Raúl Sanllehí to Join Inter Miami CF as Co-President

Raúl Sanllehí is heading to Miami.

The 57-year-old Spanish football administrator and former Head of Football at Arsenal and Director of Football at FC Barcelona will join Inter Miami CF as co-president alongside Xavier Asensi, overseeing aspects of the sporting side and executing the ownership’s strategy of player development from the academy to the first team.

Raúl SanllehíSanllehí will officially serve as president of football operations upon receipt of his U.S. work authorization.

“I have a blend of experience between leagues with LaLiga and the Premier League, and kinds of elite clubs that play Champions League every year, like Barcelona or Arsenal, so I have a vast vision about football,” Sanllehí told ESPN. “I have a very clear model in which I believe that clubs should be based and grow from there. The ownership wants to turn this club into a global football powerhouse, and that’s something that I embrace completely.”

Sanllehí previously worked as the director of football at Barcelona from 2008-2019, playing an integral role in the team during the development of current Miami players Lionel MessiSergio Busquets, Luis Suárez and Jordi Alba. Sanllehí will also reunite with head coach Gerardo Martino, after being part of the team that hired the Argentine at Barcelona in 2013.

Sanllehí also served as head of football at Arsenal from 2018-2020, and most recently as CEO of Spanish club Real Zaragoza from 2022-2024.

Now, Sanllehí wants to develop Inter Miami’s academy to produce the kind of side he saw while at Barcelona.

“I remember Johan Cruyff in a press conference when he was explaining the reasons why he believed so much in the academy,” Sanllehí recalled. “One reporter asked him, ‘so what you’re saying is that the academy needs to play like the first team?’ And he said, ‘no, actually I’m saying the opposite. I’m saying that the first team needs to play like the academy.’

“And you don’t achieve that in two or three years. That’s over time, because you need to plant the seeds and then protect them so they grow.

“And that was the secret of success of probably the best team in the history of Barcelona with all the players that you know, Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba, Messi, all of them were there. And they were all coming from the academy.

“If you look in history, again, all the main clubs that have been legendary in Europe, they were all based on the academy players. So I really believe that that’s the path.”

The Herons currently boast multiple academy players in the senior team, with Leo Alfonso most recently making headlines for scoring the team’s winning goal in extra time against the Philadelphia Union on June 15.

Benjamin Cremaschi and David Ruiz also played an integral role in the victory, while regularly featuring in Inter Miami’s starting XI under Martino.

On the other end, Asensi will continue to manage the team’s commercial aspect as president of business operations. He joined Inter Miami in 2021 from Barcelona, helping the club triple revenues. His promotion allows for the two to work in unison on different ends of the team’s growth.

Lionel Messi Breaks MLS Records While Leading Inter Miami to Victory Over New York Red Bulls 

Lionel Messi continues breaking records…

The 36-year-old Argentine professional footballer scored a goal and had five assists as Inter Miami trounced the New York Red Bulls 6-2 on Saturday night, with the eight-time Ballon d’Or winner setting no fewer than three Major League Soccer records in the effort.

Lionel MessiThe six goal contributions, five assists and five assists in a half were all MLS records.

Messi, who earned the MLS Player of the Month Award for April, has now scored and assisted in six consecutive league matches.

Luis Suárez had three goals and Matias Rojas scored twice as Inter Miami got six unanswered goals to come back from a 1-0 deficit at halftime. Messi and Suárez now have a league-leading 10 goals each, helping keep Inter Miami (7-2-3, 24 points) atop the Eastern Conference.

The win extended Miami’s unbeaten string to six. The streak began after a 4-0 loss at New York on 20 April, in which Messi did not play because of an injury.

Miami began the rout with Rojas’ equalizer in the 48th minute. Messi centered a pass to Rojas whose left-footed shot landed under the crossbar.

Suárez then fed a charging Messi with a touch pass to beat New York goalkeeper Carlos Coronel with a shot from 15 yards.

