Welcome back – Il Regionnaire continues as we embark on our third season at a fully revolutionised AC Milan squad that now contains only players and staff who were born or produced within 50km of the city of Milan, having finished second in Serie A last season behind neighbours Atalanta to guarantee our return to Champions League football after a yearlong absence caused by our 5th place finish in Season 1 at the Rossoneri.
When we last left off, we were heading into the summer transfer window with a glorious €93m transfer budget available, with the obvious caveat that this can only be spent on eligible players for our local-only transfer policy. Add to that the ~€50m we received in mandatory post-loan fees for Ismaël Bennacer and Charles De Ketelaere and we have one hell of an arsenal available as we go to war in the transfer market.
By this point we have already snapped up the majority of available Milan-based talent in the likes of Federico Dimarco, Giorgio Scalvini, Caleb Okoli, Nicolo Rovella, Amad Diallo, Musa Barrow and club record signing CesareCasadei (€56m) whom we have successfully retrained to be our lone striker following his 24-goal haul last season. In terms of players whom we haven’t yet signed and are eligible – we are talking big names and even bigger transfer values. Gianluigi Donnarumma (ex-Milan academy) has just won the Champions League at PSG and is valued over €300m (!); Dejan Kulusevski (ex-Atalanta academy) is thriving at Tottenham valued at over €220m with his 10 goals helping them to a 4th placed league finish, while Alessandro Bastoni (also ex-Atalanta academy) is valued over €130m and has no imminent interest in switching from the blue to the red side of Milan.
So – not as easy as one would have hoped in terms of continuing building our band of elite Milanese talents, however one player emerges from our extensive Regionnaire search filter who is definitely of immediate interest, not only based on his transfer value (€90m – €133m) but also based on the fact that he was born in the town of Lecco which just falls within our catchment area, as well as the fact that he is a former AC Milan academy graduate himself. Have you ever heard the tale of the prodigal son?
While Rovella did a great job last season as our Anchor in the DM strata alongside Sandro Tonali as the Segundo Volante (Attack), Manuel Locatelli would be a substantial upgrade as well as being highly versatile, and with this Milan squad looking to compete across Serie A, Coppa Italia and Champions League fronts, we most certainly could do with a player of his calibre. Considering Juventus finished 4th last season (2 points behind ourselves), one might think his head could be turned to lure him back home?
We agree a €110m fee with €60m paid up front and the rest spread over three seasons – what a f*cking player, the thought of having Locatelli and Tonali in midfield is mouthwatering and well worth doubling our transfer record for…right? 😅 That still leaves us with around €80m to play with so we set about bolstering our squad depth in a couple of other key positions; Centre-Back Giorgio Cittadini arrives from Atalanta for €7m to offer cover for Scalvini, Okoli and Vanheusden, and he is followed by his Atalanta teammate Matteo Ruggeri (€7.5m) who replaces Tomasso Augello as our backup left-back. Further up the pitch we add Irish winger Kevin Zefi (€4m) who leaves Inter after 3 seasons in their youth academy, and he is followed by not one but two former FM wonderkid attackers in the form of Atalanta’s Roberto Piccolli (€7.25m) and ex-Inter graduate Andrea Pinamonti who arrives from Sassuolo for €22.5m.
Before we crack into Season 1, there was time for one more slightly unexpected deal. With Donnarumma still pretty much unattainable, we signed Stefano Turati last summer to replace Mike Maignan in goal and watched him have a fairly solid debut season between the sticks. That said, I couldn’t help but have my head turned by another Bergamo product who on paper looks to be a stronger goalkeeper both in terms of shot-stopping and technical ability as a Sweeper Keeper. In a last minute turn of events (literally the week prior to our season opener), we make a somewhat rash decision to sign Marco Carnesecchi for €27m from Atalanta, and even more interestingly Atalanta then return with a €40m bid for Turati to replace him! We end up literally swapping goalkeepers however I am highly confident we have gotten the better deal here as we bank both a better keeper and a €13m profit to show for it 💰.
A final point to add is that the individual performances of some of our band of merry Milanese boys have grabbed a lot of outside attention – not only have we done well in terms of incoming signings, but it’s also an achievement that we manage to hold on to some of our key players particularly with the calibre of clubs that come calling during the summer. We manage to fight off interest from the likes of Real Madrid (Barrow), Inter (Pobega), Tottenham (Tonali) and Man Utd (Dimarco) and our ability to retain these players is in itself as good as a new signing when you consider the size and depth of the player pool available to us here at Milan.
