Redondo signing shows Inter Miami are planning for life beyond Messi

Inter Miami already had the real Sergio Busquets. Now they have also described the young midfielder as his natural successor. Federico Redondo is certainly not the biggest name or most recognizable face to play at Chase Stadium recently, but his arrival in Major League Soccer proves that Inter Miami’s project is about more than just Messi.

Of course, a lot of it is about Messi. He’s the reason countless celebrities — including Will Smith for last week’s season opener — have made the trip to Fort Lauderdale for a game. He has doubled Inter Miami’s valuation as a franchise up to $1 billion and sold out stadiums in El Salvador, Hong Kong, Japan and Saudi Arabia on a global pre-season tour. There is a gravity around Messi and the MLS has been sucked into it.

However, around Messi, Inter Miami has built the most talented squad in the history of the competition. Luis Suárez will provide the kind of incisiveness that Josef Martínez couldn’t provide last season, assuming the Uruguayan striker can avoid injury, while Jordi Alba and Busquets are key figures. Even outside the Herons core of former Barcelona stars, there has been an impressive selection.

A bid to find the best young talent in South America has bolstered Inter Miami’s superstar recruitment drive. Tomás Avilés, Facundo Farías and Diego Gómez arrived in the same transfer window as Messi, Busquets and Alba, with all three players aged 21 or younger. They cover ground that their experienced teammates cannot.

The $8 million signing of Redondo is the clearest indication yet of Inter Miami’s two-pronged strategy. The 21-year-old has been tracked for years by several European clubs who believe he has the qualities to become an anchor in midfield at an elite level. The Busquets comparisons are justified. He was a standout player for Argentina at the 2023 Under-20 World Cup and is expected to feature at this summer’s Olympics.

Of course, Redondo – the son of former Real Madrid star Fernando Redondo – isn’t the first highly-rated South American youngster to land in MLS. Atlanta United have convinced several players of the same ilk to sign since entering the league in 2018 – see Miguel Almirón, Esequiel Barco and Pity Martínez. However, they signed those players by handing out bumper Designated Player (DP) contracts. Redondo only occupies a U-22 Initiative roster for Inter Miami, which is capped.

Signing Redondo to a cost-effective deal has increased the focus on Miami’s spending. Suspicions about Inter Miami’s salary cap compliance are not hard to come by. After all, this is a club that was was fined $2 million by the MLS three years ago for several violations of the league’s salary budget and roster rules during their expansion season. Sporting director Paul McDonough was also banned and a reduction in allocation money through 2022 and 2023 was also implemented. This time, however, Inter Miami says they are doing things by the book.

Co-owner Jorge Mas reportedly ran the lobby Convince MLS to take control this offseason. There is a growing feeling that clubs are being held back by the cautious selection and budget rules that have hardly changed in years. More money would mean better players and a stronger competition. However, MLS resisted the pressure to change and largely stuck to the 2024 rules. Inter Miami, like everyone else, must adhere to them.

Alba has a base salary of $1.25 million, according to the American newspaper Figures from the MLS Players Association released in September 2023, while Suarez reportedly has a salary of just $200,000 per year. Neither are Designated Players, but Leo Campana – an Ecuadorian striker who has failed to make much of an impact in Europe and is a depth option for Inter Miami – strangely is. Interesting financial Tetris are happening and many doubt that the blocks will ultimately fit together. “They’re screwed, believe me,” said an anonymous sporting director from a rival club the Athletics before the start of the 2024 season.

skip the newsletter promotion

Gregore’s transfer to Botafogo just two days before the season opener against Real Salt Lake was apparently the final checkbox for Inter Miami to meet roster and budget needs in 2024, but they are performing a delicate balancing act. With each signing they make, it becomes more challenging to stay upright. One misstep and they could fall.

Inter Miami fans, who are paying the standard price of $2,720 for a season ticket this season, probably don’t care about that. They have a front row seat at the most star-laden show in MLS history, and Redondo is the last to take the stage. The young Argentinian is expected to be a valuable supporting cast member behind Messi.

Without Messi, it is of course unlikely that Redondo – and Busquets, Alba and Suárez – would have gone to Inter Miami in the first place. The Argentina youth international clearly felt the pull of playing alongside one of the greatest players of all time. This is why Redondo was in favor of a move to the MLS; Messi is Inter Miami’s most powerful bargaining tool.

As ‘The Messi Team’, Inter Miami will only go further so far. They need a squad that can handle a full schedule, including matches in the MLS, the Concacaf Champions Cup and the Leagues Cup this year, not to mention the 2024 Copa America – in which Messi will play a fifth of the regular season of Inter Miami will miss if Argentina makes a run at the final. Messi could miss even more time if he chooses to play for Argentina at the Olympic Games in Paris.

There should also be a secondary business model once Inter Miami squeezes everything out of Messi, who turns 37 in June. They need to become active players in the global transfer market and the signing of Redondo is a nod to that. He, like many of his new teammates, may be in South Florida playing alongside his hero, but his impact will only be truly felt once Messi is gone.