When David Beckham chose to hang up his boots in 2013 at LA Galaxy, he was given the chance to buy any MLS franchise for $25m (£17.6m). Talks quickly began over which location he would choose.
In the end, Beckham opted for Miami. His decision was made with the city’s deep-rooted passion for football in mind. The people there love to live the high life and Beckham, a big name and suited to the lavish surroundings, fits in perfectly.
Combine the dedication from loyal supporters with a vibrant and modern project, and you’ve got a winning combination. Or so you would think.
David Beckham’s ownership of MLS club Inter Miami has rapidly unfurled into a nightmare
For Beckham, his grand visions haven’t quite materialised in the way he would have wanted. During Inter Miami’s fledgling days, the Manchester United and Real Madrid great would watch on from his home in the UK.
As his team churned through the gears and became victim to their own disarray, Beckham would grow increasingly frustrated. Due to the time difference, he would often settle down to take in the games in the early hours.
It is not hard to imagine him pulling at his immaculately tousled hair. Deeply affected by the pandemic, his players looked off colour, out of sync and appeared as though they were all total strangers thrown together.
With Phil Neville in charge, Inter Miami have won two games out of their first eight this season
In a way, they were. And as they continue to lurch from low to low, serious questions are now being asked. In short, it’s all going horribly wrong.
This season, Inter Miami have won two of their first eight games in the Eastern Conference under boss Phil Neville. As a result, they sit in 11th, just three spots on the bottom.
At the weekend, DC United, a team struggling in their own right, travelled down to the DRV PNK Stadium and, in front of a crowd of around 16,000, promptly set to work dismantling Inter Miami.
The club’s followers packed into the ground in southern Florida may have kept up a uniquely charged atmosphere, but there was certainly little cause to celebrate. As of yet, their faith hasn’t been rewarded.
Inter Miami lost to DC United at home in a game which laid bare the issues Beckham must solve
Inter Miami supporters have waited over six years to watch their players in action and cheer them on from the stands. With Covid restrictions eased, the arena in Fort Lauderdale was close to its 18,000 capacity for the first ever time.
Having the fanbase in is a big step forward for the expansion team but results will have to change quickly to keep them onside. They were pitched a suave club with lofty ambitions, but what they are seeing doesn’t come close to matching that.
Last season was no better, either. Having first stepped on to the field for a game in February 2020, their season was derailed quickly by the global health crisis. Suddenly, all the suspense and hype built up in the early days was overshadowed.
Their campaign went on to end with a whimper. Trapped behind closed doors, Inter Miami ended the years with seven wins, three draws and thirteen chastening losses. The 10th place finish was a stark contrast to Beckham’s desire for greatness.
The club’s supporters are fiercely loyal and returned in numbers for the clash at the weekend
The cold hard statistics don’t make for welcome reading at the club. After all, they became the first team in the history of the league to lose their first five games. The rot had to be stopped.
Beckham, as soon as he could, stepped forward and got to work. He spent the first 10 months of the pandemic in England, but jetted out to Miami at the end of December. He has largely remained there ever since.
His fingerprints are all over the club, which is very much a reflection of his own characteristics and ambition. He is keen for a high-standard youth system, and believes all his players need to work as hard as they possibly can.
He even contributed to Inter Miami’s striking logo. With him confined thousands of miles away, running the club may have been difficult. But now he is back, the true graft to transform their fortunes is underway.
Beckham’s fingerprints are all over the club and his aim is to turn them into a successful side
It will be a gradual process, though, and it stands on very shaky ground at the moment.
In January, following their exit from the play-offs just a couple of months before, Inter Miami and Beckham brought the axe down on head coach Diego Alonso. Neville was then hired as his successor.
Neville’s arrival has changed the style of play on show, with a quick transition to a more possession-based system. They may be easier on eye, but the results just don’t match the patience shown during fixtures and in the boardroom.
To make matters worse, Gonzalo Higuain and Blaise Matuidi have both endured rocky stars to life in MLS. The two players, formerly of Juventus, were snapped up to much fanfare, but they have looked bedraggled and tired.
