Alexis McAllister: Argentina and Brighton star playing with Lionel Messi, World Cup goals and development at Brighton | Football news | Jobs Vox


Brighton midfielder Alexis McAllister has become a regular in the Argentina squad in Qatar, but it’s been quite a journey…

The 23-year-old relaxed for an exclusive interview Sky Sports After a quick breakfast and a cup of South American mate tea last month – the day his inclusion in the world squad was confirmed.

McAllister has made it five starts in a row in Qatar since the 2-1 defeat by Saudi Arabia – winning all five and scoring the first goal for Argentina in a 2-0 win over Poland and will face France in Sunday’s final.

Humble and involved, the midfielder is one of the Premier League’s rising stars and is now recognized on the elite world stage – but how did he get here?

against Australia
Mc Allister and teammates celebrate after Lionel Messi scores against Australia in the last 16

McAllister has only been a regular at Brighton since the middle of last season but has been on elite radars for most of his professional career – making his top-flight international debut three years ago during a stint in Buenos Aires.

The Seagulls snapped him up for just £7m six months earlier and sent him back on loan to Argentino Juniors for the remainder of the campaign before sanctioning him on a six-month loan move to Boca Juniors at the start of 2019/20.

So was there interest from other clubs in Europe’s top leagues then? “Not really,” he clarifies. “I was playing with Argentino Juniors and Brighton came to Argentina.

“They spoke to me and my agent and said I was one of the best U21 players with the best numbers – because Brighton work a lot with numbers and statistics. I made the right choice to come here.”

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Nathan Ake and Jurijen Timber look ahead to the Netherlands’ World Cup quarter-final against Argentina in 1998 with Dennis Bergkamp’s goal living long in the memory, while the focus is on Lionel Messi.

McAllister grew up in a footballing family with his father Carlos playing for Argentinos, Boca, Racing Club and Argentina. His two older brothers, Kevin and Francis, are also top footballers in his home country.

“I was playing football [almost from birth]- he says, – with my family, everything is about football, we watch and talk. We love football.

“When I was growing up, I watched Juan Roman Riquelme because I supported Boca Juniors and he played there. He was amazing. I really liked Pablo Aimar and of course Messi is also a hero.”

The Argentine signed a new deal in October to extend his stay at Amex until at least 2025. So what convinced him to commit his immediate future to the south coast club?

“The people around the club are amazing, my team-mates, the new manager and the new staff,” he says. “Those are some of the things that have made me comfortable here.

“Of course, also the desire to win and improve as a club and as a team. It’s a great club and you can see that in the table. We’re in a good place now and we’re playing really good football.”

They spoke to me and my agent and said I was one of the best U21 players with the best numbers – because Brighton work a lot with numbers and statistics.

Alexis McAllister on how Brighton approached him

Did the vibrant seaside town lifestyle also play a role? “To be honest, I don’t do much! I just go home, go to the couch, drink mate, watch football and listen to talk about football.

“I’m a football fan, I’m always trying to see where I can improve. Try to relax and be professional and of course enjoy being with my girlfriend and family when they’re here.”

The midfielder is of Scottish and Irish descent and shares a similar surname to former Premier League star and Scotland international Gary McAllister. He jokes: “When we were playing with Villa, he came up to me and we talked about the surname and everything – but we don’t know if we’re related!”

Like his sibling, Alexis has a reputation for scoring prodigious goals – but the numbers suggest that his greatest strength is actually his defensive prowess.


Midfield skills

McAllister is third in the Premier League this season for drop backs in the middle third of the pitch, bettered only by defensive midfielders Declan Rice and Rhodri.

It doesn’t stop there: He’s also fourth in tackles across all positions and 15th in 50/50 duel wins in the division. Among midfielders, only six players outscored more opponents.


“I developed that part of my game at Brighton with Graham [Potter]Especially,” he adds. “The staff works very well in the defensive phases, so I learned a lot and I’m very grateful to them because I think I’m a better player. [as a result].”

What about those worlds?

The 23-year-old has established himself as a regular in the starting XI after scoring a brace in the match-winner against Everton last season, with his second goal earning him a Goal of the Month nomination.

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Watch free: Highlights from Brighton’s Premier League win over Everton

“That game was a turning point,” he admits. “I didn’t play much that season, but on the 26th of December against Brentford, we had a few players with Covid, so I had a chance against them. My family was here, so it helped me to play and enjoy myself. I was playing for Everton and I scored two goals. It’s really good It was day.”

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Alexis McAllister thought he had scored a stunning volley until VAR ruled the goal out for offside.

And then there was the 5-2 win over Leicester in September this year, when the Argentine was denied a hat-trick when VAR ruled out a sensational goal of the season contender after Enoch Mwepu was adjudged to be offside. The free-kick was taken – before McAllister fired the second ball spectacularly on the stroke of half-way.


“That disallowed goal was the best goal I’ve ever scored,” he believes. “I don’t think I would have scored a goal like that, but unfortunately they disallowed it.”


However, he responded to that disappointment with a penalty minutes later before capping off a man-of-the-match performance with a Kevin De Bruyne-esque free-kick.

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Alexis McAllister scored a stunning free-kick to seal an impressive 5-2 win over Leicester.

Life under de Zerb

Brighton’s rise through the ranks has been achieved through an expansive, progressive and attractive style of play under former manager Graham Potter – who the Seagulls brought in to replace Thomas Tuchel at Chelsea in September. replacing the outgoing Englishman.

“There are several differences [between the managers]”Both like to push up and build from the back, but Roberto needs to know who’s pushing, to know where the spare man is. That’s what we have to work on. We’re getting to that point.

“With the management of the man, maybe Graham was a little ‘pretty,'” he says without criticizing either. “They are different, both are very good managers. I am also very satisfied with Roberto.

“[I drop deeper under] Roberto because he wants us to build from the back and when they press try to get to the goal quickly. Maybe we play deeper to attract pressure and then [counter].”


World Cup hopes and playing with Messi

After a two-and-a-half year exile from the national team, McAllister earned a recall for the final World Cup qualifiers in March this year and played in five of the games leading up to the World Cup. He now appears to be a mainstay in Argentina’s starting XI.

At the World Cup, Lionel Scaloni deployed McAllister in a slightly more advanced role with fewer defensive responsibilities – but the Argentines were also largely dominant and went up a notch after opening the tournament.

Playing with Messi is a dream. It was amazing the first time. To be honest, off the field I don’t talk to him much because I’m a very shy guy and I don’t want to bother him!

Alexis McAllister on playing with Messi

“I think Brazil is a very strong team, France and England have some very good players, but there are a lot of very good teams,” he added. “It will be a very difficult World Cup and I don’t think we are favourites, but it will be difficult for everyone.

“Playing with Messi is a dream. It was the first time. To be honest, outside the field, I don’t talk to him much because I’m a very shy guy and I don’t want to bother him. !

He’s really nice, calm, he has a good relationship with everyone, so it’s amazing to have him, that he’s Argentinian and, hopefully, this won’t be his last World Cup.

Indeed, at 35, it looks like it could be Messi’s last dance on the world stage as he bids to bow out with the prize that has eluded him throughout his career and perhaps finally end the ‘Goat’ debate.

McAllister is at the other end of his career, but a World Cup win with Messi as a first-team regular in his first tournament would be a great start… and few will succeed.

Follow Argentina and France on Sky Sports digital platforms on Sunday; Start at 3 o’clock


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