Derrubando Os Três Grandes: Santa Clara, an FM 23 Story, Part 3

Punching Above our Weight Class

This season was all about survival. Which meant trying to be as active as we could in the transfer market and improving the squad on a limited budget. My previous post sort of tells the story of how that went, but at the end of the day (weekend really, I spent a long time on the transfer window) I was pretty sure I had improved the squad. I was reasonably sure I hadn’t made it worse, but the FM Gods are a fickle bunch…

First, the outs:

Costina played in 2 games for us, and was very forgettable in both. At 32 years old, he wasn’t a starter anymore, or even a primary backup, so letting him go on a free was not a hard decision to fight. Anderson Carvalho was in the same boat, and he went to Lugano on a free. Kyosuke Tagawa was actually already on his way out the door when I took over, it just took a year for it to happen. I knew holding onto Kennedy Boateng was going to be an issue. It became a bigger issue when he came to me in the offseason wanting a new contract, that would make him the highest paid player on the squad with a salary match clause. When I looked at his season, 27 games played, 1 goal, 1 POM and a 7.02 rating, I said no, made him what I thought was a reasonable offer, and he liked it so much he went to Bordeaux for 2.1 Million…

Patrick, Italo, and Martin Maia all went out on loan, and Sønderjysk picked up Patrick’s optional fee at the end of the season, and I wasn’t really upset by that, at all.

Released player wise, Marco retired, Andre Mesquita, Rodolfo Cardoso and Messias all left on frees. I didn’t try too hard to stop them…

The In’s was a bit of work. OK, it was a lot of work, especially with the behind the scenes stuff going on with the loan market. But when the summer transfer closed, I was pretty sure we had done some “very good business”.

The Summer Transfers

As an aside, these are player profile screenshots from the middle of the season. I had to delete and reinstall my copy of the game, and when I did that it also reset the hotkey I had set up for screenshots. Which I did not notice until about the January transfer window. There are days when I wonder if this is the 21st Century I was promised…

Lucas Paes was brought in for depth at the Keeper position. At the time I signed him, I think he was the best available keeper on a Free, the ‘Hatyes Big Games’ and a few other thing’s showed me why, but believe me, there were worse options available to me.

Luan was brought in to be a backup, but he did end up starting a respectable amount of games for us. A little bit older, I thought that was offset by his Playing Style abilities, and from an attribute point of view, aside from the low Bravery he’s a solid enough player.

Eray Comert was easily one of the best signings this season. The Swiss International, by way of Valencia and Seattle, made the DM position his own, and had a very good season.

I signed Samuel Telles to be part of the M(C) and DM rotation. Another one of the “Good, but not great players” he also had a solid season for us.

Vítor Gonçalves was supposed to be a depth signing, one of those players who you would be OK starting a handful of games and coming off the bench in most cases. Instead his versatility and solid attributes meant he started 30 games for us. His physicals fell off a little bit at the end of the year though, which is slightly concerning.

Erdal Rakip was out one big money spend, and I actually have some experience with him from my Youtube save last season with Vardar. I kept trying to sign him, he kept saying no. I guess he likes the sun and sand of the beaches as opposed to Skopje, and that’s OK. Rakip is a versatile player, who I wanted to play M(C) more often than not. the 4 star CA, 4 Star PA was probably a steal at 245K, but he wanted out of Malmö because he had been relegated to the bench. I got 30 solid starts out of him, with 1 goal, 4 assists and a player of the match, and that I think is 245K well spent.

Leandro Miguel is a youth keeper with some potential. I brought him on board to see if I can’t help his development along, and maybe make some money on the back end.

Gonçalo Figueiredo I brought in for striker depth. The good news is there’s nothing really bad about him as a striker. The bad news is there’s nothing really good about him as a striker. But then, as a guy who came in on a free, if he ends up with a couple of spot starts and off the bench appearances, I won’t be too upset by that. I hope.

Thomas Antunes is the D(L) version of Figueiredo, but with bigger holes in his skillset. He’s still young enough to try and get some decent training in, and maybe some of those skills can come up, but if the crossing and first touch don’t get into the high single digits, he can forget about trying to be a D(L).

I know I haven’t talked about my formation much, I am working on another post about it, going into the numbers more, but at the end of the day, it’s a modified Swiss Bolt, a 5-2-3 with a DM. Hi Tempo, short passing, with some PI’s that I rarely use, but it’s been an effective formation for us. Except when it hasn’t been of course.

I’ll be doing a post on this later. It’s not my typical style, but I am having fun with it.

The season started off pretty well:

Famalicão beating us at home was annoying, we were doing a really good job of controlling the game until Olmes Garcia scored 2 in 10 minutes. The Moreirense was one of the few games where we didn’t have at least as many shots as our opponent, but we fell apart in the final third. Losing to Porto was sort of expected, but losing by three was not. Our xG this match was 1.25, but again we fell short in the final third. That said, scoring 9 in the next 2 games while only conceding 2 was very nice.

