Inter Miami's Barcelona loss is the latest low in their short history

Inter Miami’s humbling by Barcelona is the latest blow to David Beckham’s MLS franchise… Phil Neville’s side are struggling to make the playoffs, big earners are not firing and they are still to break ground on their new stadium

  • Inter Miami’s 6-0 defeat by Barcelona was the latest low of franchise’s history
  • Co-owned by David Beckham, Inter Miami are teetering in midtable in MLS
  • They missed out on the playoffs last year and were fined for financial breaches
  • If Phil Neville doesn’t turn things around, he could be relieved of his duties
  • Inter Miami did get the green light to build their lavish new stadium, however 

Phil Neville probably thought a midseason friendly against Barcelona would offer Inter Miami some respite from an MLS campaign that is teetering on a fine line between success and failure.

Instead, an expected drubbing by Xavi’s far superior side only highlighted the lack of quality at his disposal and the work David Beckham and his fellow owners still have to do to get them to where they want to be.

The ultimate success that the club’s ownership group craves – dominance of MLS – is still a long, long way away. But as it stands there is at least a shot of making it into the end of season playoffs.

Phil Neville watched on as his Inter Miami side were thrashed 6-0 by Barcelona in a friendly

David Beckham’s MLS franchise are battling just to make it through to the playoffs this season

Inter Miami continue to play their home matches at a temporary facility near Fort Lauderdale

Full name: Club Internacional de Fútbol Miami

League: MLS (Major League Soccer)

Nickname: The Herons

Head Coach: Phil Neville

President: David Beckham

Stadium: DRV PNK Stadium

Capacity: 18,000 

First match: March 1, 2020

Owners: David Beckham, Marcelo Claure, Jorge and Jose Mas, Masayoshi Son

That would be an improvement on last season when Inter Miami missed out on the postseason entirely. But seven wins from 20 matches this year has them in contention, even if it also shows how far off the pace they are.

Neville had described their friendly with Barcelona – the five-time Champions League winners – as Inter Miami’s ‘biggest game’ and it was a chance to give the struggling franchise a much-needed profile boost on the world stage.

With a full house of 19,113 in attendance to see genuine European quality, it’s fair to say the gulf in class was monumental. Barcelona’s new $66.3million signing Raphinha shone with a goal and two assists as the Spanish giants cruised to a 6-0 win.

With fellow new boy Robert Lewandowski watching from the stands, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Ansu Fati, Gavi, Memphis Depay and Ousmane Dembele also hit the back of the net on another chastening night in Inter Miami’s history. 

‘It was a brilliant occasion to play, you could feel the buzz in the air, the supporters,’ said a surprisingly upbeat Neville afterwards.

‘We now experienced what a sold out DRV PNK feels like and I think from a playing point of view, the game was always going to be, for us, something to enjoy.

‘I thought it was a brilliant learning experience for all involved, I thought that we had to dig in, we had to fight.’ 

But can you really enjoy a 6-0 drubbing, Phil? Probably not. Add to that a rather routine 2-0 defeat by the reigning MLS champions New York City on Saturday, and this season looks quickly to be another falling by the wayside under Beckham and his co-owners’ leadership.

Inter Miami overhauled their squad in the offseason, removing some big earners from the club

The positives are that Inter Miami are sat three points behind Cincinnati – who hold the final playoff spot in MLS’ Eastern Conference – with a game in hand.

They have claimed some impressive wins this season, most notably back-to-back home victories over the New York Red Bulls and Portland Timbers in May.

But last week’s win over Charlotte was their first in four matches and just 22 goals scored in 20 league matches shows they are not the most exciting to watch.

There has been very little to get excited about for Beckham’s ambitious American dream. He stuck $40m of his own cash into the club and has seen little return so far.

When Neville took over in January 2021, he insisted the franchise had ‘a clean slate to build something bigger and better than anything else in America.’

‘Not just America but even world renowned,’ he added.

How foolish those bold proclamations look now. Inter Miami had the highest wage bill in the league last season and didn’t even make the playoffs.

Neville is yet to prove himself to be the man capable of delivering the success that Beckham and his ownership want

They cut back significantly during the offseason and gave Neville’s squad a huge transformation with big earners like Blaise Matuidi, Rodolfo Pizarro and Matias Pellegrini all either shipped out on loan or moved on.