Gonzalo Higuain has failed to impress after joining the club and will be expected to improve
Veteran Higuain scored just one goal in nine games last year, and both men will need to step up to the fore and show vast improvement to help Inter Miami get closer to their objectives.
Their saving grace is that time is partially on their side. When they first arrived, they did so following a hectic Serie A campaign in Italy, and were effectively unable to effectively work on themselves.
With an extended offseason under their belts, now is the time for them to kick on. Matuidi will do that dogged by a dark shadow, however, after Inter Miami were hit with a £1.4m fine over financial irregularities.
The damaging punishment came about as a result of MLS’ investigation into the signing of the midfielder. Beckham and other co-owners of the club were cleared of any wrongdoing, but managing owner Jorge Mas was fined £176,000.
Inter Miami were hit with a £1.4m fine after an MLS investigation into Blaise Matuidi’s signing
That was because it was his job to make sure that rules were followed by the club, and Inter Miami have been left truly red-faced by the situation.
The probe discovered that they had contravened team roster designation rules for both Matuidi and Andres Reyes. The club was also guilty of not disclosing agreements that resulted in the under-reporting of salaries for three other players.
Inter Miami claimed that targeted allocation funds were used to lure Matuidi across from Juventus, but MLS ruled that the 34-year-old should have been listed as a designated player instead.
In a further move, MLS also revealed that Miami’s allocation dollars for 2022 and 2023 have been slashed by more than two million.
Former Manchester United team-mates Neville (C) and Beckham (R) are at the helm of the club
All of this has played out on the global stage, with the eyes of the word firmly fixed on Beckham’s stardom and his attempts to transform Inter Miami into one of the greatest clubs in the world. This pressure means every twist and turn is scrutinised.
It may be a gradual development, but the early years of the club’s existence have been consumed in chaos.
Former Inter Miami sporting director Paul McDonough, who was suspended by the league through next season as a result of the Matuidi saga, was interviewed during the days leading up to the club taking their first steps in MLS.
He stood on the site where work was underway on the site of Lockhart Stadium to build a new complex. ‘Organised chaos,’ he said, describing the project around him. ‘But we’ll be ready.’
Beckham’s stardom and playing career means Inter Miami are placed under heavy scrutiny
It quickly materialised that, in many ways, they weren’t.
Even the hiring of Neville, one of Beckham’s old Class of ’92 colleagues and a close friend, was placed under the microscope. Inter Miami’s co-owner was forced to defend his decision to the hilt.
‘I’ve known him since I was 15, 16 years old, from a young kid,’ Beckham explained. ‘I knew what he was like as a player, I know what he’s like as a human being, I know what his work ethic is like.
‘Him and his brother Gary, I’ve never seen two players work as hard at their game in my whole career.
The club’s slow start to the season hints at a lack of progression from their struggles last term
‘So to actually have someone like that come into this club – of course, people are always going to turn around and say, “oh, it’s because he’s your friend” – it’s nothing to do with him being my friend.
‘I’m an owner of a club with Jorge [Mas]. Our ownership group doesn’t just employ our friends, we employ the best people whether it’s on the field, off the field, in our backroom staff.
‘We’re running a serious soccer club. We hire people we feel are best suited for the job.’
The key word is indeed ‘serious’. Beckham is determined to lead Inter Miami from their inception to silverware glory and the grand schemes ticking away behind the scenes all point towards that.
Beckham was forced to defend handing Neville the reins and insisted the club are ‘serious’
The club will play at Lockhart Stadium for two seasons, with an expectation that they will then move to the 25,000 capacity Miami Freedom Park, which is currently under construction, in 2022.
The schematics for that reveal a sleek, on-brand home that will hold Inter Miami as one of the modern MLS bastions. Currently, however, their performances and results don’t tally up to the potential, leaving Beckham with plenty to fix still.
Despite playing in the Champions League and battling away for trophies during his career, this may very well prove to be his toughest challenge yet.