Scars And Stripes Episode 22: Where Are They Now?

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Welcome back to the United States, where I’m a couple of months into my fifth season with Atlanta United. Unfortunately, I bring bad news in the form of the North American Champions League. After winning back-to-back titles, we were knocked out by Queretaro in the quarter-finals this time around.

Anyway, that’s not why I’m here. Currently, we’re just three games into the new MLS campaign but I decided to check in early to give you a different sort of updates. Remember all those favourites that left? Well, I decided to do a ‘Where are they now?’ sort of thing.

So, below is a list of the players that have left us. How long they spent with us, what they were sold for and where they went. And, of course, the where are they now bit. Which is kind of important given the approach to this piece.

Miguel Almiron

Joined: 2017 Sold: 2017 Price: £7.5m Honours: None

One of the Designated players when I joined Atlanta, Miguel Almiron spent just a third of a season with us, playing 13 league matches, before moving across the pond to join Manchester City in the Premier League.

Unfortunately for him, it didn’t quite pan out as he intended as he made just 34 league appearances before moving to AC Milan in 2020 for £7.5m. He also hasn’t won any major honours in those years, missing out on all the success that we’ve enjoyed in North America and seeing Manchester United become the dominant force in English football.

Brad Guzan

Joined: 2017 Sold: 2018 Price: £2.6m Honours: 1x MLS Cup, 1x Supporter’s Shield.

First-choice goalkeeper since I took charge of Atlanta, Brad Guzan was well into the twilight years of his career and I jumped at the chance to offload him to Eredivisie side Ajax 18 months after I joined the club.

He’s stayed in Holland ever since and is due to retire this year, 2021. He’s won three senior trophies during that time but has spent the recent campaigns with Ajax’s second team, who are in the Jupiler League.

Hector Villalba

Joined: 2017 Sold: 2018 Price: £5.25m Honours: 1x MLS Cup, 1x Supporter’s Shield.

Another one of the Designated players that I inherited at Atlanta, Paraguayan winger Hector Villalba was a star during his 18 months with us, finishing with a total of 28 MLS goals in 57 appearances – helping us to secure a double in our first season.

A move to Benfica followed in 2018 but, like Almiron, he found things difficult in Europe. In two years with the Portuguese giants, he made just 32 appearances and scored six goals- though he did win the Portuguese league.

In 2020, Villalba moved on and joined Lyon in Ligue 1. He’s found better first-team opportunities in French football, making 29 appearances and scoring seven goals in his debut campaign.

Matheusinho

Joined: 2017 Sold: 2019 Price: £7m Honours: 2x MLS Supporter’s Shield, 1x MLS Cup, 1x North American Champions League, 1x US Cup, 1x MLS All-Stars game.

Signed as a designated player to replace Almiron following his move to Manchester City, Brazilian prospect Matheusinho developed into a star with us and it was a very difficult decision to let him go in 2019. Overall, he finished with 79 MLS appearances and 27 goals.

Now 23, Matheusinho took the next step in his career by joining Zenit St. Petersburg, who pay him an audacious £130k-a-week, but he hasn’t found things easy. 13 goals in 45 appearances is far from a bad return but I do feel he would have done better if he remained with us.

Who knows, I could have even got him into the Brazil squad.

Chris McCann

Joined: 2017 Sold: 2019 Price: N/A Honours: 1x Supporter’s Shield, 1x MLS Cup, 1x North American Champions League, 1x US Cup.

The Irishman was a bit-part member of our squad for a number of years before I waived him in the 2019 draft, where he joined DC United, and he finished his career in Atlanta with just 23 appearances in two seasons.

Still, he was an important member of our squad and became more of a regular with his new side; making 20 appearances and scoring once. However, he spent just a single year with DC United and moved on to join another MLS side.

Now with Philadelphia, the 33-year-old has featured in all of his side’s four games so far this season.

Carlos Carmona

Joined: 2017 Sold: 2020 Price: N/A Honours: 2x MLS Cup, 3x Supporter’s Shield, 2x MLS All-Stars Game.

Our beloved Chilean was our captain for three years, leading the squad during the period where we became the dominant force of north American football. In the end though, he drifted out of our squad and the decision to release him into the draft in 2020 was the right move.

He was swiftly snatched by Chicago, with whom he’s played 32 MLS games and scored two goals. Now capped 50 times for his nation, Carmona is well into the twilight years of his career and retirement is surely just around the corner.

Benjamin Kuscevic

Joined: 2018 Sold: 2020 Price: £5.25m Honours: 2x MLS Supporter’s Shield, 2x North American Champions League, 1x US Cup, 1x MLS Cup, 1x MLS All-Stars Game.

Joining in time for my second season at Atlanta United, Benjamin Kuscevic became an integral part of his defensive line but he, like so many others before him, failed to understand that the grass is not always greener elsewhere.

A move to the Premier League to join Crystal Palace beckoned but the Chilean, who rose into his national side with my guidance, already finds himself on the transfer list at Selhurst Park- and I can expect a cash windfall from any potential move due to the sell-on clause I negotiated into his deal.

Karl Toko-Ekambi

Joined: 2018 Sold: 2020 Price: £11m Honours: 2x North American Champions League, 1x MLS Cup, 1x US Cup, 1x MLS Supporter’s Shield, 1x MLS All-Stars Game.

Brought in as a Designated player, Karl Toko-Ekambi’s partnership in attack with Atlanta United legend Josef Martinez became a sight to behold. After two years in North America, the Cameroonian striker also moved to the Premier League- joining Everton.

An incredible record in Atlanta finished with the African forward scoring 50 MLS goals in just 62 appearances, which is quite remarkable. He too has struggled in English football though, despite a return of four goals in 15 appearances, and also finds himself on the transfer list.

Steven Lucimi

Joined: 2018 Sold: 2020 Price: £5m Honours: 2x North American Champions League, 1x MLS Cup, 1x US Cup, 1x MLS Supporter’s Shield, 1x MLS All-Stars Game.

Probably one of my best purchases with Atlanta, Steven Lucimi joined for a fee of just £500k and immediately became an asset to our attack- finishing with 38 goals in 72 MLS appearances.

He, like many others, earned international recognition under my guidance and became a part of Colombia’s senior squad, whilst he’s become a crucial player at FC Nantes in France since joining the Ligue 1 side.

Still 25, the move he made to Europe is a sensible one as it gives him the chance to build his name a bit more there before moving to a bigger side- rather than making the massive jump that other former players have, where they’ve since struggled.