Will Thiago Almada become next Miguel Almiron or next Ezequiel Barco?

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Breaking news: Atlanta United signs up-and-coming South American player, who hopes to one day play in Europe.

No, it’s not Hector Villalba.

No, it’s not Miguel Almiron.

No, it’s not Jose Hernandez, Pity Martinez, Ezequiel Barco, Erik Lopez, Marcelino Moreno, Santiago Sosa or Franco Ibarra.

This time, it’s Thiago Almada, whose acquisition was announced by the MLS club on Wednesday.

Will Almada become the next Almiron, who pushed Atlanta United to an MLS Cup in 2018, or the next Barco, who showed flashes of his immense talent but never consistency?

It’s just started here.

Lopez, Sosa and Ibarra are still with the club, having played only one season each. There is still lots of time. Moreno also is still with the club but is unlikely to be of interest to a club in Europe.

Such is the crapshoot that is signing and developing players that only one of those previous players, Almiron, actually was developed and sold to a club in Europe.

Just two, Almiron and Martinez, who surprisingly was transferred to a club in Saudi Arabia, were sold for a profit.

And then there is Barco, who was purchased for almost $14 million as an 18-year-old before the 2018 season and then loaned last month to River Plate in Argentina with a reported option to buy for $8 million.

Like Barco, who also was considered a bright talent in South America when he was with Independiente, Almada has a lot of talent. He scored 24 goals with 11 assists in 100 appearances for Velez Sarsfield in Argentina. He was scouted by giants Manchester United and Manchester City.

Perhaps clubs bigger than Atlanta United were scared away by the yearlong investigation, since archived by prosecutors in Argentina, into allegations of sexual misconduct by others at a party attended by Almada in December 2020.

Perhaps the market is depressed by COVID-19.

Or, perhaps, those clubs didn’t value Almada as much as Atlanta United, which has shown the courage to gamble with owner Arthur Blank’s money if there is the possibility of improving the club and possibly its bottom line.

The club is taking steps to try to help not only Almada, but all of its young players navigate life as a professional athlete in a new country, a new league and with a new team.

Vice President Carlos Bocanegra said the club offers money and time-management classes, lessons in social media, and hope to use the Argentina Consulate to help players feel more at home, more comfortable. The belief is that a more comfortable player is a more productive player, which is good for the team. And a more productive player is a more valuable player, which becomes good when it’s time to sell.

Bocanegra said he has had conversations with Almada about a path to Europe, which Almada has said many times in interviews posted on social media sites is his goal. Bocanegra said it starts with playing well for Atlanta United. Do that, and there may be a path. Almiron is an example. Don’t play well, and it becomes more difficult. Barco is an example.

Will Almada become the next Almiron or Barco?

Only time will tell.

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Atlanta United’s 2022 MLS schedule

Feb. 27 vs. Sporting KC, 3 p.m., FS1

March 5 at Colorado, 6 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

March 13 vs. Charlotte, 4:30 p.m., FS1

March 19 vs. Montreal, 4 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

April 2 at D.C. United, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

April 9 at Charlotte, 3 p.m., ESPN

April 16 vs. Cincinnati, 6 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

April 24 at Miami, 1 p.m., ESPN

April 30 at Montreal, 4 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

May 7 vs. Chicago, 6 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

May 15 vs. New England, 2 p.m., ESPN

May 21 at Nashville, 7:30 p.m. FOX

May 28 vs. Columbus Crew, 7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

June 19 vs Miami, 4 p.m., ESPN2

June 25 at Toronto, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

June 30 at New York Red Bulls, 8 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 3 at NYCFC, 5 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 9 vs. Austin, 7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 13 vs. Real Salt Lake, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 17 vs. Orlando, 3 p.m., ABC

July 24 at L.A. Galaxy, 9:30 p.m., FS1

July 30 at Chicago, 5 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Aug. 6 vs. Seattle, 3 p.m., ABC

Aug. 13 at Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m. BSSO/BSSE

Aug. 17 vs. New York Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Aug. 21 at Columbus, 6 p.m., FS1

Aug. 28 vs. D.C. United, 4 p.m., UNIV

Aug. 31 at Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 4 at Portland, 5:30 p.m., FOX

Sept. 10 vs. Toronto, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Sept. 14 at Orlando, 6 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Sept. 17 vs. Philadelphia, 3:30 p.m., UniMas

Oct. 1 at New England, 1 p.m., UniMas