Atlanta's Thiago Almada completes MLS-record move to Botafogo

Thiago Almada has completed his MLS-record transfer from Atlanta United to Brazilian side Botafago.

The Athletic reported earlier this week that, Atlanta will receive $21million for Almada, with the deal potentially reaching up to $30m if conditions for additional payments are met. The 23-year-old has signed a contract until June 2029 with Botafogo.

Almada joined Atlanta from Velez Sarsfield in his native Argentina in 2022 for a reported fee of $16m. He won the MLS Newcomer of the Year award and also became the first player to win the World Cup as an active MLS player later that year.

“We spent more than a year recruiting Thiago to join Atlanta United and during that process we agreed that our club could provide a great platform to showcase his abilities and he would have the opportunity to continue his development until the time was right for him to move on to the next challenge,” Atlanta vice president and technical director Carlos Bocanegra said.

“We’re proud of what Thiago was able to accomplish in a short period of time, which includes debuting for the Argentine National Team, winning the 2022 FIFA World Cup and winning a pair of individual MLS awards — Newcomer of the Year and Young Player of the Year. “His success is something we’re all proud of and a ton of credit is owed to our scouting department, in addition to everyone who has worked with him at the club. Our team has been prepared for this move and we will look to immediately reinvest in the team during the upcoming summer transfer window.”

(Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports)

(Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports)

Almada leaves Atalanta having scored 24 goals in 81 games. The attacking midfielder was not selected in Lionel Scaloni’s squad for the ongoing Copa America in the United States but he has been named in Javier Mascherano’s team for the Paris Olympics later this summer.

Botafogo, meanwhile, is owned by Eagle Football Holdings, which also owns Ligue 1 club Lyon and has a stake in Premier League side Crystal Palace, as well as RWD Molenbeek of Belgium.

What this means for Thiago Almada

Linked with Manchester City and Marseille as a teenager, Almada needed a move to MLS in order to facilitate a transfer to Europe. He will have to remain patient and play at least six months in Brazil, at which point Eagle Football has promised him a transfer to Lyon. Almada will eventually fulfill his dream of playing in Europe, but his path will serve as a cautionary tale for future MLS signings.

Almada may not have publicly pushed for a move away from Atlanta, but his desire to leave the club was evident. He talked often about wanting to play in Europe, even suggesting that a move to Argentine powerhouse Boca Juniors would be another dream come true. There’s nothing wrong with being ambitious, Almada certainly is. However, when promises are made early in the recruiting process, impatience can swell. Almada handled it well and he can now leave MLS behind.

What this means for Atlanta United

Almada’s transfer will initiate a new high-profile transfer strategy at the club. CEO and President Garth Lagerwey has said that experienced players are preferred targets rather than unproven young professionals. I would expect Atlanta United to opt for a more experienced attacking midfielder to replace Almada.

The young Argentine will be remembered as perhaps the most skillful player Atlanta has ever signed. But he didn’t connect with the community beyond match days. His stay always felt temporary. Lagerwey must begin to sign players who want to stay in Atlanta and engage with a fanbase that’s desperate to reconnect with the club.

Finally, Atlanta is also shopping for a new centre-forward to replace Giorgos Giakoumakis, who was sold to Liga MX side Cruz Azul in June. Change is indeed coming to Atlanta United.

(Juan Carlos Hernandez/AFP via Getty Images)

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