The timing of Thiago Almada's World Cup call-up was a shock but based on his talent, there were no surprises at all.
Almada was called in as one of two injury replacements to Argentina's roster, replacing Nicolas Gonzalez (Fiorentina) and Joaquin Correa (Inter) alongside Atletico Madrid winger Angel Correa, having initially been left out of Lionel Scaloni's 26-man group.
The 21-year-old likely thought his chance had gone but now, the playmaker - who picked up his first senior cap in a friendly against Honduras in September - has the chance to rub shoulders with the likes of Lionel Messi, Angel Di Maria, and Lautaro Martinez as La Albiceleste go in search of glory.
Lucky? Not quite. This is a player who notched six goals and seven primary assists in 29 appearances during his debut MLS season, often proving the silver lining on what was a dismal campaign for Atlanta United. Almada is the most expensive incoming transfer in MLS history ($16m), and has courted interest from clubs like Manchester United in the recent past.
"Does Almada's call-up surprise me? It doesn't surprise me because he's a player who has the level to be here. And hopefully, the football world can enjoy him on the national team," Scalonireplied when asked about Almada's inclusion.
But Scaloni doesn't just Almada as the solution to a short-term injury problem. The former Velez youngster is being highlighted as someone who can help Argentina for years to come.
"He's a kid with...an enormous future ahead of him," Scaloni added. "And we don't just work thinking about right now, we work with the future in mind."
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