It was 1996 when Newcastle set a world record transfer by signing Alan Shearer from
Blackburn for $23 million. Twenty-three years later Almiron says he is unfazed by his record-setting move -- or the Magpies' situation in a relegation battle.
"I try not to think about the pressure or pay attention to it," he said at his introduction on Thursday, a week after his transfer was completed. "As players of this club, Newcastle United, which has so much history, that is pressure in itself in terms of wanting to do well. We know what the fans demand of us, but it doesn’t concern me overly. I’m just going to focus on playing."
The Paraguayan said it was his dream to play in the Premier League and he jumped at the chance when he heard of interest from Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez.
“It’s a similar situation to when I made the decision to go to Atlanta," he said. "It was a no-brainer when [Atlanta United manager] Tata Martino said he wanted me. It was the same when I heard of the interest from Rafa Benitez. We all know what a great manager he is, a great person he is and there was no hesitation about wanting to play for him and the club.”
Almiron, who took part in the first two weeks of Atlanta United's preseason training, could debut on Monday when Newcastle, tied for 15th just two points above the relegation zone, travels to Wolves. But Benitez, who had been monitoring Almiron since shortly after he arrived in MLS in 2017, could wait two weeks to play Almiron -- until Newcastle hosts Huddersfield Town after he has taken the team to Spain for a short training camp.
"Our preseason had started at Atlanta so I’ve got some physical work done," Almiron said. "It’s about integrating with my new teammates and settling in as quickly as possible.”
Still, he admitted he will be in for an adjustment.
“There are quite big differences between the MLS and the Premier League," he said. "The tempo here is different, it’s higher, with more pressing. It’s a more difficult league but, with the help of my teammates, it’s something I feel I’ll cope with, and my manager will help me along the way."
Almiron, who turns 25 on Sunday, hopes that his family and girlfriend will be able to join him in Newcastle in the next move in a career that began a decade ago when he joined Cerro Porteno in Asuncion.
“We were from a humble background,” he said. “My parents always worked really hard to make sure we had food on the table. My dad was a security guard and my mother worked in a supermarket but now, because I’ve done OK, they've been able to retire and they have a house."
Speaking in Spanish, Almiron was not shy to talk about himself.
Asked about a tattoo on his arm with the quote from the Gospel of John -- "I am the way, the truth and the life" -- he responded, “I’m not an angel, though I do try to go to church every so often to put right my sins.”