Before the team made their MLS debut, they got the youngster’s signature and he signed for over $8 million – making him the youngest Designated Player ever in MLS history.
Between the money and the fact that he could be a hero in a new team, it seemed as if America would be the perfect fit. As no other serious money offers came in and Arsenal seemed to cool the idea of signing him (Heaven forbid Wenger actually spends some money), Atlanta would be a new beginning and with Martino being his manager, Almiron looked at this as the right way to progress.
“Our club’s ambition is to acquire quality players heading into their peak playing years, and Miguel’s youth and ability absolutely speak to that,” Atlanta United president Darren Eales said in a club statement after he signed Almiron. “He’s highly regarded as one of the top young players in South America and we couldn’t be happier that he has chosen to continue his already impressive career here in Atlanta.”
His former Argentine club could not believe their eyes and ears. When it was rumored he was going to leave the team at the end of the 2016 season, the club’s spokesman was reportedly “convinced” Almiron “would go to Europe.”
“Miguel is a player I’ve long admired,” Atlanta United manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino said after Almiron signed. “He is a very skillful player with excellent technique and great vision. He is currently one of the best players in Argentina’s top league and we’re really excited that he’s joining Atlanta United.”
— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) December 5, 2016
Almiron joined fellow South Americans Josef Martinez, Chilean Carlos Carmona, Argentines Hector “Tito” Villalba, Yamil Asad, and Leandro González Pirez.
He made his debut for Atlanta as they played away against Minnesota on the MLS’ opening weekend in March. It might have been the first time Almiron has ever played in the snow but it didn’t stop him from scoring and opening his MLS account.
His goal won “Goal of the Week” and he was named to the MLS “Team of the Week” that same time alongside vets like Dax McCarthey, David Villa, and Tim Howard.
As he and Atlanta thrive together, the young star seems to be living a life he once dreamed of.