Solna municipality, Stockholm. 6.00am. A man in his mid-to-late thirties rises from a deep slumber, a familiar twinge of pain in his right knee as he slides a thick heavy curtain along it’s rail to reveal a golden sun rising majestically above a slowly awakening city, a mammoth silhouette of a 50,000 capacity sporting arena towering in the distance like a silent noble sentry keeping watch over it’s principles below. He takes a deep breath, a sense of ambient relief to be back in the city of his birth, mixed with a hint of apprehension and trepidation in the knowledge that this day (the 27th of February 2023) marks his first as custodian of Allmänna Idrottsklubben Football Club, more commonly known as AIK Fotboll. This is a club steeped in history and folklore, a vast and iconic fanbase, and never before has the reign of a new leader been subject to such intense scrutiny and controversy in these parts. “It will work” the man assures himself..”they just don’t know it yet…”
Here we go or sätt igång as we say here in Sweden! Football Manager 2024 is officially upon us, and with that we launch a brand new save adventure at AIK Fotball in Stockholm, Sweden’s 4th most successful team ever who play our home games at the 50,000 seater Friends Arena which over the years has seen the likes of Alexander Isak, Johan Mjällby, Olof Mellberg, Anders Limpar, Magnus Hedman and Sebastian Larsson all grace the turf in the AIK colours. If you haven’t already, have a quick read over our Save Introduction which outlines our plans, objectives and inspiration for this new FM24 blog series (which may occasionally be streamed on Twitch if time permits).
Prior to winning their last Allsvenskan (Swedish Championship) in 2018, AIK’s last two league titles came in 2009 and 1998 which means they have only been champions of Sweden 3 times in the past 25 years and haven’t made the Champions League Group Stages since 1999 (in what was a group of death with Barcelona, Fiorentina & Arsenal), somewhat of an underachievement for a club of our stature, history, fanbase and football facilities. This save aims to rectify that as we look to reinvigorate Swedish football on the European and World stage, through enhancement of Swedish youth production, domestic league success, memorable European adventures and overall increased international representation and performance at continental level. At the start of FM24, Sweden are ranked #23 in the world international rankings, #22 in the European Nation Club League Coefficients and #28 in the world in terms of reputation – our mission is to change this while also succeeding at club level domestically and in European compeition.
Easier said than done perhaps. When we look at the Season Preview, AIK Fotboll are predicted to finish 5th in the league with no players named in the Media Dream Eleven – let’s see what we can do about that.
Our new quest will be spearheaded by (fictional) former AIK youth player Patrik Maddsson, a star of the club’s academy during their Swedish U19 league win back in 2004 who was forced to retire a year later due to a serious knee injury. Maddsson has been entrusted with the keys to AIK’s Friends Arena and has been busy in pre-season as we get ourselves set up for success both on and off the field – more on his credentials shortly.
Before we dive in, let’s do a little bit of housekeeping in terms of how we have set up this save and how it will run going forward:
💻 Hardware – sometimes I am asked what hardware I use in terms of laptop, microphone, webcam etc. I am currently running an MSI Katana laptop with an Intel Core i9 processor, 16GB RAM, 1TB Storage and Nvidia 4070 Graphics Card (this is more spec than you would normally need to run Football Manager). I use a Samson Q2U Microphone for streaming/podcasting, along with a Logitech Brio Webcam and an Elgato Key Light Air stream lamp.
MaddFM setup ✍️📽️🎙️
💾 Database – for this save we are using the standard Football Manager database in Original Game Mode. I toyed with the idea of using Real World mode as the Swedish league runs from February to November (therefore we would have to wait until Summer to see some of their new signings) – however I opted against this so we can basically match with the squad they have currently right from the off. In terms of Save Setup, we have added Sweden as our main playable league along with the big leagues (England, Spain, Italy, Germany) and our two main neighbouring leagues (Denmark and Norway) – this will give us great detail in which to operate this save, and we have also added players from top clubs for Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, Switzerland, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, USA and Mexico, which gives us an approximate player count of 72,650 – more than enough on which to build our new save universe and dynasty. Also – ATTRIBUTE MASKING ON, ALWAYS.
🎓 Badges – as per our narrative, new manager Patrik Maddsson has just returned from overseas having completed his UEFA Continental A licence after a number of years in various scouting and academy coaching roles in places like Ireland, France and New Zealand. Based on this, we have set his coaching badges accordingly, along with “Professional Footballer (Regional Level)” as his past playing experience.
