Derrubando Os Três Grandes: Santa Clara, an FM 23 Story, The End :-(

Unfortunately, due to an electrics issues on my end, the Santa Clara save has come to an end.

Over the New Years holiday, I spent an inordinate amount of time cleaning up my computer and my external hard drives, trying to get all the files for all the games and programs I have into some semblance of order. Now I have one dedicated to games other than FM, one dedicated to other programs, and I have one dedicated to everything FM, and about a week ago, it died. No idea why, it’s less than a year old, it just stopped working. Took it to my local shop, they said “It’s dead Jim,” but he thought he could recover the data.

The somewhat good news is that he could recover most of the data, the bad news is none of the files he recovered will open for me. The save file I have for the game loads half way and crashes to desktop. All the notes I had typed up for each season that I use to help compile the recap as well as the screenshots I took are gone as well.

And its frustrating, because although I just finished up Season 5 in Santa Clara, I had just finished playing thru season 10, and as a result of the hard drive crashing, I’ve lost 5 seasons worth of saves, notes and screenshots. The one save file I do have left is from the beginning of season 9, so what I thought I would do is just take screenshots of the seasons, the transfers, the schedules, maybe look at where some players ended up and to see how close we came to toppling the Big 3 of Portuguese Football.

The 2027/2028 Season

Firstly, GIMN has released the dark version of his Musterman Skin, and I love and will be using it from this point forward, and the screenshots are from that. You can fins it on the SI Skinning forum or any of the FM fan sites.

Transfer wise, this was the first season when I knew my scouting had paid off:

Barcelona came after Şirahman Kudaş and had no problems paying his release fee. Eintracht Frankfurt making a move for Terceros was unexpected, but we got very good money for him. The bad news was we were still getting just 10% of the transfer revenue, and the pot was never that deep to begin with.

Seasonwise, we did very well:

Our European group was very tough, but beating AEK, Rosenborg, and CSKA Sofia while drawing with Nantes and FC Rapid saw us go thru to the latter stages. Domestically we were beating the teams we were supposed to be beating for the most part, but losses the Belenenses and Casa Pia were bothersome.

In the Spring, beating Brugge and Roma was very nice, but Fulham thrashed us in the round of 16. We made it to the Cup final, where we were thrashed by Benfica, but we ended the season in 5th place again.

Player wise Ibrahim Machorro, my young Mexican International I wanted to be a back up, he started most of the games for us and did very well. But consecutive top 6 finishes in the Premier League and a deep run in European football did two things for us: Put us on the Map, and put us on the Map.

The 2028/2029 Season

The Summer transfer window was quiet. The January transfer window we made a bit of a splash when Paulo Bernardo went to Milan for 18.25M. for someone we picked up on a free thats good business:

Schedule wise, we got off to a very good start. The highlight of the season wasn’t just doing well in the League phase, it was drawing with Benfica right before Christmas.

One of the things I aim for over the course of a season is that I do not want to rely on one or two players for all off our offensive output, and as you can see in the screenshot below, we did a very good job of spreading the wealth around:

I didn’t take St. Pat’s seriously, and it almost cost us, but from Mid September on we hit our stride, not losing any games across all the competitions. Now, maybe out Conference League group wasn’t the strongest, and yeah it took a 95th minute goal to beat Genk, but we beat them, and went into January with high expectations.

Seven games in February, one game every four days, saw us stumble into March. Lyon is definately a better team than we are, and it showed in our Round of 16 matches against them. Coming back to beat Vizela in the Cup was an accomplishment, but we still got drilled by Porto in the final. Against the Big 3 this season, across all competitions we went 0-2 and 5…however going undefeated in April and May in League play meant when Sporting stumbled at the end of the season:

We eked out a 3rd Place Finish, and Champions League football.

The 2029/2030 Season

Our transfer and payroll budgets were growing, but not by much, and we were still only getting 10% of the outgoing revenue. Even before the season ended we had some big teams coming after our standout players, and I triied as best I could to prepare for that in the Summer window. I was partially successful.

I was prepared to lose Gaspar, his performances over the last two seasons had been stellar, he made a name for himself as one of the best young DM’s in the game, and last season across all competitions he 40 appearances, 5 goals, 4 assists, 5POM’s and a 7.57 rating. Teams starting making offers for him before the season ended, but noone met his release clause until Arsenal did. I was also prepared to lose Machorro, last season across all competitions he allowed 52 in 50 games, had 21 shutouts, 2 POM’s and a 7.14 rating. Magnus Jorgenson was a young keeper with very good attributes who wanted out of Silkeborg, and getting him for 9.75M was a good deal. However, none of the teams after Machorro came anywhere close to his release fee, until the January transfer window when West Ham made a huge offer for him, and of to Blighty he went. In his defense though West Ham has become a Top 7 team though…

The season was a mixed bag, and while we played some teams well, we lost to others I don’t think we should have lost too:

Our European Group was tough, Juve, Tottenham, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Hoffenheim, Marseilles, Rennes, Ludogorets…we beat Ludogorets and Rennes, drew with Hoffenheim, and lost to the others. I could take some small comfort in that of the losses, we really only got blown out by Madrid, but we were bottom (or near bottom of the group) and didn’t qualify for the next round.

