Newcastle’s pursuits of Paraguayan Attacking midfielder have been the talk of the town since November when the midfielder was first seriously linked to the club. Since then, Newcastle fans have been fed content surrounding the Newcastle/Almiron transfer saga from English news outlets, American journalists, Paraguayan reporters, Atlanta United’s President Darren Eales, and Miguel’s agent Dani Campos.
Upon examining this saga, one thing is clear: Newcastle are gambling big time with this transfer. This is not necessarily a bad thing, because the gamble could go in Newcastle’s favor, but the odds are becoming slimmer and slimmer as Atlanta begin to explore their options.
The saga as a whole has been one for the ages with there being reports of a high asking price from Atlanta, Miguel demanding £100k a week in wages, there being a loan to buy deal, among other claims. A lot of these claims were refuted or debunked, but there are a few things we know are the truth regarding this transfer saga.
The first thing we know is that Newcastle have agreed to personal terms with Miguel Almiron. Dani Campos confirmed this in a recent radio interview, claiming that his negotiations with Newcastle were about personal terms with Miguel, and they have reached an agreement. Campos goes on to claim that Newcastle still need to agree on a price with Atlanta United.
Daniel Campos: “I will tell you the truth. What I arranged with Newcastle, the only thing that I arranged in the moment, was the salary of the player because they were the ones that spoke directly to Atlanta United."— Roberto Rojas (@RobertoRojas97) January 10, 2019
Daniel Campos: "We didn't sign a pre-contract, all they did was ask about how much of the salary he wanted and there, we reached an agreement after our demands were met, on a overall perspective, for a contract where there still has to be a lot of things to be decided."— Roberto Rojas (@RobertoRojas97) January 10, 2019
This brings us to the second thing we know: Atlanta United and Newcastle don’t agree on Almiron’s price. This is something that has been consistent in this saga since its conception. Atlanta United reportedly want north of £20million, with the most reported number being $30million (£25m). This £25m valuation was refuted by Dani Campos, who claimed that was not the official evaluation of Miguel. That should be taken with a grain of salt as Dani Campos’ goals regarding Almiron are different from Atlanta United’s. Atlanta United want to sell Miguel for the highest possible price, or at least a minimum price they have set. Newcastle have reportedly not increased their offer for Almiron since last submitting an offer in December. Newcastle are gambling with the fact that Atlanta might be forced to sell Almiron for a lower price than they want to in order to comply with the MLS roster rules.
We also know that Atlanta United need to clear a Designated Player spot in order to complete their move for Pity Martinez. This quirky MLS rule is something that our site discussed earlier in the saga. The rule allows teams to only have 3 “Designated Players” on their roster. As it stands Atlanta United have 3 designated players: Josef Martinez, Miguel Almiron, and Ezekiel Barco. In order to bring in their latest signing, River Plate standout Pity Martinez, Atlanta would need to get rid of one of those 3 players. The most likely of which would be Miguel, as he is ready to leave the club, Barco was singed just last season, and Josef just signed an extension with the club. This is something Newcastle is likely aware of, and could be a reason why they have not increased their offer. Newcastle could be banking on Atlanta accepting “the only offer on the table”, which would send Almiron to Newcastle.
Lastly, we know that there are “other clubs” interested. This one is a bit of a lesser known fact, but it is one that still makes sense. Out of the original clubs interested (Tottenham, Arsenal, West Ham, and Newcastle), Tottenham and Arsenal seemed to have moved on from Almiron and have focused there efforts elsewhere. Tottenham seem to be in the market for more traditional central midfielders such as Frank Kessi as well as striking options to replace Harry Kane such as Nabil Fekir, Giuseppe Rossi, or Divock Origi. Arsenal have been in constant pursuit of Barcelona’s Denis Suarez, who plays the same position as Almiron, is around the same age, and would likely cost around the same, if not more than Almiron. West Ham have not completely ruled out a move for Almiron, but it does seem as if they have shifted their focus onto central midfielders. Campos claimed in his latest interview that there is interest from other countries, and named the usual suspects (Spain, Italy, and Germany). While it is possible Miguel has interest from those countries, it is not likely a lot of teams can afford the wages and transfer fee of Miguel. Josh Bagriansky of Dirty South Soccer, a fellow SB Nation Blog that covers Atlanta United, has an excellent piece detailing possible teams in those countries that could afford him. It is possible Almiron has interest in other countries, but it is clear his preferred destination is the Premier League where he would likely be able to earn the most money over the course of his career.
