Almiron leaves MLS for Newcastle on transfer deadline day

FILE - In this file photo dated Sunday, June 24, 2018, Atlanta United midfielder Miguel Almiron in action against the Portland Timbers during an MLS soccer match, in Atlanta, USA. Miguel Almiron, one of the star players in U.S. Major League Soccer, became the most expensive signing in Newcastle’s 127-year history on Thursday Jan. 31, 2019, when he moved to the English Premier League club for a reported U.S. dollars 27 million on transfer deadline day. (Brett Davis, FILE/AP)

LONDON — Miguel Almiron, one of the star players in Major League Soccer, became the most expensive signing in Newcastle’s 127-year history on Thursday when he moved to the Premier League club from Atlanta United for a reported $27 million on transfer deadline day.

Since buying Newcastle in 2007, much-criticized owner Mike Ashley has refused to sanction a transfer costing in excess of the 16 million pounds the club paid Real Madrid for England striker Michael Owen in 2005.

That Ashley finally relented to sign Almiron underlines Newcastle’s belief in the Paraguay international. Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez targeted Almiron a year ago, before the playmaker helped lead Atlanta to the MLS Cup and was runner-up for the league’s MVP award after scoring 13 goals and assisting 13 more.

"I appreciate he has had to wait longer than he would have liked," Newcastle managing director Lee Charnley said of Benitez. "I would like to thank Rafa for his patience in waiting for a player he has coveted for so long."

The fee is a record for an MLS player and represents good business for Atlanta, which had to move Almiron on after signing South American player of year Pity Martinez. MLS only allows three designated players to have a salary above the cap, and the signing of Pity gave them four — the others being Josef Martinez and Ezequiel Barco.

Almiron began his career at Cerro Porteno in Paraguay and also played for Club Atletico Lanus in Argentina before moving to Atlanta, where he was a two-time MLS Best XI selection, a two-time MLS All-Star and the 2017 Newcomer of the Year.

Almiron has made no secret of his desire to play in Europe.

"I think it is a great responsibility, something beautiful for me," Almiron said, "and I will try to offer the best I can to repay the trust the club put in me."

On a quiet start to the final day of Europe’s winter transfer window, the main moves took place in England where future trading could soon be impacted as Britain prepares to leave the European Union.

Arsenal signed Spain international Denis Suarez on loan from Barcelona until the end of the season, reuniting the versatile midfielder with manager Unai Emery. The pair worked together at Sevilla in the 2014-15 season.

Wolverhampton Wanderers completed the permanent signing of Jonny Otto from Atletico Madrid, with the left back having been on loan at the promoted team this season. Wolves has reportedly paid a club-record 18 million pounds ($24 million) for Otto, who was recently called up by Spain.

Manchester City signed 18-year-old midfielder Ante Palaversa from Hajduk Split and allowed him to immediately rejoin the Croatian side on loan until the end of the 2019-20 season.

Premier League clubs in England have until 2300 GMT to sign players. The transfer window closes at 22:59 GMT in Spain, just before midnight local time.

French clubs also have right until the end of Thursday, the final day of January. For Bundesliga clubs, the transfer window closed earlier in Germany at 1700 GMT.

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