I don’t know whether Phil Neville will be a good MLS manager or if he was the best man for the Inter Miami CF job. I don’t know if the hiring process for the club’s second head coach will turn out better than the one that delivered Diego Alonso and resulted in wholesale changes just a year later.
No point pretending. There’s a lot I don’t know. There’s a lot we don’t know.
What I do know is that Neville is David Beckham’s guy. I know that trust matters in situations like these, and that trust deteriorated in 2020. I know that competitive people don’t take losing or underperformance lightly. I know that Beckham is such a person, and I expect whatever Inter Miami become between the lines from here on out will have his fingerprints all over it.
What did Inter Miami learn from year No. 1 of their MLS existence? The turnover in the front office and on the bench said it all. They will not settle. Beckham needs to (and wants to) have his hands in the dough that shapes the soccer product. He clearly took 2020’s soccer stops, starts and stutters personally. His opinions, his expectations and his network will guide the club from here on out.
And while I don’t know whether Neville will work out or not – he simply doesn’t have the résumé or track record as a manager to make grand proclamations, other than there is obviously risk involved – I know Inter Miami did the smart thing and hedged their managerial bet by adding MLS expertise to a front office and coaching staff lacking in that regard.
It might not have been the headline discussed on Sky Sports, but hiring Chris Henderson, one of the most respected talent evaluators and roster builders in the entire league, away from the Seattle Sounders to be the club’s chief soccer officer and sporting director is the sort of savvy move that makes me believe Miami will be OK no matter how well Neville settles.
Neville may very well change the culture in what was reportedly a fractured locker room. Neville may very well get the most from a roster that underperformed in a wild expansion year that would have tested any group. Neville may very well step into the job and set Miami on an upward trajectory in what remain challenging conditions for any manager.
Neville may very well right the ship in the short term (or he may not, of course). What the former England women’s national team manager won’t do is obsess over the roster minutiae required to construct an MLS roster capable of competing year over year and not just in short, salary-cap imploding bursts. What he won’t know is what kind of players translate to this league and where they fit into the alphabet soup of the roster rules.
Neville’s job is to win. He’s got Gonzalo Higuain, Rodolfo Pizarro, Blaise Matuidi, Lewis Morgan, two veteran center backs and more signings coming. Henderson’s job is to give him – or the next manager – a sporting system that fills the roster with the players needed to win. Both can play to their strengths.
Both, clearly, have Beckham and the Mas brothers’ trust and belief. It’s no guarantee for success, but it’s much better than the alternative.