Beckham's Inter Miami embarrassed by DP disaster

Last Updated
Getty/Goal

In the weeks leading up to their second MLS season, Inter Miami found themselves dealing with a major problem.

David Beckham's MLS club had four Designated Players (DP) on their roster – one more than the maximum allowed by league rules. Just before their opening game, they found a solution to that problem.

On Friday, Inter Miami announced that they had bought out Matias Pellegrini – the youngest of the team's four DPs – in order to comply with MLS regulations, and thus enable them to retain the services of Gonzalo Higuain, Blaise Matuidi and Rodolfo Pizarro for the coming campaign.

Pellegrini was then immediately loaned to the club's reserve team, Fort Lauderdale CF, who play in the third division of American soccer, as the talented young Argentine is no longer eligible to play for Inter Miami this season.

The demotion will have come as a bitter blow for Pellegrini. He was the club's first major signing and, despite a difficult first season in Miami, he remains regarded as a talented young star that could someday produce a big-time transfer fee.

Indeed, Pellegrini – who joined from Estudiantes for $7 million (£5m) – was expected to improve in his second year in MLS.

He will not get that chance, though, and Miami must now resolve another problem, namely how to ensure that the 21-year-old's development and confidence aren't unduly affected by this embarrassing affair.

“We’ve been working with Matias, his representatives and MLS to reach an agreement, and, at this time, we believe this is the best option for all parties,” said Chris Henderson, Inter Miami CF’s Chief Soccer Officer and Sporting Director.

“Matias is a talented young player with an exciting career ahead. He will remain with the organization as we work on finding an on-field opportunity and next steps for him.”

Matias Pellegri Inter Miami GFX

To make matters worse for Miami, it seems that sanctions are now incoming.

MLS announced on Friday that, in relation to the Matuidi deal, the club were not in compliance with the league's roster and budget rules for the 2020 season. The results of an investigation into the matter will be disclosed "in the near future".

The club added Matuidi last season, originally saying it used Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) in the deal. At the time, Miami were heralded for finding a way to bring in a world-class star at a cut-rate price.

However, the league has now ruled that Matuidi's salary was above the compensation limit for a TAM player and he should have been classified as a DP.

Despite the offseason roster issues, new manager Phil Neville still has a solid squad to work with as he begins his first season as an MLS coach. Even aside from the marquee names, this is a talented team that should take a step forward after a stop-start expansion season.

Lewis Morgan, the club's leading scorer last season, and Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, their defensive leader, are still around, while there have been several exciting arrivals.

Stoke legend Ryan Shawcross has been brought in to add experience to the backline, while former Arsenal star Kieran Gibbs will join this summer as Beckham's side adds a bit more English flavor to his American enterprise.

Miami have also snapped up Brazilian midfielder Gregore, as well as MLS veterans Joevin Jones and Kelvin Leerdam.

But make no mistake: this is a team that will be defined by its stars, chief among them Higuain, who will need to be one of the league's top goalscorers if Miami are to end the season where they want to be.

Higuain Inter Miami GFX

Higuain didn't arrive in Miami until September, meaning he made just nine appearances in his first half-season in MLS. But he scored just one goal: an admittedly fantastic free kick against the New York Red Bulls.

For Miami to thrive, Higuain will need to function as a focal point of the attack, serving as a player that gets goals while opening up space for those next to him.

“This year, now that I know the league, I am going to work on improving on what I need to improve on," Higuain said. "I'm trying to be a leader that guides the team to achieve its objectives. Obviously, in my mind is the idea to continue playing how I have played all my life.

"I'm trying to come here and have people remember my stint in MLS for what I achieved in my career. I did not come here to be just another player or to vacation. On the contrary, I came here to take Inter Miami to the top."

That will be a difficult task. Miami enter this season as a bit of an unknown quantity due to all of the changes. Last term feels like it was merely a dress rehearsal, a warm-up for this second season, where things should, in theory, look more settled.

Article continues below

But they have so many questions to answer. Do they have enough pieces in place to enjoy a successful season? Is this cultural reset the right fit for this team at this point in time? Can the club's stars deliver all of the success that was promised from the moment this team was announced?

Their first test will come against another team rebuilding towards their own lofty expectations, the LA Galaxy. It's a team Beckham knows well, the one that he called home during his playing career in the U.S., the club that paved the way for his own team years later.

It's a game that will serve as a measuring stick for a Miami team that's looking to take the leap from newcomer to contender, after what can only be constituted as an embarrassing start to their second MLS season.