It’s taken us 6 seasons to get off to our best ever start to a league campaign and most certainly our best ever start to a Bundesliga season here at Greuther Fürth in the Northern Bavaria region of Germany – spending a relatively low €120 million on transfers along the way (including installments and additional fees etc) and bringing in approx. €180 million into the club in prize money so far. Despite this we are still the smallest and lowest earning club in the Bundesliga so overall I am pretty happy with our current 5th place standing in Season 6 as we enter the Winter break at the end of the year 2024.
In my last post we spoke about Noel Bilic and Alex Blesa being our main goal-scoring threat and for the first time we have hit some sustained form in terms of goals scored – what we didn’t mention is the man behind it all who after 16 games tops both the Bundesliga Assists and Average Rating charts with 10 assists so far this season in addition to his 4 goals scored. That man? Ferran Torres:
Of course this is all makes for great reading and having cost us €22m back in 2022 he now looks to be a steal as we build our tactic and team around the Spanish Inside Forward. However, as is the case with football and of course Football Manager, it doesn’t take too long for others to notice and of course, the inevitable happens:
What happens next can only be described as either the most stupid, the most stubborn or the most shrewd bit of managerial decision making I reckon I have ever made in Football Manager during my 25 years of playing these games all the way back to the CM2 days. Having initially turned down bids of €39 million from both Bayern and Tottenham, this happens:
Now I know what you’re going to say. EVERY PLAYER HAS A PRICE. You are right, they do…but is Torres’ price really only €67 million? (he says with an overall bank balance of minus €17 million – it couldn’t be more red). This is the biggest decision we have had to make since starting this save and while of course the money received would pretty much secure our financial future (in the short term at least), it’s important to remember that (a) we are trying to maintain a really realistic save and transfer policy whereby we operate within our means and only bring in what we feel are realistic transfers for a club of our stature (worth noting that we signed Torres long before Man City came along in real life, (b) we don’t really want to become a selling club as we have aspirations to pick up at least one piece of silverware before FM21 eventually puts an end to this save in a few months, and (c) who the hell can we sign that would be interested and even half as good as Torres when it comes to nabbing us those kind of stats? Looks like it’s going to be a sleepless night for the Kleeblätter Manager – thankfully the board don’t dare intervene for fear of the wrath of the Irish here at Fürth.
In the end we decide as follows: Torres has a €77 million release clause..while it’s only €10m more than the offer on the table, only €48m of Bayern’s bid will be paid up front and with the board only giving us 60% of that at present (therefore less than €30m will go to our transfer budget), we decide to insist that Bayern meet his release clause in order to secure his signature..the question is though, will they have the balls and wallet to do so?
WITHDRAWN. Have we made a huge mistake? Are we truly insane to turn down that amount of money? You can imagine Chairman Niall Quinn’s reaction to my outstanding negotiation skills:
FEAR NOT NIALL – MaddFM is at the wheel. Money (hopefully) isn’t everything, if Torres maintains this form and can rack up the bones of 10 goals and 20 assists by the end of the season, then we will look back and laugh at Bayern’s paltry €67m bid and watch as the whole world and their dog bid for him next summer…..right?? 🙏 The big question now is, how will the team react as we enter the second half of the season…
2025 starts…well, shaky to say the least. Granted two of our first 3 games are against RBL and Dortmund, but a stalemate at home to our bogey team Hertha BSC is not at all desirable, and suddenly an air of doubt starts to fill the room down at the Irish Cottage pub in Fürth..has MaddFM’s blatant Irish stubbornness finally cost us?
The answer is yes – but not why they think. I stand by the decision not to sell Torres, however we do come to the realisation that we are being stubborn in more ways than one, in particular when it comes to our tactical set up (and we aren’t the only ones to notice):
A few seasons back we came up with a beautifully horrible looking asymmetric 4-1-4-1 formation, and it went so well at the time that we have bought players specifically to fit this tactic and used it for 99% of our games since:
4 seasons on and I guess it’s now evident that we have become quite predictable; opposition teams are able to set up to counteract this formation, and we tend to get a bit stale at different points in the year as is clear in my previous posts. Throughout the last 3 seasons we have experienced significant dips in form – is this the reason why?? There’s only one way to find out as we come up with two alternate tactics, no doubt it will cost us as we build up our tactical familiarity however we need to do something if we are to stay on course for European football next season.
We deployed both of these during our next 4 games – whether it was the element of surprise (from both teams) or just blind luck we will never know, however February saw a marked improvement! 3 wins and a draw from 4 games and suddenly we are flying high again (or at least gliding nervously :D):
Of course tactics and a strong first XI only get you so far. Just as we are starting to find our groove at exactly the right time, the four horsemen of the FM apocalypse arrive to ensure our taste of victory and potential success is shortlived at best. Having already lost Maxence Caqueret for two months due to a fractured leg, we are presented with the devasting news that poor Josh Sargent has done his cruciate ligaments and will be out of action for 8 months effectively ruling him out for the rest of the entire calendar year.