Rojas made it 3-1 with his second goal in the 62nd minute on an assist from Messi.

Messi then contributed on former Barcelona teammate Suárez’s first goal in the 69th minute.

Suárez also struck in the 75th and 81st minutes before the Red Bulls (4-2-5, 17 points) closed the scoring on Emil Forsberg’s penalty kick in stoppage time.

New York controlled possession early and eventually capitalized on a Miami defensive breakdown that resulted on Dante Vanzeir’s goal in the 30th minute. José Carmona ran deep into the right wing of the large area and blasted a shot that bounced off the far post. An unmarked Vanzeir retrieved the deflection and converted from 15 yards.

Messi had his only scoring opportunity of the first half in the 24th minute, when Coronel stopped his shot from the edge of the penalty area.

Messi’s former Barcelona teammate Jordi Alba missed his third straight game because of a hamstring injury.

Both clubs will continue MLS play next Saturday. Inter Miami will visit CF Montreal while the Red Bulls will host New England.

Luis Suárez Becomes Latest High-Profile Talent to Join MLS Outfit Inter Miami

It’s official… Luis Suárez is reuniting with Lionel Messi in South Florida.

The 36-year-old Uruguayan striker has completed his move to Inter Miami, sealing a reunion with former Barcelona teammate Messi, the MLS club confirmed Friday.

Luis SuarezSuárez moves to Inter Miami as a free agent after departing Brazilian club Grêmio, where he played 53 matches in all competitions last season and scored 26 goals. 

His 17 league goals helped Grêmio finish second in the Brazilian Serie A and saw him win the Golden Ball as the best player in the division.

Suárez signed a one-year contract with Inter Miami, taking him through the end of the 2024 season.

“We promised our fans we would pursue the world’s best players to build a squad that can compete at the highest echelons in the Americas,” managing owner Jorge Mas said in the statement put out by the club.

“Coming off an award-winning season in Brazil, Luis will be a key addition to our roster. We will continue to be ambitious and always strive to pursue the freedom to dream.”

The move to Inter Miami, which sees Suárez cut short the two-year deal he signed with Grêmio, reunites him with former Barcelona teammates MessiJordi Alba and Sergio Busquets. The quartet spent six seasons together at Camp Nou between 2014 and 2020, winning four LaLiga titles and one Champions League.

“I’m very happy and excited to take on this new challenge with Inter Miami,” Suárez said in the statement. “I can’t wait to get started, and I’m ready to work to make the dream of winning more titles with this great Club a reality. I’m optimistic about what we can achieve together with our shared ambition.

“I will give my all to bring joy to these great fans I’ve heard so much about while I wear Inter Miami colors, and look forward to reuniting with great friends and players. I’m also eager to meet my new teammates and coaches.”

Lionel Messi & Inter Miami CF to Play El Salvador in Friendly This January

Lionel Messi is heading to Central American…

The 36-year-old Argentine soccer star and his Inter Miami CF teammates will begin their preparations for the 2024 season with a friendly against the El Salvador national team in San Salvador on January 19, the club announced Thursday.

Lionel Messi The game at the Estadio Cuscatlán is the first confirmed match for Inter Miami ahead of the Major League Soccer (MLS) season, which is expected to begin in late February.

“We’re excited to start announcing our preseason plans and preparations ahead of a thrilling 2024 campaign,” Inter Miami chief soccer officer and sporting director Chris Henderson said.

“We look forward to facing the El Salvador national team in what will be a good first test for our squad against the best players from the country.”

The announcement follows Inter Miami’s denial last week that it had agreed to take part in the Riyadh Season Cup in Saudi Arabia in February. Event organizers had announced that Messi and Miami would face off against Cristiano Ronaldo‘s Saudi Pro League team Al Nassr as part of the event.

Inter Miami, though, said the announcement was “inaccurate” but that it looked forward to “showcasing our players on Inter Miami CF’s first international tour which will be announced in the coming weeks.”

