Was Hiring Phil Neville At Inter Miami A Good Move?
Inter Miami co-owner David Beckham has been forced to continually defend his decision to appoint Phil Neville as the club’s manager this season. The former England captain was accused of nepotism after handing the job to one of his best friends following the departure of Diego Alonso. The Uruguayan coach had won just seven of his 24 games in charge of the expansion franchise, so the hierarchy decided to make a change. Eyebrows were raised when the coveted role went to Neville, whose only previous managerial experience came during a relatively underwhelming period as England women’s head coach. Beckham bristled at suggestions that Neville was hired due to friendship. “It’s nothing to do with him being my friend,” said Neville. “Our ownership group don’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.”

A Crisis Meeting

However, Beckham was finding it increasingly difficult to defend the decision to hire Neville after the team was thrashed 5-0 by New England at DRV PNK Stadium on July 22. Inter Miami was outfought, outthought and outclassed by a vastly superior Revolution side, and the experienced Bruce Arena left Neville looking out of his depth. It was the team’s sixth consecutive defeat, which left it rock bottom of the Easter Conference table. Inter Miami had just eight points from 12 games, and Beckham’s dream of owning an MLS franchise was fast turning into a nightmare. The former LA Galaxy, Manchester United, Real Madrid and AC Milan star made a personal intervention. With Neville widely expected to be fired, Beckham went to Fort Lauderdale for a crisis meeting. The players gathered with Neville and Beckham and put together a blueprint to turn their season around, and the results have been remarkable.

A Sharp Improvement

Fast forward five weeks, and Inter Miami has climbed up to the giddy heights of 11th in the standings. It has secured four wins, three draws and just one defeat since losing to New England, and the players now look full of confidence. As the MLS pauses for an international break, we can reflect on the significant improvement that Miami has made since those crisis talks took place. Neville is quick to attribute the turnaround to Beckham’s presence, but that represents false modesty on his behalf. Beckham is an inspirational figurehead, but Neville is running the team and he has presided over an impressive upturn in results and performance levels. Miami still struggles defensively, but it has fired in 12 goals in its last eight games, with star man Gonzalo Higuain leading the charge.

Promising Signs

When you consider the level of quality that Neville has at his disposal, Inter Miami should be higher up the standings. It has Higuain, one of the most lethal strikers in world soccer over the past decade leading the line, supported by promising youngster Daryl Dike and talented duo Rodolfo Pizarro and Robbie Robinson. Blaise Matuidi, a World Cup winner for France just three years ago, anchors the midfield, with former England international Kieran Gibbs on the left. Yet there are mitigating circumstances for the team’s struggles. Bringing together a new group of players is difficult in any circumstances, but the pandemic has often prevented the squad from mixing and forming a tight bond. That is now starting to change as restrictions have been lifted, and the results are improving. Inter also deserve credit for a never-say-die attitude that saw them score injury-time winners in two games during August. It remains to be seen if Neville is the right man for the job, but he has shown a great deal of promise in the past two months, and he could yet prove his doubters wrong.