League: Bundesliga (Finished 8th) Cup: DFB-Pokal (Semi-Final Transfer Budget: €1.1m Transfers In: Noel Bilic (€4.2m), Alex Blesa (€1.4m), Josh Sargent (Loan), George Bello (Loan), Enrico Del Prato (Loan), Paolo Gozzi (Loan), Darragh O’Shea (Loan), Antonio Marin (Loan), Florent Da Silva (Loan) Transfers Out: Timothy Tillman (€175K)
League: Bundesliga (Finished 8th) Cup: DFB-Pokal (Second Round) Transfer Budget: €19m Transfers In: Ferran Torres (€22m – 50% paid up front), Josh Sargent (€10m), Nicolo Armini (€7.5m), Jonathan Afolabi (Free Transfer), Enrico Del Prato (Loan), George Bello (Loan), Antonio Marin (Loan) Transfers Out: n/a
Now that you’re up to date – let’s crack into Season 5.
📅16th June 2023 (in game)
After back to back 8th place finishes in the Bundesliga, there’s a slight bit of deja-vu (AGAIN) in this save as we pick up another €59 million in prize money for finishing in the Top 10 last season. Last year Chairman Niall Quinn gave us €19m of that for our transfer budget which we managed to stretch to about €28m with budget adjustments – this year he wasn’t feeling as generous, deciding that €15m is enough with which to bolster our squad.
This is how our squad looks currently as we enter the Summer Transfer Window:
You’ll notice we are significantly lacking in the full back department, having had to rely on loan signings such as George Bello and Enrico Del Prato for the past few consecutive seasons – priority is to sign at least one of these permanently and solidify our defence. We are also getting a bit light on the left side of midfield with David Raum and Ronan Curtis struggling to maintain their ability for this level so a Left Inverted Winger will also be a must. Aside from that I am relatively happy with our First XI – Sargent and Bilic will continue to rotate in the Lone Striker role while our midfield trio of Seguin, Lozano and Cullen are good enough for another season at least. Any other signings will be brought in as cover preferably at Centre Half, Right/Left Back and perhaps another winger after Antonio Marin returned to PSG following his loan spell with us.
Viva La Revolution ☘️
Despite being completely empty in the full-back department we do the logical thing and dive straight in to find a Left Midfielder to fill our Inverted Winger slot – this role is intriguing in that I find it offers a dual purpose giving width when needed but equally offering another outlet in more central areas either acting as a 3rd CM or cutting inside with the ball similar to an Inside Forward. Based on this, our focus is on the following key attributes:
Off the Ball
As usual, our search creates yet another transfer dilemma as we have to decide on one of two choices:
With both valued at €8m and almost the same age at 21/22, we probably need to fork over the bones of €20m to secure either option – Van Der Heide looks to be the better option on paper, and while it’s tempting to throw in a bid, it is near-impossible to overlook the fact that Luca Connell is Irish and if you’re not already aware that one of our save goals is to fill this team with as many Irish staff and players as possible (minimum one player signing per season), the outcome is inevitable. Sorry Arjen, it’s not you it’s us 🙌:
Having had George Bello on loan for the past 3 seasons in which he has been sublime in the Left Wing Back slot, signing him permanently became our number one priority but with Atlanta demanding €10m for his signature this puts us slightly above our budget so we do the honorable thing and bring Chairman NIall Quinn for pints down at the Irish Cottage Pub in Fürth in an attempt to convince him to put up some extra cash for a bid..
Buzzing – Niall whips out his Nokia 3210 and puts in an €11.75m bid which is immediately accepted by Atlanta – I tried to tell him they only wanted 10 but as he is seven pints deep there’s no stopping him (I suppose this is the same guy that once made Craig Gordon the 3rd most expensive goalkeeper in world football). All that’s left to do is wait for Bello to sign a contract for the beloved club with whom he has spent most of the last 3 seasons on loan…
For some reason the treacherous ungrateful American b*stard decides he is too good for us and refuses to enter contract talks, and before we even get a chance to begin “the pursuit” (more on this later), Werder Bremen who finished in 3rd place last year swoop in and sign him on loan. What a complete BELL-end, I’m not one to hold a grudge but this season just became all about beating and finishing ahead of Bremen just to sicken our former friend George.