Inter Miami, which failed to make the MLS playoffs, finished the 2023 season with a loss to Charlotte FC on October 21. The club then took on New York City FC in a friendly on November 10 to celebrate Messi’s record-extending eighth Ballon d’or award.

Despite failing to make the postseason, Messi made a huge impression when joining the club along with fellow former Barcelona stars Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba in July. Messi scored 10 goals to lead Miami to its first-ever title with the Leagues Cup as fans across the U.S. clamored to see the Argentine World Cup winner in action.

El Salvador is ranked 78th in the latest FIFA rankings and most recently drew home and away against Curaçao earlier this month.

Also on Thursday, Inter Miami announced that it has sold out season tickets for 2024, just over two weeks after they went on sale.

Grêmio’s Luis Suarez Agrees to Deal with Inter Miami CF

Luis Suarez is headed to South Florida…

Inter Miami CF has agreed to a deal with the 36-year-old Uruguayan professional footballer and Grêmio star, according to ESPN.

Luis SuarezAs confirmed last month by his current coach at Grêmio, Renato Gaúcho, Suárez will depart the Porto Alegre-based club at the end of the Brazilian Serie A season in December despite being only halfway through the two-year contract he signed in December 2022.

The one-year deal with an option to renew for a second year has been agreed upon with Inter Miami and all that remains is to sign the contract, said ESPN.

Suárez — Uruguay’s all-time top scorer with 68 goals in 137 appearances for La Celeste — is Grêmio’s leading scorer this season, with 10 goals and 10 assists in 31 league games.

The two-time Serie A champions, who were relegated in 2021 only to bounce back one year later, sit third in the table, three points behind leaders Palmeiras with seven games remaining.

Rumors about a potential Suárez move to South Florida began circulating over the summer when Suárez admitted the high demands of the Brazilian league were taking a toll on his body, especially his knees.

He had meniscus surgery on his left knee in 2014 while with Liverpool and a similar surgery on his right knee in 2020 as a Barcelona player.

Along with Lionel Messi, Inter Miami signed fellow former Barcelona stars Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba in the middle of its season.

Suárez spent six seasons playing alongside that trio at Camp Nou from 2014 to 2020, winning four Spanish La Liga titles and the 2015 UEFA Champions League.

Last month, Inter Miami coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino confirmed his club’s continued interest in signing the veteran striker.

“When the moment arrives to make Suárez’s situation with respect to Inter Miami official, we’ll be prepared to go in the corresponding direction,” he said.

Lionel Messi: The MLS’ Highest-Paid Player

Lionel Messi collects Major League Soccer’s biggest paycheck…

The 36-year-old Argentine soccer star and Inter Miami forward is MLS‘ highest-paid player, with a league-record annual guaranteed compensation of $20.4 million, according to the MLS Players Association.

Lionel MessiThat figure takes into account only Messi’s salary.

Earlier this year, Miami co-owner Jorge Mas revealed to Spanish outlet El País that Messi’s total compensation, which includes a cut from the league’s Apple TV deal, is in the $50 million to $60 million range. 

Messi’s midseason arrival, along with that of teammates Sergio Busquets ($1.775 million) and Jordi Alba ($1.25 million), vaulted the Herons to the top of the MLS team salary rankings, with total guaranteed compensation of $39.419 million. That is more than double the $18.88 million the team was spending this time last year.

Messi’s guaranteed salary is the highest in the history of MLS, beating out Toronto FC‘s Lorenzo Insigne, who is second on Wednesday’s list at $15.4 million.

The Chicago Fire‘s Xherdan Shaqiri ($8.15 million), the LA Galaxy‘s Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez ($7.44 million) and Toronto’s Federico Bernardeschi ($6.3 million) round out the top five.

All data is as of September 15, 2023. The salary data was annualized for players like Messi who joined the league during the summer transfer window.

The arrival of Messi helped push the average guaranteed base compensation for the entire MLS player pool to $543,207, up 5.5% from the September 2022 mark of $514,729. The salaries of players at the bottom of the wage scale continue to improve, as the league’s median guaranteed base compensation was $282,125, up 13.4% from the September 2022 mark of $248,688.

