Messi? It's getting messy in Miami

If Lionel Messi is, as some reports suggest, considering an offer to join Inter Miami, then he may have noticed with interest that a fellow Argentine took charge of the MLS team on Thursday.

Struggling Miami fired Englishman Phil Neville, its head coach, and his experienced American assistant Jason Kreisand promoted Morales to take charge as interim head coach.

There is now a distinctly Argentine feel to the club -- as well as Morales, goalkeeping coach Sebastian Saja played four times for Argentina and eight years with Argentine club San Lorenzo.

Federico Higuain, the brother of former Argentina and Real Madrid forward Gonzalo Higuain, is the head coach of Inter's reserve team, assisted by another Argentine, Cristian Raul Ledesma.

There are several South American players in the squad, including Argentine defender Franco Negri and forward Nicolas Stefanelli while the club's brightest young prospect, Miami-born Benjamin Cremaschi, was called up to an Argentina under-20 camp in December.

It may, of course, be entirely coincidental that just as Messi runs out of contract with Paris St. Germain and amid reports that he has an offer from Miami as well as lucrative option in Saudi Arabia, Miami has placed an Argentine in charge of the team.

But the idea that the 35-year-old Messi might move to the South Florida sunshine, ahead of a Copa America final bow, in the United States in 2024, has not been discouraged by either the club or by Major League Soccer itself -- neither of whom have ever distanced themselves from the reports.

It would, of course, require an unprecedented investment to lure the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner to MLS, but the club hopes the chance to end his career with a lucrative deal in a heavily Spanish-speaking community proves tempting.

Miami's owners include Neville's long-standing friend and former Manchester United teammate, David Beckham, who recently met Messi in Paris, where the Argentine is finishing up his second and final season at PSG.

“When we appointed Phil," said Beckham in a statement," we knew he would give Inter Miami his all and I have watched him work incredibly hard and with real commitment towards the ambitions we set out for the club. He and his family embraced Miami and he has devoted himself to the drive to bring success to the city and to our fans. Phil has made a real contribution to the culture of our club with his qualities as a leader and knowledge as a coach. Sometimes in this game we have to make the toughest decisions and sadly we feel the time is right to make a change."

It was noticeable that of Neville's assistants, it was not Kreis, who as a coach who was MLS Cup winner at Real Salt Lake before spells with New York City and Orlando, but the much less experienced Morales, a player under Kreis in Salt Lake, who was given the interim job.

Whatever the reasoning behind that decision, Morales certainly has a tough task to turn Miami's season around.

• SA Reading: Argentine 'El Maestro' leads young hopefuls at Inter Miami after starring for Real Salt Lake

Neville's final game was a fourth straight defeat in league play with a 1-0 loss at home to the New York Red Bulls that left the Herons rooted to the bottom of the Eastern Conference and in 27th place out of  29 teams in MLS.

It was a loss too far for the team's fans, who turned on the coach, unveiling a 'Neville Out' banner and then booing his 20-year-old son Harvey after he came on as a substitute and when he touched the ball.

Neville said he took responsibility for the team's form but was understandably upset at the targeting of his son, who has come into the first-team squad after being part of Miami's youth system.

"The responsibility starts with and ends with me," he said. "If you’re unhappy, hit the manager. Don’t go for one of my young kids. That hurts and that's personal. Hit me, guys, I can handle that. I can take that. I've had it all my career.

"We have the best fans. I understand their frustration, the banners and all that because it comes with the territory being a professional football manager. I would say to the supporters, 'Just come for me.' Support the team and the young boys…Don't knock one of our own. Just come for me," he said.

Neville said his son was in the squad on merit, and defender DeAndre Yedlin offered support.

"We understand the fans' frustration, we're frustrated, as well and have not been nearly good enough," Yedlin told the Miami Herald.  "As far as booing Harvey, he's one of us. If you're going to boo Harvey, then boo all of us. He's done the steps he needed to do to get playing time and get on the field. He works hard every day in training like everyone else. He's not here just because his father’s the coach. He's a great young player. I don't think it's right to go after one player, especially a young player."

Miami has lost 10 of its 15 MLS games so far this season and its hopes of improving on last year's Round One playoff exit, are quickly fading.

Inter Miami's problems are in stark contrast to other sports franchises in South Florida where the Miami Heat have reached the NBA Finals and the Florida Panthers are competing in the NHL's Stanley Cup final.

Neville referenced the Heat's ability to dig deep and find a way to win in crucial moments.

2 comments about "Messi? It's getting messy in Miami".
  1. Greedy Striker, June 2, 2023 at 7:59 a.m.

    Sounds like Messi didn't want to play for a failed English coach! Neville was absolutely not the right coach for Miami! He only was hired because he is Becks' pal....They're everywhere, these arrogant English coaches who think they are entitled to everything because they have the richest league in world football! The man left out to dry is Kreis! Better manager and more experienced and a winner!

  2. Michael Taddonio replied, June 2, 2023 at 2:10 p.m.

    You got that right.

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