As seems to be the case regularly these days, it’s been a long while since my last [Dortmund] update. In that update, I suggested the save may well be done & finished as we completed our aim of an unbeaten season. This proved not to be the case, and I’ve actually completed a number of seasons since them.
This is largely because a variety of new objectives have taken priority; back-to-back(to-back) Champions League titles, a new stadium, creating a new side after dismantling the old one for massive transfer fees and, most importantly, Robert Wechner’s goal tally. One of the main joys of Football Manager is finding regens who fit your style & philosophy, and morphing them into a deadly player capable of ruining the opposition. Wechner is just that, and he happened to come through the academy. In the last article I wrote, I noted that he’d never reached Gerd Muller’s Bundesliga record of 365 goals; but not because of a lack of ability, just that I’d never manage him to that point as the save was done. But I continued, and at the end of this season I checked it. How many Bundesliga goals had he scored?
Since the start of my ‘Moneyball’ Udinese save, one of the main questions I get asked is how to find the undiscovered gems of the football world. Given the save is built around signing players for value due to their low reputation, this is an area of the game I spend a lot of time on. Twitter is a pretty handy tool for answering lots of questions, but this topic deserves more than 140 characters.
I recommend reading the whole article and then putting it into practice in FM, rather than stage-by-stage. It’s also well worth checking out the comments section of this article as there are some points I’ve missed that provide some more handy info.
Achieving a constant upwards progression under strict financial constraints is incredibly rare in real-life. However, this is Football Manager and it’s a damn site easier. Despite making a £15m profit on transfers, as well as performing a complete overhaul, we were able to turn 14th position into 6th.
Following a horrendous start, we seemed to be battling relegation rather than fighting for a top-half finish. After game-week 15, we were in 15th place. But a 2-1 win against European contenders Lazio turned our season around. After that point, we only lost twice in Serie A; a very much undeserved 3-0 at Napoli, and a placid final day performance at the San Siro against AC Milan.
At the end of my introductory post on the new Udinese save, I mentioned the situation was something of a ‘clusterfuck’. In truth, it was a lot worse and I had to complete more outgoing transfers/loans than in any transfer window ever.
The Summer all began with the loan players returning. This was fine. Whilst there was lots to deal with, we were at the end of June and there was plenty of time. However, the day before they were all due to return, the board announced they were considering a consortium takeover and this resulted in a temporary transfer embargo.
Regardless, planning went on, and we’d been given a £360k p/w wage budget. This seemed fairly reasonable… until the loanees returned. At this point I thought something must’ve been wrong, because upon trying to offer a new contract to one of our current players, the maximum value was an absolute pittance. So I checked the finances, and we were now paying £640k p/w in wages.
Finishing my Dortmund save meant it was time for a new one. I asked on Twitter and in the previous blog post for suggestions on new places to visit across Europe. There were some excellent suggestions, with Denmark and Croatia amongst my favourites. Whilst Denmark seemed an excellent place to manage, none of the clubs particularly took my fancy. And similarly, Croatia had some interesting rules on Home Grown players that I didn’t fancy contending with.
When I can’t decide a club to choose for a new save, I tend to holiday a season with a big database of many leagues. Once the season is up I check for vacancies and particularly insecure jobs. More often than not, there’s something interesting. And this time was no different; Ajax, Werder Bremen, Zenit, Celta Vigo, and a few others were available. But eventually the club selected was Udinese.
The new season promised to make up for the disappointments of the year before. We made very little impact domestically or on the continent, and despite finding ourselves in the Europa League, I was determined to go far.
Transfer dealings were performed largely based on my attribute & role rating system I mentioned in my previous posts. Five of the signings were made for the first team, with four having a strong recommendation from the system; whilst the other was a keeper (Timo Horn). I’m not quite sure why I didn’t set up the system to cater for goalkeepers, but it doesn’t so there we go. Something to add for future.
Selling a few key first teamers gave us a fairly large transfer chest. One of our top performers in 16/17 was Douglas Costa, but a move to Manchester City turned his head, and the club was more than happy with the £23m fee. Max Kruse (£14m), Walter (£8.5m), Milos Jojic (£9m), Jonas Hoffman (£5m) and Erik Durm (£9.5m) were also shipped out after the system insisted they were all pretty rubbish. Leo was then sold for £6m after the opportunity to sign the high potential Lucas Boye arrived, and Kevin Grosskreutz was going to stay until a £15.25m offer arrived from Leverkusen; too good to ignore for a 29 year old.
Having somehow finished the first year in 15th, I was hoping to push on and solidify our position as a top half team in 2015/16. Gabriel Barbosa and Eder Alvarez Balanta were to be key players, having spent the latter half of the season settling into life in England. They were also aptly supported by some big signings in the Summer window.
I went into the Summer with a philosophy in mind and a slightly different scouting process in order to follow through with it. In my last post, I focussed on the search for a right midfielder. The conclusion was that Joel Campbell was the man, with Adel Taarabt as the backup. We signed neither. Campbell chose Fiorentina. As for Taarabt, we agreed a deal with QPR, and then a contract with the player. As I went to confirm the transfer, the option was not there as he’d torn his cruciate ligaments only the day before — out for 8-9 months, failed medical. I wasn’t sure whether to be happy or sad that we’d missed out on his signing, at that point.