MLS and the MLSPA are in the third year of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that was agreed upon in February 2021. The current CBA runs through the end of the 2027 season.

In terms of team payroll based on guaranteed base compensation, Toronto FC ranked second behind Miami at $32.293 million, followed by the LA Galaxy ($25.039 million), reigning MLS Cup champions LAFC ($20.841 million) and the Chicago Fire ($20.416 million)

Orlando City had the lowest payroll at $9.643 million — in part because of the September transfer of forward Ercan Kara to Turkish side Samsunspor — followed by CF Montreal ($10.92 million), expansion side St. Louis City ($11.187 million), the New York Red Bulls ($11.331 million) and the Philadelphia Union ($13.291 million).

FC Cincinnati, the recently crowned Supporters’ Shield winners, checked in at 21st with a total guaranteed compensation of $14.349 million.

Based on current MLS standings heading into Decision Day, the three highest-spending teams — Miami, Toronto and the Galaxy — will all miss the playoffs. Austin FC, which ranked sixth at $19.166 million, is the other team among the top 10 spenders to miss out on the postseason.

Lionel Messi Scores in MLS Debut to Help Lead Inter Miami to Win Over New York Red Bulls

Lionel Messi is celebrating a goal-tastic MLS debut…

In his long-awaited Major League Soccer debut, the 36-year-old Argentine soccer star netted a late goal to put the seal on a 2-0 win for Inter Miami at the New York Red Bulls on Saturday.

Lionel Messi After playing nine games in just over a month following his arrival in South Florida, leading his new team to the Leagues Cup title and the final of the U.S. Open Cup, Messi was handed a well-earned rest and began the game on the substitute’s bench as Miami returned to league play in New Jersey. 

The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner made his entrance to a thunderous reception in the 60th minute, and still had enough time to provide the fans with a moment to treasure.

He both set up and finished the goal, playing a pass that perhaps no one else on the field or stadium could even see — let alone play — to Benjamin Cremaschi before receiving the ball back for a simple finish in the 89th minute.

It was Messi’s eighth goal already for his new team and matched the goal he scored in his one previous appearance as a substitute — in his debut against Cruz Azul on July 21.

With Messi’s effort adding to a 37th-minute goal by Paraguayan midfielder Diego Gómez, Miami secured what was a much-needed win for the star-studded team in its uphill task to make the playoffs later this year.

Miami entered the game with an 11-game MLS winless streak that included eight defeats and had just one road victory this season. It’s 22 points were the fewest among the league’s 29 teams and there was a 12-point gap to erase to get into a playoff position.

That coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino saw that his team could prosper without Messi for an hour of the game will be a welcome bonus, particularly as the forward will be needed for the start of Argentina’s World Cup qualifying campaign next month.

However, there was doubtless initial disappointment for many watching on in Red Bull Arena and beyond.

The streets around Red Bull Arena were packed 2 1/2 hours before the match, filled with dozens of scalpers and people selling unlicensed Messi jerseys. A simulcast of the game was scheduled on a videoboard in Times Square.

Inside the stadium, fans began a chant of “we want Messi” within the first 10 minutes of kickoff.

Instead there was a chance for Miami’s three young South American signings, who joined as the less-heralded half of Miami’s summer squad overhaul alongside the three big-name ex-Barcelona stars — Messi, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba.

Fellow Argentine Facundo Farías took Messi’s spot supporting Leonardo Campana in attack, Gomez offered intensity in the midfield and another Argentine Tomás Avilés held thee Red Bulls at bay in defense.

And it was Gomez who put Miami ahead with his first goal in Miami pink. After Alba’s free-kick had been half-cleared, Noah Allen sent the ball back into the box and Gomez was left free to turn and finish into the bottom corner of the net.

Messi, his eyes focused on the field throughout, rose from the bench to applaud the 20-year-old’s goal and a 1-0 lead.

