'I'm no angel,' says Almiron as Newcastle hope they have a saviour

Newcastle’s new signing Miguel Almiron on the pitch at St James’ Park. Photo: PA

 Miguel Almiron looks like a choir boy, with his cherubic features and mischievous smile, but the baby face masks a steely determination that will serve Newcastle United's record signing well in the difficult months ahead.

Newcastle expect much from the 24-year-old Paraguay international, whose two years with Atlanta United turned him into Major League Soccer's most expensive export at £21 million. He does not appear to fully realise it yet, but he is a young man who has taken on a heavy burden in a football-daft city.

At first glance, Almiron's shoulders do not look broad enough. He is, as first impressions go, not long a man, weighing no more than 10st with his kit and boots on. Slender to the point of skinny. Appearances can be deceptive.

Almiron, by his own admission is "no angel" and those who worked closest with him in the US insist there is far more to him than a few flicks and tricks. There is toughness behind the wide-eyed innocence, but he will be tested like never before on Tyneside.

"Football's not just about skill and ability," said Almiron, who was the most expensive signing of a rather subdued January transfer window for Premier League clubs.

"Especially in this league when the tempo is so high. It's about working hard and to succeed, you've got to put a real shift in. Don't judge me on my YouTube highlights, judge me when I start playing.

"I try not to think about the pressure of being the record signing or pay attention to it. 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. First and foremost, I see it as an honour to be the record signing and an honour to be a Paraguayan representing my country in the Premier League. Like every player who comes to England, I want to go on and achieve big things."

Humble

Confident, but also humble. Almiron does not make any wild promises or bold predictions. There is no hint of arrogance.

"It's going to be quite tough adapting to the Premier League after playing in MLS," he added. "There are big differences in the two leagues. The tempo is different - it's higher and there is more pressing. It's a more difficult league, but it's something I feel I'll overcome. My team-mates and manager will help me.

"In terms of the pressure and price tag, I don't pay too much attention to that - my focus is to learn. As for being a target [for defenders], I'm aware it's a physical league, and that's something I can prepare for in training."

Almiron, who has signed a five-and-a-half-year deal worth a basic £60,000 a week before bonuses, breaks into a smile at the end of every answer. He is polite and attentive, although not confident enough to answer in English, preferring to use a translator.

But he understands the theme of the questions and is adamant he is ready to help his new team immediately, even though he has not played a competitive game since early December.

"I don't for one minute consider myself to be an idol or a hero," Almiron replies when asked about expectation levels. "What I want to try to do is do my best for this club and help out my team-mates by doing what I can out there on the field.

"When I found out about Newcastle's interest, I spoke to my team-mates, my advisors and my agent. They came over here in advance, had a look at the city and sent back good reports, same from team-mates at Atlanta and those reports have been proved true. I've had a warm welcome since I arrived here."

On his right arm, Almiron has a tattoo: "It's a passage from the Bible... 'I am the Way, the Truth and the Life,'" he explains.

"But I'm not an angel, though I try to go every so often to church to put right my sins. I've felt the support, kindness and good feelings [in Newcastle] already. I felt they give that to individuals and the whole team as well. I really can't wait to get started." (© Daily Telegraph, London)