The first thing to know about Phil Neville right is that his Spanish is very good.
"There are a lot of players who speak Spanish in the team, so I have to practice every day and every day I get a little better," says Neville in Spanish. "But please no more questions in Spanish cause there's a lot of pressure."
Neville, who left his post with the England women's national team to come and join David Beckam's Inter Miami CF, is extremely excited about MLS and this new chapter in his career. He understands the speculation, especially when he was ready to lead team Great Britain to the Olympics, but for him this was about a brand new and massive challenge he couldn't turn down.
"My managerial career was coming to an end with the Lionesses. I had a fantastic time. I loved every minute of it. I think women's football doesn't get the credit that it deserves and I loved every minute of it," says the former England and Manchester United player. "But I was looking for the next adventure...I went to Manchester United, Valencia, so I like an adventure, a massive challenge and I see this as a massive challenge. Obviously there is a connection with David [Beckham] from the very first time he got involved with this franchise, I have been following it, close to it in terms of supporting a friend but now ultimately I am now the head coach."
Neville, however, is not naive. He knows what often happens when international managers, specifically Europeans, enter MLS.
"People keep reminding me that no foreign coach does well in MLS. That's my biggest challenge, " says Neville. "That's what's on my mirror in the bathroom at home. I want to be the first one. I want to be the first Miami coach to win a medal and be successful. Cause that's how I want for this club to be successful."
Of course, there are foreign managers who do indeed do very well. Tata Martino with Atlanta United, being the last foreign manager and one with no major MLS experience to win MLS Cup. Gary Smith, now with Nashville, an Englishman who won the title in 2010 with Colorado Rapids.
But these are different times and Miami, a very different city.
Neville knows this and wants to help Beckham and the rest of Inter Miami's ownership that this team can be a staple of Miami championship-winning tradition.
"The first thing that comes to my mind when I think about Miami is the great sporting teams of this region," says Neville. "Miami Heat, Miami Dolphins. Legendary teams. Great history. One of the challenges for Inter Miami is that we want to be in this city, talked about like the Heat or the Dolphins, and we want Inter Miami to be even better and bigger and more successful with a great history. So I think that is the challenge...they want to be a global brand. They want soccer to be famous in this area and the talent that we have in this area, we have a great opportunity if we catch it with both hands."
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If you think the deal to come to Miami was quick and easy because him and Beckham have been friends for more than 20 years, Neville reminds us that actually, his pitch had yet to be approved by Jorge and Jose Mas. "There are many other candidates and the biggest conversation I had was with them so I wanted to make sure I sold my philosophy, told them my values and told them my qualities. It was a long process and as strict as any job I've ever gained, so we did it right and I think I earned the right to have this fantastic opportunity."
There is a lot of talent in Inter Miami, including Gonzalo Higuain, Rodolfo Pizarro and additions such as Ryan Shawcross, Brazilian Gregore (who arrives from Bahia) and Kieran Gibbs will be intriguing to see. The talented Matias Pellegrini also adds another dose of creativity. The question remains on Blaise Matuidi and his production. Can they get the best out of him? In addition, after sporting director Chris Henderson stated that the French star and World Cup champion will be named as a Designated Player, there might be some shakeup as the season starts (if it hadn't already happened by the time you read this) as Inter Miami has reached their three-DP limit. As of now, all of them are in the squad. The league is also investigating whether Matuidi's signing complied with budget and salary rules, but that's been going on for over a month.
Either way, Phil Neville is preparing the squad for a take-two of sorts, as the pandemic hiccuped their inaugural season. Now, he prepares them for a new season and a chance to show their worth.
"The players are bored of the training now. They want the season to start," says Neville. "We want to attack this LA Galaxy game and start what hopefully will be a tremendous journey."
And for him?
"The biggest thing for me is to go against these coaches. There are some amazing coaches in this league. The thing that excites me and gets me going in the morning is to put this [Inter Miami] badge on and to become successful with this badge, and to make sure that we become that successful team that Jose, Jorge and David want us to be. We have a strong foundation, we just have to find success on the pitch."
Inter Miami host LA Galaxy on Sunday, April 18 as MLS kicks off this weekend.