The noise level inside the stadium rose once more at the start of the second half as Messi began to warm up on the sideline. It would not be long before he made his entrance, gracing the field in an MLS game for the first time more than 2 1/2 months since he announced his stunning decision to continue his career in the U.S.

At that point Miami was coming under growing pressure from the Red Bulls. But Messi’s presence, coupled with that of fellow substitute Sergio Busquets, allowed Miami to regain its composure and superiority.

His late brilliance this time was just the icing on the cake.

Jordi Alba In Talks to Join Former Teammates Lionel Messi & Sergio Busquets at Inter Miami CF

Jordi Alba may be reuniting with Lionel Messi and Sergio Busquets soon…

The 34-year-old Spanish professional footballer is thisclose to joining his former Barcelona teammates at Inter Miami CF, the MLS club’s co-owner Jorge Mas has revealed..

Jordi AlbaMeanwhile, the club is trying to reach a deal with a fourth former Barca teammate, Grêmio striker Luis Suárez, as he and the Brazilian side haggle over an exit fee.

“We’re going to sign Alba today,” Mas told reporters after Inter Miami’s training session in Ft. Lauderdale. “I know that [manager] Tata [Martino] is counting on him for the second half of the Cup.”

Earlier, sources told ESPN that the left-back was in the final stages of talks with the club.

Alba announced that he would be leaving Barcelona — with a year left on his contract — on May 24 after 11 seasons with the LaLiga giants.

The defender subsequently attracted interest from teams in Europe and Saudi Arabia but was persuaded by Inter Miami’s offer.

Alba was a priority for Miami, sources said, but negotiations had taken longer than expected because of problems fitting him within MLS’ strict salary restrictions.

A potential move by Suárez is also complicated by the league’s roster restrictions.

Following the signings of Messi and Busquets, Miami already had its full quota of three designated players, alongside forward Leonardo Campana.

It’s possible Alba, Suárez or Campana could be registered using targeted allocation money (TAM), but even then Miami is limited.

Mas’ comments suggest the club believes those issues have been resolved and Alba will be able to join Messi and Busquets in MLS.

For the 2023 season, the MLS salary budget is $5,210,000 per team, which excludes DPs and allocation money. Teams have $2,720,000 in TAM available in 2023 — essentially supplementing the salary cap.

But as part of the sanctions levied against Inter Miami for past violations, the club has had $2,271,250 deducted from its allocation allotment spread across the 2022 and 2023 seasons.

Meanwhile, Suárez, 36, is willing to return a total of $10 million of his earnings to walk away from Brazil, but sources said Grêmio also want guarantees that the Uruguayan player will not play at any other club in 2023.

Suárez is keen to join his former Camp Nou teammates Messi and Busquets despite saying in June that it would be “impossible.”

On Tuesday, Mas also said: “I don’t know how Luis Suárez can leave Grêmio. But if he does, we are free to talk to Luis and bring him to Inter Miami. That possibility would be there.”

“I consider him a star player, with an incredible career. And we all know he has a personal relationship with Lionel [Messi], Busi [Busquets] and Jordi [Alba]. We are all in and we will welcome any player with the kind of career that Luis has but we have to know more about his future before doing any move,” Mas added in an interview with ESPN.

Suárez, who has a contract with Grêmio through 2024 and has scored 13 goals in 30 games for the club, has repeatedly complained of pain in his right knee.

Sources said the impasse is over Suárez’s fitness regarding the knee pain he has had since May. Grêmio manager Renato Gaúcho and club officials are aware of the knee issues, but sources told ESPN that Suárez has said that if he is released from the club and recovers before the end of the year, he should have the right to return to play with his new team.

Three Grêmio club doctors have examined Suárez’s knee, and sources said Suárez has been obliged to play through the pain until the club can find a substitute for the striker.

Sources said Suárez feels as though his knee cannot handle the sheer number of matches required by the Brazil league and does not want to let the fans down. Suárez has said he would prefer to play in a league with an easier calendar, such as MLS, according to sources.