Our squad is healthy (albeit not full to the brim with superstars). We are now in a position to fill two different XIs of local-only talent if and when needed which will be essential as we compete across multiple fronts this season. Overall it’s safe to say that we are Regionnairing the sh*t out of it in Milan and things are going reasonably well (compared to Northern Boys anyway, if you know you know).
It’s deja vu for our opening league fixture as we again face and comfortably beat Spezia at home, made even sweeter by debut goals for both Locatelli and Piccoli which help us to a 3-1 victory to start our season on a high in Milan. That sets us on a somewhat of a roll – a quick blip against Brescia (whom we scored 13 against last season 🤷♂️) is soon forgotten as we go on an absolute spree picking up 9 wins in a row and going unbeaten for 19 games which include 14 Serie A fixtures and 5 Champions League ties (let’s not mention the new UECL format 🤮), the highlight of which were hattricks for Cesare Casadei in a 7-0 thrashing of Atletico Madrid in Europe as well as an immense three-goal return from Sandro Tonali in a 5-0 drubbing of Sampdoria, the latter of whom is making a massive case to be my FM23 Player of the Year (#spoilers 👀).
Everything starts to click in what is arguably the best run of games I have had for years in Football Manager – despite the increased game frequency and decreased breaks between fixtures, the depth of our squad means the impact is minimal and when one player needs a rest, another is quick to fill in and make a name for themselves in their own right. A prime example of this is Milan-born Roko Simic (son of Milan and Croatia legend Dario who is one of our scouts at the San Siro), a player who we signed as a 19-year-old in Season 1 for depth and has emerged to be a real goal-threat particularly in Europe wherein he has scored 5 goals to date (the lad is also drawing attention in real-life based on his recent performances for Red Bull Salzburg).
By the end of November and after 14 league games, AC Milan are TOP OF SERIE A and remarkably have have only conceded 4 goals in 14 games, Carnesecchi is proving to be one hell of a signing with 10 clean sheets not to mention the partnership of Scalvini and Okoli making us impregnable at the back 🔥🔥.
December and January aren’t half bad either – wins against Roma and Torino are followed up by slightly stuttery draws against 2nd place Napoli and 3rd place Sassuolo as well as a 1-1 Champions League draw with Crystal Palace who somehow blagged their way to a Europa League win last season to gain a place in the newly formatted group stages (sigh).
By the time we reach the end of January, not only are we still top of Serie A after 21 games played, we are also top of the Champions League League Stage (that’s easy to read right?) and following that end of January draw with Atalanta we are met with a very interesting and welcome Steam notification which I honestly think I have never seen before in Football Manager – does that say more about me than the game?
I can safely say I have never had an unbeaten season in this game that I have played for over 25 years – might this be the one?
Normality is restored – having already qualified for the knockout stages, we travel away to Stamford Bridge for our final league stage game and get trounced by Graham Potter’s (yep) Chelsea side who boast the likes of Marco Asensio and Yeremy Pino alongside stalwarts (in this save anyway) N’Golo Kanté and Romelu Lukaku. That qualification sets us up for a Round of 16 clash with Red Bull Salzburg (who you may remember were involved in our early CL Group Stage exit in Season 1), here’s hoping Chelsea was just a blip in what has been an otherwise near-perfect season.
Having won 16 out of 20 Serie A games up to this point, we go on to draw 1-1 at home to lowly Frosinone before then losing to rivals Lazio, and suddenly our weaknesses are exploited for all to see as we stumble to further draws with Inter and Spezia. 9 points dropped blows the league wide open and opens the door for our Neapolitan friends to draw level with us on 56 points apiece with 25 games played, staggering considering we were 8 points clear of them just 10 games ago..does anyone know the Italian for bottle job?
How better to try and regain some form than a trip away to Juventus in Turin? Let’s not forget we beat them 7-0 on the final day of last season…
Remarkably we pick up a 3-0 win away at the Allianz Stadium (nice to see youngster Roko Simic on the scoresheet again, one to watch for the future) and this is a vital win as we now look to keep up with Napoli whereby previously it was ourselves setting the pace. That victory gets us back to winning ways in the league through March where we also have a big scare in the Champions League; having lost 3-1 away to Red Bull Salzburg in the first leg, we scrape through with a 114th minute winner from Andrea Pinamonti to make it 6-5 on aggregate and set us up for a quarter final draw with Bayern Munich!