The Fürth Pursuit
Back to the drawing board we go – the reason we wanted Bello was not only because he has decent defensive attributes, he brings an added threat going forward both due to his Pace, Crossing and Dribbling ability. With limited scouting budget our search doesn’t yield any really promising options (we are only 4 years in and I’m not ready to splash any cash on Newgens just yet), it’s back to the Champ Man days as we start scrolling through random clubs in Eastern Europe and Scandinavia in the hope of identifying an affordable and equally effective wing-back option.
We go again – a €6.5m bid is accepted, however either there’s a deja-vu glitch in the matrix or else George Bello has been badmouthing us all across Europe.
We can’t take no for an answer twice. Although it is notoriously difficult to persuade an uninterested player to join your club in this game, my good friend @FridayNightFM knows all about the pursuit in Football Manager (formerly known as the @Teach pursuit on the 5* Potential Podcast) and wrote a cracking piece for Football Manager’s The Byline about how to go about trying to convince a player to join your club even when they have no interest in joining; time to put some of these tips to the test, let the games begin..
Step 1. Declare interest
Step 2. Talk to his mates
Step 3. Glorified Stalking
Step 4. Repeat
We pursued the poor lad relentlessly for about 3 weeks solid, and roughly a month on from when we originally made our first bid we went back in for a second attempt which Dinamo Zagreb accept for the same fee – is there any chance this guy will change his mind and realise he is the Croatian catalyst needed to fuel the Irish revolution in Fürth?
Ok let’s not get carried away – 1. we are only signing what might end up being an above average left back from the Croatian league, and 2. we’ve managed to get him from “Not Interested” to “Uninterested” in discussing terms (yes, there’s a difference). What will it take to get that signature on his contract?
While his agent was adamant about paying him the wage requested, we managed to get his Minimum Fee Release Clause up from €7.5m to €15m – probably overpaying in terms of his total compensation however a combination of blind hope in his ability and stubbornness at convincing him to join brings us to this outcome:
Suffice to say that’s our transfer budget wiped clean, however our left side now looks a lot stronger and two major gaps are now filled. Now on to find a few more free agents and/or loan signings to bolster our squad before we kick off Season 5 at Fürth
Admittedly we had already agreed terms with Scott McKenna before his contract ended, and he is an absolute steal to come in on a free providing quality competition for Porteous and Armini at Centre Half. We also raid Scotland for another player out of contact in the form of Irishman Lee O’Connor who will provide versatile defensive cover on the bench (don’t forget we can name 9 subs in the Bundesliga). We also manage to renew Enrico Del Prato‘s loan from Atalanta for a 4th season to fill the vacant right back spot, while Toni Hererro comes in as back up for Marko Djira after we agree a loan deal with Levante.
All in all – pretty serious transfer business!! We enter Season 5 with a strong First XI (IMO anyway), the question is how our new signings will gel with the rest of the squad and whether this team is good enough to take us to the next level i.e. European qualification.
The Dark Side
Why dark? See for yourself…👇👇
After 10 games we manage to pick up just one solitary win along with three miserable draws to cap our worst start to a season in the 5 years we’ve been here. We beat Paderborn in Game 2 and from then on we can’t buy a goal and even though we faced difficult opponents such as Champions Leverkusen, Dortmund and Bayern it’s safe to say I’ve never seen us play so poorly in this save to date…let’s not even mention the 0-0 draw with George Bello’s Werder Bremen who since also brought in Antonio Marin on loan – copycats much? Perhaps our transfer dealings weren’t so shrewd, have we made a huge mistake not bringing in a more reliable goalscorer?
A minute ago we were talking about Europe and dreaming big here at the Kleeblätter, now suddenly relegation is a more realistic conversation piece down at the Irish Cottage pub in Fürth and it’s only November – will we even have a job by the time our next blog piece is released? It might be a cold lonely Christmas in the MaddFM household this year….