There has been little reward for changing strategy though, with a playoff spot far from guaranteed in the second year of Neville’s time in charge.

The word nepotism was thrown around with great frequency when Neville, a former teammate of Beckham for both Manchester United and England and co-owner at Salford City, was chosen as the successor to Diego Alonso.

Neville’s spell in charge of England Women was, in the end, underwhelming. He had one SheBelieves Cup to show over four years. Those who follow the Lionesses weren’t too sad to see him go. 

And then came a call from Miami. Media members in Florida and fans of the franchise expansion team were underwhelmed. It seems their hunch was right after all.

‘Phil Neville was not handed the Inter Miami job. Phil Neville earned the job,’ Jorge Mas, the club’s managing owner, said. 

‘The fact that he’s David’s friend is a reality and no one runs from that. Actually, we embrace it.’ 

What exactly had he done to earn it? Many felt he fell short of expectations with a talented Lionesses team and it was not as if he could lean on a wealth of experience in MLS.

In their inaugural season Inter Miami finished 10th in the Eastern Conference, of 12 teams. It was fine, no more than that, as they found their feet under Alves.

Captain Gonzalo Higuain earns $5m a year but has scored just 17 goals in 56 appearances

But Beckham, along with co-owners Marcelo Claure, Jorge Mas, Jose Mas and Masayoshi Son, wanted to kick on to a new level and so more funding, more players, more goals and more wins. Funny how plans don’t always come together. 

Captain Gonzalo Higuain, the big-money arrival from Juventus in 2020 who earns £4.2m a year, has scored 17 goals in 56 appearances for the club. Hardly with the outlay.

The club’s brazen pursuit of success led to a breach of MLS salary cap rules in May 2021, leading to a record fine for any team in the division. 

MLS has a salary cap of $9.225m for every team’s squad. There is an exception under ‘The Designated Player Rule’, also ironically known as the ‘Beckham Rule’, which allows teams to sign up to three players who are outside the team’s salary cap.

Inter Miami designated Higuain, Pellegrini and Pizarro as the three to exceed the cap. But Matuidi signed a marketing agreement that added to his total compensation going over the salary cap, placing Inter Miami outside the rules. 

Perhaps that is what prompted the wide-scale changes in personnel, which have seen their wage bill plummet in the last 12 months. 

It remains to be seen how much time Beckham and Co will give Neville to make them a force

Former Premier League pair Kieran Gibbs and DeAndre Yedlin have both joined on free transfers in the past 12 months, while MLS veteran Alejandro Pozuelo was a big-name signing last month. It’s hoped his experience can secure a playoff berth in the coming weeks.

If cries of nepotism could be heard when Neville got the manager’s job, he had to defend his decision to bring on son Harvey and Romeo Beckham during the game against Barcelona.

Harvey, 20, was introduced at half-time while Beckham Jnr was brought on in the 86th minute. Neville insisted they had ‘earned the right’ to play. Beckham is yet to feature in MLS, while Neville made his league debut back in May.

Amid the mediocrity on the pitch, Beckham and the club’s ownership group finally got a boost in their efforts to build a new stadium in April after the process had been plagued by problems.

For now, Inter Miami continue to play their home matches not at the downtown state-of-the-art stadium they had planned but a temporary facility outside of Fort Lauderdale.

But the club finally got the green light to push ahead with the construction of a 25,000-seat stadium that will be part of the Miami Freedom Park project, a 58-acre green space and tech hub that will include shops and restaurants.

The club finally got the green light to push ahead with their stunning new 25,000-seat stadium

Inter Miami are eyeing a 2025 launch and Beckham will be hoping his team is in a better position on the pitch than they are now.

In fact, at the start of this season, Beckham issued a pretty clear warning that if the owners don’t start to see results soon then they will not hesitate to change things up.

‘What have we learned the last two years?’ he said before the season started.

‘Have a little bit of patience which I don’t have much of but as an owner and someone who has high expectations needs to have a little bit.

‘We have to be patient but do we have that patience much longer?

‘Of course not because we are winners and have expectations.’

Neville is just over halfway through the regular season schedule with 13 matches still to play. If Inter Miami cannot begin to piece together a run of form that propels them into the playoffs, change may be on the horizon.

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