David Beckham's Inter Miami: Update on first players, links to Falcao and other star signings
It's been a little over three months since our first check-in on Inter Miami CF, the new Major League Soccer franchise that's co-owned by David Beckham and set to debut in the 2020 season. With the clock ticking until their opening game, there's still a lot to be completed but progress is happening on all fronts including the announcement of their first two players.
ESPN FC's experts Tim Vickery, Tom Marshall and Jeff Carlisle look at what's going on in South Florida this summer.
Who are their first signings?
Inter Miami have gone international with their first two signings, picking up two youngsters from Argentina whose acquisition pays tribute to the excellence of the new club's scouting network.
The pair are a study in contrasts when it comes to attacking talent, and both have the potential to continue the fine record of Argentine imports to MLS. Matias Pellegrini (from Estudiantes) and Julian Carranza (from Banfield) are a pair of 19-year-olds who have been rising through the ranks in South America. They made brief appearances in last year's Copa Libertadores, South America's Champions League, and they both play for teams that who finished the 2018-19 season in the bottom half of the table.
Pellegrini is a left-footed "support striker" capable of operating off the main centre-forward all across the attacking line. He has worked on both flanks with Estudiantes and may well be at his best down the left corridor some 10 yards in from the touchline. Strong on the ball, he can drive forward at pace, isn't limited to his left foot and has a mature awareness of the game around him. The fact that his goals have included strikes against Boca Juniors, Independiente and Racing hints at a big match temperament but outside of his set-piece savvy, it seems more likely he'll be setting up more MLS goals than he scores.
The beneficiary of his approach play could be Carranza, a stocky, penalty area operator with good acceleration and the ability to take his chances first time on either foot. Carranza has a little more first-team experience than Pellegrini and the pair could work well together to give Inter Miami's new fans a happy season in 2020. -- Tim Vickery
Who else have Inter Miami been linked with?
Ever since the Miami MLS franchise was confirmed, expectations have been sky high with regard to the stars and big names who'd be eager to ply their trade in South Florida. The intersection of celebrity and culture in Miami makes it an appealing target and to accomplish that goal, the club have hired a ton of experience in their front office to help build the first squad.
Paul McDonough, Inter Miami sporting director, a former agent and previously Vice President for the successful Atlanta United, isn't green when it comes to putting together rosters for Major League Soccer clubs. He's also been keeping his cards close to his chest, although he did tell the Miami Herald on July 20 that the idea is to have "between four and eight" players signed up by September.
It's assumed that the Miami franchise will go for a megastar, but much of the speculation around big names like James Rodriguez, Sergio Busquets, Luis Suarez, Theo Walcott, Mario Balotelli and Radamel Falcao is just that: speculation. Equally, talent will be scouted to manage the squad and one report even suggested that Diego Maradona could end up on the sideline of the team McDonough is putting together. (It seems unrealistic despite Maradona's success in his last stint as coach with second division Mexico side Dorados de Sinaloa.) Much more likely is a coach with vast experience in Europe, along the lines of Laurent Blance, even if the Frenchman's name hasn't yet been linked.
Will Miami continue to actively recruiting in South America? Of the aforementioned big names, a pair of Colombian stars, James and Falcao, is perhaps fueled by Beckham's visit to Colombia in June, as well as his subsequent comments about the duo and their respective qualities.
Yet bringing in a star name isn't a simple process. The fact Miami starts MLS play in March 2020 means that the new signings need somewhere to play for the next six months, just like Carlos Vela did when he moved from Real Sociedad to LAFC ahead of the 2018 season. Sources tell ESPN FC that Falcao had some interest in coming to MLS, but his current situation at Monaco appears untenable given his desire to leave Ligue 1. Yet it's unclear whether he'd want to spend another six months in France or go on loan until Inter Miami is ready to begin play, even though he only has one year left on his current contract and would be available as a free agent next June.
"Obviously the sporting project is always the priority, but having a family like ours it's obvious that family factors have to be taken into consideration," said Falcao in Colombia on July 19.
A source told ESPN FC that the other name regularly linked to Miami was Mexican international Hector Moreno. There was a degree of interest around a player who recently bought an apartment in the city, but that particular rumor was quashed when the 31-year-old signed for Qatari side Al-Gharafa late last month. Of the other bigger name Mexican players connected to Miami, Guillermo Ochoa and Andres Guardado look set for stays in Europe as does Javier Hernandez.
One player who is likely to join Miami is Atletico de Rafaela and Argentina youth international striker Matias Godoy. The 17-year-old wouldn't be able to move to Miami until he turns 18 in January, thanks to FIFA rules regarding the transfer of minors, but the Argentine club's president, Ricardo Castro, is quoted in Sin Mordaza as saying that there is a verbal agreement with Miami.
Only the dates about when he is to join is left to be ironed out, according to Castro. A report in the same publication suggests Miami will buy 50 percent of his rights for between $900,000 and $1 million. -- Tom Marshall
The latest on Inter Miami's stadium
On the business side, it's been a tale of two counties for Inter Miami CF.
In Broward County, everything seems to be moving ahead as planned. The team's training facility and temporary venue in Fort Lauderdale has been approved by the city. Ground has been broken and the construction of the foundations for the canopy and seating have begun. More than 8,000 non-refundable season ticket deposits have been made, including 2,000 for premium seating, which is far more than managing owner Jorge Mas anticipated.
"I think that that complex, with the stadium and the training center and the fields, will be one of the first-class facilities for soccer in the U.S.," Mas said.
What's happening in Miami-Dade County has been much more of a slog. A lease for the team's permanent home, Miami Freedom Park, must be approved by four of the five Miami city commissioners. Manolo Reyes and Willy Gort are on record as opposing it. There's also a resolution stating that the lease must be approved by Sept. 15, though Mas insisted that it isn't legally binding.
Gort is the swing vote, and Mas said Inter Miami has done what it could to address the commissioner's concerns. What's more, he's visited more than 600 homes in the district to win over residents. The First Tee golf program for the area's youth has been relocated, satisfying another Gort request. Mas is hopeful to bring the finalized lease before the city commission on Sept. 12 and that once the lease is presented, Gort will be won over.
"I'd like to get this done in September, and I'm confident that Commissioner Gort will get there," he said. "And I'm not giving up on Commissioner Reyes. I've always aspired for 5-0."
Even though the on-field project is starting to take shape, much still needs to happen on the business side in order to get the Inter Miami franchise into its impressive eventual home. -- Jeff Carlisle