Argentina face another challenge as they bid to reach the 2022 World Cup finals, with a last-four clash against Croatia booked.
Lionel Messi and Co. won a dramatic penalty shoot-out against the Netherlands in the previous round to put the PSG superstar on the road to a fairytale in Qatar.
Messi’s goals and crucial performances have been the headline story for Lionel Scallone’s side in the Middle East, but his team-mates are starting to step up at a crucial time.
Benfica star Enzo Fernandez caught the eye, but little-known name Alexis McAllister jumped at the chance to achieve iconic status.
Here’s what you need to know about the 23-year-old budding star:
MORE: World Cup Bracket 2022: Live Updated FIFA Knockout Stages
Where is Alexis McAllister from?
McAllister was born in Santa Rosa, Argentina in 1998, before moving to Buenos Aires as a teenager to pursue a football career.
His rise to starting status in Argentina has been traced to his family background with a Celtic surname.
Connections with Ireland and Scotland can be traced back to Fife in East Scotland and Dublin, dating back to the 1800s.
Information about the move from Fife to Argentina is scarce, but reports in the Irish Times link family links to Finglas in Dublin, with farming jobs in Argentina and Catholic roots as reasons for migration.
Alexis McAllister’s Clubs and Playing Career
McAllister came through the youth ranks of Argentina, following the example of his two older brothers, before making his debut for the Buenos Aires club in 2016.
He was instrumental in the club’s promotion from the second division to the Argentine Primera Division in his debut campaign in 2016/17, scoring three goals in 23 appearances.
After one season, McAllister began to attract attention, with former Brighton boss Graeme Potter confirming he had been tracking McAllister for months before the club secured a £6.8m ($8.4m) deal in January 2019.
As part of the deal, McAllister remained on loan at Argentinos Juniors for the remainder of 2018/19, but he failed to prevent their relegation.
Brighton allowed him to stay in Argentina for the start of the 2019/20 season, joining his brother Kevin on loan at Boca Juniors, a club forced to reconsider due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
He eventually joined Brighton for the second half of the campaign and made nine Premier League appearances.
Brighton’s Alexis McAllister at the game with Lionel Messi 🇦🇷pic.twitter.com/0T12cS4evy
— Sky Sports Football (@SkyFootball) December 8, 2022
It was enough to convince Potter of his adaptation to English football as he made 54 appearances in the top flight between 2020/21 and 2021/22, scoring six goals.
Despite a change of management at Brighton, Potter moved to Chelsea with five Premier League goals already in 2022/23, including a penalty on the south coast.
Alexis McAllister Family and Football Connections
With brothers (Kevin and Francis) playing professionally for Argentina, his father, Carlos McAllister, is one of the most recognizable names in Argentine sports.
Mac Allister Snr had a long career with Argentino Juniors and Boca Juniors before retiring in 1999 and soon after founding Mac Allister Sports Club.
Alexis McAllister’s father Carlos appears to have made a surprise loan move to Boca Juniors after making 450 appearances for Hibs. pic.twitter.com/WryDB2zHSJ
— Jack Pitt-Brooke (@JackPittBrooke) October 11, 2022
The club played a key role in training young footballers from the region to join professional clubs and helped propel Alexis’ father into a political role as sports secretary under former president Mauricio Macri from 2015 to 2018.
Alexis McAllister in Qatar in 2022
Mac Allister became a key player in Argentina’s World Cup win, with some impressive stats as the link between Scallone’s midfield and attack.
He was part of Scallone’s comprehensive overhaul following the 2-1 defeat by Saudi Arabia, with starts against Mexico and Poland, the latter in his first international.
Alexis McAllister is a phenomenon. pic.twitter.com/B9vLz7YLf4
— Ataque Futbolero (@AtaqueFutbolero) December 9, 2022
While Scallion changes systems in the knockout stages, McAllister remains in the starting line-up as a midfield runner to support Messi.
He was expected to be Scallone’s sixth penalty taker in the quarter-final win over Holland after 120 minutes and it could be key against Croatia.
Alexis McAllister transfer rumours
McAllister’s rise to prominence at the World Cup has led to his status as a major Premier League star for Brighton over the past 18 months.
The Seagulls extended his contract at the AMEX Stadium ahead of the World Cup – potentially to fend off transfer interest in him – with his current contract running until 2025.
His performances in Qatar have boosted his potential value to around £50m ($61.2m) and Brighton have a reputation for selling players who have ‘grown’ the club.
According to BeSoccer , Brighton are preparing for increased speculation in the coming months, but a January move is unlikely given his importance to Roberto de Zerbi’s side.