👕 Kits – while we love the AIK 132 year anniversary kit which I ordered and will be wearing for the majority of this save, we need a new set of in-game kits for a save of this magnitude. With our focus on Sweden and the restoration of Swedish football on a global scale, we have designed a brand new set of Stockholm-themed 2D and 3D kits which are quite tasty if I may say so myself 🔥. Feel free to download them here.
📊 Skin – we will be using the FM24 Rensie Custom Skin by @FMRensie, available to download here. Ondrej produces top class skins every year in addition to all of his excellent FM content, and this year he has done it again as you can see below 👌.
📁 Add-ons – we have added Facepacks, Kits, Logos, Stadiums and Trophies all courtesy of SortitOutSI (with a few manual additions by yours truly), while also installing the Real Names Licence Fix by FMScout.
🔎 Custom Views – I’ve set up a couple of my own views for this save which we will continue to add throughout. If you are looking for some fairly simple and clean views you can download my Squad View, Player Search View, Scouted Players View, Staff Search View, Tactics View, Player Shortlist View and Staff Shortlist views here (which I will likely add to as the save progresses).
Right – that’s all the information you need to know before we proceed. The second half of today’s blog will divided into four sections we kick off our first season at AIK: (1) Squad Assessment, (2) Transfer Policy, (3) Tactical Setup and (4) Club Culture as we look to hit the ground running and start our new life in Sweden on the right foot to ensure long-term future success in Stockholm for years to come.
(1) Squad Assessment
We won’t look at every squad member, instead I will highlight a handful of key players that will form the spine as we kick off this save, plus a couple of higher-potential youth prospects that might have something to say as we progress things forward in Stockholm.
Key Players 🔑
We are blessed in the Goalkeeping department which is a relief as it’s not the easiest or most fun position to recruit for. Ex-Swansea keeper Kristoffer Nordfeldt is likely to be our starting #1 initially, with decent experience and international pedigree having amassed 17 caps for the Swedish national team to date; his understudy and likely replacement is Samuel Brolin (no relation to Thomas sadly) who (wait for it) is 6’8″ in height (that’s 208cm for you metric system enthusiasts) and at 22 may not grow much higher but hopefully will develop rapidly under our tutelage. Already wanted by Udinese at the start of the save, he will be one to watch as this adventure begins (we can’t exactly miss him now can we).
In Defence, our captain and talisman is former Besiktas and Nottingham Forest Centre Back Alexander Milosevic, who I seem to recall being an FM wonderkid sometime around FM12 or FM13 if memory serves right – still only 31, he will be the lynchpin of our backline but may need a slightly pacier partner to accompany him. Speaking of Pace – I’m intrigued by our Kenyan left-back Erick Otieno who has 16 Pace and 17 Acceleration, this may cause some craic to be had in this league and in the FM24 match engine 👀.
Our midfield is relatively weak which is a concern, our best player being Anton Salétros who is a Swedish carrilero – still only 26 with decent passing, positioning and vision, he will likely adopt some form of playmaker or mezzala role and though fairly well-rounded in terms of attributes, he will need to develop these quickly in order to hold a long-term role in this XI.
On the wings we are severely lacking in pace and any form of explosiveness, with our best option being 26-year-old ex-Man City academy player Bersant Celina, a Kosovan international on loan from Dijon in France; while he is a flair merchant with good technical ability, he is arguably more suited to a #10 role should we deploy one this season.
Up front is probably where we are at our strongest in terms of quality and depth. The first name I saw when I loaded up the save was John Guidetti, another ex-Man City academy graduate (signed by fellow countryman Sven-Göran Eriksson when he was in charge) whom I also recall was an FM wonderkid around the same time as the aforementioned Milosovic. Guidetti is one of those strikers who has arguably failed to live up to his potential and hype as a youth player, but always seems to score against you in Football Manager; still only 30 and though he has played at very high levels (notably spells at Feyenoord, Celtic and Celta Vigo), he now finds himself with a point to prove in Sweden and I will be more than happy for him to do it here as well as be a source of support for our younger players. Guidetti’s main competition comes in the form of our highest valued player (€900k – €1.6m), the excellently named Ioannis Pittas who is a 26-year-old Cyprus international that has just signed from Apollon Limassol; though fairly level with Guidetti in terms of technical and finishing attributes, he definitely edges him for pace and movement which as I write this makes me wonder should we be aiming to start both as an almost “little & large” combo. Decisions to be made 🤔.
