Derrubando Os Três Grandes: Santa Clara, an FM 23 Story


I have not been playing Football Manager that long, since FM17 really, but in that time I have managed to play quite a few teams in quite a few countries. But one country I have yet to manage in is Portugal. This year I wanted to do more on the blog, and thought taking a club that has not had a lot of success in the first tier of its countries football pyramid could be fun, and Santa Clara fits the bill perfectly. And that’s before I found out some of the issues it has.

Portuguese football has long been dominated by the “Big Three”: Benfica, Porto, and Sporting CP. Between them they have won all but two of the Primera Liga Titles, and our goal is to take them down a peg, or three, or more.

I am going to err on the side of previous good fortune and luck, and have recreated Thierry Davout as head coach. My first big save was with USL Dunkerque in FM17, and Thierry Davout was the man who led us to glory for 20 seasons. This time around, I am hoping he provides more of the same.

The ski I am using at the moment is the excellent Statman skin, created by _Ben_ on the SI forums. For those of us who are a bit more Data Driven, this skin displays a lot of information we would normally have to hunt for in the data hub. You can download it here: Statman 23 It is one on many great new skins being created this year, and I suspect we will see a few more during this save.

Historically speaking, Santa Clara is the most successful club on the Azores Islands, and are the westernmost top flight club in Europe. The spent one year in the Primeira Liga in 1998-99, but were relegated the next season. They were promoted again in 2001, but were relegated again in 2003, and spent the next 15 year’s in the 2nd Tier, before being promoted again at the end of the 2018 season. The 202-2021 season saw them finish 6th, while reaching the corner finals of the Taça de Portugal. This season a poor start saw Mario Silva leave the club, and on 11/23/2022, Thierry Davout took over. What did he find? Well, things could be going better.

While for the moment the club is in the black, financially speaking they are Insecure, and more importantly are currently overspending on their wage budget by about 15K Euros. The club is paying off a 5M Euro loan, it will drop off the books in 2025.

This means a few things:

  • Terminating the contracts of those staff members who don’t meet our criteria is going to be impossible for this season, because we won’t be able to offer the wages we need to to bring in better people.
  • If we can mutually terminate contracts of those staff members who for the moment are “extra” we will.
  • Cutting back where we are spending money, which as you can see was already done by the time we arrived. For the moment we are scouting Portugal. It’s all we can afford to scout, and as my scouting department for the moment consists of a Scout and Chief Scout.
  • Doing what we can to avoid relegation. At the moment we currently sit 14th in the Primeira.

The Good News, such as it is, is that we only have 2 games until the World Cup Winter Break, and then the transfer window, and looking at the squad there is opportunities to sell players and make some money.

The Squad

The Good News: We have a solid Squad. Average age is 24.8 years old, the team as a whole has an overall Determined personality, and there is a decent amount of depth at each position.

The Bad News: We have a solid Squad, 7 of our contributing players are in on loan, and while we have some quality players, there is a distinct lack of youth development going on. No, seriously I have one 16 y/o and on 19 y/o on the roster. My U19 squad is nonexistent, and the U23 squad has 5 players on it.


Gabriel Batista is going to be my 1st Choice Keeper for now. 2 1/2 star Current Ability, 3 1/2 Star Potential Ability, the 24 y/o comes from Flamengo, but is not having the best season so far, with 15 goals allowed in 10 games with just 1 shutout, and a 6.32 rating

Marco has been with the club for 6 seasons, but at 35 y/o his best days are most likely behind him. In 4 appearances this year he’s allowed 7 goals with just 1 shutout, for a paltry 6.15 rating. Compared to the other keeps on the squad he’s 3 star current and potential ability, but if his past game performances and and indicator, he won’t have that 3rd star for long.

Ricardo Fernandes has 7 appearances for the club last season, but the game does not have any numbers for that. at 2 1/2 start current and potential ability, at best he is probably a spot starter,

Center Backs

This is the second thinnest position at the club. While we have other defenders who can play D(C), Kennedy Boateng and Paulo Eduardo are the only two who play this role naturally.

Boateng, a 25 y/o from Togo had 9 Caps for the International Squad, is your prototypical D(C), tall, strong, with very good jumping and capable heading. The 3 star current, 3 1/2 star potential back is defensively solid, I am hoping to get him to contribute more on the set piece side of the ball now.

Paulo Eduardo is one of the good youth players we have. At 20 y/o, the 3 star current, 4 star potential player is almost as good as Boateng. A Free pickup from Cruzeiro, he has the makings of one of those defenders whop is going to have a long, solid career.

