Messi to Miami always meant the end for me, admits Phil Neville

Lionel Messi joining Inter Miami always meant the end for me as coach, admits Phil Neville as he opens up on ‘hard’ talk with lifelong friend David Beckham, who told him he was fired

  • Phil Neville has spoken out for the first time on his Inter Miami departure
  • He said he felt deep down that he wasn’t destined to coach Lionel Messi in MLS
  • provides all the latest international sports news

Phil Neville knew Lionel Messi’s arrival at Inter Miami would likely mean the end for him as coach – regardless of how well results were going on the field.

Neville was fired by Miami co-owner David Beckham, his lifelong friend, on June 1 – just two weeks before Lionel Messi officially signed for the MLS team. He left with the team last in the MLS Eastern Conference after a run of two wins in 13.

But since Messi has joined with Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba –  while Tata Martino replaced Neville as coach – Miami have been transformed. Messi has scored nine goals in six games to propel the team into Saturday’s Leagues Cup final against Nashville – Miami’s first final and first chance to win silverware. 

Speaking for the first time on his departure on Taylor Twellman’s Offside podcast, Neville has opened up on the difficult conversation he had with Beckham and insists he does not look at Miami with any bitterness.

‘I always had a feeling deep down I wasn’t going to be here (in Miami) when he (Messi) was going to come to the club,’ Neville said. ‘And I say that not lacking confidence in myself but this was different, this was not signing Gonzalo Higuain or Blaise Matuidi.

Phil Neville has opened up on his Inter Miami departure just before Lionel Messi joined 

Messi has transformed a struggling Miami team into a winning machine in only a month 

Neville admitted that Miami’s results were not good enough in the weeks before his exit

‘You look around the world, the way he has been at other clubs and there has always been certain managers that managed him. The bottom line for me was, forget Messi, the results weren’t good enough the last month I was in the job and I knew that. That is the reason I left. 

‘When I look in the mirror in the morning and my friends or social media say “it could have been you”, well no it couldn’t have. The results were not good enough. I knew the vision, I knew what the club wanted. I’ve been in football a long time and sometimes it is not meant to be. I am not bitter, twisted or angry.’

Neville spoke glowingly of how Beckham handled his exit and the conversation that they shared on his last day as Miami coach.

‘They were incredibly honest to me,’ Neville said. ‘I have had two special moments in my career away from the medals that I won and that is when I left Manchester United and when I left Miami. It was one that, in a way, filled me with pride with the respect they had for me.

‘My best friend, one of my lifelong friends, delivered the news that I wasn’t going to work for Inter Miami and that was really hard. Hard for David, hard for me but it was actually a really special moment between two people who have total respect and love for each other. 

‘I don’t have any bitterness and I don’t look back. Sir Alex Ferguson taught me that, my father taught me that – don’t look back because If you look back you end up with pain and anger and bitterness. I look forward, I think Miami gave me and my family two and a half of the best years of my life.’

Of course, Messi isn’t the only global soccer star Neville could have been coaching right now. Busquets – who Neville says he spoke to ‘two or three times’ about joining Miami – and Alba quickly followed.

And the left-back Alba has taken Neville’s son Harvey’s shirt number when he joined Miami.

Messi has scored nine goals in only six games for Inter Miami since his arrival in the USA 

Neville’s son Harvey plays for Inter Miami had gave up his No 18 shirt for Jordi Alba 

Alba (center) followed Messi (right) and Sergio Busquets in joining Miami 

‘About a week ago my son came home – he had taken the No 18 because it was a number I had in my career and Harvey took it,’ Neville said. ‘He came home and said “dad, Jordi Alba wants my No 18”. I was like ‘what did you say? I hope you said yes’ and he was like ‘well…’ and I almost clipped him round the head! 

‘This is Jordi Alba – give him your number and clean his shirt every day! I said if I was you I would ask him to sign his first shirt ‘to Harvey, from Jordi Alba’.’

Neville also opened up to Twellman about what comes next – and if he has his way, he will remain in MLS.

‘This country has been incredible for me,’ Neville said. ‘I loved coaching in the MLS. I love everything about MLS – the football, the styles. 

‘There have been many challenges. I’ve had brilliant experiences and this has been one of the most challenging. It’s a brilliant league. I feel as though I’ve got unfinished business, I want to prove in MLS I can do a good job.’ 

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