🚨 WARNING – THIS BLOG CONTAINS MANY MANY REFERENCES TO CESARE CASADEI’S GREATNESS 🚨
Hello again 👋. Welcome back to Milan – a place where one of it’s longest-term residents are going through one of the biggest transformations a football club has ever witnessed as we convert AC Milan to a domestic/local-only club culture and transfer policy where only players & staff born/produced within 50km of the city are permitted to sign for and play for the club. If this is all new to you, feel free to jump back to the start and pick up from there.
In my last post we detailed all of our incoming and outgoing transfer activity, wherein after one season (where we finished 5th in Serie A), we have successfully offloaded all non-Milan personnel (e.g. the likes of Rafael Leao, Fikayo Tomori, Theo Hernandez & Mike Maignan) and replaced them with eligible players from our 50km catchment area including the likes of Federico Dimarco, Giorgio Scalvini, Nicolo Rovella, Amad Diallo, Musa Barrow and Cesare Casadei. That means we head into Season 2 with a fully localised squad for the first time in this save adventure as we gear up for our opening fixture at home to Spezia.
As mentioned, what’s interesting here (and as discussed on recent 5 Star Potential podcast episodes), we have a lack of forward options within our target player range with a scarcity of “out and out” strikers hailing from the Milan region, so we make an executive decision to retrain Cesare Casadei as a striker having originally signed him to play as a #10 but the emergence of Tommaso Pobega means we can afford to deploy him further forward. That means, a large portion of the success and survival of this save rests on us taking a gamble by retraining a player to become our main goalscoring threat. Decision Making 20 by me right?
Season 2 🚀
We start rather well even though one could argue we are given a very easy opening round of fixtures, 4 wins from 6 games and as you can see we earn ourselves a highly impressive Europa League victory away to Man Utd at Old Trafford courtesy of my man Giorgio Scalvini, who headed past his former colleague Mike Maignan to give us our first win in a group which also contains Greek side AEK Athens and Ludogorets Razgrad of Bulgaria.
What you may also notice is that although we have played 6 games and scored 8 goals, none of these have come from Cesare Casadei in his new role despite the fact that he started all 6 games up front. Granted it takes a while to fully retrain a player in a new position however I still remain baffled tthe lad hasn’t opened his account yet. After two more games (a 1-0 win over Cagliari and someh how a 3-2 defeat to AIK Athens), we decide to make a small change which is to switch Casadei from a False 9 to an Advanced Forward, ultimately making the call to stop him coming deep to bring others into play, and have him fully committing to lead the line as our #9 and playing off the shoulder accordingly. Go hard or go home right?
AC Milan vs Roma
📍 San Siro
📅 Sunday 8th October 2023
🗣️ It’s 2nd vs 3rd today as MaddFM’s rejuvenated Milan side welcome a Roma side managed by Rossoneri legend Gennaro Gattuso after he replaced José Mourinho last summer in the Italian capital. New signing Adama Traoré starts on the right hand side for the Capitoline alongside Dybala, Kluivert and Abraham, while on the opposition side 18-year-old Valentin Carboni replaces the injured Amad Diallo in an otherwise unchanged Milan line-up. 8 games and still no goals as yet for club record signing Cesare Casadei, with Musa Barrow, Tommaso Pobega and Sandro Tonali all on 2 goals each in the league so far this season.Will today be the day?
0′ – Roma kick off proceedings today in the San Siro.
5′ – Yellow Card! 🟨 (Llorente) for a rash challenge on Pobega
15′ – Yellow Card! 🟨 (Cristante) for a foul on Tonali
27′ – GOAL FOR MILAN! ⚫🔴 He’s finally done it, Casadei with his first ever goal for AC Milan! Dimarco’s inswinging free-kick is met by the head of Casadei to beat Patricio on the far post. 1-0!
33′ – GOAL FOR ROMA! 🟠🔴 Dybala with the equaliser!! The Agentinian takes it around Turati and slots it home, instant reply from Roma and it’s 1-1!!
40′ – GOAL FOR MILAN! ⚫🔴 I don’t believe it, Casadei has bagged his second to make it 2-1 Milan! A ball over the top from Rovella is hit first time by Casadei on his weaker side, lovely finish.
44′ – Yellow Card! 🟨 (Pobega) for a challenge on Dybala
47′ – Half Time 🏁 Milan with the narrowest of leads following that Casadei brace, but Roma are very much still in this game.
50′ – GOAL FOR MILAN! ⚫🔴 Pobega makes it three!! Calabria is the architect as he threads a ball through for Pobega to slide past the onrushing Patricio..3-1!
65′ – Penalty to Milan!! Karsdrop is adjudged to have fouled Barrow in the box and the referee awards Milan with a penalty!! Will be interesting to see who takes this one, Tonali is usually Milan’s penalty taker but Casadei is on a hat-trick..
65′ – Yellow Card! 🟨 (Karsdrop) for that foul on Musa Barrow
65′ – GOAL FOR MILAN! ⚫🔴 Casadei steps up and smashes the ball past Patricio, and it’s a perfect hattrick for the young Italian!! That’s surely the game wrapped up now.
