Yes, Inter Miami CF head coach Phil Neville and co-owner David Beckham are longtime friends.
But that doesn’t cloud or soften expectations shared by the former England internationals and Manchester United teammates, whose relationship stems back several decades.
“At the end of the day, this is David Beckham's football club and he wants to win,” Neville said on The Call Up. “He doesn't settle for anything other – second place for him is losing, third place is losing. First place is the only place he wants to be and I realize that.
“I think when you have an ownership [group] like we have, there's no gray areas. You have to win. And that's what I say to the players: My expectation is we’ve got to win every game and that's where we want to be.”
Beckham and his fellow owners brought Neville onboard ahead of the 2021 MLS season, all after he led the England women’s national team. His first season in south Florida proved bumpy, but near-wholesale roster changes have the Herons firmly vying for an Audi 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs spot with Designated Players Gonzalo Higuain and Alejandro Pozuelo driving their attack.
There’s no assumption, Neville noted, his ties to Beckham will provide long-term managerial safety. Yet that’s not necessarily a bad thing, he said, separating personal life from business and professional endeavors.
“I've said from day one that I think we'll both know when the time comes to look at each other and shake hands and say let's get back to being best friends and not boss and employee,” Neville said.
It’s a fine line to walk, undoubtedly, but Neville said expectations are clear.
“I think the biggest thing I would say about David and the Mas brothers is that they want to win,” Neville said. “Their expectation is to win MLS this season even though we've talked about competing and building and the foundation.
“They want to win every single game, so when we don't win, they are not very happy, and I'm under no illusions that my job remit is to bring success to this football club. And if I can't bring success to this football club, then they will bring somebody in that will bring success.”
Neville also offered a behind-the-scenes glimpse into Beckham’s presence around the club. He’s been hands-on, to varying degrees, since their MLS inception got underway in 2020 – but Neville said there’s a fine line that’s never crossed.
“You’re talking about one of the most famous, iconic figures in the world,” Neville said of the former LA Galaxy star whose MLS arrival started the Designated Player rule. “And he comes in and acts as if he's no different than anybody else. He watches the 13s, the 14s, the Under-15s, 16s – he goes and watches the MLS [NEXT Pro] side more than he watches us.
“And what he does do is brings a sense of support, support that I'm here backing you. But he never, ever, ever interferes. And he's someone who's amassed so much business and sporting knowledge with his playing career, but he never ever comes to me and says 'Pick this team.' He never, ever comments on players. He just offers support. That, from an owner, is a great example to be like.”
For more from Neville, check out his full The Call Up interview here.