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We had a great time at Angers. A great time. Nine seasons of homegrown challenge adventures culminating in a shock Ligue 1 title win in our final season, bringing Angers to the Champions League as well as lifting the Jules Rimet trophy with France at World Cup 2030 in Spain. Great times indeed…
But those times are no more. As one save epic ends, a new door opens and as we pass the halfway point in the FM21 life cycle, there is most certainly time to roll up our sleeves and get stuck into a brand new save and blog series. As discussed on the 5* Potential Podcast, I had been toying with the idea of returning to England to start a lower league save however as I worked my way through ideas and the proverbial #narrative, I decided to park that idea for the moment perhaps until FM22 is on the horizon. There were a few reasons for this decision, but the main one was simple in the end – after what was a fairly strict and grueling save in France (albeit thoroughly enjoyable), we now want to move into a world without any save rules or restrictions and after watching a number of well known real-life clubs struggling all season (the likes of Arsenal, Juventus, Celtic, PSG and Spurs spring to mind), deep down what I really wanted to do was a rebuild – finding a team on the brink and starting a revolution of sorts. Let the hunt begin.
Of course I didn’t really want to take over any of the teams above – big clubs with huge resources don’t really interest me when it comes to FM, probably explains or is caused by the fact that I’m a Newcastle fan well accustomed to the annual struggle each season. Instead what I wanted to find was a genuine club that is at that point where a rebuild is needed, approaching that transitional phase where it’s out with the old and in with the new, and/or have a great opportunity to embrace a change and like any business or product, emerge like a phoenix from the ashes to effectively rebrand or be reborn with a new strategy and new philosophy in place. But where to start? A few options briefly crossed my mind – Derby County who of course just narrowly avoided relegation from the Championship on the last day of the season were one such option; Valencia are always a tempting club to manage, consistently acting as a selling club without any real ambition or ability to compete with the elite 3 or even contend with Sevilla or Real Sociedad to be best of the rest in Spain; Marseille are another interesting club, in my mind they are up there with PSG, Lyon, Monaco etc as one of the best in France yet at the time of writing are already 20 points off the top of Ligue 1 with two games remaining; and finally Feyenoord were the last club to give me real food for thought, traditionally always competing with Ajax and PSV however in recent times have let AZ and Vitesse move ahead of them in the Dutch league standings.
Close but no cigar – once our eyes shifted to Italy and Serie A, it was hard to ever look back. I’ve really enjoyed how the Italian league has played out this season, not only based on the resurgence of both Milan clubs and the impending fall of Juventus, but also looking at how the likes of Atalanta and Lazio have conducted themselves this year and over the past few seasons all of which has helped to very much close the gap at the top of Serie A and forced some welcome competitiveness across the entire league where you begin to think that any one of 7 or 8 clubs could challenge for the title next season and beyond. Let’s add yet another club to the equation shall we?
I’ve never even given this club an ounce of managerial thought or attention previously, but one look and I knew this was the club of our second FM21 save. Steeped in footballing history as one of the founding members of Serie A, the club hasn’t won a Scudetto title since the 1963/1964 season but having produced players such as Gianluca Pagliuca and Roberto Mancini as well as seeing the likes of Roberto Baggio, Giuseppe Signori and Amadou Diawara all grace the turf at Stadio Renato Dall’Ara previously, there is pedigree at this club and it’s now up to us to find it again and kick-start this team back into life in Serie A following what has effectively been decades of mid-table mediocrity and even relegation repentance for the club.
Our approach will be simple: out with the old, in with the new. It’s not hard to see why Bologna make for a club in need of a rebuild – one look at the Team Report and you’ll see what I mean:
Danilo is listed as one of our best Defensive options and therefore first choice at Centre Back; he is 36 years of age. Rodrigo Palacio (38) is literally our only available Striker at the club with Federico Santander out for 9 months due to a cruciate injury; THIRTY-EIGHT for crying out loud. Our main Defensive Midfield option is a 33 year old Gary Medel who hasn’t seen days like this since his Cardiff City hoorah, while Club Captain Andrea Poli may only be 30 but with Fitness of 11 and Stamina of 10 he might as well be playing in the Bologna over-75’s for what he will bring to our side. So yeah, a rebuild is certainly needed at Bologna as well as a fresh injection of youth and life into this aging side who at the start of our save are also crippled with long-term injuries in addition to it’s ageism issues.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all doom and gloom and far be it from me to speak negatively in a Football Manager blog. Once we look past the grey hairs and Zimmer frames scattered round the dressing room, we can clearly see some genuine world class talent here and straight away it’s decided: we have at least 3-4 players whom we will take forward into the future as part of our quest for Scudetto glory, and effectively build our team around as we look to rebuild and revitalise the playing squad at Bologna. No commentary needed – these are our boys:
Tomiyasu is a worldie. We will do all we can to retain him at the club, starting with a new 5 year contract – the main question is will we have to play him at Centre Back in the absence of any quality, or focus on turning him into a world class Full-Back or even Wing-Back. Orsolini also has the attributes and potential to light up Serie A and any thoughts of playing without wingers are quickly quashed at the sight of what will surely be a future World Cup international for Italy in a few years time. Whether Aaron Hickey will also be there is anyone’s guess – while England clearly have a fondness for Right-Backs in recent times, Scotland seem to be blessed with Left-Back talent and if we can develop him to compete with Andy Robertson or Kieran Tierney then we will have done something right here. We also have well known FM wonderkid Emanuel Vignato whom I wrote about previously in a WeStreamFM “Keep Your Wonderkid” article, however from the looks of it he has taken a slight dip in attributes this year so the jury is out as to whether he will be at the same level as these guys later down the line (challenge accepted). Aside from those, we will definitely need to improve this squad however we aren’t exactly rolling in cash moneys to do so:
With just shy of £8m in the bank and in desperate need of at least a Centre Half and a Striker (though I’m not over the moon with our Goalkeeper either) – the game is on, we will need to adapt to life quickly in Italy in what can only be described as a league madder than a bag of cats when it comes to anything related to finances and transfers. We may need to be ruthless; we may need to bend a few rules; we may need to rob Peter to pay Paul; whatever it takes, the Bologna rebuild is on and the race for Scudetto glory begins – we didn’t choose the thug life, the thug life chose us.
Thanks for reading – thoughts and feedback are welcome as are any transfer suggestions! Chapter 2 will be out next week and then you can expect a new post every 2 weeks once we get up and running, however if you want to get real-time updates and sneak previews on how the save is progressing I will be doing so in two places for the entirety of this save: