Breaking down the good and the bad of the Kamal Miller trade to Inter Miami from CF Montréal
CF Montréal and Inter Miami shook up the MLS landscape on Wednesday, as Montréal traded Canadian international, Kamal Miller, and $1 300 000 in GAM to Miami for midfielder Bryce Duke and forward Ariel Lassiter in a blockbuster move.
Just months removed from Miller playing 270 minutes for Canada at the World Cup, where he performed well against some world-class players on Belgium, Croatia and Morocco, it was a surprising move, as many expected that Miller’s next logical move following that tournament would be to head to Europe.
Instead, he’s heading to a new destination within MLS less than two months into the new season, as Montréal looks to jolt their squad following a rough start to their campaign, sitting with just three points in six games.
After finishing third in MLS’s regular season standings in 2022, it’s been a big letdown for Montréal so far in 2023, after many were hoping they could maintain their status as an improving team despite losing several key pieces from that team.
Now, however, they can now count another key regular from that team on the departed list, as they continue to try and pick up the pieces following their slow start. Meanwhile, Miller will head to Miami eager to get back to where he was the last two seasons, where he blossomed into an MLS all-star with Montréal, helping spark their turnaround.
But speaking of that, what’s next for Miller, Montréal and Miami after a move of this calibre?
Here’s a closer look at what that could all look like, from both a best and worst-case scenario, as all parties now turn their focus towards making the most of this surprising move.
When things start to go south, sometimes a fresh start is much-needed. And that’s certainly what Kamal Miller will be banking on happening with this trade.
After two excellent seasons with Montréal, which saw him go from MLS rotation piece at Orlando City to one of the best centre backs in the league with his new team, cemented with an all-star appearance last year, Miller wasn’t his usual self to start this year.
Entering the season noting that while he was happy to be back in Montréal, he was eyeing a “dream” move to Europe, he’s dealt with injuries to start the year, and hasn’t fully looked like himself when he has played.
Because of that, with Montréal continuing to struggle, fans had started to look at Miller as someone who could potentially step up more than he had, given that he was such a key leader in the team’s success last year.
Kamal Miller with the Darby goal 🔥— Alexandre Gangué-Ruzic (@AlexGangueRuzic) September 5, 2022
So far, it’s been a wild 🍁 classique, and that’s included a Kamal Miller goal, as he’s nabbed his 2nd of the season to spark an early #CFMTL comeback
Nice to see him nab one. Been a fun game#CanMNTpic.twitter.com/RivIlNUv2u
Yet, given some of the departures that Montréal had, as well as some growing pains after the arrival of new coach Hernan Losada, a lot of that wasn’t fully fair to ask of Miller. Especially given how much Montréal has been struggling in midfield, that’s put a lot more pressure on their centre backs to perform, and that’s shown with the number of goals the team has shipped.
Therefore, this Miami opportunity will be a good chance for Miller to find his feet again, as they’re already a solid defensive team, conceding eight goals in seven games in 2023. He should slot in right away, too, as while the veteran Ukrainian Sergiy Krystov won’t be going anywhere at centre back for Miami, their other option, Christopher McVey, is more of a natural full back, so Miller would likely be ahead of him in the pecking order.
Plus, Miami has played around with the idea of a back three in the past, which could also work, allowing them to deploy Miller, Krystov and McVey all at once, while potentially helping out their struggling attack with the extra bodies in the attack.
Not only that, but this move can also help Miller’s European dream, too. Given the David Beckham influence at the club, as well as the constant chatter of Lionel Messi and Sergio Busquets one day heading to the club, there are always a lot of eyeballs on Miami.
Therefore, if Miller shines, teams will take note of him, potentially leading to the European offers that Montréal had "never received" for Miller according to Sporting Director Olivier Renard, despite consistent rumours of there being interest.
And hey, if does end up sticking around in Miami, there is always the chance Messi does sign with the team, which could allow Miller to play with one of the greats of the game, which is not a bad consolation prize to have.
At the same time, while this fresh start will be beneficial to Miller from an MLS perspective, there are some hurdles for him, especially when it comes to wanting to go to Europe.
For example, at Montréal, it was noted that the summer window could make more sense for a transfer to Europe, as teams there are typically more active. Given that Montréal is a team that typically isn’t shy in transferring players when the right offers come about, they likely wouldn’t have stood in the way of that, unless any offers that came in were terrible.
At Miami, however, they might be a bit more reluctant to make such a move. Having just acquired Miller in a trade of this magnitude, it wouldn’t be unreasonable that they might want him to at least see out the season.
Especially given that Miller is only signed through 2023 with an option for 2024, which could reduce his value in any transfer, Miami will want to maximize his time at the club unless a big offer comes through.
Otherwise, Miller will look to hope that Miami bolstering their already-solid defence can help them push up the table, as they have just six points in seven games, one of which came against Montréal. Both from his competitive side, as he’ll want to win trophies, but also from a sales perspective, as it’s easier to sell players on good teams, he’ll look to push Miami back up the table, after they made the playoffs for the first time last season.
Currently in last place in MLS, and showing no signs of moving up anytime soon, Montréal needed to make some sort of move, and fast, as they looked to provide a jolt to their team.
And with a Miller trade, they had the chance to execute a move of that calibre very quickly, as they’d planted the seeds for this a while ago.
Having shopped Miller around MLS since the start of this year, that will have given them an idea of what the market for him already was, instead of trying to shop someone new now, as teams will know that Montréal would be making a panic move and act otherwise.
Plus, with centre back being the team’s biggest area of strength on the team, as they boast Joel Waterman, Rudy Camacho, Gabriele Corbo and George Campbell at the position, while Aaron Herrera and Robert Thorkerlsson are also able to play there, it made someone like Miller a lot more expendable than a player of his quality typically is.
Plus, needing any sort of midfield and attacking help, the fact that they were able to nab Bryce Duke and Ariel Lassiter is key, as they should help bolster their ranks at both positions.
In particular, Duke is a nice addition, as he brings 80 games of professional experience despite being just 22 years of age, and is a good passer and chance generator from the midfield position. It’s no coincidence that his top statistical comparable from the last year on FBRef is none other than Ismaël Koné, who Montréal has struggled to replace since his departure, as Duke can make things happen in the final third, so don’t be fooled by him having just one goal and five assists at the MLS level across his 60-odd games in the league.
Then, from there, Lassiter is a nice depth addition on the wing who had six goals and four assists in all competitions for Miami last year, something that Montréal wouldn’t mind seeing from him again in their colours.
Yet, while it might’ve made sense for Montréal to trade Miller for Duke and Lassiter straight up, there are two factors that feel a bit strange with this move.
First, there’s the fact that they’re selling a bit low on Miller, especially after how high his stock was after the World Cup. Given that they’ve been shopping him around for a while now, you can only wonder what a potential return would have looked like if they traded him earlier.
Then, there’s the fact that they added $1.3 million in GAM alongside Miller to get the deal done. On its own, that would’ve been a lot of money for Duke (for context, Montréal paid $1 million in GAM to get Canadian international Alistair Johnston), but alongside Miller, it’s a hefty price.
Acquisition @cfmontreal de Bryce Duke, milieu offensif. Il a connu sa meilleure saison en carrière en 2022— Patrice Bernier (@pbernier10) April 12, 2023
28 PJ/ 16 départs
1 but et 7 passes décisives.
Il apportera une touche créative dans le département offensif #CFMTL
Of course, Montréal has a fair bit of GAM after their offseason sales and 2022 performance, but it feels like they could’ve gotten a bit more than they did for the amount that they sent to Miami. The good news is that they did retain a sell-on clause of over 25% on Miller, so that’s a plus, although that’d require Miami selling him on for a good fee for it to mean much.
So although they’ll be banking on the potential of Duke and a potential Miller sale to make up for this, it feels like Montréal traded the two best assets of this deal, which was quite surprising to see at first glance.
There’s a lot to like here if you’re Inter Miami. Losing Duke will hurt, but acquiring a Canadian international with 32 caps at just 25 years of age is a tidy piece of business, along with the $1.3 million in GAM is a nice sweetener.
In fact, the money is arguably the biggest part of this deal, as it gives them the roster flexibility that they need to go after the likes of Messi and Busquets, or whoever else they chase to help round off their attack this summer.
Then, if they can get a full year out of Miller, that’s an even bigger win, especially if they get a fee for him in the end, sell-on clause aside. Otherwise, if they can find a way to keep him around long-term, that’d also be huge, as Miller could be a top MLS defender for years to come.
Because of that, there’s only upside to this trade for Miami, which is why they’ll be quite happy with how things ended up for them.
Yet, while there’s a lot of upside for Miami, there are some risks.
Namely, they must now go out and make the most of that money, be it by signing Messi, or someone else, as their attack desperately needs it.
GAM received by Inter Miami will be crucial in summer moves as they continue to hope for Lionel Messi & Sergio Busquets.— Tom Bogert (@tombogert) April 12, 2023
Busquets likely won't be DP. This allocation money would help fitting him in under cap.
Even if dream scenario doesn't happen, they'll have flexibility. https://t.co/mEpICQG8DC
Especially given the uncertainty around Miller’s future given his European ambitions and contract situation, they’ll want to maximize the money to make the most of this deal, while hoping that they can get the most out of Miller, either on the field or with a sale.
Therefore, the pressure’s on for them to make a big splash. For all of the talk of some of the big players that they’ve wanted to sign since day one in MLS, 1.5 seasons of Blaise Matuidi (and the trouble that move got them in) is about as big as they’ve shot in that regard.
Be it a well-known star like Messi, or a young South American wonderkid in the mould of Thiago Almada, they just need someone who can inject some star quality into their attack, and will look to use this money to help them do that.