'It has nothing to do with our friendship' - Why Beckham turned to Neville for reputation-defining Inter Miami hire

Beckham Neville split Miami
Inter Miami/Getty
The decision has been criticized by many, but the legendary midfielder says the decision to hire the former England boss wasn't based on friendship

David Beckham understands the criticism that has come from the hiring of Phil Neville.

On the surface, it's certainly a case of bad optics: a new club's superstar owner turning towards a longtime friend to become the team's new head coach. It also doesn't help that the head coach involved has no experience at this level in either club soccer or the men's game at all.

But, when you're David Beckham, you're fortunate enough to be able to look past the optics. When you're David Beckham, you don't have to worry about how things look from the outside.

On Monday, Inter Miami announced the hiring of Phil Neville, Beckham's former Manchester United teammate. Neville heads to MLS fresh off a run as manager of England's women's team, having served as an assistant under the likes of David Moyes, Nuno Espirito Santo and his brother Gary during spells with Manchester United and Valencia.

The hiring, understandably, was met with some criticism. Gone was Diego Alonso after just one year, despite his credentials as a CONCACAF Champions League-winning manager. In came Neville, a former Beckham teammate that had England playing well in spells with plenty of blips along the way.

On Friday, Beckham addressed the criticism and, at the end of the day, the message was clear: Beckham doesn't care about friendships, optics or opinions. What he does care about are results.

"Of course people are always going to turn around and say, 'oh, it's because he's your friend'. It has nothing to do with him being my friend," Beckham told reporters. "I'm an owner of a club with Jorge [Mas]. Our ownership group doesn't just employ our friends.

"We employ the best people, whether it's on the field, off the field, in our backroom staff, the staff that we have worked in our training facility, at the stadium. We're running a serious soccer club here and I think at the end of the day, we hire people that we feel are best suited for the job. 

He added: "It has nothing to do with the relationship that we have, the friendship that we have, the loyalty that we have to each other. He's the right man for the job."

Henderson Mas Beckham Neville Miami

Mas, Beckham's co-owner with Inter Miami, was even more forceful.

According to Mas, both Neville and new sporting director Chris Henderson were very much given the job on merit, and both will be key to the club's future.

Having ended the season with a playoff loss to Nashville, Miami enter this season with much loftier aims. The club has Gonzalo Higuain and Blaise Matuidi for their first full seasons as well as a roster with several positions that need upgrading.

And Mas says that ownership plans on working closely with both Neville and Henderson to shape that roster and develop a culture that those at the top felt was lacking during year one.

"I'll say it in, maybe more direct terms and then David can: Phil Neville was not handed the Inter Miami job," Mas said. "Phil Neville earned the job. There was a very thorough interview process with multiple candidates. As you may imagine, the Inter Miami head coaching position is an extremely attractive position. There were inquiries and interest from coaches from all over the globe.

"We, and that includes David as well, conducted multiple interviews for the head coaching job with a myriad of candidates with different backgrounds. Phil earned it. Phil is the right man for the job at this time.

"The fact that he's David's friend is a reality and no one runs from that. Actually, we embrace it, but he wasn't given or handed the job because he's friends with David Beckham or solely because of his relationship with David Beckham. Phil Neville earned his job and I'm very proud as a co-owner of this club to have Phil on board."

With Neville now officially on board, the acclimation process has begun. Neville has been working alongside Henderson all week, familiarizing himself with the club's facilities and future plans. Both Neville and Henderson were involved in Miami's selections during Thursday's MLS SuperDraft, and the two will work closely with Beckham to help define the future of the club.

For Neville, who said that the chance to coach Miami was one he couldn't pass up, that presents a new challenge. Beckham has, for years, been a teammate and a friend, one of his closest ones in fact. But now, Neville is Beckham's employee, a man entrusted to carry out the vision that the former Manchester United, Real Madrid and LA Galaxy star has been developing for eight years.

"The reality is that David is my friend," Neville said, "but I think from two or three weeks ago, he did become my boss. I think we have a relationship, or we've had a relationship for 20 years or I'd say 90 per cent of my life, where we've been very professional.

"Yes, our families have been friends but I think when it gets down to work, we're here to win. We're here to be successful. We're here to build something really great.

"I think because we've got the same goal of wanting to do something really special, to build something here that can be bigger than anything else that we've done in our careers or our lives, that's something that excites me.

"In 20 years' time we'll still be friends, our families will still be friends, but hopefully this will be one of the best chapters of our friendship."

Beckham Neville Manchester United

Beckham pointed to both Phil and Gary Neville during his remarks, calling the brothers the two hardest-working teammates that he's ever played with. Hard work was a theme that came up often during Beckham and Neville's press conference. Both said they understand the gravity of the situation, and the difficulties they will face in continuing to build this club from the ground up.

For his part, Gary endorsed his brother's hiring, saying that Phil is the type of person that is obsessed with the game. Some people love football, but Gary said there are some, like his brother, that are at a level past love. 

The former England manager will get his chance to show it, as he's now entrusted with laying a foundation that was so hard to build during Miami's inaugural season. Both Mas and Beckham stressed that the coronavirus was no excuse for the parts of last season that fell short, but both also added that this season will be better.

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And, to that aim, Beckham has turned to a familiar friend, one that helped define the early days of his playing career. Now, Neville's hiring will be the moment that helps define the early days of his ownership career as Beckham has put his reputation in the hands of one of the men he trusts most.

"My loyalty to Phil has always been there," Beckham said, "because as a player I relied on him to keep making those runs by the side of me. I never gave him the ball because I thought I was a better crosser than he was so he never got those balls!

"But I knew that he would keep on making those runs because he knew that was what was best for the team, and he will make those decisions as a coach, not just of our club, but a coach of our academy system, coach of our USL team, and as a leader. That's why he's in this position."

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