90′ – There will be 4 minutes added on here in the San Siro.
94′ – FULL-TIME 🏁. The final whistle blows and it’s the Milan fans who are singing as their side romp home to a 4-1 victory with a glorious hattrick from Cesare Casadei. What a moment, and perhaps a sign of things to come for Milan this season? Back to the studio..
Well well well. To say we weren’t expecting that is an understatement. Having heard @FridayNightFM also wax lyrical about Casadei playing as a #10 in his Juventus save, I had concerns that he just wouldn’t fit the mould as a striker, however the switch from F9 to AF appears to have initially made a huge difference but only time will tell. Maybe I’m not actually as bad at this game as they say I am..
That takes the pressure off Casadei who along with Pobega and Barrow start to absolutely bang for us at Milan. Pobega in the #10 role as a Trequartista has been a revelation considering he was originally our backup DM for Sandro Tonali, Barrow’s output as an Inside Forward (Left) has made Milan fans forget that Rafael Leão ever even wore the famous black and red of the Rossoneri. The impact of this trio culminated in a 7-1 win away to Brescia in which the latter two both bagged hattricks, and bar a defeat at home to Atalanta, we make it all the way to the end of December with a near 100% record which puts us 3rd in the league and also sees us qualify for the Europa League Knockout Stage after we complete a double over Man Utd, you love to see it.
“Il Sogno Impossible” (The Impossible Dream)
December also brings about another noteworthy news item in our inbox..some might call it, a Christmas miracle….
Without doubt the best Intake Preview I have ever had in Football Manager – albeit with no striker included, the one position in which we are desperate to see some quality emerge from the Milan region!! We of course have to take it with a pinch of salt as FM has a habit of making promises it can’t keep, however this bodes extremely well for the longevity of this save especially as we are considering carrying this save on into FM24 as part of the new save carry-over feature 👀.
Path to Green, Neck & Neck and the Casadei Show
We kick off 2024 with the highlight fixture of the year: the Derby della Madonnina, AC Milan vs Inter Milan, arch-rivals in the same home. If you haven’t forgotten, we had to let Olivier Giroud go at the end of his contract in order to satisfy our local-only rules, but little did we know he wouldn’t go far as he signed for the blue and black side of the city – this one is personal 💪.
Despite having Giroud leading their line alongside Lautaro Martinez, goals from Musa Barrow and Cesare Casadei seal a 2-0 victory for the red side of Milan, and this sets about a chain reaction of sorts which sees Casadei score 13 goals across 14 games, and shy of a narrow 3-2 defeat by Atalanta, we pick up 11 wins and 2 draws in a run which sees us not only dispose of Rangers in the Europa League Knockout Round, but also close the gap and overtake Inter to go level at the top of Serie A alongside our aforementioned neighbours in Bergamo after 26 games played. Wait, are we in a title race??
Not only are we playing some beautiful football, scoring freely and looking rock solid in defence – the individual performances by some of these Milan-based boys are out of this world, most evident as we again thrash Brescia 6-0 (that’s 13-1 over both games this season) in a match where our front three of Barrow, Diallo and Casadei did this:
We have entered March – you want to see what our Youth Intake looks like right?
Not quite the 5 x A rated wonderkids we were led to believe, however in Pellechia (GK) and Chiricallo (DC) we have two of the most exciting young defensive assets in Italian football, while I am also quite excited about Luca Consigli (AML) and ANOTHER Irish left-back (see Cian Foy from last seasons intake here) in the form of Blake Fraher. Overall a very promising intake should we proceed as planned in carrying this save into FM24.
12 Games a Save
From almost getting the sack last season to mounting a title challenge just 9 months later. Despite all the upheaval and chaos selling our best players and bringing in a band of local boys to pick up the pieces, things have clicked and improved as the season has progressed and suddenly we find ourselves smack bang in a battle for the Scudetto trophy.
March goes reasonably well aside from a narrow defeat away to Roma, revenge for the Casadei hattrick I guess. 3 more league wins and we remain 2nd with 30 games played, just one point behind neighbours Atalanta. We also interestingly faced Celtic in the Europa League Round of 16 having beaten Rangers in the last round, and the Scottish double is completed which tees us up for a European Quarter Final – more on that in a minute..
There is just one thing to call out though which may slightly impact our end-of-season run-in..just slightly…
4 of our last 5 games are against teams who along with us make up the Serie A Top 6 after 26 games played. Never mind we have to go away to Atalanta, we then travel to Naples before facing Inter, Lazio and a final-day clash with Juventus?! Yeah thanks Football Manager, like the game isn’t hard enough 😅.
Atalanta are a cheat code in FM23. It’s almost laughable – whether it’s the outlandish tactics of the roguish Gian Piero Gasperini or the overpowered-ness of some of their individual talent, we just cannot seem to beat them and have failed in all 6 of our previous attempts to do so.
Knowing what you know now – do you think we stand a chance of overcoming them over two legs for a place in a European Semi-Final?