We are back to keeping clean sheets again and once more we need to credit a lot of it to our goalkeeper Marco Carnesecchi who by now has also been called up to the Italy national squad albeit with that man Gianluigi Donnarruma still standing in his way of the #1 jersey. If he keeps going like this, manager Stefano Pioli will surely have a big decision to make 👀.
TYPICAL. The Football Manager gods are back to run the rule on our progress as we lose our star man for at least a month, at a time when we have crucial games coming up in both the Cup and Champions League (not to mention our chase for the Scudetto title). Unfortunately the German champions are too much for us over both legs as we succumb to a 4-2 aggregate defeat either side of a disappointing defeat to Lecce in the league, however our trophy hopes are very much alive as we overcome rivals Inter in the Coppa Italia semi-final on penalties on a day where Carnesecchi returned from injury to make THREE PENALTY SAVES and put us through to the final – I love this goalkeeper 🤩
The Final Lap 🏁
To bring all of this together as we reach the 1st of May 2025 – we are out of the Champions League, we have set up a Coppa Italia final against our nemesis over in Bergamo, and with 5 games to go in Serie A we are level with Napoli on 74 points each. Are you not entertained? 😅
🗣️🎙️ “Lecce the giant killers! Having already beaten Milan earlier this season, they make up for it by beating Napoli at home to put the Rossoneri top of the league with 4 games to go!!“
🗣️🎙️ “2-0 is the theme of the day with both Milan and Napoli winning comfortably – no change at the top of the league as Milan hold a 3 point advantage with 3 games remaining“
🗣️🎙️ “UNBELIEVABLE. INCREDIBLE SCENES IN MILAN AS THEY MOUNT A 9-MAN COMEBACK TO BEAT TORINO 3-2!! HUGE – MADE ALL THE MORE IMPORTANT BY NAPOLI’S 2-1 WIN IN ROME, MILAN REMAIN ON TOP OF SERIE A!!”
🗣️🎙️ “THE MILAN TRAIN KEEPS GOING. A 4-0 demolition of Cremonese sees them retain a 3 point lead over Napoli who keep themselves in the title race courtesy of an 82nd minute goal from Giacomo Raspadori! This one will go down to the wire – one way or another the Scudetto will be heading to either Milan or Naples in just one week’s time – imagine not liking football folks “
Here is where it gets interesting. Serie A rules differentiate teams who are level on points by Head to Head record followed by Goal Difference and then Goals Scored. If Napoli win they will go level on points with us and it will come down to who fared better over both clashes between the two sides this season, while Milan know anything other than defeat will seal them the league title for the 20th time in their history.
As the FM gods would have it and in true Football Manager narrative style, who do you think we face on the final day of the season?
Napoli vs AC Milan
📍 Stadio Diego Armando Maradona
📅 Sunday 25th May 2025
🗣️🎙️ “How often do we see this? A league decider that is essentially a Cup Final, with home side Napoli knowing that only a win will stop Milan from winning the title and bringing the Scudetto back home to Naples. Worryingly for Napoli fans, Serie A top scorer Victor Osimhen only makes the substitutes bench with concerns over his match fitness, while Milan are without the injured Manuel Locatelli and appear to have made a slight tactical change to combat the threat posed by the likes of Zieliński, Raspadori and Kvaratshkelia who have been in lethal form for Napoli all season. The 2024/2025 Serie A league title all comes down to 90 minutes in the thrilling Diego Maradona arena – what a place, what a league, what a season. Here we go!“
0′ – Napoli kick off proceedings today playing in their traditional azure blue kit, while Milan (for some reason) are in their grey third kit which apparently clashes less than Black and Red stripes 🤷♂️.
2′ – GOAL FOR AC MILAN!! ⚫🔴 (Diallo) – Ecstasy for Milan fans, disaster for Napoli as Amad Diallo gets on the end of a Musa Barrow cross to head home and give Milan the lead! What a start we have had here in Naples!!
7′ – Yellow Card! 🟨 (Scalvini) An early booking for the Italian international after a rash challenge on Raspadori.
18′ – GOAL FOR NAPOLI!! 🔵⚪ (Raspadori) – Napoli are back in it! Raspadori has been causing problems for Scalvini – he receives a pass from Zieliński on the edge of the box, turns his man and slots it home in the bottom right corner past Carnesecchi, a great finish. GAME ON!!
