Miguel Almiron: The man that makes Newcastle United tick
Background image via: Wikimedia Commons/Jimmy McIntyre - Editor HDR One Magazine. Used under Creative Commons 2.0.
Just a few months ago, football across Tyneside was only spoken about glumly. Mike Ashley's refusal to spend money meant that Newcastle United found themselves in an early-season relegation battle.
However, when January rolled around, even Ashley saw that the Magpies were in dire straits. Rafael Benitez was given money to spend. He acquired the brilliant Miguel Almiron for a meagre £21million.
The 25-year-old was plying his trade for Atlanta United in Major League Soccer. Acquiring the Paraguayan was always going to be a gamble. After all, he had never played at such an elite level before.
Newcastle faithful had to wait patiently to see Almiron in action. Until February 11th to be exact. The attacking midfielder made an excellent little 20-minute cameo during a 1-1 draw against Wolves. Almiron's intentions were clear. He already looked right at home.
He's just six games into his career up North. Newcastle have won three games since, drawing two and losing only one. Although Almiron is yet to score, his quality is glaringly obvious. I'd already make a strong argument for him in terms of being the most talented player on the books at St. James' Park. Talk about instant impact.
Although Almiron may have not hit the back of the net yet, despite scoring 13 goals in 38 appearances in last season's MLS, we've already seen a marked improvement from Newcastle. His bursting runs create space for his teammates, which gives them more room to work in. I don't think it's a coincidence that Salomon Rondon has suddenly started scoring goals with regularity.
Newcastle have some pretty good midfielders on their books. Jonjo Shelvey has an exquisite eye for a pass while Sean Longstaff was looking better with each passing game before going down injured. None have Almiron's skillset, though. He has that unique turn of pace, the confidence to carry the ball forward with power, leaving opposing defenders in positions they'd rather not be in. From the first minute, it was clear he'd add another dimension to a sometimes stagnant United attack.
In Almiron's last two outings, he's started to reap the rewards by scooping two assists. He is in the team to create, as he becomes more accustomed to life in the Premier League, expect those numbers to continually rise.
It's not just the on-field impact, either. He seems to have lifted the atmosphere in the dressing room almost single-handedly. Having such a presence is a rare trait. Almiron has an aura about him that others look up to. Perhaps that's what happens when you become the most expensive player in MLS history.
Newcastle is a special place. I don't think it's too early to suggest that Almiron has the potential to become a cult hero upon Tyneside. His initial impact cannot be understated and you'd imagine he'll only improve as he gets used to new surroundings. Already, though, Newcastle's top-flight place looks safe for another season and now they have a real player that they can build a squad around. Now, if Ashley puts his hands deep into his pockets, The Magpies may finally return to being the Premier League force that they once were...