Suárez signed with the Porto Alegre-based club on a free transfer with a two-year deal in 2022 after leaving his boyhood club Nacional in Uruguay. In three months with Nacional, he scored eight goals in 16 games and won the Uruguayan championship.

Previously, the 35-year-old enjoyed success in Europe with Ajax AmsterdamLiverpool, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid. He won five LaLiga titles in seven years in Spain.

Inter Miami hasn’t won an MLS match in more than two months. It has gone 0-8-3 in regular-season play since beating New England on May 13.

Sergio Busquets to Reunite with Lionel Messi Following Agreement to Join the Team at Inter Miami

Sergio Busquets is headed to Southern Florida…

The 34-year-old Spanish professional footballer, a midfielder for Barcelona, will join former teammate Lionel Messi at Inter Miami FC this summer.

Sergio BusquetsThe Major League Soccer (MLS) side has announced the arrival of the ex-Spain international on its social media accounts.

Busquets’ contract with Barca expires at the end of June and, after announcing his decision to end his 18-year stay at Camp Nou, he has been mulling over offers from the United States and Saudi Arabia.

Sources tell ESPN that Barca left-back Jordi Alba has also received interest from Miami and will make a decision on his future in the coming weeks after winning the UEFA Nations League with Spain.

Busquets held negotiations with Saudi sides Al Nassr and Al Hilal in recent weeks but opted for Miami’s offer, which sources say was financially inferior, having previously spoken of his desire to play in the U.S.

He will be reunited in South Florida with seven-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi, who announced his intention to move to MLS earlier this month following the expiry of his contract with Paris Saint-Germain.

Busquets and Messi spent 13 years playing alongside each other in Barca‘s first team before Messi’s move to Paris in 2021. The two have remained close friends since.

Busquets made 722 appearances for Barca in total, winning nine league titles and three Champions Leagues during that time.

He has also been capped 143 times by Spain, winning the World Cup in 2010 and the European Championship in 2012 before announcing his retirement from international football after last year’s World Cup in Qatar.

Busquets and Messi could yet be joined in Miami by Alba, who reached an agreement with Barca last month to end his contract — which was due to expire in 2024 — one year early.

The left-back is also courting interest from Atletico Madrid, Inter Milan and clubs in Saudi Arabia, with sources telling ESPN he will take some time with his family following the conclusion of the Nations League before making a final decision.

Alba’s desire to represent Spain in next summer’s European Championship, coupled with the fact that his partner is due to give birth to their third child in July, could influence his next move.

Inter Miami Expresses Interest in Jordi Alba

Jordi Alba‘s dance card is filling up…

Inter Miami have sounded out the 34-year-old Spanish professional footballer’s interest in joining the club but face competition to sign the Barcelona defender from Atletico MadridInter Milan and clubs in Saudi Arabia, sources have told ESPN.

Jordi Alba, BarcelonaAlba has reached an agreement to end his contract with Barca, which was due to expire in 2024, one year early and is looking for a new club this summer. 

Sources say Alba has not closed the door on any of the options and will make a decision after this week’s UEFA Nations League finals in the Netherlands, where he is part of the Spain squad that will meet Italy in the semifinal on Thursday.

After Lionel Messi announced he would join Inter Miami last week, and with sources confirming Barca midfielder Sergio Busquets has also held talks with the MLS side, Alba is the latest Europe-based player to be approached by the South Florida team.

Sources say there have not yet been any formal negotiations and there is no offer on the table, while Miami also has to consider how to manage its three designated player spots, but Alba would be willing to listen to the team’s proposal.

However, the left-back may prefer to stay in Europe with the European Championships coming up in Germany next summer and with his wife due to give birth to their third child next month.

LaLiga side Atletico and Serie A team Inter are among several interested European clubs, sources confirmed, while there are also offers on the table from Saudi Arabia.

Alba will evaluate his options with his family after the Nations League, with a decision expected to be made in the coming weeks.