Inter Miami might as well rebrand as ‘Lionel Messi And Friends FC.’ The South Florida club signed Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets to play alongside the greatest player of all-time and now Luis Suárez will also line up alongside Messi in Major League Soccer next season after joining from Grêmio.
Suárez’s transfer to Inter Miami had been rumoured for months. Head coach Tata Martino even spoke publicly about having a “plan” in place for the Uruguayan’s arrival, so nobody was surprised when the MLS club co-owned by David Beckham announced the capture of their latest big-name addition.
Talent-wise, Inter Miami boast the strongest squad in MLS. However, the Columbus Crew’s MLS Cup glory and FC Cincinnati’s Supporters’ Shield triumph proves talent only carries a team so far in a league more challenging than most outside observers give it credit for. Suárez signing won’t necessarily turn Inter Miami into a winning side.
Messi’s arrival at DRV PNK Stadium last summer certainly changed Inter Miami’s fortunes on the pitch. The South Floridians won the inaugural Leagues Cup and made a run to the US Open Cup final with the legendary Argentine their driving force. Messi also gave them a chance of making the play-offs having joined when they were bottom of the Eastern Conference.
Injury to Messi ultimately saw Inter Miami fall just short of the play-off line, but Martino found a system that worked. While Messi, Busquets and Alba gave him match-winning quality, the arrival of highly-rated youngsters Diego Gomez, Facundo Farias and Tomas Aviles also provided energy across the pitch.
This was crucial to ensuring Inter Miami could play a dynamic, modern game. With Messi, Busquets and Alba all well into the twilight of their respective careers, Martino needed players who could do the leg-work. Suárez is another veteran who will need to be harnessed by his younger, more energetic teammates.
Suárez arrives in MLS on the back of a very impressive season for Grêmio. The striker, who will turn 37 in January, made an instant impact on his debut, scoring his first goal within five minutes and a hat trick before half time. That set the tone for a Brasileirão campaign which saw Suárez net 17 goals in 33 matches and 26 goals in all competitions.
The former Barcelona and Liverpool striker appeared much leaner and fitter than the season before when he only managed 14 appearances for Nacional in Uruguay. If Inter Miami get the Grêmio Suárez, they’ll have one of the best finishers in MLS. That’s the player they hope they have signed.
At such a veteran age, though, it’s reasonable to question just how much Inter Miami will get out of Suárez. His knees have proved troublesome throughout the latter years of his career and so Martino will almost certainly have to manage the Uruguayan’s minutes across the 2024 season. Inter Miami can’t run him into the ground.
MLS fans shouldn’t expect to see the electrifying pace and razor-sharp movement that made Suárez one of the best strikers in the world at Barcelona and Liverpool. Even when fully fit, the Uruguayan isn’t as mobile as he once was, but the intelligence is still there, as is the cutting edge in front of goal.
If 2023 hinted at the team Inter Miami could become, 2024 will be the year some sort of culmination is expected. Never before has an MLS team had so much legendary talent within its squad at one time and so the bar will be high for Messi and co. Some already have them down as Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup favourites.
“I always thought 2024 was the year, in some way, our work started,” Martino said towards the end of last season, looking ahead to the 2024 campaign. “In these four months, some important things happened for the institution. But I think our real work begins with a good preseason, with a definitive roster.”
Martino is right to highlight the work ahead of Inter Miami. Suárez could make a real impact on MLS, but gone are the days when a handful of star players would guarantee success in the league. Inter Miami did a good job of integrating Messi, Busquets and Alba last season. Now they must do the same with Suárez.