Image: Wikimedia Commons / James Boyes
Image: Wikimedia Commons / James Boyes

Phil Neville quits England job, set to be announced Inter Miami head coach

Update: 18/01/2021 | Phil Neville has resigned from his position as manager of the English Women’s National Team, paving the way for him to join MLS franchise Inter Miami.

The FA is set to appoint an interim boss this week, bridging the gap until Sarina Wiegman takes charge after the Olympic Games. England’s interim manager would not necessarily take Team GB to Tokyo this summer, although the FA is responsible for the recruitment of the Olympic coach.

Baroness Sue Campbell, FA director of women’s football, paid tribute to Nevile, saying: “After steadying the ship at a challenging period, he helped us to win the SheBelieves Cup for the first time, reach the World Cup semi-finals and qualify for the Olympics.

“Given his status as a former Manchester United and England player, he did much to raise the profile of our team. He has used his platform to champion the women’s game, worked tirelessly to support our effort to promote more female coaches and used his expertise to develop many of our younger players.”

Neville is now the clear favourite to be appointed Inter Miami head coach, replacing Diego Alonso in Florida.

Our editor, Luke James, responded to reports of Neville’s interest in the Miami vacancy on 7 January:

Diego Alonso was dismissed from his position as Inter Miami head coach on Thursday afternoon, ending weeks of speculation regarding his future. Alonso, 45, was hired just over a month before Miami’s Major League Soccer debut and went onto lead the Herons to a 10th-place finish in the Eastern Conference.

The Florida-based outfit, co-owned by David Beckham, have held talks with former Manchester United defender Phil Neville about coaching the side in 2021 and beyond. Neville, who is set to leave his role as manager of the English women’s national team this summer, is now regarded as the clear favourite to become Inter Miami’s next head coach.

We have great expectations for Inter Miami in the short and long term

– Inter Miami CF

“This was a difficult year and a very tough decision for everyone, but we believe it is the right step for the club,” a statement to announce Alonso’s departure read.

“We have great expectations for Inter Miami in the short and long term.”

In a message to Inter Miami fans, fired head coach Alonso said: “Going through the journey of this inaugural season with Inter Miami has been an incredible experience, and I am thankful to the ownership group for the opportunity.

“I want to thank the staff for their work and friendship, the players for their efforts on the field, and especially the fans for their constant support throughout the year. I wish everyone the best this upcoming season.”

Miami, who entered MLS in 2020 as a result of a deal struck by Beckham during his playing career, stumbled out of the blocks, losing each of their opening five matches by a one-goal. Inter’s first victory arrived on August 22 against cross-state rivals Orlando City SC.

Goals were in short supply for the Herons throughout their inaugural campaign

The team, however, failed to come together under Alonso, ending the season with a 7-3-13 record and -10 goal difference. Goals were in short supply for the Herons throughout their inaugural campaign, with Juan Agudelo’s sole strike earning him the accolade of being his side’s fourth-highest scorer.

Inter Miami, ravaged by injuries and Covid-19, lost 3-0 to fellow expansion franchise Nashville SC in the Play-In Round of MLS Cup, ending the club’s debut season on a sour note.

In December, Paul Tenorio and Sam Stejskal of The Athletic reported that Alonso had been dismissed. Hours later, it was revealed, per The Athletic’s sources, that “Diego Alonso had an end-of-season meeting with Inter Miami ownership and left the meeting believing he was fired. He informed multiple people and players within the organization. However, Alonso has not been fired. His future still has not been determined.”

Thursday’s announcement marks the end of the latest managerial saga to grip MLS – although I suspect another is now in the offing.

British interest in Inter Miami is fuelled by David Beckham’s co-ownership of the club, although how the UK press has reported on the coaching situation in Miami is nothing short of extraordinary.

On Wednesday, a day before Alonso was dismissed, Sky Sports News ran the story – on television and across social media – that Phil Neville had spoken to Miami about the head coaching position with Inter.

Neville’s suitability for the role aside, he is due to take Team GB to the Tokyo Olympics in the summer – a position he has coveted since becoming the Lionesses’ manager. To jump ship months before a tournament of such magnitude is an affront to his players and casts his spell as England manager under a new light.

MLS is a notoriously difficult competition to understand and participate in. The likes of Andrea Pirlo, Steven Gerrard, and – albeit to a lesser degree – Frank Lampard have played in MLS in recent years and have struck out miserably. It takes unwavering commitment to succeed in MLS – the kind Patrick Viera, Robbie Keane, and Sebastian Giovinco displayed. Is Neville – someone yet to work in North American soccer – the right person to lead a battered expansion franchise through their second season in MLS? I have my doubts.

The Lionesses had regressed by the time they lost to the United States at the last World Cup

Neville promised the world (literally) when he took the job as England manager. He hasn’t delivered. In fact, the Lionesses had regressed by the time they lost to the United States at the last World Cup. The situation was even worse by the SheBelieves Cup.

Diego Alonso’s spell in Miami was certainly underwhelming. However, he had an impressive CV before taking the role, winning the Concacaf Champions League with Monterrey in 2019, and wielded limited influence over the shape of his squad.

My point is this: if Diego Alonso struggled in charge of Inter Miami, how is Phil Neville going to fare?

If he is appointed Inter Miami boss by David Beckham, friendship would have won him the role. For a coach that promised women’s football so much, a departure of this kind would be hugely disappointing.

As noted by Jeff Carlisle, this situation bares many similarities with Montreal’s first season in MLS. The people hired to run the organisation seem to have suffered a serious disconnect from the team’s owners. After an underwhelming first season, this is Beckham’s club now.

Inter Miami should think again.

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