With Messi on his way to Inter Miami, what’s next for the Herons?

Former Mexican national team coach Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino is rumored to be the top candidate to replace Phil Neville at Inter Miami.
Former Mexican national team coach Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino is rumored to be the top candidate to replace Phil Neville at Inter Miami. / Francois Nel/GettyImages

Lionel Messi may well be its greatest-ever player, but soccer is very much a team game. And, let’s be honest, Club Internacionel de Futbol Miami will be the poorest team — financially and in terms of quality — with which Messi has played.

And, while rumors run roughshod across worldwide media that several of Messi’s former teammates — Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets, Angel Di Maria, Luis Suarez — are anxious to join him in South Beach, let’s be realistic: MLS, Apple and Adidas aren’t subsidizing Inter Miami’s bid for any of those players.

What’s likely? First, we need a coach. Former Mexican National Team boss Gerardo “Tata” Martino seems the most likely candidate; he coached Messi briefly at Barcelona and with Argentina, earned his MLS bona fides leading Atlanta United to a championship in 2018, and Inter Miami striker Josef Martinez enjoyed his greatest success on those Martino-led Five Stripes teams. AND, presumably, he’s interested and reportedly in talks with ICMF’s front office.

Tata deployed an exciting brand of pressing, attacking football at Atlanta United and could be expected to do the same with the magical Messi in the attack. But assuming the Soccer Gods have finished blessing La Rosanegra, who might join Leo?

Ryan Tolmich offers a reasonable guess in a piece by Goal.com. The Herons haven’t replaced Alejandro Pozuelo, the catalyst for Inter Miami’s playoff run last year, so expect the multi-talented Messi to play behind striker Leo Campana and between wings Corentin Jean and Robert Taylor at the business end of a 4-2-3-1.

Drake Callender has been spectacular in goal this season. and Serhiy Kryvstov and Kamal Miller are a solid center back tandem. Left back Franco Negri has proven more valuable pushing forward on attack, but is a serviceable defender and, despite some lapses early in the season, right back Deandre Yedlin has adjusted, using passion and guile to make up for what he might have lost in speed.

Besides, playmaker — a void Messi surely will fill nicely — Inter Miami’s greatest weakness has been in the midfield, specifically defensive midfield, where stalwarts Gregore and Jean Mota will miss most if not all of the rest of the season with injuries.

Chris Henderson brought in Dixon Arroyo, who has been competent, to fill in for Gregore, and Miami homegrown player David Ruiz has shown great potential — and inconsistency — while taking on Mota’s linking role.

Even with Messi, this lineup isn’t likely to intimidate anyone in Major League Soccer. Still, with the league’s very forgiving new playoff format — nine teams from each conference earn extra games — Inter Miami could squeak into the postseason. Let’s hope the new guy adjusts quickly to his new reality and is the kind of leader who makes his teammates better.

Buckle up, folks, this could be a lot of fun! It will absolutely be interesting.