Luis Suarez, Luka Modric and Inter Miami’s potential transfer targets to join Lionel Messi in 2024
After missing out on the MLS playoffs in 2023, who could be on their way to South Beach, and what are the club’s needs heading into the offseason?
Inter Miami’s summer transfer window of 2023 will go down in history. No window in MLS history will have been quite as important. It became immortal the moment Lionel Messi arrived in South Florida, and every moment since than has felt like something out of a movie for anyone following this club.
But, like all great movies, anticipation is building for a sequel. How can Inter Miami possibly follow up the most impactful transfer window of all-time? Can the club pull off more big swings in the months to come? And, most importantly, with Messi now leading the charge, what pieces can they put around him to turn all of these feel-good moments into a legitimate shot at an MLS Cup?
The process of answering those questions has already begun. Since Messi arrived, rumors have been swirling about the next big arrival to follow him, as well as Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba, to Inter Miami.
But who could Miami sign this winter? GOAL takes a look…
Rules to follow
For those new to MLS, each team operates within a set of guidelines. Some clubs, infamously, play fast and loose with those guidelines, Inter Miami included. But as we head into the 2024 MLS season, we’re not entirely sure what those guidelines will look like.
There have been rumors of some changes this winter, but until those are confirmed, we’ll have to operate under the assumption that MLS rules will look roughly similar to how they did in 2023. As a result, Inter Miami will enter the season with three Designated Players, the maximum amount, on the roster: Messi, Busquets and Leonardo Campana.
The good news, though, is that the club will finally be finished with its punishment handed down by the league for playing fast and loose with roster rules. The club was caught underreporting salaries, most notably that of French star Blaise Matuidi, leading to a massive fine and a reduced amount of allocation money in 2022 and 2023, limiting how much the club could spend on its roster.
That’s done now, meaning Inter Miami will enter 2024 on the same playing field as everyone else.
If reports are to be believed, this is all but done. Here’s what we know for sure: Luis Suarez is leaving Gremio this winter. The club has confirmed that he’s on his way out, albeit controversially, after the striker’s fitness dramatically improved once it seemed a switch to Miami with Messi became possible.
Here’s what we also know: Messi and Suarez are essentially each other’s best friends in the sport. Their families are close and they developed quite a bond, on and off the field, at Barcelona. During their time at Camp Nou, the two were essentially unstoppable, and Messi’s relationship with the Blaugrana famously started to go downhill when Barca jettisoned Suarez unceremoniously.
Suarez looks bound for Inter Miami, although it remains to be seen what type of finances it’ll take to make that happen. Alba, for example, took a cheap deal in order to play with his friends. Will Suarez do the same to bring yet another Barcelona All-Star to Miami?
If Suarez has been linked to Miami the most, Luka Modric finds himself in second place. Reports of the 2018 Ballon d’Or winner joining seven-time winner Messi have been so plentiful, in fact, that Carlo Ancelotti was forced to discuss the speculation, saying thatas things stand, there’s no plan to let Modric leave Real Madrid in January. But things change quickly in this sport, don’t they?
The question with Modric, though, isn’t if Miami can sign him, but what would happen if they did. The midfield already has one ageing midfield star in Busquets cemented in; could Miami afford more older legs in a league like MLS? And if they do make that happen, is someone like Benjamin Cremaschi ready to do all the running needed to keep the midfield going?
Maybe we’ll find out, maybe we won’t, but the links to Modric probably won’t be going away. If the club does pull it off, they’ll have brought in another superstar who is still somewhat near the top of his game.
Oh look, another Barcelona player linked with a move to Miami! Sergi Roberto isn’t an iconic player like Messi, Alba, Busquets or Suarez, but the versatile midfielder has been a mainstay in Catalunya for over a decade, winning everything there is to win. At 31, he still has a few good years in the tank and could finally play a more regular role if he does come to MLS.
It may not happen this winter, though, as reports out of Spain say that Roberto is eager to lead Barcelona as its captain, having taken on the role following Busquets’ departure.
Positions of need
As things stand, you can’t deny that Miami may just have the most talented starting XI in MLS. Aside from the ex-Barca trio, you have a U.S. men’s national team veteran in DeAndre Yedlin, as well as USMNT up-and-comers Cremaschi in midfield and Drake Callender in goal.
Young South American stars Facundo Farias and Tomas Aviles came in this summer and showed glimpses of their ability, while veterans like Gregore and Jean Mota, both of whom were hit with serious injuries in 2023, will return. This squad, as it stands, has 15 players that could legitimately count themselves among the top 10 or so in their position in MLS.
The club, though, does have some areas of need. It seems striker is one, with the impending departure of Josef Martinez, although the presence of Campana gives the club a legitimate starter, or a legitimate trade chip if neccesary.
Outside of that, though, Miami could use some depth at several major positions. Center-back is surely one, although the club did address that earlier in the season by trading for, and then re-signing, Canadian star Kamal Miller.
Teams can always use more legs in midfield, although they’ll likely need to shed the salary of either Gregore or Mota to make that happen, while it would probably be a good idea to bring in one more attacker that could help Farias shoulder the load in those games where Messi doesn’t play.
Overall, there aren’t any glaring holes in Miami’s squad. They don’t need to panic and throw money at another big name. This team is able to pick its spots and pick its players as they look to fine-tune, having already rebuilt the squad during the summer.
On the way out
We already know one departure, as Tata Martino confirmed that Martinez is on his way out. That’ll leave a gap at striker, but it seems that a certain previously-mentioned Uruguayan should be able to fill that no problem.
Other than that, most of the club’s key contributors are already under contract for next season. Miami has an option to bring back Finland international Robert Taylor, who was fantastic during those first few weeks of Messi-mania and represents a good bench option going forward. However, Victor Ulloa and Robbie Robinson, it seems, will be leaving, as their contracts are set to expire.
A lot, though, will hinge on what Miami does with Campana, who would be wanted by many MLS teams if he is made available, while defender Chris McVey is another player that could be moved if the club is looking to raise some funds.