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SPORTS | 08-02-2020 09:41

MacAllister crowns Pre-Olympic glory with Premier League slot

Brighton & Hove Albion’s gain is Boca Junior’s loss at crucial stage for the xeneizes.

Inside the world of Boca Juniors, the news that Alexis MacAllister would be leaving the club after just over half a season went down like a lead balloon. The 21-year-old has decided to pursue his career in England’s Premier League as soon as possible – and to make matters worse for the Xeneize, seems determined to show on every available occasion just what they will be missing.

MacAllister, the son of Boca favourite Carlos and one of t h r e e f o o t b a l l - p l a y i n g brothers, will soon be lining up for Brighton down on England’s south coast. The Seagulls swooped for his talents a full year ago but were forced to put their plans on ice when the ever-finicky Home Office declined to give their new signing a UK work permit. In January, however, the desired paperwork finally came through, and Brighton paid out a reported US$1 million in order to cut his loan spell at the Bombonera short and bring him across the Atlantic Ocean.

First of all, though, he has some outstanding business. MacAllister and the rest of Argentina’s Under-23 squad are currently in Colombia disputing a place in the Olympic Games – and the fiery-pated attacking midfielder has stood out more than most as the Albiceleste have cut a swathe through the opposition.

A double on Monday helped Argentina get off to the perfect start in the Pre-Olympic tournament’s final stage, as they saw off a late surge from Uruguay to take a 3-2 win in the predictably competitive R i o p l a t e n s e d e r b y . MacAllister’s first of the evening was a wickedly dipping free-kick, his second of the competition, which took Uruguay No. 1 Ignacio de Arruabarrena completely by surprise to open the scoring after eighteen minutes. Fausto Vera doubled the advantage for the Albiceleste just before half time before El Colo turned up again, hitting home with another wonderful long-range effort to bring up his tournament total to four, more than any other player.

He took a more low-key role on Thursday against hosts Colombia, but goals from Agustín Urzi and Nehuén Pérez saw Argentina through 2-1 to book the first South American place in the Tokyo Games with a match to spare. With seven wins from as many games Fernando Batista’s men have run rings around through the continent’s best young talent and few have done more to increase their profile than MacAllister himself, the Albiceleste No. 10 who was crucial to their triumphant Olympic march.

Not everyone, of course, is so delighted with MacAllister’s recent progress. “Boca gave him the shirt and a shop window, it was said that he wanted to stay and then he signed a document saying he wanted to leave,” Boca president Jorge Amor Ameal fumed to La Oral Deportivo when the transfer, just days after the Xeneize chief had assured his young charge was going nowhere, was confirmed. “It makes me sad because the kid wanted to go and the coaching staff really wanted to keep him. You cannot bring in a player [on loan] without a purchase option, it cannot happen ever again.”

The truth is, though, that, as in the case last week of the aborted transfer to Club Brugge involving MacAllister’s U-23 team-mate Adolfo Gaich, the stakes around lucrative European moves are just too high for young Argentine talents to ignore. It was perhaps not lost on the midfielder that following his excellent start to life at Boca in the second half of 2019 a subsequent dip in form saw him heavily criticised by fans and dropped to the bench by then-coach Gustavo Alfaro on more than one occasion.

Football is a fickle business, where injury or poor performances can afflict players at any time; and if a youngster receives the chance to continue his career elsewhere, especially with enormous financial rewards, it is difficult to say no. The newly crowned Pre-Olympic champion has to strike when the iron is hot – and following his heroics in Colombia, MacAllister most definitely goes to Brighton at the top of his game.

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Dan Edwards

Dan Edwards

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