The season after our first league title was always likely to be a crucial one, and it ended up being so. In order to improve the coefficients of the league and of Hungary itself, it was crucial we did well in the Champions League, and that ended up being our focus. Initially, this meant our league form suffered really quite badly. But with the young squad that won the league being kept largely intact, and further improving, I was confident in our ability to catch up the leaders (who were Videoton, as you may have guessed).
The only changes to the squad were…
Kadú in on a free. Replaces Marko Dmitrovic, who was sold for £925k + 50% of next sale, having spent his last season at the club constantly angling for a move. It was particularly nice to finally sign a player that I’d actually heard of prior to this save, and despite the fairly costly wages, he’s a fairly large upgrade on the Serbian.
Adam Vass left on a free transfer due to his wages not really matching his status as a rotational player in the squad. The fans weren’t happy that we lost out on a transfer fee given we bought him for £250k only two years ago. But we were able to replace him with François Marquet from parent club Standard Liege. Surprisingly, Marquet was available on a free transfer, and given I was able to sign him onto a deal of only £425 p/w, it can’t have been a wage bill problem for the Belgians. Odd. But it worked very well for us as Marquet occupied a number of different positions in some really big games; very much a Champions League player.
That was it for the Summer window. But we made two more excellent signings during the loooonnng winter break. This was due to the addition of Norweigan scout John Vik to the scouting department. Vik was brought in as a specialist of the Scandanavian region, as the club had appalling knowledge of said region at the time. And much like when Sylvain Wiltord joined the club, followed by the French legion, two of Denmark’s brightest young talents were soon signed up — Jacob Grønborg and Kenni Brogaard. The added upside of bringing them in together means they help each other settle in. They speak five languages each, though, so I think they’ll be fine in that regard.
Aside from the great names, they’re also really handy players. Grønborg is a hard-hitting defensive midfielder, who will hopefully be capable of pressing high and wracking up the tackling numbers or sitting back and guarding the defense, depending on my tactical inclinations. As it stands, he’s the most promising youth player at the club, with the occasional foray into first-team football.
Brogaard, despite being the same age as his compatriot, is already my best central defender. As a result, he’s already considered a key member of the first-team, and his performances went some way towards repaying my faith. Combine his already excellent attributes with his ‘Model Professional’ personality and I’m sure you can see why I chose to break my wage structure for him. With 5* PA, he could be part of the side for a long time. Assuming he doesn’t bugger off to Hertha Berlin…
Following those transfers, we were able to make a pretty decent stab at every competition we entered. Obviously it was always going to me bordering on impossible to make an impact in the Champions League, but I was delighted to make it into the group stage. We easily made it past Shirak of Armenia and Greek champions Atromitos and into the draw for the Best Placed Playoff. Winner takes the big one: group stage qualification.
There were a number of big teams in the draw; with the opponents we could’ve faced being Kobenhavn, Maccabi Tel-Aviv, BATE Borisov, Dinamo, or Celtic. Luckily, we drew the only team I thought we could beat — BATE. A 7-1 win on aggregate did the trick. Lovely.
We didn’t make the same impact in the groups, as we were drawn with Lyon, Liverpool and Real Madrid. But the experience, finances and coefficient raised from our campaign this year has been invaluable. Our ‘success’ has singlehandedly had a massive impact on Hungarian football’s reputation:
The aim for next year is to push this on to even loftier heights. I understand how difficult it will be to reach the group stage again; after all, we got the easiest draw we could possibly hope for. But if we do manage it, I’m hoping that Hungary can rise from 18th to 15th in the European coefficients table. Doing so would lead to an extra Champions League spot, alongside the three Europa League qualifying places we already have.
Hungarian football has developed nicely, as well. Those of you who follow me on Twitter will know that Kaposvar were able to attract a mystery foreign tycoon a few seasons back, and now Ferencvaros have been taken over by a big-money businessman. They’ve already begun splashing the cash, and as our fierce rivals, it’s really begun to spice up the save. I lost an entire month to crash dumps, so this was able to help me get through. Újpest and Ferencvaros as the top two, both qualifying for Champions League football, would be the absolute ideal for me.
In order to get into the Champions League, we had to focus all our efforts on those vital qualifiers. This meant the league fixtures around that time yielded pretty poor results, and at one point we even dropped down to 14th place. The rest of the season was spent playing catch-up. But we did that pretty well.
In the end we managed to bag ourselves the Hungarian Super Cup, as well as the Hungarian League Cup to give us three of the four domestic trophies available to us. It took a difficult extra time loss against Videoton to miss out on the fourth, too. This worked out pretty well for me personally as I was rewarded with a new contract as well as a few nice-to-know news items:
As for the players that got me there, here’s the customary stats spreadsheet (click on it for enlarged version):
There were a number of wonderful performances. Fernando Canesin Matos was the main performer, as he further upped his output from last season, and went on to break goals *and* assists records on his way to Hungarian League Player of the Year award.
One major issue I’m having (and I’m trying to consider the stats in making this decision) is which central defender to sell or loan out next year. I’m really not that great at rotating players, so I always have a squad of 3 CBs with one in the academy to pop onto the bench when one gets injured. But the first-team squad has four excellent central defenders, all with high potential; Almamy Touré, Romaric N’Gouma, Christophe Hérelle and Kenni Brogaard. Brogaard is guaranteed to stay, he’s the future of the club. But one of the other three must go. So I pose the following questions to you lovely chaps;
1. Based *solely* on stats, which of those three players do you feel is the worst?
2. Screenshots of all three: Touré / / / N’Gouma / / / Hérelle
Which one do I rid myself of? And do I sell or merely loan them?
Let me know either in the comments section or hit me up on Twitter.
Aside from that, it was also a year marred by injuries as Thibault Rosier and Aristote Ndongala succumbed to long stretches in the physio room. I mentioned in my previous season’s review that I have massive hopes for Rosier, but it appears his injury proneness will hamper his career somewhat. With NPG+A P90s of 0.96 for Rosier and an astonishing 1.15 for Ndongala, we missed them massively at times. Whilst 1.15 is the best NPG+A P90 I’ve had, I asked a few people on Twitter for the best they think they’ve ever had. Obviously it’s difficult to go back and track the stats for season’s past but estimates from @Shrewnaldo and @tomtuck01 suggest their best players, Giulio Schembari and Joao Pedro respectively, have had seasons with NPG+A P90s approaching 1.50, which is phenomenal. It’s been one of my main aims since starting this career to find a Hungarian player to rival the legendary Ferenc Pukas, and getting those numbers regularly would go some way towards doing that.