There has been a long list of players linked with Inter Miami in recent months, and the expansion side finally filled its third and final Designated Player slot by officially announcing the signing of Argentine forward Gonzalo Higuain.
Higuain has been one of Europe's most prolific strikers for years, scoring plenty of goals at Real Madrid, breaking the single-season Serie A goals record at Napoli and most recently featuring for Juventus.
His move to Miami materialized following a conversation with Inter part owner David Beckham, who uncovered the mutual interest in a potential move. The IMCF front office took it from there, with the support of the rest of the ownership group.
“David always gets contacted by people, curious about the project and if it’d be a spot for them," sporting director Paul McDonough told MLSsoccer.com. "When you look at the last two guys, David’s relationship with Blaise (Matuidi) and Gonzalo played key factors in the players coming here with his vision of the project and the support of our other owners. We’re really fortunate in that way. … Having David’s global connections is a massive advantage for us.”
McDonough added that Juventus were "great partners" in the deals that eventually landed Matuidi and Higuain in Miami.
And Inter Miami also benefited from the transfer market upheaval of 2020. When the sports world came to a halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic this winter, it was believed that MLS clubs would stand to find deals as clubs overseas came to grips with the economic impact of the stoppage. Miami were prepared for the right opportunity.
“The pandemic, as difficult as it’s been, afforded us the opportunity to bring Leandro (Gonzalez Pirez) back," McDonough said regarding his acquisition of the former Atlanta United center back. "Blaise said this was an adventure he wanted to take and it also allowed us to get Gonzalo. We feel fortunate to be in this position.”
Exclusive: Gonzalo Higuain interview
With all of the intrigue surrounding the club's final DP slot out of the way, the focus can now shift to how Higuain will fit in Miami. He won't be available for Inter's Week 12 match on Saturday against Atlanta as he continues to await his visa. McDonough doesn't have a detailed timeline for his debut, but what he does know is that the Argentine will produce.
“I think he’ll score a lot of goals in the league," McDonough said. "I know there are guys who have come in this league to score a lot of goals, but really no one with this pedigree but Zlatan. He has this pedigree of scoring goals and he’s got plenty in the tank.”
At his prior stops, Higuain has been the model of consistency at the highest level in Europe, scoring double-digit goals in every single season between 2008-'09 and 2019-'20. After Juventus acquired Cristiano Ronaldo, Higuain received fewer minutes than typical, but he still delivered eight goals in 1,800 minutes.
And experienced star goalscorers have had a track record of excelling in MLS. Ibrahimovic was one of the top scorers in the league across his two seasons, while Robbie Keane didn't slow down with the Galaxy and David Villa was a scoring machine for NYCFC.
“We watched him a lot this last year," McDonough said. "When you look at the impact Villa and Keane had on their teams, it allowed us to really believe Gonzalo was going to do really well in MLS.”
Miami now have all three DPs in attacking positions, including Matias Pellegrini and Mexican national teamer Rodolfo Pizarro. With their defensive foundation in place – center backs LGP, Nico Figal and Andres Reyes anchoring the team, as well as Matuidi, Victor Ulloa and Wil Trapp in the midfield – the club was clear to use its DP slots on attacking talent.
Miami head coach Diego Alonso has already shown tactical flexibility switching up his preferred 4-2-3-1 system with a 3-4-2-1 formation. So McDonough doesn't worry about young forwards Julian Carranza and Robbie Robinson having the chance to earn minutes. Higuain's impact on the players should also prove invaluable.
"When you have the experience of Gonzalo Higuain to mentor two young players, it helps," McDonough said. "Having Blaise in the building, when you look at the professionalism they have, it’s contagious to those in the club. You’re talking about players who have done it at the highest level in international soccer in the world. They’re good pros, they’re good mentors. All guys need to do is watch how they carry themselves on and off the field. It can only help.”
McDonough also believes these deals will only open more opportunities for the club down the line.
“Blaise coming here and believing in the project was a catalyst for us with Gonzalo and it will be for future moves, too. Now that you have Blaise and Gonzalo here, people will ask ‘How is it?’ They can say the facilities are great, the project is great so maybe you should come here.”