The First Game Is 66 Days Away. And The Manager Is?

MIAMI, Fla. (December 26, 2019) —

With sixty-six days until Inter Miami CF’s first game on March 1, 2020 at the Los Angeles Football Club, the club still has no manager. People on the outside are beginning to get nervous.

Several times throughout the fall, fans have been assured that the club has selected its head coach and that an announcement was coming “shortly.” In early October Managing Owner Jorge Mas, while in New York for MLS Decision Day, told Planet Fútbol “We’re close and hopefully we will be announcing the coach in the next three or four weeks.”

Fans have been reassured on more than one occasion that Inter Miami’s head coach will be some one well known who arrives with great pedigree and background. “I’m a huge believer that leadership matters,” Mas said. “We want a coach who can lead, who can not only lead the first team, but can set the tone in the academy system. [A coach] who can put his fingerprints on developing young players for the future and really the whole organisation.”

“Paul and I and David Beckham have been intimately involved in choosing a coach and interviewing potential coaches.”

Inter Miami CF owner David Beckham laughs during a press conference at Broward County Stadium in Lauderhill on Sunday, June 2, 2019.
JOHN MCCALL / SOUTH FLORIDA SUN SENTINEL
Inter Miami CF owner David Beckham laughs during a press conference at Broward County Stadium in Lauderhill on Sunday, June 2, 2019.
JOHN MCCALL / SOUTH FLORIDA SUN SENTINEL

“I think we’re very close to naming someone who is going to be an outstanding coach for Inter Miami and really is going to help us raise the game in America,” Mas said. “But the profile of the coach we want is that person who has international standing, who has coached at the highest levels, who has played at the highest levels, who hopefully has played in a World Cup, played in Champions League, coached at that level, coached academy teams, and been able to bring young great players and develop them to be great professionals because that’s what we want.”

Related: How Inter Miami Is Shaping Up

During the MLS Expansion Draft on November 19, Jorge Mas told reporter Jillian Sakovits that the manager was close to being named. “Paul ana I have travelled hundreds of thousands of miles…we have made a choice and he had some input into what we’re doing here today.” In early December, Sakovits posted on Twitter that the same person who had input into the expansion draft is still the person to be named head coach, according to a team representative.

Now, as we are in the Christmas break and the Holidays, no head coach has been announced, and, given the time of the year, it’s a safe bet it will be January, 2020 when the name is announced.

All of this has left fans wondering: What has gone wrong? What exactly is going on? Should we be worried?

Yes, it is concerning. Other MLS expansion teams had their head coach months prior to beginning play. LAFC, for example, hired Bob Bradley some eight months before its first game. Tata Martínez was appointed manager of Atlanta United five full months prior to the first game. Miami has 66 days. But how important is the head coach in the process? The effect, if any, of hiring a head coach so close to the beginning of training and the season is something that cannot be quantified. It’s also important not to lose sight of some facts about team-building at Inter Miami. Straightaway, the person in charge of assembling the Inter Miami roster is Sporting Director Paul McDonough. He has a track record of building strong rosters, with his work at Atlanta United being the most notable example of the type of team he is capable of assembling.

Prior to the MLS Expansion Draft, McDonough was a guest on the ExtraTime podcast show. Asked about the coaching situation McDonough admitted they have been having discussions with ‘people’ about money and terms. He explained: “The hard part is we always think that coaches have to be around to build clubs, and I think clubs build clubs and coaches come and coach the team.” He dismissed the common thought process that the coach builds a team by pointing out the inherent weakness if that happens. “If I let my coach pick a team and then he leaves in two years, where does that leave me and the club? So it was really important for David [Beckham] and myself to make a plan and we’ll build the club and of course the coach is going to have some say on some of the final pieces.”

Many names have been linked to the Inter Miami coaching position: Zinedine Zidane, Santiago Solari, Gennaro Gattuso, David Moyes, Marcelo Gallardo, Roberto Martínez and others. Some of these were likely serious candidates and others not. The explanation as to why any one of them has not been named is quite simply that mutually agreeable terms could not be arrived at. Some of these candidates might have not been interested in moving to Inter Miami and MLS; others perhaps priced themselves higher than what Miami was willing to offer.