Right Backs

Diogo Calila is currently listed and wanted, but I am going to take him off the transfer list. This year the formations I am using tend to have wingbacks in them, and Calila is a solid wingback. At 24 y/o, the 3 start current, 3 star potential ability player has few weaknesses in his attributes, but nothing really stands out either.

Pierre Sanga is the other right Wingback on the squad, but at 32 y/o the 3 star current and potential ability player isn’t as good technically as Calila is. He’s coming off a broken jaw suffered in training, I hope that is not a sign of things to come.

Tomás Domingos can play wingback, but he’d prefer to play in his natural fullback position. At 3 star Current, 4 star potential the 23 y/o is the best defender we have from a technical point of view, and probably from a mental point of view as well. He’s one of the best crossers on the team, so chances are likely he and Calila will split starting duties for the rest of the season.

Left Backs

While Paulo Henrique can play Wingback, Xavi Quntilla is better at it.

Quintilla is going to be on the sidelines until January though, a twisted ankle has the 4 star current 26 y/o in the physios office. Quintilla can also play D(C) quite well, and I expect him to get game time at both. At 5’9″ he is not the most physical of defenders, but he more than makes up for any deficiens there with his very good Mental and Technical attributes.

Paulo Henrique is also 26 years old, and with better overall physical and Technical attributes, the 3 1/2 star current, 4 star potential player will most likely be the starter, with Quintilla starting at D(C) next to Boateng.

20 y/o Ítalo has 4 star potential, and I am hoping to get him enough spot starts and off the bench appearances to help him reach that. That he can also play D(C) means he will have more opportunities to do that.

Defensive Midfielders

Victor Bobsin is a 22 y/o Brazilian who could be a stalwart for the club for years to come, if other clubs don’t notice how well he is doing and come to snap him up first. the 4 star current, 4 1/2 star potential has no real weaknesses from an attribute point of view, a 7 FIN being his lowest number, and his Work Rate, Passing, Technique and First Touch make him an ideal facilitator, the pivot from defense to offense. If he does as well as I think he can, it could be a problem holding onto him.

Adriano is a 23 y/o, 3 star current, 4 star potential player who has caught the eye of Panathinaikos, and the clubs financial position means we might not be able to hold onto him. Which would be a shame, as a less capable version of Bobsin I would have no problems starting him if I had to at either DM or M(C). Hopefully he will still be here after the transfer window.


One of our stronger positions in the squad, until you look a closer and realize the best one is 32 years old and the next two best are in a loan. The good news is we have a few players who can play M(C), but these five are the primary ones.

Oscar Barreto is more accomplished at M(R) and the Attacking midfield positions, but he will be a backup for the M(C)’s and AM’s more often than not. The 29 y/o is 3 star current and potential ability, is solid physically, mentally, and the skill specific technical attributes are good as well. Maybe not the start he was back in the day at Millonarios and La Equidad, but he is a capable, versatile bench player, and you can never have enough of those.

Anderson Carvalho has been the midfield General for Os Açoreanos going on 5 years now, but how much longer the 32 y/o is going to stay at 4 start current and potential ability remains to be seen. He’s a BWM of the truest sort, Brave, Aggressive, with excellent teamwork and work rate, and a capable defender if need be. He’s not one who is going to be scoring a lot of goals, or making a lot of assists, but I suspect many a scoring sequence will start with his right foot.

Pedro Bicalho has the making to become the next Anderson Carvalho, at 21 y/o the 3 star current, 4 1/’2 star potential player has the potential to become a very good CM. Currently on loan from Palmerias (I wonder if he could get me Endrick’s signature) he might be out of our price range in the transfer window, but I am going to do what I can to get him back on loan next season.

Bruno Jordão is also in Santa Clara on loan from Wolves. At 24 y/o, the 3 1/2 star current, 4 star potential player has been solid off the bench for Santa Clara, and I suspect that is a role he will continue to have going forward, given his positional versatility. The only thing that does worry me is his injury proneness, but I find if you start worrying about that too much, thats when they get hurt.

Rodrigo Valente in a natural AM(C) but I don’t use that in my formations at the moment. He is a very good M(C) though, and I think the 21 y/o 2 1/2 star current, 5 star potential player can have quite a good future there as a CM. He’s been languishing on the bench so far, but I aim to remedy that.

