Monday, June 24, 2024

SPORTS | 02-06-2023 09:52

As Messi rumours swirl, an Argentine takes charge in Miami

If Lionel Messi is really considering an offer to join Inter Miami, he may have noticed with interest that a fellow Argentine took charge of the MLS team on Thursday.

If Lionel Messi is, as some reports suggest, considering an offer to join Inter Miami then he may have noticed with interest that a fellow Argentine took charge of the MLS team on Thursday.

Struggling Miami sacked their English coach Phil Neville and his experienced American assistant Jason Kreis and promoted Javier Morales to take charge of the side as interim head coach.

There is now a distinctly Argentine feel to the club – as well as Morales, goalkeeping coach Sebastián Saja played four times for the national side and eight years with Argentine club San Lorenzo.

Federico Higuaín, the brother of former Argentina and Real Madrid forward Gonzalo Higuaín, is the head coach of Inter's reserve team, assisted by compatriot Cristián Raúl Ledesma.

There are several South American players in the squad including Argentine defender Franco Negri and forward Nicolás Stefanelli while the club's brightest young prospect, Miami-born Benjamín Cremaschi, was called up to an Argentina Under-20 camp in December.

It may, of course, be entirely coincidental that just as Messi runs out of contract with Paris St Germain and amid reports that he has an offer from Miami as well as lucrative option in Saudi Arabia, Miami have placed an Argentine in charge of the team.

But the idea that the 35-year-old Messi might move to the South Florida sunshine, ahead of a Copa América final bow, in the United States in 2024, has not been discouraged by either the club or by Major League Soccer itself – neither of whom have ever distanced themselves from the reports.

It would, of course, require an unprecedented investment to lure the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner to MLS but the club hope the chance to end his career with a lucrative deal in a heavily Spanish speaking community proves tempting.

And it was noticeable that of Neville's two assistants, it was not Kreis, who as a coach who was MLS Cup winner at Real Salt Lake before spells with New York City and Orlando, but the much less experienced Morales, a player under Kreis in Salt Lake, who was given the interim job.

Whatever the reasoning behind that decision, Morales certainly has a tough task to turn Miami's season around.

Neville's final game was a fourth straight defeat with a 1-0 loss at home to the New York Red Bulls which left the team rooted to the bottom of the Eastern Conference and in 27th place out of the 29 team league.

It was a loss too far for the team's fans who turned on the coach, unveiling a 'Neville Out' banner and then booing his 20-year-old son Harvey after he came on as a substitute.

Miami have lost ten of their 15 games so far this season and their hopes of improving on last year's first round playoff exit, are quickly fading.

The following day, Miami's owners, who include Neville's long-standing friend and former United team-mate David Beckham, made the decision to fire the Englishman.

Neville had been looking forward to facing another ex-United star, Wayne Rooney, whose D.C. United team travel to South Florida on Saturday.

After finishing bottom of the East last season, D.C. United have had a solid start to the campaign and are inside the playoff qualification slots in eighth place.

Saturday also sees a derby in the Pacific Northwest between Western Conference leaders Seattle and the Portland Timbers with the Sounders looking to bounce back from Wednesday's loss to San Jose.

FC Cincinnati, who lead the East by eight points, host the Chicago Fire.

by Simon Evans, AFP


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