Ronaldo, Fabregas, James: Who could join Beckham's Miami megaclub?
As David Beckham made the media rounds following Monday's announcement that Miami had finally been awarded a Major League Soccer expansion franchise, he did his best acrobatics to avoid naming players he might target.
Despite those attempts to avoid hype and rumors, however, Beckham did admit he had a list of targets for the 2020 season. He also let slip that plenty of "top players" had already given him a call to let him know they are "in" for a move to Miami. Beckham might target some younger stars out of South America a la Atlanta United, but he almost certainly will add a big name or two.
Lionel Messi's congratulatory video suggesting Beckham give him a call in a few years put him atop the list of players rumored to move to Miami but here are five more players Beckham might try to lure stateside for his team's inaugural season in South Florida.
James Rodriguez | 26 | Midfielder | Bayern Munich
Beckham won't look solely at aging stars to fill out his inaugural roster and Rodriguez would be 28-going-on-29 entering that first season. Miami-Dade County is home to the largest Colombian-American population in the country, which means Rodriguez would be a major draw for the expansion franchise. With a few years still left in his prime, Rodriguez would undoubtedly be an effective player in MLS for multiple years and could be the player around whom you build your team.
The Colombia international has found success on loan with Bayern Munich but while his loan deal runs through 2019, his contract with Real Madrid extends through 2021. That means Rodriguez might require a significant transfer fee but for the star power and game-changing ability, Beckham's group might be willing to splash the cash.
Gerard Pique | 30 | Center back | Barcelona
It's unconventional to spend big money on a central defender. In MLS, the designated player spots are best spent on attacking options but Pique might be an exception to the rule because he brings a package deal. He is one of the top defenders in the world and he'll be 33 in 2020, with a couple of good years still left in him at that position. He would undoubtedly be a leader for a club that would want someone to shepherd it through the early years of expansion.
Pique is also married to Colombian pop star Shakira and in a market like Miami, that power couple would bring plenty of eyeballs to the nascent Miami franchise. Star power is star power and though it might not yield the type of goals you want out of a high-paid DP, it would certainly give Miami a different way to tap into a market that loves the trendy, celebrity-attended events.
Of course, it wouldn't be an easy to deal to complete. Just this week, Pique signed a four-year deal that is intended to keep him at Barcelona through the 2022 season, but Pique has said in the past that he was intrigued by the possibility of ending his career in MLS.
Radamel Falcao | 31 | Forward | Monaco
The Colombia national team star will be 34 in 2020 but his goal-scoring record speaks for itself over the past couple of seasons at Monaco. Falcao has spent time in Miami in the past, including the World Cup summer in 2014 when he was working back from a knee injury, and he'd draw in that massive local population for the Miami franchise.
The striker's contract runs through the summer of 2020, which means Beckham might be able to pry him lose from Monaco on a free, either via a pre-contract ahead of the start of the season or as a mid-season transfer. It was just a couple of years ago that Falcao admitted he follows Major League Soccer and has watched friends Federico Higuain (Columbus) and Diego Valeri (Portland) succeed in the U.S., so Beckham might not have to do much to sell him on Miami as the right move when his days at Monaco are done.
Cesc Fabregas | 30 | Midfielder | Chelsea
The Spain midfielder has won trophies at Chelsea, Barcelona and Arsenal, and in 2020 he'll be at an age (32) where he's considering the next step in his career. Fabregas told a reporter in 2017 that he is planning on heading to the U.S. once he's done in Europe and joining up with Beckham's team makes plenty of sense.
Fabregas' deal with Chelsea runs through the summer of 2019 and that makes him a prime candidate to join a team launching in 2020, perhaps with a loan move similar to what Orlando City did with Kaka ahead of its 2015 debut season. He'd be a sure bet to dominate in central midfield for the expansion franchise but his passing and vision will have to be surrounded by talent in front and around him.
Cristiano Ronaldo | 32 | Forward | Real Madrid
The megastar loves Miami -- even investing in a restaurant there along with Enrique Iglesias and Rafael Nadal -- and he'd be just about the biggest splash Beckham could make with his new team. Ronaldo will be 35 in 2020 but we've seen aging forwards get it done in MLS (hello David Villa, league MVP) and Ronaldo isn't your normal soccer player. One of the greatest to take the field, Ronaldo would be the biggest signing in MLS since Beckham himself; he'd probably still have plenty to give even in his mid-30s.
While Messi drew the headlines by suggesting Beckham might want to give him a call in a few years, Ronaldo's image makes a bit more sense for the market. His contract with Real Madrid runs through 2021 but he might be able to finagle an early move to launch the Miami franchise and capitalize even more on an American market that would be ready to buy plenty of jerseys and line up for tickets to see him play.
Paul Tenorio is a Chicago-based freelancer who covers American soccer who's previously written for The Washington Post, Orlando Sentinel and FourFourTwo. Follow him on Twitter: @PaulTenorio.