Attacking Mid’s, Left

Similar to our midfield, on paper this looks to be a position of strength, but also similar to our midfield, many of these players are here on loan.

Gabriel Silva would prefer to be an AM(C), but my formation utilizes Inside Forwards. His strong right foot, good speed, pace, technique and off the ball, augmented by his very good flair and better than average Dribbling, finishing and first touch make this 20 y/o a key bench player and starter, while his positional versatility is also a plus. Also on loan from Palmerias, the 3 star current, 4 1/2 star potential youngster could be a very good player in a few years time, hopefully for us.

Rildo is the slightly older, slightly poorer version of Silva, a high flair, high technical Inside forward whose physicals are not as good as they could have been I suspect, but the 22 y/o 3 star current, 4 star potential player has had several solid appearances off the bench this season, and I don’t think that is going to stop anytime soon.

MT is a 21 y/o Brazilian on loan from Vasco de Gama, and at 3 star current 4 1/2 star potential, his positional versatility (He plays a very good M(C) and Striker) would make him a great asset to the squad. We do have a 700K optional future fee on him, but I don’t see us being in a place financially at the end of the season to exercise that option, which means we need to get what we can out of him this year.

Costina is a 30 y/o 3 star current and potential player with too many things going against him right now. First and foremost is that he is recovering from an Achilles injury, and is going to be out the next 4 to 7 weeks. Second are his physicals, while fast and pacy, his strength, stamina and fitness leave a lot to be desired, and his positioning and work rate are not the best either. He has yet to play a game for th club this season, and I will try and move him on on the transfer window.

Filip Stevanović is a 20 y/o with a bright future ahead of him, which is probably why Man City paid Partizan 6.75M Euros to geth him. He had a decent spell at sc Heerenveen last season, and this year has been a solid contributor. I am going to get what I can out of the 3 1/2 star current, 5 star potential youngster, and with City paying Fati 54M to come to Manchester this season, I think my odds of getting him on loan again next season are good.

Attacking Mid’s, Right

It’s a good thing a lot of my attacking midfield players can play both sides, because AM(R) is probably the weakest area in the squad.

Allano is a solid player, the 27 y/o 3 1/2 current and potential Inverted Winger can also play the left side. He is one of those players who does not excel in any area in particular, but is very solid in those attributes that are best for his position.

Kyôsuke Tagawa is leaving in the January transfer window, and to be honest he won’t be missed. I have better younger options with more promise.

André Mesquita is a versatile player, and that’s about the only thing he has going for him really. 2 star current and 2 1/2 star potential ability means the 25 y/o has most likely reached his developmental limit, and he is lacking in to many areas for me to find a place for him on the squad. If he is still part of Os Açoreanos when the transfer window closes, I’ll be surprised.

Bruno Almeida is a slightly older, loan player version of André Mesquita. He’s versatile though, capable of playing all the attacking Mid and Midfield positions, which makes him a nice player to have on the bench. I wouldn’t feel comfortable having him as a full time starter though. Luckily though I won’t have to worry about it, because even if Trofense wanted us to pay an optional future fee for him, it’s not going to be 300K.


Definitely an area of concern, I suppose I should be happy a lot of my Attacking Mid’s can also play up top, but I would prefer a dedicated striker.

Matheus Babi is that striker for me, a 25 y/o Brazilian who’s 3 1/2 star current, 4 star potential ability is respectable. On loan from Club Athletico Paranaense, I doubt we are going to be able to get him back for next season, and thats a problem.

João Marcos could be one of those players whose attributes and ability are greater than the sum total, but I doubt it. At 22 y/o the 2 star current, 3 star potential player is not as good as some of the Attacking mids I have that can also play up top.

If Messias is starting a gamne, that means we have not yet trained the Strikerless formation I am moving to as a result of injuries to my attackers.

Season Goals

I think we can finish midtable, somewhere in the 9th to 13th range, and seeing as we are currently in 14th place, I think that is well within the realm of possibility. Due to our financial constraints, we aren’t going to be able to sign new players, or staff, so we may have to play the loan market a little more in January, but we’re only allowed eight, and were at six right now.

No, this season is about survival in the Premeira, and doing well in the League Cup as well. Until the teams finances are a bit more solid, we’re going to have to play the waiting game, and I am OK doing that for now.

Next update will be after the January transfer window has closed, we will take a look at the formation I am using, and take a look at some tips and tricks I can use to get ahead in scouting without having a scouting budget.

Questions or comments, please leave them down below and I’ll answer as fast as I can. Thanks for reading!

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