That’s the main crux of our first-team in terms of key players – definitely gaps to be filled most notably in the centre of defence, in midfield and on the right-wing which will be our primary focus in our first transfer window. That said, there are a handful of promising youth players here who could also evolve into feasible options if the situation requires it as well as having the potential to develop towards the first team later down the line
Youth Players 🚸
In my introductory post, we mentioned that Yasin Ayari is the most recent successful export from AIK after he joined Brighton at the beginning of 2023 for a fee of €4,000,000 (AIK’s fourth highest transfer fee ever received), however his 17-year-old brother Taha Ayari is also on the books here and could potentially be a future solution for the right-wing position with early signs of good pace, determination, flair and technical ability. 15-year-old striker Jonah Kusi-Ahare is the star in our academy and by far our highest rated youth prospect, already 6ft 5in (196cm) in height with very promising all-round attributes (recently scouted by @FTalentScout and analysed here), and he could evolve towards the first-team within a couple of seasons if he develops well in-game, while the likes of Victor Andersson (AMC) and Alexander Fesshaie Beraki (AMC) will also be kept around under the watchful eye of our Head of Youth Development Johannes Wiklund and our new U19 Manager Steve Nilsson.
Final thing to mention which is completely irrelevant – we do have a random Irish player in the AIK ranks in 24-year-old Zach Elboudezi, but unfortunately he’s not great; challenge accepted?
(2) Transfer Policy
We start the save with a €1.2 million transfer budget courtesy of two IRL player sales before our arrival (Robin Tihi to Al Ahli for €1.9m and Joe Mendes to Braga for €1.5m). If you were to ask me who would be among the top rated “Slightly Interested” players that we can sign, our search would reveal the likes of 35-year-old Nikola Kalinic, 36-year-old Ryan Babel and 40-year-old Fabio Quagliarella (not that I am ruling anything out at this stage 😏), while the top valued interested players are English Championship level players at best. I don’t want to go overboard on transfers as we must be conscious of the fact that the Swedish league starts in February (hence the lack of interest I guess), so we will likely make no more than 2-3 permanent first-team signings this window in addition to one or two loans and as many youth players (primarily Swedish) we can get our hands on within budget. One other rule to add – with our focus being on longevity and the resurgence of Swedish football, we aren’t looking for any shortcuts or ringers to give us a quick win in this save; any loan deals we make must contain an optional or mandatory future fee that would realistically be within our scope by the end of the loan.
As mentioned above, our main targets are a Central Defender, a Central Midfielder and a Right-Winger – preference is for Swedish or Scandinavian players if possible but we aren’t limited if the right player is available. As the saying goes, let the games begin 🚀.
TRANSFER GIFS ARE BACK 🔥🔥. First in the door is our new right-sided forward in the form of Swedish winger Oscar Pettersson (€375k), a 23-year-old who racked up 15 goals and 13 assists last season to help IF Brommapojkarna win the Swedish Superettan and gain promotion to the Allsvenskan. While not a superstar of sorts, his creativity and movement should help us to unlock most of the opposition defences at this level, while he also very much knows where the goal is himself.
We continue our Swedish recruitment with a loan signing in the form of left-back Daniel Svensson, a player whom we also had for a while during the latter stages of the Haarlem save last year. We agree a €160k loan deal with FC Nordsjælland along with a €1.8m optional fee which would be within range if we can secure some form of European qualification in a year’s time.
Left-Wing Back will be a key role for us this year. While we already have a quality option in the aforementioned speedster Erick Otieno, the nature of the role (especially if we use an attacking mentality) means that players tend to get fatigued and injured more frequently, so it is essential that we have two quality players available at all times and the addition of Svensson gives us just that.
Next up we head to the Free Agent market for not one but two signings, one of whom is an old FM favourite of mine, an FM17 wonderkid from one of my many Newcastle saves over the years 😍.
Ante Ćorić arrives on a free transfer after being released by previous employer Roma following what was a largely disappointing spell for both parties following a highly anticipated €6m move in 2018. Ćorić was loaned out three times and failed to get near the first team under any of Claudio Ranieri, Paulo Fonseca and José Mourinho, and now finds himself clubless with very little evident interest in his services. Hopefully we can provide redemption for the lad, who still possesses excellent technical attributes and creativity for this level.
Ćorić’s initiation should hopefully be aided by the arrival of fellow Croatian compatriot Jozo Šimunović, a 28-year-old former Dinamo Zagreb & Celtic defender who arrives to partner Alexander Milosevic at centre-half here in Stockholm – a bit more to offer in terms of pace and movement so hopefully he will compliment Milosevic well at the back.
