National Writer: Charles Boehm

Barcelona to Miami: Jordi Alba explains move to join Messi, Busquets

Jordi Alba MIA

After touching down in south Florida over the weekend and logging his first few training sessions with his new club, Jordi Alba is getting a crash course in all things MLS and Inter Miami. In the meantime, he’s keeping it simple, understandably.

Speaking to reporters for the first time on Tuesday, one day before the Herons host in-state rivals Orlando City in a Leagues Cup Round of 32 clash at DRV PNK Stadium (8 pm ET | MLS Season Pass), the Spanish fullback was asked what he wanted to win with Miami.

“Whatever tournaments we play in,” said Alba in Spanish with a flash of a smile as he sat next to head coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino.

“For years I have been fortunate to win everything with [FC] Barcelona and almost everything with the [Spanish] national team. But this project is very interesting for me,” added Miami’s latest galactico. “I'm here to compete, to win, to play the best possible way, to take care of myself. I'm a very competitive player and this project is very familiar. That's why I made the decision to come here. There is solid, hard work behind it … the team, the coaching staff, the executives of the club – I’ve been here for three, four days and it seems to me that I've been here all my life.”

After 11 years at Barça, where he struck up a profound chemistry with his fellow Herons Lionel Messi and Sergio Busquets, Alba is eager to dive into the next chapter in his career and could well make his debut Wednesday.

“Yes, I'm very happy to be together with Busi and Leo again. But it's not only the three of us, there are a number of players that are very good,” said Alba, a European champion at both club and international level. “They have shown that quality and we are here to win all the games we can. We’re fortunate to have trained with Coach Tata before; we know him, he knows us well.

“We will try to help our teammates, and we'll learn from them as well. They have more experience in this kind of league and I’m very happy about this challenge, and very happy to start.”

Barcelona legends reunite

With their full trio of Barça alums now on hand, IMCF have gained a major infusion of technical excellence and elite soccer IQ. It’s Martino’s job to incorporate that into the squad as quickly and smoothly as possible.

“It is important to see how they are adapting themselves to the fact of playing with these three footballers of this caliber, who played for a team that – in my opinion – changed the game of soccer, and they were key players in that team,” said Martino of his side.

“This could be a heavy weight for these players, especially the younger players, or they can take advantage of this and grow next to the three of them. What we have seen is that they are growing. They are not in the shadows of the three players. No, they're willing to thrive and to grow and to learn with these three guys and their experience.”

Martino declined to explicitly confirm whether or not Alba would take the field against Orlando. But he sounded pleased with the individual work the attack-minded left back put in on his own in Spain over the previous two weeks, a personal preseason of sorts as he waited for his move to be finalized, and welcomed his and his partner Romarey Ventura’s third child, Paolo, into the world.

Now he must acclimate to the heat and humidity of midsummer in Florida as his new team aims to engineer a dramatic turnaround in the 2023 season’s final months.

“It's not easy to train by yourself, but I was in touch with the coach here at Inter Miami,” explained Alba. “I worked hard to be competitive when I arrived. I wanted to train together with my teammates and get to know them personally. [So] I am physically OK, and the next weeks I will be much better, though I have to adapt to the weather first. It's significant.”

Why Miami

With Messi, Busquets and striker Leo Campana already occupying IMCF’s Designated Player slots, Alba will not be a DP, meaning that his annual salary cannot be larger than the approximately $1.6 million maximum for Targeted Allocation Money signings. Whatever the specifics turn out to be, that suggests he’s taken a marked pay cut from the lofty numbers he was on at FCB.

On Tuesday Alba made clear that money was not the top priority in his decision to join Miami.

“It's true that I had other offers on the table,” he said. “But I think the decision to come here was the right one … I had offers that involved more money. I think it was important to me to feel valued; I trust the people at the club, I also trust the mister [Martino, who managed him at Barcelona in 2013-14]. This option touched me as the one I liked the most, and it’s an exciting project for me. I also saw the desire they had for me to come here.”

Alba also spoke of his old friend Messi, who he believes has found a new equilibrium after finally leading Argentina to a World Cup title last fall.

“Now he's facing a new challenge, that is to play in Miami,” said the Spaniard, “and we're here to help him, all the team, the staff. There is a great atmosphere. He's feeling well, he's feeling loved. That's very important. He has won everything, yeah, and more. But he's still willing to compete, to win.”