Atlanta United and Newcastle agreed to terms Tuesday on the transfer of Miguel Almirón, according to a person close to the player.
Almirón, one of the best players in MLS the past two seasons, is flying to Newcastle on Tuesday for a physical.
Almirón, 24, helped Atlanta United win the MLS Cup last season. In two seasons, he has scored 21 goals, added 28 assists and twice been named an All-Star. He finished second to Josef Martinez last season in the MVP voting.
He will join a Newcastle side that is fighting to avoid relegation in the Premier League. Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez reportedly made Almirón his top transfer target in the January window to try to help the team improve upon its 21 points, which is just two above the 18th-place team on the table, Cardiff.
Financial terms aren’t yet known, but several outlets have reported a figure of $27 million. Atlanta United President Darren Eales has said that he values the Paraguayan at $30 million. Newcastle, notoriously thrifty, has reportedly not wanted to offer more than $20 million. The MLS record transfer fee is reportedly $23 million, which is what Bayern Munich reportedly paid Vancouver and MLS for Alphonso Davies. That total has a base of $14 million and includes add-ons and bonus clauses.
Almirón had guaranteed compensation of almost $2.3 million last season, according to the MLS Players Association salary database. Atlanta United reportedly paid Lanus in Argentina a transfer fee of almost $9 million to acquire him in 2017.
Almirón has repeatedly said that is his dream to play for a club in England or in Europe, but has also said that he is happy to stay with Atlanta United.
Atlanta United declined to comment, citing its policy of not responding to reports involving personnel. However, last week Vice President Carlos Bocanegra cryptically said that he the team had options for the sale of Almirón, or the sale or loan of Ezequiel Barco.
Atlanta United was in a position where it needed to either sell Almirón or sell or loan Barco because of MLS rules, which don’t allow a team to have more than three Designated Players, a classification signifying that a player makes more than $540,000. Atlanta United had four DPs: Almirón, Barco, Martinez, the reigning MLS MVP, and Pity Martinez, who was signed last week.
The transfer, when complete, will wrap up months of speculation about Almirón, who has been reportedly tied to clubs throughout Europe: Arsenal and West Ham in England, A.C. Milan and Napoli in Italy, and Real Betis in Spain.
Newcastle has one of the worst offenses in the Premier League this season with just 19 goals, tied for the second fewest among the league’s 20 teams. Almirón, who is primarily left-footed, should help the Magpies’ offense with his speed, endurance and technical ability.
Almirón is more than just a dervish on offense. His work on defense is underrated, particularly as it relates to breaking teams that like to press. Atlanta United’s defenders were frequently able to find Almirón in holes in the press, pass him the ball, and he would be a one-man show in getting up field to start counterattacks.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta, Ga.) first published this article Jan. 29, 2019.
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