Orlando Sentinel

Team buys out Pellegrini’s contract to meet league rule

- By Khobi Price

The fallout from Inter Miami CF’s designated-player conundrum has been revealed: The team used its one offseason buyout on Matías Pellegrini so it could have the league-allowed three designated players to become roster-compliant by Friday’s deadline.

And Major League Soccer found during its investigat­ion that the club wasn’t roster-compliant during the 2020 season after signing Blaise Matuidi last August, with the punishment from its discovery expected to be announced soon.

Inter Miami had four designated players, one more than MLS allows, on its team heading into Friday: Gonzalo Higuaín, Matuidi, Pellegrini and Rodolfo Pizarro.

The league’s designated-player rules allow teams to acquire up to three players whose compensati­on and acquisitio­n costs are greater than the maximum budget charge ($612,500) while carrying the maximum budget charge against the team’s salary budget ($4.9 million), meaning Inter Miami had to offload one of its designated players and Pellegrini was the one chosen.

Pellegrini was one of Inter Miami’s first signings after the club paid a transfer fee between $6 and $9 million to acquire him from Argentine club Estudiante­s.

He started at the left wing in six of Inter Miami’s first seven games, but he had a difficult time finding his footing during his first year in MLS — his first outside of Argentina. Pellegrini fluctuated between being a starter (six games), sub (six games) or unused sub (four games) in the team’s final 16 matches. He recorded one goal and two assists in 19 games (12 starts) in 2020.

Pellegrini will join Fort Lauderdale CF, Inter Miami’s USL League One side, on loan. Inter Miami’s buyout will clear Pellegrini from its salary budget, but Pellegrini will maintain his contract — and salary — with the league while Inter Miami maintains his MLS rights.

He won’t be eligible to compete on the team’s 2021 MLS roster, but he’ll stay within the organizati­on — allowing the club the chance to loan or transfer him to another team around the world when more transfer windows open over the summer. Inter Miami won’t be able to trade or loan him to another team in MLS because it bought him out, according to The Athletic.

Higuaín, Matuidi and Pizarro will be the team’s three designated players for the 2021 season.

“We’ve been working with Matías, his representa­tives and MLS to reach an agreement, and at this time we believe this is the best option for all parties,” Chris Henderson, Inter Miami chief soccer officer and sporting director, said in a statement.

“Matías is a talented young player with an exciting career ahead. He will remain with the organizati­on as we work on finding an on-field opportunit­y and next steps for him.”

Inter Miami, however, will still have to deal with the consequenc­es of breaking the league’s roster rules last season when it signed Matuidi.

MLS has been investigat­ing the club’s signing of the 33-yearold French midfielder from last summer since March 5 and whether it complied with the league’s salary budget and roster guidelines. Inter Miami announced that it signed Matuidi using targeted allocation money, an MLS mechanism that allows clubs to sign players whose annual budget charge falls between $612,500 and $1.612 million during the 2020 season.

Any player who has a budget charge more than $1.612 million is required to be counted as a designated player.

The league’s investigat­ion found that Matuidi’s compensati­on was above the compensati­on limit for a TAM-player and he should’ve been registered as a designated player.

The club already had two designated players (Pellegrini and Pizarro) on its roster when it signed Matuidi. Inter Miami classifyin­g Matuidi as a TAM-player for the 2020 season allowed it to use its final designated player slot to acquire Higuaín, who signed with the club a month after Matuidi.

 ?? EVA MARIE UZCATEGUI/AFP ?? Inter Miami CF player Matias Pellegrini talks to the media during a news conference in January.
EVA MARIE UZCATEGUI/AFP Inter Miami CF player Matias Pellegrini talks to the media during a news conference in January.

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