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Have you heard the one about the Irishman, the Scotsman and Argentinian playing in the World Cup final?
Well, not quite. Alexis Mac Allister is certainly no joke but, while he may not always stand out on the pitch for some, his name certainly does on the Argentina team-sheet.
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That’s if you’re not from Argentina that is, because the name is quite common over there considering his dad, uncle and two brothers have all played professional football.
His father, Carlos, has three caps for his country. Two of those appearances for the left back were alongside a certain Diego Maradona in 1993. But Alexis is a trusted lieutenant for the current Argentina football legend. That would be Lionel Messi.
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The Brighton midfielder’s clubmate Adam Lallana explained this week how Messi trusts Mac Allister to fill the void for him when he drops deep to collect the ball.
He’s also the player in Argentina’s midfield who drops deep when Messi goes into full flight going forward. It’s only a small part of his play which has seen him become a key figure for Lionel Scaloni’s side at this World Cup.
As Lallana says, if Messi trusts you that’s one hell of a compliment. Mac Allister has been quietly impressing at Brighton since Graham Potter brought him to the club in 2019 from Argentinos Juniors.
Now, at 23, he is finally getting the credit he deserves on the biggest stage possible. It has led to interest in recent weeks from Tottenham. He’s said to be shy around the dressing room in England. He’s learned the language and settled in the country.
But at first he struggled. On and off the pitch. His quietness and lack of English didn’t make it easy while the physicality of the Premier League was a shock.
Yet it is testament to his character that he didn’t shy away from the challenge and is now reaping the rewards.
It looked like his days on the south coast might be numbered only last year when he pushed to go to the Olympics for his country.
On his return, it was a battle to get back in the team as he had missed a chunk of pre-season.
Again he took on the challenge and performances against Chelsea and Everton at the turn of the year meant he was back in. He hasn’t looked back.
With his club he plays in a deeper role but he has more responsibility going forward for his country. He will be charged with not only supplying Messi against France tomorrow, but also getting to work in the space between midfield and attack.
So to the name. Most assume he’s got Scottish heritage because of the way his family spell the surname and there are some vague links to the county.
But the ties to Ireland are more credible, Mac Allister confirmed it in an interview when he spoke about how Messi stopped team-mates calling him ‘Colo’, which is a derogatory Argentinian term for someone with red hair.
His family tree can be traced back to a small coastal town called Donabate in County Dublin. A distant cousin lives not far from there still.
His ancestors are part of a wave of Irish people who emigrated to the South American country in the 1860's. His brothers, who play professionally in Argentina, are called Kevin and Francis. The names wouldn’t look out of place on an Irish census that’s for sure.
But the name MacAllister will be one of the first on the team-sheet for Argentina tomorrow. It’s been quite the journey.
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- Lionel Messi
- Premier League
- World Cup
- Brighton Hove Albion FC
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