David Beckham isn’t the kind of global superstar to settle for second best.
He never did as a player, and he certainly won’t begin now he’s the man in charge of a club attempting to make the kind of waves he experienced at the likes of Manchester United and Real Madrid.
Yet as his Inter Miami side have stumbled their way into Major League Soccer, hurdling myriad problems on and off the pitch ever since Beckham announced his intentions to own a franchise in 2014, the former England captain has been forced to dig deep and sit tight.
It’s not been easy.
Man Utd legend David Beckham isn’t the kind of global superstar to settle for second best
‘Yes I have had to learn to have a little bit more patience, which my wife will tell you I don’t really have that much of,’ said Beckham.
‘But as an owner, and someone that has high expectations, you have to have a little bit.
‘I’ve needed it over the last eight years to bring this club into this great city and into this league. And in the last two years, I have had to learn to have even more.
‘Everybody knows the expectations and pressures that we have. Yes, the last couple of years haven’t lived up to exactly what we wanted. But I think when we step back and look at the last eight years, I’m very proud of what we’ve achieved.’
Co-owner Jorge Mas is ploughing ahead with plans to build a $1 billion stadium and business park resplendent with shops and hotels near Miami airport although a sea of red tape and legal wranglings have left the plans, once again, in flux.
A key vote regarding the lease of the current site at Melreese golf course takes place early next month but, for now, their DRV PNK Stadium base in Fort Lauderdale, which doubles as a training centre, remains home.
So while finally getting the club on the field was indeed an achievement in itself, producing where it really counts – on the pitch – has proved far more problematic.
Old friend Phil Neville walked into an almighty mess last year left by former manager Diego Alonso – who now is leading Uruguay’s World Cup qualification hopes – and although his first campaign was bitterly disappointing with just 12 wins all season ensuring the minimum aim of reaching the play-offs wasn’t achieved, ahead of the 2022 opener on Saturday against the Chicago Fire and new star signing Xherdan Shaqiri, Inter Miami are rebooted and refreshed.
But Beckham’s Inter Miami side have endured a difficult couple of years in the MLS
His old friend Phil Neville (L) inherited an almighty mess when he became Miami boss last year
With allocated transfer money reduced following a lengthy MLS investigation into the signing of Blaise Matuidi, the French World Cup winning midfielder, from Juventus in the summer of 2020, which found the club guilty of a series of financial irregularities, the task of attempting to emulate reigning champions, the Abu Dhabi owned New York City FC, has become harder.
Nevertheless, Neville and highly experienced sporting director Chris Henderson have worked the transfer market well and re-energised the squad.
A significant raft of changes have seen 15 players from last season’s roster leave including higher earning Designated players like Rodolfo Pizarro, the Mexican international, and Matuidi, who is in discussions to end his contract a year early, whose departures have freed up space in what was an underperforming group.
The most intriguing arrival is Leonardo Campana, the Ecuador international forward on-loan from Wolverhampton Wanderers, who will aim to take the pressure off star player Gonzalo Higuain, who at 34 years-old is potentially entering the final season of his glittering career. Former Newcastle and Sunderland full-back DeAndre Yedlin has signed from Galatasaray and will add pace and experience to the backline.
Beckham has made a number of significant changes to Miami’s roster this season
He has signed ex-Newcastle star DeAndre Yedlin and Wolves loanee Leonardo Campana
The pressure is on Beckham and Neville, who arrived on a two year-deal and is under no illusions about the task in hand. The dynamic between the former Old Trafford team-mates is an intriguing element of the Inter Miami story.
Are the duo who famously came through the ranks together at Old Trafford all those years ago still close?
Neville claims they haven’t been for dinner much recently as pals yet Beckham smiled when reflecting on their relationship.
‘I think that that has definitely been evident more on Phil’s side than probably my side,’ said the 46 year-old when asked if their friendship has changed. ‘He’s always been a bit of a comic, believe it or not, but obviously, our relationship has always been professional.
‘He understands the situation and everything that has been done behind the scenes, has been very impressive. And that’s one of the reasons why we as owners wanted to bring someone like Phil in because it wasn’t just his experience in the game.
Beckham (L) insists he will remain friends with Neville (centre) regardless of what happens
‘His professionalism, hard work, his commitment, for me, was one of the biggest reasons in bringing him into this club. Stability is important and of course, we need to be successful on the field.
‘When you look at the great clubs around the world – Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool – the work that Jurgen Klopp has done within Liverpool behind the scenes is one of the reasons why they’re so successful on the field.
‘And, that’s why I think the work that Phil has done has been incredible. But talking about us as friends, we’ll always be friends, no matter what happens.’
Neville knows with Beckham’s global appeal, second best simply isn’t an option. Alex Ferguson drilled it into both of them during the Old Trafford glory years and Neville lives by that ethos.
‘We had to rebuild with the right personalities and now we have players who are unproven and that makes it exciting, ‘ said Neville whose son Harvey, 19, is set to join the first team squad from Miami’s sister club once his green card application is approved.
‘When you talk about the ownership, they want to do things bigger and better and be different from everybody else.
‘We want to stick our heads above the parapet and be a global team. We want to build a brand and a fan base and I know from my experience at United how that is done.
‘I was part of a club who were the pioneers of growing a brand and we have the best here. We will always be there to be shot at and criticised but that’s where we want to be.’
Neville and Beckham’s vision to grow a global brand in Miami would certainly be helped by the arrival of one of the best footballers on the planet. In recent months, talk of a potential move for Barcelona legend and now PSG superstar Lionel Messi has surfaced.
While refusing to comment specifically on their chances of bringing Messi to the club, Beckham recently told the Miami Herald: ‘I’ve always said I want the best players in our club and playing in our shirt because there’s a certain expectation.
Beckham’s franchise have also been linked with a move for PSG superstar Lionel Messi
He admits signing a big player like Messi for his Miami outfit has always been in his plans
‘Unfortunately, sometimes it can be a bad thing. But most of the time it’s a good thing. When I first started this project, people were saying ‘This guy is coming, that guy is coming, [Cristiano] Ronaldo is coming, Messi’s coming.’
‘At the end of the day, we need to win, whether it’s with the young kids or stars. Our fans will be happy if we have stars on the team, but they’ll be even happier if they’re seeing young players coming through our academy and lifting the MLS Cup.’
Neville’s new look, younger team have enjoyed a decent pre-season which culminated in winning a four team pre-season tournament in Charleston, South Carolina although the jury is out on what is possible ahead of the new campaign.
Beckham certainly believes the only way is up.
‘Do we have that patience for too much longer?’ he said. ‘Of course not, because we’re winners. Yes, there’s been a lot of changes but we’re looking forward to this season. We now have players who will fight for the jersey and that’s the most important thing.’