Last but not least. Though we had said our main priorities were at Centre Back, Midfield and on the Right-Wing, I still felt we were light in the central midfield department particularly in terms of creativity and attacking threat. With not much room in our budget and with limited interested players of sufficient quality, we decide to take a small gamble on the loan of a player with a quite familiar surname…
Oscar Højlund (younger brother of Man Utd star Rasmus and twin brother of Emil) arrives on a season-long loan from F.C. København in a deal that will cost us €210k with a €1.6m optional fee – this could be quite the signing, still only 18 years old with clear runway and potential to develop while also being a key member of our first-team here at AIK. With Højlund alongside Ćorić, I can’t get my mind away from the double-mezzala combo which worked so well during my Beta save at Crystal Palace..👀
(3) Tactical Setup
I’ll talk in more depth about tactics in a later post, however for now I’ve decided we will start with a 4-3-3 tactic which is very similar to what I used during Early Access at Crystal Palace. The aforementioned double-mezzala pivot (in which we deployed Mohamed Diomandé and Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall at Palace) will be key in terms of transition and ball progression not to mention having the likes of Højlund and Ćorić making direct runs and arriving late in the opposition box to finish any chances or loose balls accordingly.
(4) Club Culture
While our squad will not be a homegrown/Swedish-only cohort for this save, our aim is that the top young players either recruited or produced from within are of Swedish origin, therefore the majority of our coaching staff will hail from Sweden and/or our Scandinavian neighbours if a role cannot be filled by a Swedish staff member. Without going into too much detail we bring in a new Director of Football (Per Nilsson, former DOF of RB Leipzig), Assistant Manager (former Chelsea defender Erland Johnsen), First Team Coaches (Ebbe Sand and Martin Jorgensen), Scouting Team (Pär Zetterberg, Johan Elmander and Markus Andreasson) as well as hiring a new Head Physio (Rickard Dahan) and Head of Sports Science (Marianne Lislevand).
We will also strive to invest revenue into our facilities and affiliate network as well as our scouting range and depth of knowledge to ensure we are set up to produce, recruit and develop the best Swedish youth players available – having a great stadium certainly helps, but we will need to build on our youth facilities, coaching and recruitment if we are to stand a chance at bringing through some world class talent as per our save mission.
Here We Go 🚀
Our squad is built, transfers complete, backroom staff in place and manager Patrik Maddsson is preparing for his first game in charge of AIK Fotboll – an 800km round trip away to Kalmar FF who finished 4th in last season’s Allsvenskan championship. New signing Jozo Šimunović failed a late fitness test and misses out through injury as does John Guidetti who picked up an ankle injury in pre-season, while new signings Oscar Pettersson and Ante Ćorić both make their AIK debuts with Oscar Højlund named among the AIK substitutes.
As the cliché goes, there are no easy games at this level…
We needn’t have worried too much. A debut goal for Oscar Pettersson gave us an early lead in a first-half that went on to be an absolute goal-fest, with Ioannis Pittas bagging a brace either side of a goal each for Bersant Celina and what turned out to be a consolation goal for Deniz Hummet and Kalmar. We rang in the changes for the second half, and 4-1 is how it finished to give AIK all three points and put us third in the league behind IFK Norrköping (who had a thumping 5-0 victory over Degefors IF) and Pettersson’s former club IF Brommapojkarna who beat Varborgs 4-0 at home. A fine start for Patrik Maddsson on his maiden voyage as AIK manager, but only the first step in what we hope will be a long and fruitful journey in Stockholm for many seasons to come.
Patrik Maddsson closes his hotel room door, drops his bag on the floor and walks nonchalantly to the window once more, that familiar twinge of pain in his right knee somewhat mitigated by that unmistakable feeling that comes with 3 points and the echoing satisfactory chants of some 800 AIK fans that made the journey south to Kalmar earlier that day. The Scandinavian sun also seems to descend contently as its evening rays cast over an exalted city. His eyes fall upon a bottle of champagne on the table, a small white note folded below. He opens it to find a message from Per Nilsson, AIK Director of Football…
Thanks for reading – our next episode will hone in on a number of Swedish wonderkids that we have identified as potential transfer targets, our next transfer window is in July and as you all know, this means increased competition from clubs who will be in the thick of their own pre-season preparation – expect fireworks folks, it’s going to be a big one.
FM24 is going great so far – be sure to drop a follow below and on Twitter for instant updates whenever a new blog post drops; you can also jump in my Discord for offline discussions & sneak previews as well as catching me every Monday on 5 Star Potential, the longest running weekly Football Manager podcast 🎙️.