Former Toronto FC star Alejandro Pozuelo has yet to make his debut for Inter Miami CF but says he already feels at home in South Florida.
The 30-year-old Spanish playmaker said he was "very happy" to have landed in Miami in a July 7 deal with Toronto.
"I think you can see that," he said through an interpreter at a news conference Friday at DRV PNK Stadium (pronounced Drive Pink Stadium) in Fort Lauderdale. "Since I've arrived, I've found a team with a great mood, a fantastic locker-room, in a very Latin city. Everyone speaks Spanish here. I feel like home."
Pozuelo, whose MLS contract expires at the end of the season, said Miami had approached him "some time ago."
"I knew the club from having played against them. I knew some people at the club. And we had been in touch," he said. "My girlfriend lives here in Miami. Her family is from Miami. So it was always my first option, my main option to come here."
Asked about leaving Toronto, he said his only question in discussions with the club president on the deal was "When do I need to go? Today, tomorrow?"
He said he had some options to go abroad but "when I spoke to Miami I really wanted to come here, be part of this project."
Asked about a new contract, Pozuelo said: "I think we're going to have those conversations later. For now I'm just focused on helping this team.
"This team has great players. Maybe it's just missing that key piece in the middle to link the midfielders and the forwards."
Pozuelo could make his debut Saturday against visiting Charlotte FC.
"I think he's ready," said Miami coach Phil Neville.
Neville said the club would have to decide whether Pozuelo starts or comes off the bench Saturday.
Neville said the Spanish playmaker has already received rave reviews from his new teammates with former star midfielder Federico Higuain, now an assistant coach for Inter Miami II of the MLS Next Pro club, calling him "the best player he's ever played against in this league."
"He comes with an aura. He comes with a reputation. And now he has to deliver," added Neville.
"He's fitted in really well with the group, I've got to say. The only adaptation, I suppose, will be that he's only had two days training in the last 10 days. And in the Florida heat … But in terms of experience in this league, he knows how to play in this league, he knows how to win in this league and he knows how to perform in this league. And it's the performance bit that is the reason we signed him."
Toronto shipped Pozuelo to the Sunshine State in exchange for US$150,000 in general allocation money ($75,000 in 2022 in $75,000 in '23), with more to come if certain performance-based metrics are met. TFC also retain a sell-on percentage in the event of Pozuelo being sold to a club outside MLS.
It's a modest return for a former league MVP. But the move opened up a designated player spot in Toronto for Italian international Federico Bernardeschi, who is expected to be unveiled as a Red early next week.
Signed by Toronto as a designated player in March 2019. Pozuelo made 100 appearances for the club in all competitions with 30 goals and 34 assists. He ranks fifth among TFC’s all-time goal scorers, behind Sebastian Giovinco, Jozy Altidore, Jonathan Osorio and Dwayne De Rosario.
Pozuelo won MVP honours in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, when he led the league in combined goals (nine) and assists (10). Pozuelo was named to the MLS Best XI in 2019 and 2020.
It's a big week for Inter Miami, which hosts Barcelona in a friendly next Tuesday.
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 15, 2022
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press