Inter Miami could be on the path to redefining what it means to be an MLS team in the transfer market., the Herons expect to make at least five additional signings and they also need to add a coach after parting ways with Phil Neville. Currently at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, Inter Miami are only eight points off of a playoff spot but the infusion of Messi and friends into the roster would mean that there’s room to improve quickly as long as the team isn’t too far below the red line when Messi makes his debut.
Adding the best player in the world makes it easy for more players to want to join Miami but they’ll also need to shed contracts as MLS roster rules won’t be changed to allow them to have more Designated Players or lift the cap to afford other players not named Messi. But what are some of the moves that the club could make?
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Jordi Alba set to join Inter Miami
According to The Miami Herald, the deal for Jordi Alba to reunite with Messi is now complete. Joining on a TAM deal, Alba won’t take up a designated player spot with the club and begins to show the kind of pull that Messi can bring in the recruitment area. From being on a top salary with Barcelona to now making around a million dollars per season, if other players begin to follow Alba’s lead to join Messi, that’s where Miami can really build a competitive roster. Within MLS’ salary structure, they can’t throw money at everyone who they’d like to so getting creative and finding bargains will be key.
The Barcelona reunion tour could continue
July 5 — Inter Miami’s midseason rebuild is kicking into high gear as talks progress with left back Jordi Alba according to a report from the Athletic. At 34-years-old, Alba would immediately slot into a defense that needs reinforcements sooner than later. There is growing optimism that a deal can be struck as Alba is currently a free agent after his contract with Barcelona expired. If Alba joins, he also won’t occupy a Designated Player spot which is key as Lionel Messi and Sergio Busquets would already occupy two of Miami’s three spots. The third will be filled by either Rodolfo Pizzaro or Leonardo Campana providing the team with very limited financial flexibility to add stars at top salary points.
The ability to do deals like this one are what will determine if Tata Martino can build out a roster that can make the playoffs but even with Alba, Messi, and Busquets all together, it will be easier said than done to climb out of the cellar of the Eastern Conference.
Could Jesse Lingard be Miami’s next target?
July 2 — Spotted training with the club, Lingard is currently a free agent following the expiration of his contract with Nottingham Forest. Lingard only played sparingly for the Tricky Trees but Inter Miami needs all the help that they can get in attack even with Messi arriving. Lingard has plenty of Premier League experience from his time with Manchester United and could give new manager Tata Martino more attacking depth on a budget.
Jorge Mas has already been pushing for more signings and will need to get that done sooner than later so those signings will have as much time as possible with Messi who is expected to debut on July 21 versus Cruz Azul. Lingard on a free transfer would be a move that can be made with minimal risk as the Herons look to cover as many bases as possible quickly to climb out of the basement of the Eastern Conference.
Tata Martino announced as new Inter Miami manager
June 28 — The worst kept secret in MLS was finally revealed on Wednesday as Tata Martino was officially announced as Inter Miami’s new manager. He takes over for the fired Phil Neville, and will be managing Lionel Messi for the third time in the superstars career. He’s previously overseen both Barcelona and Argentina with Messi on board. He joins Sergio Busquets, and Messi as recent additions to the club while owner Jorge Mas has touted at least one more major signing this window.
June 19 — The most important position right now is who will coach the team. With the right coach, they can stave off falling further behind the playoff race and Tata Martino is a proven coach in MLS having won MLS Cup with Atlanta United. Looking to join at the beginning of July according to reports in Argentina, Martino has experience building a team essentially from the ground up and has also coached Messi with Barcelona and Argentina, so the familiarity is there. While a spell with Mexico may not have been the greatest bridge for Martino, El Tri already moving on from his replacement in Diego Cocca shows how deep the issues run there. Martino’s a coach who will do everything that he can to pull the team above the playoff line and he’ll have plenty of support in the transfer market to do it.
Official: Busquets signs for Miami
June 23 — Inter Miami have officially signed Sergio Busquets as a free agent after the former FC Barcelona player ended his tenure in Spain. The player will re-join Messi after the duo played together with Barcelona. Busquets refused multiple Saudi clubs before agreeing to join the MLS side. The club has released a video announcing the new signing:
Di Maria likely won’t join Miami
June 21 — While the negotiations for multiple former Messi’s teammates are still ongoing, there is one player that won’t join Inter Miami this summer. Angel Di Maria has decided to go back to Benfica and will sign for the Portuguese club after his contract with Juventus will expire at the end of June. As CBS insider Fabrizio Romano reported, the talks are at final stages and just the final details are missing to get it sealed. Di Maria, if it all goes according to the plan, will sign a contract until June 2024 and will be back at Benfica 13 years after his last stint, when he signed for the Portuguese club and started an incredible European journey that led him to play for Real Madrid, Manchester United, Paris Saint Germain and Juventus.
Details on Messi’s contract emerge
June 19 — Messi will be signing a two-and-a-half-year deal worth upwards of $50 million, according to reports. That tag includes a salary, bonuses and equity in the club but it does not include deals with Apple and Adidas which are both expected to help increase Messi’s earning potential. The deal would see Messi under contract for the team through 2025, a period that could cause seismic change in Major League Soccer.
Inter Miami will already begin work on expanding DRV PNK Stadium by 3,000 seats to increase capacity to around 22,000 as every home game will likely be sold out. More security will also be added while the club is even trying to fast-track the build of Miami Freedom Park to have it ready by summer or early fall of 2025. The economic impact of Messi’s arrival is showing before he even sets foot on a pitch.
Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba on the way?
June 19 — Managing owner Jorge Mas has already hinted toward there being more signings and Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba are two of Messi’s former teammates with the heaviest links to Miami. After his contract expired in Barcelona, Busquets is expected to join on a Designated Player contract which means that both Gregore and Rodolfo Pizzaro will need their contracts brought down. The team reportedly covets Leonardo Campana and the also just added Josef Martinez so it’s unlikely to see the duo moved to create roster flexibility.
Busquets is a tough addition as he brings back memories of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Andrea Pirlo, and even Inter Miami’s own Blaise Matuidi as older midfielders who came to MLS and weren’t able to keep up with the pace of the league, but with a game that’s more based on positioning than athleticism, he has a chance to defy time. With the expected designated player tag comes expectations so just helping Messi settle won’t be enough to make this move a home run if it happens. Along with the duo, Luis Suarez and Angel Di Maria have been linked to moves to the Herons but without changes to the roster rules, those will be easier said than done to accomplish.