Greg Cote

Why Barcelona’s Luis Suarez would be Miami sports’ biggest signing since LeBron | Opinion

FC Barcelona’s Andres Iniesta addresses incident with Neymar

FC Barceona's Luis Suarez and Andres Iniesta speak to the media regarding Saturday's El Clasico match with Real Madrid.
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FC Barceona's Luis Suarez and Andres Iniesta speak to the media regarding Saturday's El Clasico match with Real Madrid.

Luis Suarez, one of soccer’s biggest stars and most dynamic goal-scorers, is being wooed with a lucrative four-year offer to join David Beckham’s Inter Miami in 2020 as the Major League Soccer expansion team’s first signature star.

It might not end up happening, but the interest and the offer are not a rumor, or mere speculation. I have been assured by those who would know that Inter Miami is aggressively pursuing the Uruguayan striker from club giant Barcelona.

For now, that it might happen is sufficient to nourish the imagination.

The ton of passionate South Florida soccer fans who make Greater Miami No. 1 in U.S. World Cup TV ratings and who fill Hard Rock Stadium for international friendlies have been waiting for this team to birth itself since the gestation began in February 2014.

More than five years later, Inter Miami still is scrambling against the clock to get a stadium built, just eight months before its first MLS preseason is to begin. Still no head coach or players. It has been only the reassuring stature of Beckham out front and Jorge Mas’ money the engine driving the dream.

And now, add the knowledge of the height of Miami’s aim in gunning for Suarez.

When you’re trying to sell fans on cheering for a team that doesn’t really exist yet, even one big maybe is the spark in the dark that could ignite.

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Soccer is different. It just is. The coverage of this sport, the global reach and the international intrigue set it apart. The rules of journalism can be looser, the line between fan and media blurred. What is news and what is rumor can start out as indistinguishable, because what begins as rumor can harden into apparent fact in the retelling.

So on Monday, 4,700 miles across the Atlantic, into a microphone at Radio Catalunya in Barcelona, began the spark that reached Miami. Two hosts were talking on a soccer show called “Club de la Mitjanit” (Club Midnight).

One said (translated): “David Beckham wants to sign Luis Suarez for his MLS team, Inter Miami. He has made a proposal for him to go next year.”

The other host said: “At the moment, Suarez has not said no. The offer is four years and the figures, more than interesting.”

No source was cited, and the exchange, when Tweeted by the show, appeared under the following hashtag: #GOSSIP

At least one contrary report already has suggested Suarez will remain with Barcelona to continue playing alongside Lionel Messi on one of the most gigantic club teams in the world. However, the show’s Xavi Campos said specifically that Suarez already has received Inter Miami’s proposal and if accepted would come here after the 2019-20 Barca season ends.

Those are pretty specific details to not think there might be something to them. And our sources Wednesday confirmed they are true.

Inter Miami is not commenting on the Suarez speculation. We reached Mas on Wednesday, and he offered other updates:

That he remains “confident” the new Lockhart Stadium will be ready for the start of the 2020 season as Inter Miami’s temporary home, but that preseason games likely will be played elsewhere in South Florida or out of the region.

That realizing Miami Freedom Park remains the permanent plan and that the Overtown site is not a backup plan.

On the Suarez reports, Mas was mum. However, before the Suarez spark caught fire, Mas had tantalizingly said, “This is a city and team that is going to attract players who play in some of the best leagues in the world.”

Beckham/Mas promise an exciting, offense-minded team, and Mas said Inter Miami is presently in contract talks with three players it plans to sign as soon as later this summer.

Beckham and Suarez first met in 2018 at an event in Barcelona and it was reported over there as an instant mutual admiration, with Beckham quoted as calling Suarez “an amazing player and person.”

Teased Beckham this week on Instagram: “Exciting times ahead for us as owners, our fans and our city.”

Suarez would be the perfect starting point and building block for an expansion team pitching itself as entertainment, and promising star power.

With Liverpool and then Barcelona, Suarez has scored 25 or more goals each of the past seven seasons at the sport’s highest level of competition. Though oft-overshadowed by Messi and Neymar and previously by Cristiano Ronaldo, Suarez stands on his own.

His 15.6 million Twitter followers are double those of the newly retired Dwyane Wade, who he would replace as the biggest star in Miami sports. He would be the biggest international star in MLS alongside the L.A. Galaxy’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic and (if we’re being quite generous) D.C. United’s Wayne Rooney.

There are negatives. They begin with Suarez’s reputation as a dirty player adept at diving and involved in not one or two but three incidents of biting an opponent. He also would turn 33 just as the 2020 MLS season started, although all evidence is that he remains vitally in his prime.

His stature as a pure goal-scorer would make Suarez’s arrival the biggest in South Florida sports since LeBron James took his talents to South Beach in July 2010.

Good for Inter Miami for aiming that high.

Even if it doesn’t happen, it whets the appetite for what might lie ahead.

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