Well well well. It’s been a while. Too long. My apologies. How are you? Still playing FM23? I am, and though it’s been a while since Part 1 dropped, this save is still very much alive and here we are to bring you through all the important events of Season 1 as they unfold in what will be a two part update as quite a lot has happened! If you haven’t already, do check out the Introductory post for this series which lays out all the rules and objectives for the save, as well as the thread below which summarises the building blocks of this latest FM23 save adventure.
A reminder that the goal of the Regionnaire challenge is to transition a club to a local-only club culture and transfer strategy – meaning all players and staff must ultimately hail from the surrounding region in order to be eligible to sign and play for the club (similar to the real-life Athletic Club Bilbao).
We start by locking in some key staff roles for this save. Three in particular are worth telling you about – our Assistant Manager, Head of Youth Development and Chief Scout who arguably have the most influence when it comes to our efforts at signing and producing the best talent from within our 50km catchment area. Milan-born Antonio Manicone replaces Giacomo Murelli as Assistant Manager having served as Vladimir Petkovic’s #2 at Lazio, Switzerland and Bordeaux over the past 10 seasons. Como-born Giovanni Invernizzi arrives as our Head of Youth Development following relatively successful spells at Sampdoria and Spezia, and he is joined by fellow Como native Massimo Notari who arrives as Chief Scout having previously served as a scout at Milan under Massimiliano Allegri before moving on to be Chief Scout at Monaco and Parma respectively.
With these key positions filled, it’s time to talk about transfers. AC Milan start FM23 with a €20m transfer budget, and as specified in our save objectives, our mission is to transition the club to a fully local-only playing squad within two seasons at the helm. We of course have some big assets here in the form of Rafael Leao, Theo Hernandez, Mike Maignan, Ismael Bennacer and Alexis Saelemaekers (all of whom will need to be sold), so I’m hoping money won’t be a major issue in terms of signings going forward however we will need to strike a balance in terms of the timing of our Ins and Outs to ensure we don’t self-implode before the save has even begun.
What doesn’t help is that a vast number of our desired eligible signings (born or produced within 50km of Milan) are already out on loan at the start of FM23, so we will need to be patient in terms of buying and selling over the course of these first two seasons in our efforts to build the ultimate Regionnaire squad at AC Milan.
First things first – we need to raise some funds. At the start of the save there are already a number of big clubs sniffing around some of our bigger names, and it’s not long before an offer comes in that we can’t really refuse:
We tried to push for more but City were quite rigid, so we manage to get €60m up front which will go a long way towards signing what will be Theo’s replacement and hopefully our Left Wing-Back for many years to come seeing as he is Milan-born; Federico Dimarco arrives from rivals Inter Milan for €36m, a big signing who is not far off Theo’s quality, and which leaves us with €24m additional funds to reinvest elsewhere in the squad.
The next big departure is an interesting one and a player that I wasn’t originally planning to sell (yet) until the bid itself came in. Real Madrid come knocking at the door with €42.5m, so Fikayo Tomori gets added to our big-name departures list as he earns a big money move to the Bernabeu. Boy oh boy are we demolishing this squad.
The pressure is on to replace Tomori with only Simon Kjaer and Malick Thiaw our first-choice centre-back options. Luckily the Milan/Lombardy region has been quite fruitful in terms of defensive production with the likes of Scalvini, Bastoni, Acerbi and Caleb Okoli all eligible for our local-only transfer policy. It takes a big bid but we manage to get it over the line to make Giorgio Scalvini our second big signing of this Regionnaire save 🔥.
We proceed to bolster the squad with another 6 players who were born or developed in the region, and with that we are ready to kick off the 2022/2023 season at Associazione Calcio Milan 🚀.
(2) The Tactic
In real-life, Newcastle fans (including myself) have just fallen in love with that man Sandro Tonali who arrived for a club record €70m fee and already is showing his worth with a debut goal and sensational performance in a 5-1 thrashing of Aston Villa. However, in this save universe and with the FM23 Winter Update, Tonali is still a Milan player and considering he was born and raised down the road (as well as being a lifelong Milan fan), we will look to build this team around him and to do so we will deploy him in a role which I have rarely used previously in Football Manager:
We will play Bennacer as an Anchor beside him and hope to unleash Sandro’s creative talent and ability to shuttle the ball up the pitch and be an engine for this team, with a focus on keeping possession and moving the ball quickly through each phase. Dimarco (WB Attack) and Calabria (IWB Attack) will be essential as we look to dominate and run at teams, Diaz in the 10 will hopefully be a focal point for Tonali’s defence-splitting passes, Leao and Saelemaekers cutting inside will hopefully overload the opposition defence, while Olivier Giroud will simply be Olivier Giroud and hey, why the hell shouldn’t he be.
