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New manager, new mentality: Beckham's back to build Inter Miami his own way

15:00 GMT 24/01/2021
David Beckham Inter Miami
The former England midfielder was forced to watch on from afar during his club's first season, and he is determined to make a bigger mark in 2021

Inter Miami are, both literally and in spirit, David Beckham's club.

From the moment this club began its journey to existence nearly a decade ago, the aim has been to sculpt this project in Beckham's image: flashy, star-studded but, ultimately and most importantly, successful in every way.

Beckham achieved virtually everything one can achieve on the field across two continents. He earned icon status off the field, too, becoming arguably the most recognizable star this sport has ever seen. Most things Beckham touches turn to gold.

But that touch was missing from Inter Miami's first season in MLS.

It was a campaign with highs and lows, one that ended with a thud and a first-round playoff exit. The season, largely derailed by the coronavirus, was not everything it was supposed to be. The star players arrived too late, the fans were barely allowed in and, perhaps most importantly, the statement wins were few and far between.

There is certainly reason for optimism, especially with Blaise Matuidi and Gonzalo Higuain now fully involved. The club's 2020 campaign was okay, but, when you are a club owned by Beckham, okay is not anywhere near good enough.

This season, Beckham says, will be different. Having been in England since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, he arrived in Miami on Christmas Day. His aim? To take on a more active role in the club he owns as he looks to fully mould it in his own image.

"When I commit to something, I very rarely step away from it," Beckham told reporters. "Being here for the last three weeks has been very rewarding.

"A couple of things have been eye-opening, and that's why we've really made the changes that we've made. I felt that it was important to install the culture that we expect at this club, the hard work that we expect at this club."

"There was never a moment where I thought it was too much or it was getting too much for myself, for the ownership group, for the club or for the players," he added. "But I knew pretty soon that we needed, as an ownership group, to make changes, and I think it was better doing it rather sooner rather than later."

The changes have come swiftly.

Gone is Diego Alonso, the CONCACAF Champions League-winning manager that was hired as the club's first head coach just a year ago. In has come Phil Neville, one of Beckham's former team-mates that has now become the man entrusted with both changing Inter Miami's culture and protecting his close friend's reputation by proving he is the right man for this job.

Neville is not the only new face, either, with Miami having also turned to Chris Henderson to become the club's chief soccer officer and sporting director.

Henderson, one of the architects of a Seattle Sounders team that has been an MLS contender for the entirety of the club's existence, is charged with building a strong first team while helping form a bridge from the youth sides that Beckham has felt was missing.

The culture aspect, Beckham says, is something that needs changing. The former Manchester United, Real Madrid and LA Galaxy star used the phrase "hard work" six times during his 30-minute discussion with media, emphasizing exactly what he expects from the players and coaches all the way to those that are employed at the club's training facility.

"My working with Chris and working with Phil will be very hands-on," Beckham said. "I've been in the training facility for the last two-and-a-half, three weeks every single day going through the details of what it needs to make sure that this club is treated, and is seen as, one of the top clubs in the game. I think that that was why it was so important to make the changes that we needed to make sooner rather than later."

Beckham has been a regular sighting at the facility, having gone so far as to jump into training with the club's academy players. He also, quite obviously, played a big role in Neville's hiring and, by his own admission, will be significantly more involved in the player recruitment side of the game.

It is a part of ownership that Beckham feels he missed out on last season. Due to the pandemic, he was forced to watch on, staying up until the early hours of the morning in England to watch his own team play.

He was not looming large at the training facility and he could not regularly meet with coaches or players. By and large, Beckham was forced to be a bystander for reasons out of his control.

But now, Beckham seems determined to be something much more than an absentee owner, an investor watching on from an ocean away. Instead, the 45-year-old owner wants to get his hands dirty.

"I will be over every single player that comes into this club," he said. "I'll be over every single player that we are looking at, that we are interested in. I'll also be over every single player that is at this club because I think it's important that we have a culture here where we are looking after our players, looking after the players that are going to stay at the club and also looking after the players that leave the club.

"I think it's so important to have a reputation that runs through our club that players don't want to leave, or they do want to come or, when they do leave, they speak about our club as if they've been here for 10-20 years.

"I think that that culture will be introduced even more so with Chris and with Phil's leadership."

Neville and Henderson will be important, sure. So too will Beckham's co-owners, like Jorge Mas, the man that has been the most public face of the ownership group for much of the team's history.

But it is clear who is running the show these days.

"I think it will change," Beckham said. "In simple terms, the fact is that I'm actually physically here. I think it was very difficult last year but it was pretty evident that it wasn't exactly how I wanted and how I envisioned our team playing.

"I'm very happy to be back here. I'm very happy to be more hands-on and I'll be here as long as it takes to get that right."

After a year of watching from afar, Beckham is establishing himself as captain of this ship. He can only do so much as an owner but, win or lose, Inter Miami's 2021 season will have Beckham's fingerprints all over it.