Who will manage Lionel Messi at Inter Miami?


When the first reports linking Lionel Messi with Inter Milan appeared, many had concerns over the prospect of a star of such magnitude being managed by Phil Neville. With all due respect to the former Manchester United and Everton defender, he isn’t exactly what you’d call a manager of proper experience in managing top players. Further more, his team have found themselves sitting at the bottom of the Eastern Conference in the MLS.

Fortunately for those who doubted Neville’s credentials to lead this team down the right road, the club decided enough was enough and though it must’ve pained part-owner David Beckham to sack his former teammate, it had to be done. The decision was made public at the start of this month.

So now the question is, who is the right man to sit in the DRV PNK Stadium dugout? For the time being, the role is being played by Javier Morales, who worked as Neville’s assistant. It is, of course, a temporary appointment and a permanent solution will have to be found soon; preferably before Messi arrives in July.

Let’s take a look at a few candidates for the job.

Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino

There are reports suggesting that Tata Martino is already chosen to lead Inter Miami from this point on, though the reliability of such claims isn’t exactly made of stone. Nonetheless, some bookies see the 60-year-old Argentinian tactician as the leading favourite to land the job, offering by far the shortest odds on his appointment.

It is said that Messi himself suggested Martino for the job after Neville’s dismissal.

Martino has, of course, worked with Messi in the past, having managed Barcelona in 2013/14, and then Argentina over the following two years.

However, Martino himself has described his time at Camp Nou as extremely disappointing.

“I didn’t make any mark on Barcelona. It was a bubble in my career in terms of what I did as a coach,” he said.

In a completely honest assessment, he added that he didn’t do anything to improve Messi as a player.

“Nothing. Nothing at all. Not to him or to Barca. I went to a team that always won and didn’t win anything while I was there”.

He did lead the team to the Spanish Super Cup around two weeks after taking charge, but the season that followed was completely barren in terms of trophies – an unforgivable failure at Barcelona.

IF the reports that claim his appointment is imminent are accurate, he should take on the new role next month, at the same time when Messi returns from international duty and the subsequent vacation. If not, it may be worth taking a brief look at who else might be in the running for the Miami job.

Javier Morales

Even though he’s been appointed on a temporary basis, it seems Morales is in the running for the permanent job as well.

The time since he’s taken charge until the appointment of a permanent manager is surely and opportunity for him to show what he’s got up his sleeve, though it has to be said that he hasn’t gotten of to the best of starts; he’s only been in charge of the team for two games so far and they lost both, 1-2 at home to Wayne Rooney’s D.C. United, and 3-1 away to Bruce Arena’s New England.

The 43-year-old will obviously have to pick up his act and do better, if he is to be considered seriously for the job.

Zinedine Zidane

If there’s one name among the unemployed coaches proven in handling big stars, it’s Zinedine Zidane. The former France international coached Messi’s arch-nemesis Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid with considerable success, and has reportedly been praised by the Portuguese superstar himself for being the only coach who could still teach him a trick or two with the ball at his feet.

Indeed, Zidane has shown himself to be of iron will when it comes to dealing with stars and their behaviour; just ask Gareth Bale or James Rodriguez.

But the best pedigree a manager can have is his trophy cabinet, and Zidane has a most impressive one; three Champions League trophies, two UEFA Super Cups, two FIFA Club World Cups, two La Liga titles, two Spanish Super Cups, and two World’s Best Club Coach awards. Throw in his achievements as a player, and even someone like Lionel Messi has every reason to respect the 50-year-old, despite his long-standing affiliation with Real Madrid.

Rafa Benitez

Rafa Benitez is, of course, another former Real Madrid boss linked with the Miami job, even though his time in the Spanish capital wasn’t quite as fruitful as that of Zidane. He was appointed in the summer of 2015 and sacked only six months later, to be succeeded by Zidane.

Nonetheless, Benitez is also a Champions Leauge-winning manager, having masterminded arguably the greatest comeback the competition has ever seen in the 2005 final. He was in charge at Liverpool at the time, and his team famously came back from three goals down at halftime against an extremely formidable AC Milan side to go through the extra time and eventually win the penalty shootout.

Interestingly enough, the 63-year-old’s last job to date was with Liverpool’s city rivals Everton, where he earned the sack in January 2022, six months after getting appointed.

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