The £21m Newcastle United deal agreed by Darren Eales
Miguel Almiron needed no introduction to Eales, appointed as the club’s chief executive officer in the summer.
And that’s because it was Eales who sold Almiron to the club in January 2019 when Rafa Benitez was manager.
Benitez had pushed hard for the transfer in what was his final season as manager, and Eales got a good deal for Atlanta United, the Major League Soccer (MLS) club he had helped build from scratch.
The £21million fee Newcastle paid for the midfielder – who had “dreamed” of playing Premier League football – remains a MLS record.
“Look, I mean it’s funny, because Miggy was one of the first signings when I was at Atlanta, and it was his dream to come to the Premier League,” said Eales. “So it was one of those strange ones where when you did the transfer, probably more than any other one, I was really pleased for Miggy as well.
“What I would say, I saw what Miggy was capable of at Atlanta, and no one could doubt his passion, commitment and personality. He’s a great guy to have around.”
Almiron’s been a great guy to have on Tyneside, though, like any player, he’s had his ups and downs.
The hard-working Paraguay international made an immediate impact at Newcastle – he was perfect for the counter-attacking team Benitez had put together – and he scored eight goals the following season, when Steve Bruce was head coach.
It was felt by some that last year’s takeover – and the subsequent appointment of Eddie Howe as Bruce’s successor – would lead to Almiron’s departure.
Yet today, the 28-year-old is more important than ever to the club.
Almiron, United’s leading scorer so far this season, took his goal tally to six with a strike in last weekend’s 2-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur.
And left-footed Almiron’s form on the right side of midfield, which had been a problem position for Howe, is a reminder that the club’s success this season is as much about coaching as spending, according to Eales.
“I would say another shout out to Eddie and the team, because I think what you’ve seen in everything Eddie’s done since he’s came in, it’s been about developing players,” said Eales.
“It’s not just about spending money and bringing in players from outside. What he’s done with that core of that squad that’s just gone from strength to strength.
“You’ve seen it from last season. It was amazing to finish where we did, but with a pre-season, and the way we’ve almost kicked on again in terms of style of play.
“Eddie talks about ‘intensity is our identity’. From my perspective, the way he went on the front foot against Manchester City was incredible.”
Almiron and his team-mates have “bought in” to Howe’s vision.
“No one’s more delighted than I that you’ve seen Miggy really deliver,” said Eales. “He’s top scorer at the moment in terms of the squad. He’s just one of a squad of players that are all working their hardest.
“Eddie’s got everyone bought in. That’s a really exciting thing for Newcastle fans. You can see they’ve got that buy in. He also understands the club and culture.”