The 19-year-old winger has been thrust into the spotlight since joining the new MLS club, but it is an opportunity that he’s been looking forward to. On October 6, 2001, David Beckham blossomed from a star into an icon. It was on that day that he created the moment that defined him. As his free-kick sailed past Antonis Nikopolidis and into the back of the net, Beckham was the man that delivered England to the 2002 World Cup while becoming an international sensation far from the British isles. It was a moment of destiny that changed everything that came after it.
There’s little opportunity Matias Pellegrini has some memory of that day. He was born just a year-and-a-half before in Magdalena, Argentina, far in the European beaches where Beckham was king. In fact, Pellegrini only would have observed Beckham play in the midfielder’s waning years as he started the transition from global star to businessman.
And now, both are together in Miami. Beckham is the owner and the figurehead of an Inter Miami team which, in his eyes, will break obstacles. And Pellegrini stands as the club first-ever signing, the participant tasked with growing into a celebrity in his own right.
It is a lot to ask of a 19-year-old and there’s a certain pressure that comes with the role he now occupies. Not many in world football can say they were a club first-ever signing and not one of those that can are able to call Beckham their boss.
As a result, there is a definite weight placed on Pellegrini’s shoulders. Many expected a worldwide star like Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani or James Rodriguez to be Miami’s first major signing. On the contrary, it was Pellegrini, a name not known to many outside of Argentina.
But that stress, that weight, is what makes this team unique and that uniqueness is what convinced Pellegrini it was an opportunity he could not pass up.
“It’s something that does not happen a lot,” Pellegrini told Target. “This doesn’t happen to a lot of players. I am enjoying it. I’m a really young player, but right now I’m adapting to this club operates and I want to ensure I am doing my best to make sure I’m in the level that the club is at…I am just very happy, very excited. I’m lucky to be part of this great job and this ambitious club.”
“It has been a beautiful experience for me. This is extremely new. I wasn’t used to doing anything like this in Argentina, and I am very excited to be a part of it.”
A lot went into Miami’s pursuit and eventual signing of Pellegrini, one that was kickstarted by a quick rise back in his home country that paved the way for a reported fee that approaching $10 million.
By 2018, he was involved with the first group, where the winger proceeded to score three goals in 15 league matches while turning heads in the procedure.
Inter Miami’s interest came shortly after, and the growth club eventually got the deal done in a movement that saw the teenager loaned back to Estudiantes before January. He was confirmed as Inter Miami’s first player signing on July 26 and joined by countryman Julian Carranza later that day. With the move to signal two young Argentinian up-and-comers, Miami delivered a message that the squad would be constructed around much more than recognizable stars.
Since then, life has been somewhat different for Pellegrini. He’s since had to move to Miami in what has shown a massive change of pace. His family has joined him for his first few weeks in his new city and Pellegrini is working on studying English as he acclimates to life in MLS and the U.S. as a whole.
But fortunately for Pellegrini, he knew what to expect. MLS has been a home for gifted Argentinians, and Pellegrini is the latest celebrity to make the jump from South America. MLS has attracted more attention in Argentina in recent years with former national team manager Gerardo’Tata’ Martino linking big names like Gonzalo’Pity’ Martinez, Ezequiel Barco and Cristian Pavon in raising the league’s profile.
Because of this, Pellegrini had former Estudiantes teammates to turn to in search of information. He reached out to Lucas’Titi’ Rodriguez, who spent the 2019 season on loan with D.C. United, and Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, a vital piece of Atlanta United’s first expansion years and a 2018 MLS Cup champion.
Rodriguez played alongside the likes of Wayne Rooney at Audi Field while Gonzalez Pirez known as Miguel Almiron and Josef Martinez teammates before heading into Club Tijuana this winter. The two experienced unique situations presented by MLS, and told Pellegrini that it was a move he had to make.
“I talked a lot with Titi Rodriguez from D.C. United, Leo Gonzalez Pirez from Atlanta.
“It’s a league that is growing a lot with a lot of talented players. For me, it was always a wish to come here. It’s a terrific step in my career. I really like the club’s aspirations and the club’s goals. I’m really excited and looking forward to being a part of it.”
Since signing, Pellegrini has been compared with Gonzalez Pirez’s former teammate Almiron. But Pellegrini is three years younger than when Almiron transferred to MLS from Argentinian side Lanus. He’ s also not as experienced, but Inter Miami couldn’t wait any longer.
The club’s ambitions have been clear for all to see. Since the day Beckham announced his intentions of coming to Miami, the idea was to become something bigger than anything we’ve seen in MLS. With Beckham’s star power, investment from wealthy co-owners and Miami’s reputation, the possibility is unmatched.
But, so far, the team has signed just one Designated Player: Pellegrini. The big star has not landed. Instead, the club has brought in a number of talented youngsters like Pellegrini, Caranza and Venezuelan U-20 Cristian Makoun.
Pellegrini is comfortable with all the pressure that comes with being the club’s biggest signing to date, even as the club prepares for a big splash in the weeks to come, while the young Argentine is also comfortable with the new manager tasked with guiding his development from signing to star.
“I understand that Diego Alonso has done great things in his career, notably in Mexico,” he said. “Also, for me, it is a plus that he’s an Uruguayan, so we have a very similar culture. We talk the same language so I’m really looking forward to working with him.”
He added: “I must continue doing things how I was doing them in Argentina. Since I have been a young player, I have worked hard and I will continue to do so here in Miami. I want to contribute to the club and make sure that I can help the club achieve its goals and make history.”
That pursuit starts from Miami in March as the club begins with games at Los Angeles FC and in D.C. United. On March 14, the team gets its big moment as MLS returns to Miami for the first time since the demise of the Miami Fusion in 2001.
The club’s first match, fittingly, comes against Beckham’s former club, the LA Galaxy. It’s a club that’s everything Inter Miami hopes to be. The Galaxy attract stars, create headlines and, most importantly, win. There is a statue of Beckham outside of the club’s stadium and it’s the English star that is credited for taking the club from American power to internationally-recognized.
And today, Pellegrini faces his own challenge with this Inter Miami team. Expansion seasons are generally difficult and a lot will be demanded of the 19-year-old winger regardless of what names are linked to the club in the coming weeks. He may not be the major name many anticipated and he may not be a star at the peak of his powers just yet, but it seems he’s more than willing to be the engineer of his own rise.
“He was and still is one of my idols,” Pellegrini said of Beckham. “When Inter Miami achieved and I found out he was one of the owners, I was very, very excited to be a part of his project.
“It has been an unbelievable experience. Everything, all this, is new for me. I’m enjoying it. I’m using it. I’m sure this will be an experience that I’ll never forget in my life. I am very, very, very happy to be here.”