Lewis Morgan: Crossing the Atlantic from the UK to MLS
The Covid-19 pandemic has made 2020 a very testing year for everyone, and that’s been no different to those in the world of football.
With leagues in every continent put on hold, players were tasked with keeping themselves in shape during the lockdown in order to be ready when matches resumed.
But along with the unusual scenario of training home alone for an uncertain return date, imagine having relocated across the world just two months prior.
Well that was exactly the situation our very own Lewis Morgan found himself in after transferring from Celtic to Inter Miami in January.
Just two months and two matches after making the 4,000-mile move, the midfielder was confined within the four walls of his new home, in a new city and country he was still getting to know.
After bedding back into action in June’s MLS is Back Tournament, the Scot is now keen to kickstart his American dream in Inter Miami’s first season as a club.
“As a whole group we’re so excited,” said Lewis.
“We’ve worked so hard in the heat through the quarantine, training and the MLS is Back Tournament, so hopefully we can reap the rewards in the league.
“The sports science and fitness staff have been amazing throughout the whole lockdown period, where we had extensive training programs that were monitored through GPS.
“We now look strong as a squad and, with the matches back, we are all excited and ready to go.”
Despite sealing his move to Miami at the end of January, Lewis revealed that he first was made aware of the interest a couple of months before.
At that time, the Greenock-born midfielder was playing his football at Scottish champions Celtic, where he first made the move to from St Mirren in 2017.
“I’d heard about the interest from Inter Miami back in November 2019,” he said.
“I was starting to play on a semi-regularly basis for Celtic so I was just focussing on my football.
“When you’re hearing rumours as a footballer it’s just important to keep focussed on your football because you just don’t know what’s going to happen.
“It’s your job just to make sure you are always 100% and ready to play whenever you’re called upon and for whatever club that might be.
“I really left my off-pitch stuff up to Beswicks Sports because that’s what agents are there for. They’ve always looked after me so that side of things takes care of itself.
“Then when January came around it was something we looked at together and decided that it would be a good opportunity for me.”
On January 31, Lewis officially sealed his switch to the MLS but, with any big career decision in any industry, there was plenty to contemplate and organise within the two-months between initial interest and signing on the dotted line.
“With the logistics and everything else involved in moving across the world it was always going to be a decision that I had to really think through,” he said.
“I wanted to make sure it was the right club and I felt it was a good fit as soon as the negotiations started with Inter Miami.
“They are ambitious, have so much potential and want to do things the right way. It’s a very exciting project to be a part of.
“Then it had to be right for my family. It was important to make sure that we were going to be able to settle in a different environment and be able to focus on football.
“We took the decision that was something we would be able to do. So I have my girlfriend (Heather) and our two dogs (Rous and Lunar) out here with me.
“We expected to be able to have family to come and visit us out here quite frequently but, with everything going on in the world at the moment, that hasn’t been possible.
“Despite that we are settling as well as we can and are really enjoying it so far.”
Lewis has credited his smooth transition in difficult times to Beswicks Sports’ experience working within the MLS.
For over 15 years, the agency has worked successfully with clubs, players, investors and businesses all keen to be part of one of the fastest growing football economies in the world.
“I can’t speak highly enough of them,” said Lewis.
“From the beginning – when Inter Miami reached out and made contact – they always kept me informed.
“Their knowledge of the league and experience of working with clubs in the MLS was great for me. They knew people who were already involved at Inter and they couldn’t speak highly enough of them.
“Beswicks are an agency who I trust immensely and being able to lean on their MLS experience was massive for me.
“Having been involved in many transfers here in the past it was something I was able to seek comfort in.
“They were able to answer all the questions my girlfriend and I had about the move which meant, at the end, we decided it was a chance we wanted to take.”
As well as Inter Miami, there was interest in Lewis from other clubs back in the UK where he had spent the second half of the 2018/19 season on loan at Sunderland.
But despite orchestrating many transfers between UK and North American clubs, the playmaker says Beswicks always leave the final decision down to the player.
“I’ve always felt that they’ve had my best interests as a player from the first day I started working with them,” he said.
