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Atlanta United: Almiron reports to camp, Bocanegra mum on Pity Martinez

Miguel Almiron smiles in the locker room as Atlanta United celebrated its MLS Cup victory on Dec. 8, 2018. (Mitchell Northam / Pro Soccer USA)

Atlanta United FC opened training camp today in Marietta, Ga., and despite all the rumors and reports of silly season, a familiar face returned.

Among the many players who arrived at the club’s training grounds Monday was Miguel Almiron. A two-time Major League Soccer Best XI selection, it has long been rumored Almiron will be sold to a club in Europe during this transfer window.

But no official moves have been made, no papers have been signed and no money from a transfer fee has been put into Atlanta United’s bank account. So, Almiron reported to the training grounds with the rest of his Five Stripes teammates on Monday and was all smiles.

In an interview with a radio station in Paraguay last week, Almiron’s agent Daniel Campos confirmed that he has had negotiations with Newcastle United, an English Premier League side, but that Newcastle needed to increase its offer.

“There are two to three clubs in England that have interest in him, but we haven’t advanced a lot yet,” Campos said, according to a translation from The Guardian. “If Newcastle raise their offers, they could be one of the clubs, but there are other clubs… We aren’t going to rush things.

“With Newcastle, I spoke about the player’s salary, but the club needs to raise their offers with Atlanta if they want to get the player. Miguel Almirón’s value is high, it’s not for any club to sign him.”

Borussia Dortmund, Real Betis, West Ham and several other European clubs have been linked to Almiron in varying degrees.

Almiron, 24, is under contract with Atlanta United for another three years, according to what club president Darren Eales told Extra Time Radio, but the Paraguayan playmaker has long desired to play in Europe.

“My holidays are done. I honestly do not know anything about that (future move to Europe). You have to talk to my agent. I will show up to Atlanta for the preseason,” Almiron recently told Paraguayan media outlet Tigo Sports. “My goal is always to get to Europe and try to play in a competitive league, to help myself personally and to also help the national team.”

In two seasons with Atlanta United, Almiron has twice been an MLS All-Star and has tallied 22 goals and 30 assists over 68 games.

The delay in Almiron being sold has pushed back the confirmation of another transfer rumor long associated with Atlanta United.

In December, Gonzalo “Pity” Martinez said that he was leaving Argentine side River Plate to join Atlanta United in 2019. Martinez, 25, has 13 goals and 10 assists with River in 51 appearances over the past two seasons.

But Martinez would garner a Designated Player contract to join Atlanta United. With Almiron still on the roster, the club has all of its DP slots filled. To add Martinez, Atlanta needs to free one up. League MVP and Golden Boot winner Josef Martinez occupies one of the spots, and the other is used on Ezequiel Barco, who came to Atlanta on a league-record transfer fee last offseason.

At a press conference to introduce to new head coach Frank de Boer on Monday, Atlanta’s technical director Carlos Bocanegra was tight-lipped about when Martinez might arrive, or if the Argentine playmaker was coming at all.

“As far as Pity, obviously there’s been tons of rumors out there about it. We have our team set right now,” Bocanegra said. “Doesn’t mean new players can’t come in or out, so, we have a lot of time for roster compliance until March 1 and in soccer there is always moving pieces and there’s always rumors in the transfer window.”

The transfer window for most European leagues closes on Jan. 31. The MLS window is open until May 7. Windows will open again in the summer.

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