Barcelona friendly a reminder of everything wrong with the Phil Neville era
By Chris Deeley
Phil Neville's continued tenure as Inter Miami head coach is baffling.
Too sweeping? Okay, let's break down this week's friendly against Barcelona as a microcosm of his tenure in the 305. Spoiler alert: the fact that Miami lost 6-0 against a team without their manager doesn't stand out as the worst part.
The fact that the fixture was scheduled in the first place was a red flag. A pre-season friendly for Barcelona, sure. But you know what the key phrase there is? 'Pre-season'. This isn't pre-season for Inter Miami, this is smack bang in the middle of the season. Not even 'oh, we've got an off-week for some reason, let's find a game', this has midweek, right between two league games.
So did Neville downplay the importance of the game, concede to reason and start a heavily rotated team ahead of a tough game against reigning MLS Cup winners NYCFC on Saturday? Well, no. Not exactly. What he did instead was call it 'the biggest match in the club’s history'. The biggest match. In the club's history. A friendly.
Barcelona beat Inter Miami 6-0 in a friendly
This is a club who are less than a game out of the playoffs. This isn't a holiday home, retirement home or plaything, this is a competitive sporting organisation. And, to borrow heavily from Allen Iverson, we're here talking about practice. Not a game that could catapult a team that hasn't made the post-season under his leadership into a playoff spot. We're talking about practice.
Biggest match in the club's history. Pathetic.
We went on waffling about how he's not worried about his players' tiredness, because he gave them a 'little speech' about how the best players in the world don't get tired. A really, truly, fundamentally ridiculous thing to say at a time when clubs are doing more workload management than ever to get the best out of their stars. Something a real coach might've taken notice of, maybe.
Just for good measure, when the game actually came, he reminded us that what he says and what he does are completely different things – starting a strong XI, but pulling almost all of his starters at the half for a bunch of rotation and Inter Miami II players. Including his son. Who has never played a minute in MLS. He threw the owner's son on in the last ten minutes too, because why pretend this is being taken seriously?
All to get beaten 6-0 by a Barcelona team whose manager isn't even in the country because of a visa issue.
Just for a moment, let's be reminded of what he told 90min before the season. "...we've got massive quality off the pitch in terms of the brand. Our new kit is, for me, one of the best kits I've ever seen. I can't wait to see the players walk out in it on Saturday. So apart from the football side, everything else is brilliant. Now we just need to get the football bit right."
Phil. 'The football bit' is your whole, entire job. And you aren't doing it. You haven't done it.
"We just need to get it right on the pitch, and I feel as if that's fundamental to our success."
Ladies and gentleman, football manager thinks 'getting it right on the pitch' is fundamental to succeeding. He inspires no confidence. He represents nothing. He's just the owner's mate. His continued existence in this role is a monument to unseriousness.
Serious football clubs don't hand someone their first club management job because they know the boss. They don't act like this. They don't let their manager act like this. If Inter Miami want to be taken seriously as a competitive football club, this can't go on.