FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Inter Miami is still sorting through its Designated Player dilemma, but the clock is ticking.
Inter Miami currently has four DPs on its roster ahead of the 2021 MLS campaign, and needs to find a way to get down to three before the season opener on April 18. Team co-owner Jorge Mas touched on that topic on Friday morning during the team’s stadium naming rights sponsorship deal announcement, saying the Herons are still trying to figure out how to move forward given that Gonzalo Higuain, Rodolfo Pizarro, Matias Pellegrini, and now Blaise Matuidi are all DPs.
“We had always anticipated that Blaise Matuidi would be a DP in ’21,” said Mas. “We are working through our roster now in terms of obviously the things that we have to do with our DPs. There is a youth transfer fund designation for younger players under 22, 23. When Mati was signed, it was almost two years ago now, it was anticipated at that time that he would be a youth transfer fund player.
“(Sporting director) Chris Henderson is going through the machinations of our roster because we have not completed our roster group yet.”
The Athletic reported on Friday that Inter Miami is currently attempting to trade Pellegrini to another MLS side.
mas talks miami stadium project, home opener
Inter Miami’s Fort Lauderdale-based stadium may have just landed a sponsor in Autonation, as was first reported by SBI, but that is not stopping the South Florida team from moving forward with plans to try and get a stadium project in Miami proper approved.
Mas provided an update on the Miami Freedom Park project, saying that the finishing touches were being put on the terms for the lease agreement for the Melreese site that Inter Miami wants to build on.
“I would say we are 95 percent there with the city of Miami,” said Mas. “I have been saying this the last few months: we are very close to picking a date and putting it in the agenda (for a vote with) the city commission. I am highly confident that hopefully by the next 4, 5, 6 weeks we can have a date and get it on and hopefully a get green light so we can move forward on the hard part, which is actually executing and building the project.”
Mas had given a similar timeframe of “45 days” back on Feb. 27, but that deadline is just about here. He said Friday that that was no cause for concern, however.
“It is not about any of the major points. Those are all agreed to,” said Mas. “It is just about getting lease terms agreed to. It is a 99-year lease. They just go through the motions, but there has been no major obstacle or hiccup. I am highly confident that it will be very soon.”
On a related note, Mas confirmed SBI’s reporting that Inter Miami is looking to further open the seating capacity at newly-named Drv Pnk Stadium in Fort Lauderdale by the fourth home game of the season vs. D.C. United in late May.
“We are working on that,” said Mas. “Obviously it depends on the rollout of vaccines, people safety, protocols, but it is our hope and our anticipation that on May 29 we will have 16,000 fans here.”
team “close” to landing gameday jersey sponsor
Inter Miami has a jersey sponsor, but not one for its game-day tops just yet.
The stadium deal that was announced Friday confirmed SBI’s reporting that Autonation has also agreed to a jersey deal with the team, landing the rights to be used on Inter Miami’s pink practice kits. The gameday tops remain without a sponsor, however, though Mas said Friday negotiations for one are ongoing and that the team is “very close” to finalizing something.
“Frankly, going back to last year right before the opener we were in line with a jersey sponsor. COVID changed all that,” said Mas. “… We are in discussions and conversations. I do anticipate (and) I am highly confident we will have a first-team jersey sponsor very, very soon.”
Mas had said back in late February that he expected to have a jersey sponsor deal done by the beginning of the campaign. He followed that up by saying on Friday that coming to terms by then with a corporate partner is still “possible.”
“Start of the season is eight days from now. We are very close,” said Mas. “It is not a negotiation of X vs. Y. It is, how do we activate? We are talking about using our global platform — because Inter Miami does have a global platform, we have global reach — so that is an advantage of what we do.
“It does not necessarily complicate it. It just gives us more opportunity to activate and that is what we are looking at.”
- Brek Shea, Patrick Seagrist, Edison Azcona, George Acosta, and Felipe Valencia were first-team players not spotted at training on Friday morning inside of Pnk Drv Stadium.
- While there was no official word on Shea and Seagrist’s absences, sources tell SBI that Azcona, Acosta, and Valencia have all been practicing with Fort Lauderdale CF in recent days and that both Azcona and Acosta are set to suit up for the USL side in its season opener on Saturday. The Miami Herald reported Shea is dealing with an injury.
- Trialist Enzo Zidane was also not seen at training.
- A different, unidentified trialist practiced with the team. The Miami Herald reported that it was Phil Neville’s son, Harvey.