Matuidi, 33, has played the last few seasons with Juventus after spending the majority of the 2010s with PSG. He won seven league titles between the two superclubs and the 2018 FIFA World Cup with France, where he was an integral piece and started the final against Croatia. He made 295 appearances with PSG and 133 appearances with Juventus over the last three seasons. Matuidi remained an important player for the Italian champions this past season, making 23 league starts (35 appearances) in Serie A.
His talent is obvious, but as always is the case, context is everything.
Report out there that this is a free transfer, but I gotta believe salary alone would make Matuidi Miami's third DP.— Sam Stejskal (@samstejskal) August 10, 2020
If that's so, this move is kind of confusing. I'm sure he'll do great, but he's A) Not the striker they so badly need B) Not exactly a move-the-needle type star. https://t.co/GxEO9Ib77Z
Nothing is official yet, but according to ESPN's Julien Laurens, Matuidi will indeed occupy the club's third Designated Player slot. Fan and media reaction has honed in on that fact in critiques: Is this the DP Miami needed?
Laurens also reports that he's taking a pay cut to help facilitate the move, perhaps signaling cap flexibility moving forward. Currently, the maximum salary a player can make in MLS and not be registered as a Designated Player is around $1.53 million. If the transfer fee for Matuidi is indeed free, then there's a faint possibility his deal could be bought down with allocation money, keeping open a valuable DP slot for the expansion club.
If Matuidi's salary is more than $1.53 million, as would be expected with his stature, quality and experience, Miami would have to get creative to open another DP slot. Sporting director Paul McDonough and his team registered Julian Carranza below the DP threshold despite the player reportedly being bought for $6 million. A player's budget charge is his salary plus transfer fee, amortized over the player's contract. Matias Pellegrini was reportedly acquired for much more and ditto for Rodolfo Pizarro, meaning there may not be any cap gymnastics possible to free up another DP slot for the time being.
McDonough has also said on a few occasions that the club would sign players in a similar stature on the squad. During his time with Orlando City SC, the club acquired global superstar Kaka and didn't have anyone near his stratosphere. Matuidi would be Miami's only World Cup winner, but Roman Torres appeared at the 2018 World Cup. Pizarro, meanwhile, is a Mexico international and, although he was controversially omitted from the country's last World Cup squad, he stared at the 2019 Gold Cup for El Tri.
All that's to say: Perhaps there will be another former World Cup and Champions League veteran on Miami's radar to fulfill McDonough's vision, or the club believe Matuidi will relate with one of the current experienced players on the team.
"I think the thing with Atlanta, the young DPs all were similar age and I think that was really, really important,” McDonough told Sam Stejskal, then of MLSsoccer.com, in March of 2019. “... Whereas in Orlando, you had Kaká and a bunch of young kids we were trying to build around. And in all honesty, it probably just wasn’t fair to Kaká. You look back on it and that’s my concern, if I brought one big DP in, I would need to bring some guys in that had experiences that mean they’re basically allowed to be in the same dressing room as that guy, that have the experiences of playing in big games at big clubs and things like that.”
McDonough has also said that type of player may not always necessarily be a DP, pending where they are in their career. Even if Matuidi is the final DP, there's still room. McDonough told MLSsoccer.com's Charles Boehm last month that the club are still looking to add a No. 8 and a winger/striker. Matuidi appears to be the No. 8.
Regardless of where he falls on the roster designation, Matuidi will walk straight into the Miami XI and raise its quality. He's a dynamic central midfielder that excels in a box-to-box role, one he could play alongside Wil Trapp in a 4-2-3-1/3-4-3 or ahead of Trapp and Victor Ulloa in a 4-3-3.
While he's not a traditional chance-creating No. 10, Matt Doyle thinks he'll add a ton of creative value in Miami's midfield. Matuidi even played as an inverted type of winger for France during their World Cup run.
People think of "creativity" as only one thing and that makes me sad.— Matthew Doyle (@MattDoyle76) August 10, 2020
For the record: Matuidi's movement out of central midfield has always been smart and creative as hell. He will instantly give Miami more passing options & a more dynamic attack.https://t.co/lsrC0RUSJz
Miami can already form a starting XI replete with current internationals at both the senior and youth levels, but they may soon add a World Cup winner to that group. Now, it's all about seeing how Matuidi falls into the budget parameters and which pieces could follow suit.