Brighton midfielder Alexis Mac Allister reflects on his ‘insane’ World Cup win with Argentina

It was a welcome home befitting a world champion. After landing at London Heathrow from Buenos Aires at 7.30am on Monday, Alexis Mac Allister returned to the Brighton training ground at 10am to cheering colleagues and two confetti cannons spraying blue, white and gold.

“It’s not as heavy as the real one,” said Mac Allister after lifting a replica World Cup trophy bought by his proud Premier League club, which also draped the entrance with Argentinian flags.

Mac Allister initially looked embarrassed, as if embarrassed that all this had been arranged for his return, as he hugged his Brighton team-mates. But the 24-year-old Santa Rosa midfielder will have to get used to it. Everyone wants to shake hands with a world champion.

Alexis Mac Allister was instrumental in Argentina's recent World Cup victory in Qatar

Alexis Mac Allister was instrumental in Argentina’s recent World Cup victory in Qatar

When asked, he smiled sheepishly sports mail when he likes all the attention. “Not really, I’m a shy guy,” Mac Allister replied. “I don’t like being the center of attention.

“I couldn’t go out in Argentina. People went crazy and rang my bell at my house. There were a few moments when I signed some shirts but I couldn’t go out every five minutes!

“I can’t believe I won the world championship. It was crazy that day and the day we went out in Buenos Aires, five million people on the streets, 36 degrees. Of course we got emotional.

“One month before the World Cup, I didn’t know if I was going or not. But I’ll keep it in my mind forever. I have my jersey, the medal, a replica of the World Cup. Not many lift this cup. It was really nice and hard!’

He has admitted not knowing if he would be there a month before the start of the tournament

He has admitted not knowing if he would be there a month before the start of the tournament

Mac Allister didn’t see the final – one of the greatest of all time, as Argentina beat France 3-3 before winning 4-2 on penalties – but promises he will in the coming days.

He is humble when asked about his assist for Angel di Maria, which Oliver Holt, chief sports writer for Mail on Sunday, this week likens to Pele’s pass for Carlos Alberto’s goal in the 1970 World Cup final.

“It was a very good ball, but Angel scored 90 percent of the goal,” said Mac Allister modestly.

There was no tension that day either. “I didn’t feel any pressure,” he explained. “I wasn’t nervous. On the day of the final I slept two hours siesta. We knew it might be the best day of our lives, and it was.” The reason Mac Allister was back at the Brighton training ground on Monday, straight after a 14-hour flight, wasn’t because of the warm welcome.

He claims he felt neither

He claims he felt neither “pressure” nor “nervousness” on the day of the World Cup final

That was because he told manager Roberto De Zerbi he wanted to train so he can face Everton at Goodison on Tuesday night, where he scored twice in the 3-2 Premier League win last season.

“Roberto knows I want to play,” Mac Allister said. “But he has to make a choice. The important thing is that I’m here. I’m ready to play.”

De Zerbi had two questions for Mac Allister when they first met on Monday. The first was: “Why didn’t you take a penalty in the quarter-final shoot-out against Holland?” The second was: “What is your best position on the pitch?”

Brighton know Mac Allister will attract attention from Premier League rivals. There is already talk of Graham Potter’s Chelsea fielding him as an alternative to Enzo Fernandez if the Benfica midfielder is too expensive.

Mac Allister is now back at Brightin, a club he has

Mac Allister is now back at Brightin, a club he has “focused on” and is “happy” to be at

Nonetheless, Brighton had the foresight to tie their Argentine to a new long-term deal a month before the World Cup. This contract runs until 2025 with an option for an additional year. Chelsea would have to shell out a sizeable sum – similar to the £60m they paid Brighton for Marc Cucurella – to get Mac Allister into this transfer window.

Still, De Zerbi sounded resigned to losing Mac Allister on Monday but urged him to stay until the end of the season at least.

“I’m happy if he wants to stay with us until the end of the season and I think it’s better for him,” said De Zerbi. “For us for sure, but also for him because at this moment a team change in January can be a problem.

“Starting over after winning the world championship is not that easy. The last game he played was the World Cup final. Brighton is home for him and playing at home for another six months is very important for him.”

“I’m concentrating on Brighton,” Mac Allister said. “You know how grateful I am and I’m in no rush to go. I’m really happy here. I enjoy every day. It will be an important achievement if we can come to Europe.

He received a Happy New Year's message from his legendary Argentinian teammate Lionel Messi

He received a Happy New Year’s message from his legendary Argentinian teammate Lionel Messi

“The staff, teammates, everyone at the club helped me become a better player. I was a bit embarrassed when I wasn’t playing, but then I understood that I also have to help my teammates.

“This club gave me the opportunity to improve my game. I’m really grateful.’

Mac Allister received a message from Lionel Messi on Sunday, thanking him for everything and wishing him a Happy New Year.

And Brighton’s No10 is hoping Argentina’s No10 doesn’t live up to his earlier promise to retire. “We don’t want that,” he said. ‘He knows it.’

With that, Brighton’s shy, smiling super world champion has to go. Even after a long day that started in Buenos Aires, Mac Allister is ready for his next trip – to Everton. Brighton midfielder Alexis Mac Allister reflects on his ‘insane’ World Cup win with Argentina

Maureen Mackey

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