Inter Miami kicks off its second season at home Sunday against the Los Angeles Galaxy, and midfielder Matias Pellegrini remains in limbo as to his status with the team.
The club reportedly paid a transfer fee of more than $7 million to get Pellegrini from Argentine club Estudiantes in the summer of 2019. He was the team’s first “Designated Player,” a classification given to high-priced players. Miami has since added Rodolfo Pizarro, Blaise Matuidi and Gonzalo Higuain, all of whom will be classified as DPs this season.
MLS allows only three DPs per team, and Inter Miami is carrying four, so one will have to leave or change salary status. Matuidi was signed under a lower-salary category (a deal that is under investigation by MLS), but by elevating him to DP the club can be roster compliant by Friday’s deadline. MLS commissioner Don Garber said Monday the Matuidi probe is wrapping up and an announcement is expected this week.
In the meantime, the club might have to loan or trade Pellegrini, most likely to another MLS team. Brazil would be another option. Most other leagues’ transfer windows have closed. MLS has a new U-22 initiative, but it is unclear if Pellegrini, 21, would qualify due to his salary.
Pellegrini, who scored one goal in 15 games last season, has handled the situation with poise, said coach Phil Neville.
“Mati has been incredible,” Neville said. “The boy from Day One has had a smile on his face. His attitude has been fantastic. He’s put in the performances. He’s an outstanding young player and young boy. Everyone knows the situation. Mati has been really mature. It’s being dealt with. From a coach’s point of view, he’s been an absolute dream to coach.”
One new player expected to play a crucial role is Brazilian midfielder Gregore, signed from Bahia last month to a four-year contract.
The 27-year-old central midfielder has “a great engine,” said sporting director Chris Henderson, who has had his eye on Gregore for years. He will be paired as a holding midfielder with Matuidi and will bring stability to that area.
Neville has been impressed with Gregore thus far.
“I knew his ability, but his character surprised me a lot in terms of his willingness to learn every single day,” Neville said. “He’ll sometimes come up to my office to talk about how we want the team to play, what his positions are, how he will connect with his teammates. That’s impressive from a young player. He wants to learn so fast. He’s learning English so fast, too. The boy is coming in to win. You can tell right away with the way he speaks, his body language. He’s a little bit behind physically, his season (in Brazil) ended three or four weeks ago, so he’s playing catch up, but he’s been really impressive so far.”