This seems to set off a chain reaction of injuries in the team (let’s not speak of pulled abdominal muscles 🤦♂️), and it wasn’t until I visited the Medical Centre section which I rarely if ever navigate to in Football Manager that I realised 7 of our first team squad had picked up longer term injuries (i.e. Moderate to Major) within 1 month, in addition to a few minor injuries in between..can this game get any more hateful than it already is?!
This combined with our already small squad had an immediate impact on the pitch and once again we found ourselves going through another poor run in the business end of the seaosn..who’d have thought it!!
Tight at the Top
This league is ridiculously close. After managing in Spain for most of FM19 I had thought that La Liga was the toughest league I had ever managed in particularly when it came to competing with Barcelona and the two Madrid sides; I have come to realise that the Bundesliga is far more difficult in the sense that outside of Bayern Munich, most of the top 10 sides are on par with eachother and as a result there is literally nothing between us as we prepare for the end of season run-in, just 5 points separating 5th and 9th with 3 games to go. Unfortunately that poor run of form leaves us now in 7th place, hoping that Bremen or Dortmund (unlikely) will drop points in the coming fixtures while also hoping we can pick up enough points to stay ahead of Schalke and Wolfsburg who are hot on our heels.
Hertha BSC (h)
RB Leipzig (a)
Mainz 05 (h)
Hertha BSC (a)
End of Season Run-In
You’ve Been Fürthed
You’re yet to confirm whether being “fürthed” is a good thing or a bad thing right? The answer is it’s both…
We shot ourselves in the foot by losing our first game away to Dynamo Dresden, which dropped us back into 9th position with 2 games remaining and a hell of a lot to do to get into Europe next season. We have finished 8th, 8th and 9th respectively for the last three season, surely we can’t do the same again – there’s only so long I can blog about the same outcome each season! 😄
Two remarkable things then happened…first we beat Frankfurt, which was remarkable due to the fact that 6 minutes in Noel Bilic scored his 17th goal of the season (making him 3rd top scorer in the Bundesliga, not bad!) and we managed to hold on for the entire game to grab a vital 3 points. This coupled with the fact that Dortmund somehow managed to lose to Hertha BSC meant that we were back in with a shout of that coveted 6th position – Bremen already sealing 5th after picking up two wins in a row.
All we need now is for RBL to beat Dortmund, and of course we need to pick up 3 points away to Hertha ourselves – did I mention earlier they are our bogey team?! 🤦♂️
To be fair to them, Dortmund played their part, and by the time we reached 70 minutes they were 2-0 down at Leipzig. The problem at this point is that over in Berlin, Hertha are holding Fürth scoreless in Berlin, both teams putting on a defensive masterclass but neither looking likely to score. With Dortmund having a better goal difference, a point is not enough to get us into Europe. Heads are starting to drop when Fürth are given a free-kick about 10 years outside the Hertha box…..
IS IT IN?! IT IS!!!!! WHAT A HIT FROM FERRAN TORRES!!!!!
After months of painful deliberation as to whether we made a terrible decision in not selling him for €67 million to Bayern in January, Ferran Torres steps up to reaffirm all doubts and regrets to smash in a 30 yard free-kick which hits the underside of the crossbar, comes down onto the goal line and somehow spins forward into the Hertha net. UNBELIEVABLE JEFF!!
The crowd goes wild, and the next 15 minutes are the nerviest we’ve had in this save so far. Two games ago we were in 9th position with it all to do, and suddenly we are minutes away from finishing in 6th position, our best ever Bundesliga finish and a place in the Europa League next season. The way this save goes, you’d expect an equaliser however I am happy to say NOT UP IN HERE as we go on to win the game while over in Leipzig it finishes 2-0 to condemn Dortmund to 7th place. Sorry lads, YOU’VE BEEN FÜRTHED.
Another ridiculous roller-coaster of a season under our belt, but one absolutely full to the brim with positives and learnings for next season. We set out to have Noel Bilic score 20+ goals for the season as we put our faith in him as our first choice striker – he finishes on 17 goals which is more then enough considering the poor run(s) we had. Our new signings Gavin Bazunu (13 clean sheets) and Maxence Caqueret (7.10 avg rating) have slotted in nicely into the squad, Alex Blesa continues to smash the Shadow Striker role with 12 goals and Luca Connell is improving each season finishing with 5 goals and 5 assists from 29 games played. Torres of course was our best player by a mile, 8 goals and 13 assists leaving him with a 7.39 average rating – will we see a €77m bid for him in the summer I wonder? Would we accept?!
As we head off to the Irish Cottage pub in Fürth City Centre to celebrate, I will leave you with this glorious news item to cap Episode XIII of this save, hopefully you have enjoyed it thus far and what started as a bit of fun and #narrative has evolved into a really enjoyable save journey that has brought us to this point after 6 seasons – we go again next week for Season 7!!