‘He’s not afraid of anything’: Lionel Messi heaps praise on Atlanta United’s Thiago Almada after 21-year-old makes impact coming off bench in his debut for Argentina in 3-0 win over Honduras
- Messi described his compatriot as ‘very fast’ and ‘very clever’ after Friday’s win
- Almada came on for Papu Gomez in the 54th minute, with Argentina 2-0 up
- His passing ratio was 91%, he recovered the ball four times and had a shot at goal
- Almada, who came to US for a MLS-record $16million, is desperate to go to Qatar
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Lionel Messi has praised fellow Argentinian midfielder Thiago Almada after the 21-year-old made his debut in Friday night’s 3-0 win over Honduras in Miami, Florida.
The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner was impressed by the Atlanta United midfielder’s 36-minute cameo after he came off the bench to replace Sevilla midfielder Papu Gomez in the 54th minute, with the Albiceleste already up 2-0.
‘Thiago plays loose,’ the Paris Saint-Germain forward said in a post game interview. ‘He’s very fast and he has a lot of 1-v-1 ability. He’s very clever and he’s not afraid of anything. He goes at you.’
Lionel Messi raved about Thiago Almada, 21, after both played vs. Honduras on Friday (3-0)
Almada was described as ‘very fast’, ‘very clever’ and ‘not afraid of anything’ by PSG’s Messi
Almada, who scored 17 times in 79 appearances for Velez Sarsfield before being sold to Atlanta for a league-record $16million in February, kept his game tidy in Friday’s match with a passing ratio of 91 percent (20 out of 22 passes completed).
He also recovered possession four times and created a shot for himself after opening up the Honduran defense.
Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni decided to call up Almada among several youngsters ahead of La Albiceleste’s opening World Cup fixture against Saudi Arabia on November 22, as he looks to finalize his 26-man squad.
The 21-year-old, however, was the only member of Scaloni’s roster who plays in the US and other than goalkeeper Franco Armani, who plays for River Plate in Argentina, Almada is the only other player to be evolving outside a European league.
The youngster will now hope to kick on and represent his country in Qatar with Messi and Co., as Argentina was drawn into Group C alongside Mexico, Poland and Saudi Arabia.
Almada (far right) and players celebrate for Argentina after a goal was scored vs. Honduras
Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni views Almada for the future after earning his first cap on Friday
In the meantime, Almada can hope to earn a second cap for his country in a friendly match on Tuesday evening against Jamaica. Both, Jamaica and Honduras, have failed to reach the World Cup after poor CONCACAF campaigns.
Ahead of Argentina’s World Cup campaign, Almada will want to play well in Atlanta’s last two fixtures if the team wants to make the MLS playoffs, starting on October 15. So far, in his first year in the league, the midfielder has six goals and 11 assists across 27 games (23 starts).
He has been so crucial for his club that he was even placed second on this year’s 22 Under 22 presented by BODYARMOR list.
Scaloni is a big fan of Almada’s as he wants to shape La Albiceleste’s future around him. The Argentina coach has even encouraged the player to seek a move abroad to one of Europe’s top leagues in the future.
Atlanta holds the league-record outbound transfer in MLS history after selling Paraguay winger Miguel Almiron to Newcastle United for a reported $27 million in 2019.
George Bello, 20, was the first player from Atlanta’s academy to be sold to Arminia Bielefeld in Germany’s Bundesliga for a reported $2million with a sell-on percentage of 25.