(3) Serie A up 📈
We open with an away defeat to real-life 2023 Serie A Champions Napoli courtesy of that man Victor Osimhen, before going on to win 5 on the trot and staying unbeaten until an away defeat to Atalanta around the end of October. By the time the infamous 2022 Qatar World Cup arrives, we find ourselves 4th in the league with rivals Inter Milan taking an early league lead into the new year.
(4) Champions League down 📉
Our Champions League Group draw is relatively kind as we gear up to face Atletico Madrid, Red Bull Salzburg and Trabzonspor, all teams who one would think are quite beatable, right?
One win and three straight defeats sees us not only get KNOCKED OUT of the Champions League, but finish bottom of the group meaning we even miss out on a Europa League place – it’s not supposed to happen like this…🤦♂️
The Volante Love Affair ❤️🖤
We need to talk about Sandro Tonali..
This Segundo Volante role is purring. Despite being associated as a more defensive role which of course sits in the DM strata on the tactics screen, what we see in-game is that Tonali is EVERYWHERE. It’s almost like a mixed hybrid of a Defensive Midfielder, Roaming Playmaker and CM-At all in one, whereby depending on the circumstances, Tonali adapts to whatever is needed and seems to morph into multiple roles throughout the 90 minutes both defensively and in attack.
By January Tonali has racked up 4 goals, 2 assists, 3 POMs as well as being in the Top 10 in Serie A for Pass Completion (88% – 6th), Progressive Passes per 90 (9.5 – 7th), Distance Covered per 90 (14.4km – 8th) and Average Rating (7.34 – 8th).
The Rafael Leão dilemma
At the start of the season, Rafael Leão was asking for an improved contract with his current deal expiring in Summer 2024, however we decided against offering it in case we needed to sell him to fund early deals for some of our other local born/raised targets (e.g. the likes of Bastoni, Cristante, Okoli etc). The problem that followed was that by January, Leão was deeply unhappy but equally refusing to sign a new deal which meant that with less than 18 months left on his contract, his value was starting to deteriorate and we were faced with a predicament: sell him now and try to raise as much cash as possible, or keep him until the summer at which point we either then sell (for a likely lower fee) or hope he renews his contract in order to get that fee back up? Decisions, decisions, decisions….
After much deliberation and trying to coax maximum offers out of PSG and Man City, €50m is the highest fee we can command and even though it is ridiculously low for player of his quality, we decide to sell him for three reasons:
1. Dynamics – we can’t be having such an influential player causing havoc in the dressing room
2. Revolution – I am tempted to complete the full squad overhaul/non-Milan exodus before Season 2 even begins
3. Succession – Leão’s successor is already here in the form of Musa Barrow, and so far this season there hasn’t been too much between the two and in fact, Barrow’s stats almost outweigh Leão’s in the same role (Leão – 3 goals & 3 assists from 10 games; Barrow – 4 goals & 2 assists from 12 games)
So, it’s goodbye to Rafael Leão with €50m in the bank, we swallow our pride and move on 🚀.
Back to league matters..
Now that Germany have won the World Cup and everyone had a wonderful time, our focus is back on Serie A to see if we can continue our good form and achieve a Top 4 finish which will be essential not only in terms of revenue and attracting some of our top targets, but also to ensure the board don’t get antsy having already upset them with that glorious early exit from the Champions League.
With the exception of a 3-0 demolition by Lazio, we are flying again with Olivier Giroud finding some very welcome goalscoring form, Tonali continuing his excellent performance levels, Musa Barrow making the Milenese fans forget Leao ever existed, and we even see an absolute howitzer of debut goal for young Samuele Vignato, an early Goal of the Season contender if there ever was one.
22 games in and by the end of February we are flying high in 2nd place, 7 points behind rivals Inter who somehow have conceded just 7 goals and had 21 clean sheets courtesy of André Onana!! Things are going well in Milan considering we have already let go of the likes of Theo, Tomori and Leao..Project Regionnaire is well underway and with 13 games to go, we are set up for a cracking end-of-season run-in, not to mention one hell of a summer transfer window if we can continue transitioning Milan to a fully local-only playing squad..what can possibly go wrong?
That’s all for Part 1 of this Season 1 update – Part 2 will follow soon 👌.
Thanks for reading,
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