“There’s never any persuasion from their side. They collect all the information and do their due diligence but, at the end of the day, the decision is always up to myself.”
Having made the decision to transfer, Lewis also made a little bit of history as being not only one of Inter Miami’s first players, but also the first from the UK.
The club is a project six years in the making and has provided the Florida-based city with its maiden MLS side.
Despite having not physically visited prior to his move due to his Celtic commitments, Lewis has been thoroughly impressed with the set-up.
“The expenditure the club have put forward has given them unprecedented facilities.
“The moment I stepped through the door and saw the outlay it really showed me that they want to do things the right way.
“They’ve got great people at the club and people who are, importantly, used to being around success.
“That’s important to me because, ultimately, I want to be successful here so hopefully the set-up can help us achieve that.”
The Herons’ introduction alongside Nashville SC has seen the MLS grow from 24 to 26 teams for 2020.
Now in its 25th campaign, United States’ top-flight has continued to grow year on year, attracting big names – such as Zlatan Imbrahimovic, Andrea Pirlo and Steven Gerrard – from across the globe.
Despite having played just a handful of games before the pandemic put a stop to proceedings, Lewis, who’s played in the Scottish Premiership, international level, Champions League and Europa League, has only positive things to say.
“I obviously wouldn’t be able to compare the standard now to a few years ago but, from my experience at playing in Europe, it’s certainly comparable.
“There are lots of good young players and technical players in this league. Combine that with the ambition of the clubs then the standard is only going to keep getting higher.
“Over the last five years the MLS has experienced an upsurge in popularity back in Europe so it’s certainly – as a football person – something I’ve followed with a keen eye.
“The league is so ambitious and there are so many clubs out here that are showing potential to be successful.
“I’m very happy to be part of a league that is definitely moving forward in the right direction. If it keeps going this way, hopefully it will become a major league in world football.”
Playing for Beckham
The path for the likes of Ibrahimovic, Gerrard and Pirlo to make the move to the States was initially laid by David Beckham in 2007 when he switched from Real Madrid to LA Galaxy.
After helping to raise the profile of the sport in America as a player, the ex-England captain has continued to have a major influence in the MLS as one of Inter Miami’s co-owners.
As a midfielder from the UK, Lewis is fully aware of how privileged he is to be representing the club run by one of Britain’s greatest ever footballers.
So when he was also handed the honour of being the first to wear Beckham’s iconic number 7 shirt, the Scot snapped up the added responsibility.
“When I was signing the shirt number was something that was involved in the talks and the club were keen in having me as their number seven.
“Coming from the UK and knowing his history with that number – no pressure – hopefully I can make my own history with it here in Miami.
“First and foremost, this is his project. Whenever he has been about, he’s been great and has always lent his ear to any concerns we have.
“He only wants the best for us and hopefully we can repay the faith he’s had in bringing us to Inter Miami.”
At just 23, Lewis has made the move to the States at a younger age than those previously mentioned superstars.
With an international recall for Scotland very much the aim though, the playmaker has made the move very much for footballing reasons and to widen his professional horizons.
Having just two months to settle into a new team, league and country before an unforeseen worldwide pandemic hasn’t been ideal, but the midfielder still feels a move to the MLS is one other players in the UK should consider if presented with the chance.
“It’s been a bit crazy with Covid and how the league has been impacted by that but, speaking to the guys that have made the move previously, they can’t speak more highly enough about the league and moving out here.
“Everyone loves it out here and – importantly – it’s very competitive and the standard is improving every year.
“If a player wants a different challenge and wants to test themselves abroad then it’s definitely the environment to do so.”
Even though it has been a testing time, having his girlfriend and dogs present, plus family members just a video call away, has been a big plus for the Miami number 7.
On top of that, Lewis says Beswicks Sports’ support since his move and throughout the lockdown period has also been one he’s been able to rely on.
“You can always pick up the phone to all the guys at Beswicks,” he said.
“They will always be there to talk or help – even with the time difference that I have at the moment.
“They leave no stone unturned for all of their players and – as I’ve said – I can’t speak highly enough of them. It’s something that I really appreciate.”