Phil Neville explains why Inter Miami “didn’t want to” sign Gareth Bale

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Inter Miami CF head coach Phil Neville insisted Wednesday the Herons simply “didn’t want to” sign Gareth Bale, who joined Supporters’ Shield-leading LAFC earlier this week ahead of the Qatar 2022 World Cup.

The Herons instead acquired $75,000 in General Allocation Money from the Black & Gold because the former Real Madrid and Tottenham star was on their Discovery List.

But it’s the rest of his answer that really explains the direction Miami desire to go during the Secondary Transfer Window, which opens July 7 and lasts until Aug. 4. And, to emphasize the club’s philosophy, Neville pointed to Wednesday’s news of signing versatile French attacker Corentin Jean from RC Lens in Ligue 1, the same club former New England Revolution striker Adam Buksa just joined.

“At this moment in time, I feel as if we’re still in that foundation, building block phase,” Neville told reporters, explaining why it was LAFC, not Miami, that landed the Welsh superstar. “And there will be times when we add the cherries and the icings on the cake.

“… As much as it’s, yes, great on paper and all that business, we felt from a roster point of view, we felt from what we really wanted from this season, [Jean] and the other players hopefully we’ll bring in fit what we want at this moment in time.”

That’s not to say there is zero interest in big names; Inter Miami are often linked in media reports to European stars, largely because of the iconic status co-owner David Beckham holds in the global game. But when push came to shove, Bale wasn’t going to south Florida.

“[Bale] would enhance any football team, but we have a cap at this football club, we have a certain level of player that we think will improve us in certain areas,” Neville said. “Good luck to Gareth in LAFC. I’m glad we don’t have to play them again. They are ahead of us in terms of what they’re building, but we’ll catch them.”

Neville made clear more transfers will likely be on their way to Miami despite performing a near-complete makeover of their 2021 roster during the Primary Transfer Window, giving a direct “yeah” when asked if the club will have more activity during the summer period. This winter and spring, they brought in well over a dozen new faces.

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“We are developing a real, real top-level recruitment department,” Neville said, crediting chief soccer officer and sporting director Chris Henderson for his due diligence. “You look at the players that we’ve brought in this year, players that probably not many people have heard of, but players that are on our radar, players that we feel fit the characteristics of what we want. Which is hungry. We really want hungry players.”

Inter Miami also have an open Designated Player spot this summer. Both striker Gonzalo Higuain and midfielder Rodolfo Pizarro, who is on loan at Liga MX’s CF Monterrey, hold that roster status.

The club’s makeover, highlighted by US international fullback DeAndre Yedlin, Ecuadorian international striker Leo Campana and more, has Inter Miami challenging for an Eastern Conference spot in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs race. With a game in hand, they enter Week 18 at eighth in the table.

Inter Miami will be back in action on July 4 against Western Conference side FC Dallas at Toyota Stadium (9 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+). However, Jean’s earliest debut could be their July 9 match at Orlando City SC, after the transfer window has opened, pending any setback.

While Neville is relying on the Frenchman’s mentality and versatility to make an instant impact, he is prepared for the unpredictability of Jean’s visa process and is eyeing early August as a “worst-case scenario” for his first availability.

“When I first spoke to him, he desperately wanted to come to Inter Miami, and that for a player that’s playing in a real top league in Europe, at the age that he is, is a really good sign,” Neville said of the 26-year-old. “We’re not getting someone that’s gone over the hill. We’re getting someone that’s still just halfway up the hill really wanting to improve.”

Neville continued: “His versatility is really important. … He can play left and right wing. He can play No. 10, center forward. And he’s played a lot of his football at wingback for his team, and you know I like going to wingbacks as well. So he fits into what we’re trying to do.”

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