Eight consecutive defeats to Atalanta in two seasons of this save..there’s always next year boys 🤷♂️.
The Hateful Eight
8 league games to decide our fate, with our last 5 arguably the hardest we could have asked for.
Or so we thought..
After an easy 3-0 win away to Monza, it takes a 91st minute Casadei penalty (his 20th league goal of the season ) to earn a 1-1 draw at home to Hellas Verona which we thought would throw a huge spanner in the works for our title hopes, however Atalanta put in back to back draws against Udinese and Roma putting us one point clear heading into our game against Fiorentina! Thankfully we recover from that slip up to win 5-1, while over in Turin there is another shock result as Torino catch Atalanta off guard to beat them 4-1, and all of a sudden we find ourselves 4 points clear at the top of the league!!
5 games left to somehow miraculously, incredulously, impossibly lead this bunch of local-only Milan-based misfits to an inconceivable Scudetto title in our second season of this save. I am as shocked as you are, but the form of Casadei, Pobega, Barrow and Diallo not to mention the defensive heroics of Tonali, Scalvini, Rovella and Calabria have lifted this side to levels hitherto unknown and unexpected all season. We head into the hardest run of games we could have imagined knowing that any form of slip up could cost us the title..as a great man once said:
Gameweek 34 – Atalanta (2nd) vs AC Milan (1st)
🗣️ “Atalanta make it 9 wins in a row over Milan to close the gap to 1 point at the top of the table.”
Gameweek 35 – Napoli (7th) vs AC Milan (1st)
🗣️ “Milan had no answers for Osimhen and Kvaratskhelia and were punished for their lack of clinicality up front, while Atalanta’s 4-0 win over Salernitana sees them leapfrog Milan to go top of the table”
Gameweek 36 – Inter Milan (6th) vs AC Milan (2nd)
🗣️ “What was Scalvini thinking?!! An uncharacteristically rash challenge early on meant Milan were fighting an uphill battle for most of the game, and though they battled hard, in the end they were outdone by a Lautaro Martinez screamer – incredibly, wins for both Juventus and Lazio have dropped Milan back to 4th while Atalanta go 3 points clear knowing that one more win with seal them the title.“
Gameweek 37 – AC Milan (4th) vs Lazio (2nd)
🗣️ “A huge win for Milan in this 6-pointer at the San Siro, a goal from super-sub Federico Bonazzoli sealing it for the Rossoneri however in the end it just isn’t enough – Atalanta’s win over Brescia has sealed them the Scudetto title for the first time in the club’s history. Expect big celebrations in Bergamo tonight!“
We absolutely bottled it. Disappointed doesn’t even describe it – while we knew we were up against it with three away fixtures in a row, to only score one goal and pick up zero points was a travesty not to mention that Scalvini red card which tarnished an otherwise perfect season for the young centre-back. That string of games combined with results elsewhere mean that we head into the last game of the season sitting in 3rd place, one point behind Juventus who wouldn’t you know it and in true #FMNarrative style are our final opponents of the 2023/2024 Serie A season, a battle for second place between two of the most historic clubs in Italy, and a clash which history recognises by one name…
Il Derby d’Italia 🇮🇹
Here we go – the final day of the season with Serie A juggernauts AC Milan welcoming Juventus of Turin to the San Siro. AC Milan are at full strength knowing that a win will seal 2nd place in the league, while Juventus who are under a new manager in Christophe Galtier include new signings Victor Nelsson, Sofyan Amrabat and Leandro Trossard in their starting line up with highly rated Brazilian striker Marcos Leonardo on the bench. It doesn’t get much bigger than this folks – here we go.
Well well well. WHERE WAS THIS 4 GAMES AGO?!! I had originally intended to do a play by play but this blog is already long enough – 7 goals scored with Casadei’s 3rd minute opener sparking an absolute thrashing for Juventus. While Vlahovic’s red card certainly helped, we were already 4-0 up by that point and for whatever reason, the Milan boys absolutely rallied to put in our best performance of the season. Casadei’s penalty miss on 57 minutes robbed him of his hattrick but left him with 24 league goals for the season, second only behind the aforementioned Vlahovic. Interestingly a number of Milan players feature highly in the individual statistic charts with Diallo topping the Assists table, Calabria topping the Progressive Passes/90 mins charts (as an IWB which we love), while the likes of Pobega and Barrow featured highly in the Average Ratings tables to cap off an all-round cracking season for AC Milan despite the slightly disappointing finish. Had you offered me 2nd place at the start of the season I would have bitten your hand off, so all in all we can and should be happy with the progress made this season and how well our Milan boys have played all year.
Before we sign off, we must take one final moment of Cesare Casadei appreciation having successfully transitioned him into an elite-level striker:
A fully Regionnaire’d Milan side, 2nd in the league, Champions League football and some cracking young players coming through the ranks – do we need another reason to carry this save through to FM24?
Milan is a nice time – see you soon 👋.
Be sure to drop a follow on Twitter for updates, jump in my Discord or Slack for offline discussions & sneak previews as well as catching me every Monday on 5 Star Potential, the longest running weekly Football Manager podcast.