Inter Miami CF has become roster compliant ahead of the 2021 regular season, engaging in a roster maneuver so that Designated Player Matias Pellegrini no longer counts against the team's salary budget, and then loaning him to the team's USL League One affiliate, Fort Lauderdale CF.
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MLS rules stipulate that a team can "buy out" one guaranteed contract per year. The effect of this is that Miami will still have to pay Pellegrini, but he will not count against the team's salary budget, and cannot play for the team this season.
"We've been working with Matias, his representatives and MLS to reach an agreement, and at this time we believe this is the best option for all parties," said Chris Henderson, Inter Miami CF's Chief Soccer Officer and Sporting Director. "Matias is a talented young player with an exciting career ahead. He will remain with the organization as we work on finding an on-field solution and next steps for him."
Inter Miami was forced to make such a move due to the fact that it had four Designated Players on its books, which was one more than was allowed by MLS. The other three DPs are forward Gonzalo Higuain, midfielder Blaise Matuidi, and midfielder Rodolfo Pizarro. Inter Miami had hoped that Pellegrini would qualify for the league's new U-22 initiative, but it was determined that Pellegrini's hit to the salary budget made him ineligible for such a designation. That left the club with the difficult decision to use its one offseason buyout of a guaranteed contract on Pellegrini.
Inter Miami is already being investigated by MLS over the fact that Matuidi didn't count as a DP last season. In a statement, MLS said it has concluded that the club was not in compliance with the Roster and Budget Rules during 2020. In 2020, Matuidi was categorized as a Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) player. Matuidi's compensation was above the compensation limit for a TAM player and he should have been classified as a Designated Player.
As a result, the club violated the Designated Player Limit as it had three DPs -- Higuain, Pizarro, and Pellegrini -- in addition to Matuidi during 2020. MLS added that it will announce the results of that investigation, including sanctions, in the near future.
The moves regarding Pellegrini basically buy Inter Miami time to find a more permanent home for the Argentine, with various transfer windows around the world set to open this summer.
Pellegrini, 21, was one of Inter Miami's first two signings in July 2019 when he joined the team from Argentine top-tier side Club Estudiantes de La Plata. The Argentina youth international made 20 appearances in the Miami's inaugural campaign, 19 coming in the regular season and one in the playoffs, starting 12 times and registering a goal and four assists.