We got lucky against Estoril, I will be the first to admit that, but there are times when you don’t complain too loudly either, and this was one of them. What this run og games showed me is that on the whole, we are a better squad than last season, because I am very sure that if last seasons squad was playing, we would have lost at home against Farense, and drawn with Estoril and Feirense. In fact I was quite proud of the fact the number of draws we had was down. Would I prefer to have some of those losses be draws? Sure, who wouldn’t, but by the time the January transfer window opened, we were fighting for a top 6 spot in the league.

The January and End of Season pickups

Bojan Dmitrović. I don’t know why FK Željezničar let him go on a free. But he has International Caps already, no real weaknesses in his game for the position he plays, he’s 2 1/2 star current, 5 star potential? Even if after 5 years of training he doesn’t get to 5 stars, I am sure I can turn around and sell him for at least the 22M his current minimum value is. He did get some starts over the course of the season, and he didn’t make too many mistakes. He didn’t have a lot of highlights either, but at this point thats about all you can ask for.

The Summer loan market was a mess. The winter market less so, the number of outrageous monthly fees and like was down, and good players were willing to move, and teams were willing to let them go without charging a ransom. Nemanja Ilić from Partizan and Kerem Kalafat from Beşiktaş were both solid contributors. Ilić had 5 goals, 4 assists and 2 POM’s in 18 games for us at AM(L), AM(R) and a couple of appearances at M(C), but Partizan didn’t want to let him come back for the next season. Kalafat was a solid contributor at the WB(R) and I would have picked up his option if I had the 450K to spend, but alas, we’re still digging around the couches for transfer monies.

Sidnei Tavares was the only other player we spent money to get. a M(C)/DM, he has some attributes that I do like, his Passing skills are very nice, as are his Ball Control skills, and for a person who I wanted to be a bench player, he filled that role capably.

Sabino Gamboa, Carlos Dinas, and Nico Seiler are all youngsters I brought in to help fill in some spots on the U19 squad. If they ever see first team playing time its because I struck gold with them (unlikely), or we’ve been relegated and I have no other options.

Where we made our season

I would bet that if we were playing with last seasons squad, the games against Gil Vicente, Braga, Chaves and Vitoria would have been draws or losses. Benfica beat us fair and square, Sporting scored two early, and again our lackluster performance up top did us in. Porto was Porto, I suspect its going to be a minute before we can do anything against them. But with all the wins we had crept up to 5th place, and were fighting for 4th. Our Youth Intake was embarrassing, with one mediocre player worthy of a contract. I shan’t be posting it, lest you recoil in sock and horror at it’s brute ugliness….

A Punchers Chance

We did get lucky in some of these games. the Ilic goal against Maritomo was nice, as was the Marcos brace against Farense. We came back to draw Braga, which on paper looks like an accomplishment, except they were having an offseason and finished mid table. I didn’t realize we were still in the Cup until I saw the Semi Final Second Leg announcement and we thumped Torreense, meaning we were going to face Benfica in the final. Drawing Gil Vicente clinched us European football, we could do no worse than 5th in the League, but the last month of the season was the proverbial ‘Bridge to Far’.

The draw against Vitoria made our job that much harder, and while the win at Sporting was nice, they had a solid lock on 3rd place and played a rotated side against us, so I am not counting it as beating Sporting. Benfica hammered us to clinch 2nd, and then two weeks later hammered us again to win the Cup. But we finished in 5th Place, European Football! And I am quite happy with that.

The Três Grandes are still the Três Grandes though, and while we were competitive, there is still a very wide gap between us and them.

Our finances are improving though, but at this point I still count not losing a lot of money as a victory. The clubs reward for our fine season of play was a new contract, and a tiny transfer budget of 203K and a payroll of 79K, which isn’t that much more than we are paying now.

Squad wise though, we have some issues. Quintilla is leaving on a free. He wanted Star Player Money, and as much as I like him, and his 10 assists, I can’t afford to pay him that, not if I want to improve the club. We need help in our front Three, I think it speaks volumes that Ilic came in the January transfer window and had the best all around performance of the attackers, and while Mohebi had some nice games for us, he wasted too many opportunities in games as well. Sure, on paper 14 goals, 4 assists and 4 POM’s is nice, but when you consider the next highest scorer was Valente playing CM, and our primary attacking mids had 9 between them, it’s a minor miracle we won as many games as we did. If we want to challenge for better European football, we need to get better up top, but given our budget constraints and the wackiness that is the loan market…that’s an iffy proposition.

So we go into the offseason on a high note, and a well deserved one I think because despite the teams shortcomings, we did very well. A nice cup run would go a long way to improving our finances, that or a sugar daddy takeover, but without some improvements to the squad, we may find ourselves fighting it out in midtable, or worse.

That said, the first brick of the foundation has been set. Hopefully we don’t need to build the Great Wall to topple the Três Grandes.

Thanks for Reading!


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