32′ – Yellow Card! 🟨 (Olivera) The Napoli left-back goes into the book for a foul on Diallo.
47′ – HALF-TIME. Almost impossible to separate these two sides after the opening 45 minutes, as things stand Milan would be crowned champions but Napoli have 45 minutes to change that – back over to our commentary team for the second half.
58′ – GOAL FOR NAPOLI!! 🔵⚪ (Kvaratshkelia) – Napoli take the lead!! A ball over the top from Zieliński finds the path of the Georgian who slots it home..but wait, VAR are taking a look at a possible offside!!
58′ – GOAL DISALLOWED!! ❌ The replay shows that Kvaratshkelia was a fraction offside and the goal won’t count, heartbreak for Napoli!!
69′ – Substitution for Napoli as Konraid Laimer replaces Stanislav Lobotka in the Napoli midfield.
73′ – Substitution for Milan as Carboni replaces Diallo who has run his socks off today and deserved his goal.
75′ – Substitution for Napoli as Manuel Lazarri comes on for Giovanni Di Lorenzo.
75′ – Substitution for Milan as Roberto Piccoli replaces Ceseare Casadei.
80′ – Treble Substitution for Napoli as Osimhen, Lenglet and Roony Bardghji replace Olivera, Rrahmani and Kvaratshkelia. Manager Mauricio Pochettino is going for it!!
83′ – GOAL FOR AC MILAN!! ⚫🔴 (Piccoli) – I don’t believe it! With all eyes on Napoli’s changes, Milan break and Pobega plays a lovely ball into Piccoli who smashes home first time..but wait, VAR are taking another look at this one as well!! Did Piccoli have a foot offside?!
83′ – GOAL DISALLOWED!! ❌ You can almost hear the collective sigh of relief from Napoli fans as Piccoli’s goal is ruled offside by VAR. Napoli are still in it, but time is running out quickly…
84′ – Double Substitution for Milan as Pessina and Pinamonti come on for Pobega and Tonali..is there yet to be another late twist in this incredible tale?
90′ – The fourth official indicates there will be FOUR additional minutes of injury time added.
94′ – THAT’S IT! THE FINAL WHISTLE BLOWS AND MILAN ARE SERIE A CHAMPIONS!
Unbelievable scenes but fully deserved for Milan who have been pretty much incredible all season. I’ll admit I hadn’t expected to win the league this soon (if at all) in this save particularly with the Regionnaire squad rules, however the likes of Casadei, Barrow, Diallo and Pobega all completely took me by surprise not to mention Dimarco, Scalvini and Tonali who have simply been unbelievable throughout the save – the latter in particular has been almost unplayable at times in the Segundo Volante (Att) role and this season racked up 12 goals and 9 assists from a DM position not to mention consistently scoring above a 7.0 rating and being our captain and talisman throughout.
Before we finish out, there is of course the small matter of the Coppa Italia Final which gives us the opportunity to do the double and once again face off against neighbours Atalanta who as we previously mentioned had beaten us 9 times until we defeated them in the league earlier this season. Wouldn’t this be a nice way to wrap up this season and this save adventure with FM24 just around the corner?
It doesn’t get much better than that! Goals from Zinho Vanheusden and Cesare Casadei earn us the Serie A and Coppa Italia double, an incredible achievement for a Regionnaire side after three seasons – I had toyed with the idea of carrying this save over to FM24 using the new save compatibility feature, however I feel this is a nice way to wrap things up for FM23 and for this thoroughly enjoyable stint at AC Milan. We have had two excellent saves this year at Haarlem and Milan, and overall FM23 has been another excellent rendition of Football Manager with ~1,000 hours of play, stream and blog time racked up which I think you will agree is very good value for a game that costs what it does!
Whether the Regionnaire returns for FM24 remains to be seen (eyes emoji) but I already have a number of save ideas and plans in the pipeline – one thing is for sure, the blogs will return as will all of my nonsense on Twitter, Twitch and on the 5 Star Potential podcast. In the meantime, thank you to everyone who has followed this save and any or all of my content this year and beyond – looking forward to bringing even more for FM24 as we gear up for what looks like the best and most rounded version of Football Manager to date 🚀.
Thanks for reading – see you soon in FM24 🔥.
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.