With all of that background information out of the way it is time to answer the most important question regarding this saga: What exactly is Newcastle gambling, and why are they essentially screwed?
Newcastle are betting that they will be able to bully Atlanta into paying a lower price, because they believe Atlanta must sell Almiron, and Newcastle is their only option to sell to.
As ridiculous as this sounds, it is not a far-fetched idea on the surface. As we know, Atlanta does need to clear a Designated Player spot, and they are not going to sell Barco or Martinez, which makes it easy to believe they must sell Almiron in order to bring in Pity Martinez. The option of this Pity Martinez transfer not going through, is essentially not an option as Pity himself announced on an international broadcast that he was moving to Atlanta in January. Not only would the sale falling through be embarrassing for both parties, but Atlanta run the risk of not being able to ever get a deal done with Pity Martinez as he could blacklist the club from doing business with him.
Additionally, it is possible that there are no other seriously interested clubs in Almiron, or at least no other clubs who have made bids for him like Newcastle reportedly have. It of course is possible that clubs are and were interested in Almiron but were put off by his price or found other targets. So far, we know of no other clubs that have been in contact with Atlanta United, despite Campos claiming there are other options for Almiron. You also have to take into consideration that Campos could be creating a false sense of interest in Almiron in order to force Newcastle to get a deal done. Campos, has been reluctant to mention any other clubs when talking about Almiron, only providing the media with a generic list of countries where Almiron could go, which possibly means that Newcastle is the only club he knows for sure is seriously pursuing Almiron.
All of this bodes well for Newcastle if true, but this option of waiting and forcing Atlanta into a deal they don’t necessarily want is flawed because it ignores a set of more likely options that leaves Newcastle without Almiron.
First, it is entirely possible another club swoop in, meets Atlanta’s asking price and obtains Almiron. Newcastle’s gamble of waiting this out simply ignores that this is a possibility. Newcastle are operating as if they have no competition to sign the Paraguayan. This may seem true, but there is no way of knowing if there are clubs waiting to see if this deal collapses in order to make their move. It is entirely possible West Ham, who have the funds for the purchase and contract, could still swoop in and poach Almiron, especially given their repeated attempts for targets, such as Jonjo Shelvey, have failed so far in January.
Secondly, Atlanta United has a quick fix for their Designated Player roster issue, that would negate a big part of Newcastle’s gamble. Right now Newcastle is relying on the fact that Atlanta has to sell Almiron this widow to make room for Pity Martinez. New reports out of Atlanta are claiming that their latest Designated Player: Ezekiel Barco could be loaned out for half the season so that Almiron could be sold in June. MLS.com writer Sam Stejskal points out that this is not only a viable alternative, but also one that makes sense for both Atlanta United and Barco. Loaning out Barco allows his transfer value to develop once more, gives him time to develop as a player, and takes the pressure off of him in Atlanta after a very rocky first season. This would allow Atlanta to bring in the more experienced Pity Martinez to play alongside Almiron and Josef Martinez for their CONCACAF Champions League run, a move that would actually give Atlanta a better chance of winning the CONCACAF Champions League.
Finally, it is possible that Campos and Almiron could walk away from the deal themselves as this transfer saga has been frustrating largely in part to Newcastle’s stubbornness. This whole ordeal is likely not how Almiron and Campos thought their move to England would be. It seems as if once again, while other clubs in England are willing to spend money to bring in players, Newcastle are not. That is likely incredibly unattractive to potential transfer targets, especially if you are the target Newcastle are refusing to shell out a few more million for. If Campos gets any other substantial interest from another club it might be in his best interest to stop dealing with Newcastle and put his energy towards making sure Miguel gets sold to a club serious about bringing him in.
What Newcastle fail to understand is that they need to buy Almiron more than Atlanta needs to sell Almiron to them. It is apparent Newcastle are not acknowledging the other outcomes regarding the situation that leave them without the attacking midfielder. As the widow nears its close these outcomes seem more and more likely. Atlanta can afford to wait until the last minute to address the Almiron situation, and subsequently all of their January business. Atlanta has one of the best teams in the MLS and could contend for a league title once again with the same squad. Newcastle are desperate for improvement, and without improvement of any kind they will be relegated. Newcastle can’t afford to wait this out, they need to buy Almiron or refocus their efforts elsewhere.
For now, all we can do is wait to see if Newcastle’s gamble pays off. It probably won’t, but transfer window anxiety is all a part of being a Newcastle United supporter.
Let us know your thoughts in the comments. Do you think Newcastle waiting this out is a good move?