Inter Miami’s second-year makeover is officially underway. Co-owner David Beckham, taking a more active role this season, already made his first signature move, hiring former Manchester United and England teammate Phil Neville as head coach.
The Neville news is expected to be announced as early as Monday, according to league sources, as will the hiring of new Sporting Director/Chief Soccer Officer Chris Henderson, who held a similar role with the Seattle Sounders.
Neville replaces Diego Alonso, with whom the club parted ways two weeks ago. Henderson, a highly regarded talent evaluator who played for the Miami Fusion in 2001, is taking over the job previously held by Paul McDonough, who stepped down in December. Henderson was a runner-up for the job when McDonough was hired in 2018.
Neville and Henderson are part of a massive front-office shakeup. A few other leadership positions on the business side are still being finalized – a president and a chief business officer. At least one is expected to come from overseas.
Inter Miami kicked off amid much hype last March, and the ownership group, led by Beckham and Jorge Mas, spared no expense. They spent over $100 million on a training site and temporary stadium in Fort Lauderdale and splurged on one of the league’s most expensive rosters. But the team did not live up to expectations. It finished 10th in the 14-team Eastern Conference.
Beckham watched the rocky, COVID-disrupted inaugural season from England, where he quarantined with his family. He was the team’s biggest cheerleader early on, posting regularly on social media, but had a less public presence toward the end of the season. Behind the scenes he was said to be keeping close tabs on the team. Never one to settle for mediocrity – especially with a team so closely linked to his global brand -- he vowed to take a more hands-on approach with soccer decisions in 2021.
He and his family flew to South Florida just before New Year’s Eve, and before long, he was in his black and pink Inter Miami gear, kicking the ball around with youth Academy players.
“Grateful to be back in Miami. Lots of hard work ahead. New start, new season. Let’s go.” Beckham posted on Instagram on Jan. 9.
His first orders of business: hire a new coach and new sporting director. For coach, he turned to his old teammate, Neville, the England women’s national team coach since 2018.
Neville played 10 years with Manchester United, won six Premier League titles, three FA Cups and a Champions League. He then moved on to Everton, where he spent the final eight years of his playing career and was team captain. He also played 59 games for England from 1996 to 2007.
Neville, who turns 44 on Thursday, retired in 2013 and went into coaching. He was a top assistant with Manchester United in 2013-14 under David Moyes. He was also on the coaching staff with Spanish team Valencia in 2015-16, working with his brother Gary. He took over as England women’s coach in January 2018 and led the Lionesses to a fourth-place finish at the 2019 Women’s World Cup.
He is known as a players’ coach, a good communicator and has experience dealing with the media, as he has spent several years as a T.V. and radio commentator. Like his Inter Miami predecessor, Neville enters the job with no Major League Soccer experience, which is a bigger hurdle than many foreign coaches realize.
But he will have his old pal Beckham and Henderson to lean on.
Henderson, 50, played in 317 MLS games from 1996 to 2006, and was the league’s leader in games played when he retired. In 2008, he joined the Sounders’ front office, where he helped lead the expansion club to 11 straight post-season appearances and two MLS Cup titles – in 2016 and 2019.
Neville and Beckham remained close friends after their playing days. They are co-owners of English fourth-division club Salford City, along with other former Man U teammates.
Neville has sports in his bloodline.
His parents, Neville and Jill, were both competitive athletes. His older brother Gary played his entire career with Manchester United, where he was captain and won eight Premier League titles and two Champions League titles. Gary also played right back for England for 10 years and played in two World Cups.
Neville’s twin sister, Tracey, was on England’s national netball team and went on to coach the national team from 2015-19.
Neville has passed that love of sport along to his 18-year-old son Harvey, who followed in his father’s and uncle’s footsteps and plays right back for the Manchester United youth team. Neville and his wife, Julie, also have a daughter, Isabella.