Explaining how Matias Pellegrini joined NYCFC from Inter Miami

Explaining how Matias Pellegrini joined NYCFC from Inter Miami
Explaining how Matias Pellegrini joined NYCFC from Inter Miami

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Matias Pellegrini is a new player for New York City FC, joining through the remainder of the 2022 MLS season after officially leaving Inter Miami CF. That’s the bottom line, as announced Friday.

To save yourself some confusion or frustration, that’s the important takeaway. Now, to dive deeper into one of the most unique pieces of player movement in a league that is known for things like this, there are a few questions to sort through.

Pellegrini, 22, was one of Inter Miami’s first-ever signings, arriving for somewhere between a $6-9 million transfer fee – depending on which report you believe – from Estudiantes in Argentina’s top-flight. The rising Argentine talent never quite found his form in Miami during his debut season, the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign, where he had 1g/4a in 19 appearances.

The winger was bought out by Miami ahead of the 2021 season (more on that below) and now is leaving the club on a permanent basis and staying in MLS with NYCFC.

How, exactly, did Pellegrini go from Miami to NYCFC?

The process was, technically, waivers. So, NYCFC claimed Pellegrini via the league’s waivers system.

The move offers Pellegrini a solution after Miami have long publicly and privately spoken highly of his character over the last 18 months. He wanted to play for Miami but couldn’t because of a buyout in April 2021, a move he had no control over. The Herons wanted to help facilitate a move for the player to get regular minutes again.

At NYCFC, Pellegrini provides another attacking option after star forward Taty Castellanos left on loan for LaLiga’s Girona this summer. Since Castellanos left, NYCFC have three losses and a draw in four games. Heber is their only natural center forward, while Talles Magno can play through the center as well.

Wait… wasn’t Pellegrini “bought out” by Miami last season?

Pellegrini was indeed bought out by Miami ahead of the 2021 season, a cap casualty of a league investigation that revealed Miami had five (!) Designated Players during their inaugural season (with Blaise Matuidi and Andres Reyes not being correctly reported). So they had a problem in terms of roster compliance they needed to solve by opening day (April 18).

Miami hoped they could use a U22 Initiative slot on Pellegrini, but his salary was just above the maximum threshold for that mechanism. The team still had Matuidi, Rodolfo Pizarro and Gonzalo Higuain in 2021 and there was no way for any of that trio to be bought down from their DP charge. So, Pellegrini was the odd man out.

The club used an “offseason buyout” – in its simplest terms, that’s just a mechanism for the MLS salary cap. He couldn’t play in MLS games, but Miami were still paying him and technically controlled his rights. Pellegrini was loaned to Estudiantes, back where he began his career, but the club didn’t exercise its purchase option after the loan expired this summer. Boca Juniors were reportedly interested, as was a team in Spain, but no deal materialized.

Matias Pellegrini MIA
Matias Pellegrini on the dribble in an Inter Miami vs. D.C. United match in March 2020. (Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)
The Secondary Transfer Window closed Aug. 4. How can Pellegrini be added to NYCFC’s roster right now?

The simple answer is because the move occurred through waivers, Pellegrini can be added ahead of the MLS Roster Freeze Date on Sept. 2. Teams can use waivers and add free agents to their roster, and they’re eligible to play immediately pending the proper paperwork being in hand.

Last week, the New York Red Bulls added winger Tyler Pasher off waivers after he was last with Houston Dynamo FC. Meanwhile, per a source, the New England Revolution are signing free agent winger Nacho Gil.

Will Miami receive any compensation?

Miami will not receive any compensation in terms of allocation money, but they will get some salary relief.

The move continues the roster overhaul sporting director Chris Henderson inherited, with another key early signing moved on after not working out.

Miami have moved on from Julian Carranza (loan/transfer to Philadelphia Union), Pizarro (loan to CF Monterrey), Matuidi (buyout), Leandro Gonzalez Pirez (loan to River Plate), Nico Figal (transfer to Boca Juniors), Lewis Morgan (trade to New York Red Bulls) and many others.

IMCF are firmly in the Eastern Conference’s Audi MLS Cup Playoffs race, despite it being a rebuilding year and the club working under sanctions. Miami have 33 points, just below the East’s seventh-and-final playoff spot with nine games remaining.

NYCFC, MLS Cup champions in 2021, are third in the East with 42 points and nine games to go.

Explaining how Matias Pellegrini joined NYCFC from Inter Miami

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