Atlanta United’s Thiago Almada called to Argentina’s World Cup team

Atlanta United’s Thiago Almada on Thursday was called to Argentina’s squad as an injury replacement for the World Cup in Qatar.

The attacking midfielder will be the first ever active player from Atlanta United to be called to a World Cup squad. He also is the first ever MLS player to be called to an Argentina World Cup squad.

Almada scored six goals with a team-high 12 assists last season, his first in MLS. He was among the league leaders in chances created. He was named the MLS Newcomer of the Year.

He was called to Argentina’s squad for friendlies during September and made his debut. After that game, Lionel Messi, considered one of the world’s best players, said that Almada “... is very fresh. He’s a very fast player who can play 1v1. He’s clever and isn’t afraid of anything.”

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Argentina’s first game in the World Cup will be against Saudi Arabia on Tuesday. Other teams in its group are Mexico and Poland.

“Every day that I wake up with motivation for my family, for the club, for all my teammates,” Almada said in September of possibly playing again for Argentina. “So I just have to continue working with humility and sacrifice.”

Almada’s inclusion in the World Cup likely will increase his transfer value, should clubs make an offer. Vice President Carlos Bocanegra said Monday that the club hadn’t received any official offers. Atlanta United acquired Almada from Velez Sarsfield in Argentina for a reported fee of $14.5 million.

“First and foremost, we couldn’t be happier for Thiago to have the opportunity to represent Argentina at the FIFA World Cup,” Bocanegra said in a news release from the team. “He’s consistently shown his quality and has proven to be a top player deserving of this call-up. This is a proud moment for the club and we’re confident he’ll represent both Atlanta United and Major League Soccer with world-class skill on the game’s biggest stage.”

Almada, 21 years old, will join a loaded Argentina team that ranks among the favorites to win the World Cup. Argentina has won it twice.

The team, managed by Lionel Scaloni, includes Messi, Lisandro Martinez, Nicolas Otamendi, Angel di Maria, Lautaro Martinez, Paulo Dybala and Julian Alvarez. Almada replaced Joaquín Correa.

A post on Twitter quoted Almada’s father telling Radio La Red that Almada called him to tell him, and “he was crying, shouting and warning me of his call up to the World Cup.”

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