News Matches

Pizarro's Inter Miami move gives MLS another test of 'trampoline to Europe' theory

6:30 PM EST 2/12/20
Rodolfo Pizarro Monterrey Liga MX 2019
The Mexico international has had plenty of overseas suitors and, while his latest step will surprise some, it could be vital in the long run

Rodolfo Pizarro is a few banking transactions away from being the latest Mexico national team player to move to Major League Soccer.

The 25-year-old playmaker is set to join Inter Miami once the MLS expansion club deposits the first portion of the player's release clause - plus a bit more after a dispute over tax - according to various reports.

Rayados clearly didn't want to see Pizarro go through that door, but Inter Miami is an interesting new challenge for the player and one that could vault him even higher in a career that already has reached considerable heights in Concacaf.

MLS once again has a litmus test for whether it can serve as a selling league, a league that makes players better than when they arrived and more prepared to take a jump to the upper echelons of world soccer. There are some examples of this working out, notably Miguel Almiron moving from Lanus to Atlanta United and starting in the Premier League two years later after winning MLS Cup and finishing second in the 2018 MVP race behind teammate Josef Martinez.

At the moment, though, Almiron is too much of an exception. For MLS to truly boom with talent, for South American or Mexican players to view it as a realistic stopover between their native countries and the Premier League or La Liga, there need to be more players for MLS executives to point to as success stories.

Pizarro won the league with Pachuca, Chivas and Monterrey. He lifted the Concacaf Champions League in both Guadalajara and Monterrey. He has a Copa MX title with Chivas and won the Gold Cup with Mexico in the summer of 2019. The next move, if one was to come for Pizarro, seemed to be to Europe. There were links with Serie A clubs in the offseason, and plenty of coaches have backed Pizarro to play at a higher level than Liga MX.

Instead, he moves to a league still fighting to surpass its rival in the Concacaf region, a league which has two fewer CCL trophies than Pizarro does.

It's not that Pizarro needed MLS to make a jump to Europe. Yet, the economic and business opportunities presented by MLS made this an option Pizarro felt was worth exploring. He'll reunite with manager Diego Alonso, be the biggest name on the new team in the capital of Latin America and work closely with the club's part-owner David Beckham.

Pizarro may have been on the world stage at the Club World Cup in December, helping Monterrey push Liverpool to the limit with a stoppage-time winner needed for the Reds to see off Rayados, but Inter Miami will put him in the shop window like never before. Simply by being associated with Beckham, the club already is one of the buzziest teams in the United States, with media outlets that would never think to cover an MLS game writing news articles about Miami minutea. Early reports "Beckham" was going to be in the team name proved to be false, but read some of the headlines about "Beckham's Inter Miami" and you might think the former LA Galaxy midfielder's surname did form part of the club's official moniker.

This is a project people are curious to see. That's not to say scouting directors from the world's top clubs aren't watching teams like Real Salt Lake or the Vancouver Whitecaps. We've seen players from both organizations jump to Bayern Munich in the past (Taylor Booth never signed with RSL but was in the academy, while Alphonso Davies stood out with the Caps before making the jump), but the Inter experiment will undoubtedly be under scrutiny from Europe unlike any MLS team ever has been before.

There are other factors at play, of course. For one, when the MLS Players Association reveals the salaries, it will show Pizarro on a very large number, one mid-tier European teams may be loathed to pay (or straight-up unable to afford). If Pizarro is more focused on putting away money for the future, it may be hard to find similar pay outside of MLS.

That's the other question: where Pizarro's desires rest. There are worse places to live than Miami. There are less exciting things to be part of than launching an expansion MLS team. 

If the goal is to enjoy himself and he feels challenged enough as the centerpiece of a Miami team that was supposed to have (and still could acquire) far more household names, then perhaps it's already mission accomplished.

If he wants to take his place, however, as a star of the Mexico national team and vault yet higher on the food chain of club soccer, he'll need to star at his new club and need the names "MLS" and "Beckham" to carry as much heft as they'd like to think they have.