Sources told ESPN that Miami had made efforts to tempt Carlo Ancelotti to South Florida to take charge of team, with the Italian’s close friendship with Beckham, whom he coached at AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain, a key factor in their attempts to hire the 60-year-old.

Carlo Ancelotti

Ancelotti previously left open the possibility of a move stateside and was allegedly open to moving to the United States following his sacking by Napoli earlier this month. Everton’s ability to offer the former Chelsea, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich coach a much more lucrative contract at Goodison Park priced him out of Miami’s reach.

With Ancelotti off the board, former French international, ex NYCFC and current manager at OGC Nice, Patrick Vieira, is the name that ESPN is now linking to the Miami job. Vieira departed MLS around 18 months ago when he was attracted by the European offer, leaving NYCFC while they were in the midst of a great season.

Patrick Vieira | Photo: Getty Images

Vieira is likely a more obtainable target, and would arrive with the benefit of prior MLS experience. The timing might be right, too. With Nice sitting in tenth place in the Ligue Un table, there are concerns over his security on the Côte d’Azur. Despite being purchased by Ineos, an energy sector company headed by CEO Jim Ratcliffe, Britain’s richest man, earlier this year, Les Aiglons are not where it was hoped they would be at this point in the season, placing the former Arsenal midfield standout under growing pressure.

ESPN also says that Miami is confident of hiring Vieira, however, and that a deal could be struck with Nice before the end of this month.

Vieira had been on the list of potential candidates to become Arsenal’s new manager, but denies he had been contacted: “Was I contacted? No. It’s flattering (to be linked) but I know how lucky I am to be at Nice. I don’t have intention or desire to go elsewhere.” The Gunners appointed Mikel Arteta on a three-and-a-half year deal last week.

In the end, the new head coach could very well be Marcelo Gallardo. Many expected that the announcement would be made shortly after the Copa Libertadores final on November 23rd. Miami remained silent following that game, won by Flamengo, coached by Jorge Jesus. On December 13th, River Plate played their final game of the year, and now has a break until mid-January. If Gallardo is the choice, it may have been the plan, and in both sides’ best interests, to wait to announce him.

It also makes sense when the potential transfer reports are looked at. A December 5th report indicated that Inter Miami has made an offer to River Plate for midfielder Exequiel Palacios. Other names that have been linked to the club have included Ignacio Fernandez, and Juan Fernando Quintero, both of whom also play for River Plate. These are all quality signings and having a familiar coach at the helm would surely ease the transition to Miami. They also have potential future sell-on value, which would be important for Inter Miami. The club have only one designated player, and McDonough previously stated Miami expects to use all three DP slots in the first year. With European contracts running until June 30, any DP brought in from Europe would be miss half of the first season, whereas bringing in a South American player such as Palacios or others could be done in time for the first game. The rumoured transfer fee of $23 million for Ezequiel Palacios would be an MLS record signing and obviously place him in DP land.

Clearly Inter Miami set the bar high in terms of its selection of a head coach. And who can blame them? The club is in a big city in a glamour market, has star-studded ownership and is positioning itself to be MLS’ global team, one which will elevate the league and the game in North America to new heights. If that is your goal, then it stands to reason that finding the right person to lead the team was never going to be an easy task. It’s essential to have a manager, but not just anybody will suffice. It has to be someone whose preferred playing style can fit with the style that David Beckham and Paul McDonough’s want to install at Miami. Fans tend to be impatient, while this club is aiming high and looking at establishing club values for the long term. In two, three, or five years on, it is going to make no difference. As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Keep calm and stay focussed on 2020, Inter Miami fans.

Published by Ken Russo

My work in the business of soccer applies skills acquired in law practice with the commercial, communications and team operations side of the sport. Russo Soccer aims to inform, educate and engage in dialogue on the business and sporting side of the world's game. Um advogado por formação, concentro meu trabalho nos negócios, comunicações e operações de equipes no futebol mundial. | Abogado con fundación avanzada en comunicaciones, enfocado en los negocios del fútbol y las comunicaciones. | Je suis un avocat experimenté dans les affaires de football.

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