Despite a significant slump in local competitiveness and constant economic plights, the Argentine first division (currently known as the Liga Profesional de Futbol) continues to generate interest all around the world as the search for the next up-and-coming world-beater to come from such a prolific line of production continues.
The likes of Santiago Hidalgo and Valentin Barco are already causing waves in South America and might soon generate interest from the Premier League. Another one to come from the struggling league in recent years is former Velez Sarsfield midfielder, Thiago Almada. Ever since his move to MLS club Atlanta United, he has become a serial winner, with winning the 2022 World Cup being his crowning moment.
Thiago Almada, just 21 years old, is one of Argentina’s brightest prospects. A nation famed for its dynamic, unpredictable, at times unplayable midfielders apparently has another one.
FootTheBall details key technical aspects of Almada’s game to illustrate the player he is and what, exactly, makes him such an exciting prospect.
Thiago Almada was part of the World Cup winning squad with Argentina
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How good is Thiago Almada?
At first glance, Almada ticks several boxes that characterise another quintessential South American prodigy. He was born in the tough neighbourhood of Fuerte Apache, the same place where another then-promising up-and-comer emerged in Carlos Tevez. In fact, Tevez made his first-team debut with Boca Juniors just six months after Almada was born. The young Almada grew up idolising his hometown world-beater, to the point where he also supported Boca growing up and recently confessed he used to pick Tevez at Manchester City while playing FIFA. Like El Apache, he was also a precocious talent, joining Velez Sarsfield’s esteemed youth system aged 5.
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Almada may not prove to come across admirably in data visuals but the player has immense quality and is the most valuable player in the division under the age of 24. In fact, Almada is the most valuable player in the entire division, according to Transfermarkt who value the player at €20 million with only Nicolas De La Cruz close in second place at a valuation of €18 million.
The attacker plays in a number of key positions in the midfield. In the past twelve months, for club and country, Almada has been utilised as a left-winger, right-winger, centre-forward, number ‘8’, and a number ‘10’. The final position is his preferred role and is the one that he has played the most throughout his time with Velez.
Thiago Almada stats
With 5.5 attempted take-ons per 90 over the past three seasons, Thiago Almada is a relatively high-volume dribbler. There are enough attempts to strongly suggest a preference for taking on his marker, defender, or defensive line head-on. The Argentine completes 3.64 recoveries per game with 61 percent coming in the opposition’s half. He also partakes in 4.51 defensive duels per 90 with a success rate of 53.4 percent.
What is more notable here is the 52% success rate of his dribbles in that time. For the sake of loose comparison, Lionel Messi – an actual high-volume dribbler (10.9 per 90) – completes 55% of his attempted dribbles. Almada’s isn’t a world-beating figure – there are players who, over the past 12 months, have completed over 70% of their attempted take-ons. It is though a very good figure, especially for such a young player.
Almada has extremely high accuracy for passing into the final third (78% over three years, 83% in 2022), and even his passing into the opposition penalty area is abnormally accurate (53% and 56% respectively). Almada’s xA/90 stands at 0.16 per 90 in all competitions whilst his key passes per 90 are at a reasonably good 0.72 per 90.
Thiago Almada scout report
Thiago Almada is, in simple terms, an attacking midfielder and supporting forward. Playing through the central attacking midfield position in a 4-2-3-1, Almada likes to drift left to receive the ball and cut in onto his favoured right foot. With Vélez Sarsfield, Almada was offered a free role to play across the attacking third and occupy spaces at will. Although it is quite different with Atlanta United.
Almada does not only look to receive in the halfspace pockets, although this is his preferred area. The 20-year-old drops deep quite a lot too, sometimes as the deepest midfielder, to help with ball circulation and to find gaps in the opposition’s block using his excellent vision.
Thiago Almada is a quick-footed, fast-thinking player, he uses the ball very well in tight spaces and looks to use these advanced areas both on the ball as a playmaker and off the ball with forward runs as a more defined attacker. Because of his versatility as an attacker – possessing that balance between goal creation and goal scoring – Almada is able to play through deeper midfield positions to a more typical supporting forward’s – which explains his recent role at Atlanta United. Almada has not yet found the real definition in his positional game, he is often caught between being a creative midfielder and a goalscorer, but having the capability and strength to perform both roles is a big part of his quality and potential. Most impressive though has been Almada’s turn into a true leader.
Thiago Almada transfer news
Almada is good enough to play in a European league. Perhaps he is not quite ready to play in a league such as the Premier League or La Liga, or even Serie A, but certainly a high-profile league where he can develop such as the Eredivisie or potentially Liga Nos.
So what’s next for Argentina’s latest mercurial talent? His recent form and profile as a tricky, low-centre-of-gravity attacking midfielder with an eye for goal have already caught the attention of several high-profile teams in the last couple of transfer markets. He was part of the World Cup winning squad with Argentina, although did not force a move from Atlanta United. Clubs might come calling in the 2023 summer window and his head might just be turned enough by the heavy interest showed in him.