It was in the Brazilian city of Curitiba around this time last year that Alexis Mac Allister announced himself to the Boca Juniors faithful. A stinging long range effort in the 83rd minute of his debut handing the Buenos Aires giants an invaluable 1-0 win over Athletico Paranaense in the Copa Libertadores round of 16.
No one needs reminding that a lot has happened since.
Fierce rivals River Plate would eventually put an end to Boca and Mac Allister’s Libertadores hopes at the semi-final stage, the 21-year-old would bid farewell to La Bombonera in December, travel to Colombia for the pre-Olympic tournament with Argentina and link up with his Brighton team-mates in 2020 for the tail-end of the Premier League season.
All that has happened but it’s taken a lot longer than expected.
Top flight survival was secured with relative comfort yet it’s fair to say that even after the coronavirus-extended season, Brighton have not yet seen the type of performances that established Mac Allister as one of Argentina’s most important under-20 internationals.
Four goals in six games over January and February that saw the Albiceleste book their spot at the 2020 (now 2021) Olympics rightfully had many on the south coast perhaps expecting a little more.
“From next season I’m going to be much better, more adapted.”
No goals and no assists in nine Premier League appearances by comparison are numbers that mean the jury is still out on the £7 million signing. The Seagulls would be foolish to write off such an investment though.
Adapting was always likely to be tough and a debut in March only to then be left like the rest of us wondering what might become of the season over the subsequent barren weeks was hardly ideal.
Mac Allister though was upbeat when talking to Argentinian television earlier this month, ”It was a bit of a long year, a lot of things happened, but it was wonderful.”
Admittedly the youngster’s highlights were following in his father’s footsteps and playing for Boca, winning his first senior international cap and winning the under-23 pre-Olympic tournament but there were also positives to take for Brighton.
“It was a very important year for me. From next season I’m going to be much better, more adapted.”
Signed in January 2019, Brighton had allowed Mac Allister to remain in Argentina for the year, first with boyhood club Argentinos Juniors and then Boca Juniors, and were the scheming playmaker be made available again there would be no shortage of suitors.
The player himself has spoken of a desire to pull on the blue and gold of Boca again though thankfully not in the immediate future and though the doors would likely be open, Brighton and Mac Allister must persevere.
The youngster defied the opinions of many when trading Argentinos for Boca over other interested clubs in Argentina and that same mentality is required now.
“I arrived [at Boca] as a player who was not going to have a chance and ended up having a lot of chances. It was six wonderful months.
“Being at Boca is difficult to enjoy [in the moment] with all the pressure.”
The pressure that comes with representing the fanatical Boca support in a Superclásico is very different to that of the Premier League but a new challenge nonetheless that Mac Allister has the talent and character to overcome.