The New Year started off well, but the wheels fell off in February and March. We made it to the Cup Final again, but again were thrashed by Benfica. This year though, we had some success against the Big 3, going 2-1-5, beating Sporting and Porto in League play.

Somehow, and I am not sure how exactly, we did enough to finish in 3rd Place again:

I did play thru the 2030/2031 season, but do not have a save for it, the last good save I have is the 29/30 season, and I played up to the 32/33 season before screwing myself over when reorganizing things.

On the whole though, this was a very fun save. 29/30 was a tipping point year for us, as I recall we started beating the big 3 more often, but the highest we were finishing was 3rd. Some of the youngsters I brought in panned out really well, others didn’t, but we were making progress and I was quite happy with it, in another 3-4 years time I feel comfortable saying we would have been challenging for the League.

The other takeaway from this save is that I had fun doing it, and I think doing a blog save while I am also doing a Youtube save has been quite the experience, so in another week or so I will be starting up another save here on the blog. The problem is I have so many ideas for teams, I don’t know which one to do, I’ll probably just put them in a hat and let my better half decide.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you all come back for the next story here on my blog!

FM Jellico

Derrubando Os Três Grandes: Santa Clara, an FM 23 Story, Part 6

Our 5th Season at Santa Clara is proving to be what I think is the first big step we needed to take in order to stay at the top of the Portuguese Premier League. Qualifying for European football last season was part of that first step, this seasons transfer window was the other, in my opinion anyways.

First though, I had to fend off the other suitors. Taking a financially struggling down on it’s luck club back to the top flight and into European football in four seasons will undoubtedly raise a lot of eyebrows, and clubs have started enquiring about my services. The offer from Borussia M’gladbach I rejected rights away, as I have no desire to jump from one league where I am fighting the giants to another. A week later Atheletic Bilbao came calling, and although they have the financial support and ability to compete, fighting Barca and Real for the top spots isn’t any easier than where am I at now, especially when you are limited to signing only Basque players, so I turned down both offers and got back to scouting.

The Transfer Window

This window went like most of my transfers window do: According to plan, until the bottom drops out and you are scrambling. The first unexpected out was Joaquin Jara. The M(C)/DM had a solid season with us last year, but Eupen cam calling and he really wanted to leave, so I let him leave. Kılıç Arslan Kuruçelik leaving was unexpected to say the least. One of the two Turkish youngsters I picked up on a free after Trabzonspor let both go, I was expecting him to get a lot of first team playing time. With us, and not AS Roma. But the Serie A Italian club came calling, and out the door he went, because I didn’t have a minimum release fee on him.

What I was not expecting was Gabriel Batista leaving for Brentford with about three hours left in the transfer window. I am not sure why he was so eager to leave, he was a solid player for us, a team leader, but I suppose when a team that has trhe potential to finish in the top 5 of the ECL comes calling, you leave…to be honest it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me either, but it just meant I had to play someone a bit earlier than I wanted to.

The January transfer windows went as expected, Augsburg had wanted Dmitirovic in the fall, but could not meet his minimum release clause, and to his credit, Bojan was OK when I said “This is what you agreed to, I am not letting you go for a Euro less.” And so when Augsburg came calling again in January, I had no issues letting him leave. Cymbron was a young striker who didn’t have Premier League potential, and Malmo was willing to pay more for him than anyone else.

I did a ton of offseason scouting, and it paid off in numerous ways. I signed 10 players, spent 10.75M total, and got at least two very good/great superstars out of my efforts:

I realize scouting doesn’t appeal to as lot of players out there, and that’s fine, there are saves where I don’t invest as much into it as I am doing with this save, but when it pays off, it really pays off.

Manu Bueno could never break into the Sevilla B team. He had several very good seasons on their C and B squads, but did not resign with the club, leaving on a free. The former Spanish Youth International had a few offers, but he chose to come here.

I had a plan for Ibrahim Machorro. I saw his name pop up on a Screenflow result. A 19 year old keeper starting for his countries senior squad can mean different things depending on the country. If he was from a smaller nation, you might took a glance and thats it. But when that nation is Mexico, currently ranked 13th in the world, and he’s keeping a healthy Raul Gudinio and Carlos Acevedo on the bench? That warrants a closer look, and when the midtable team he is on isn’t asking for a Kings Ransom in transfer fees, if you have it you pay it. And I did, setting a record for fee’s paid. He’s maybe at best a year or two away from being better than Batista, so I was going to play him in the cup games and maybe a few spot starts. Instead he became the teams first team keeper four weeks into the season. How did he do? Read on to find out. 🙂

Kaine Kessler Hayden is a former Aston Villa youth player who has bounced around League One and the Championship. Is he first team all the time playing ability? No. Is he a solid player of the bench and occasional spot starter? Yes, and his position versatility makes him even better value in my book.

Alessandro Fontarossa comes to us from Fiorentina on loan, a very dependable D(C) that I am looking to get a lot of playing time out of.

Former Vfl Wolfsburg left back Kevin Paredes signed on a free. The American International isn’t the tallest or heaviest, and he’s not a fan of big games, but for the formation we play in, his skillset and Playing Style really suit us. I doubt he will get a lot of goals, but I can see double digit assists in his future.

Stefano Della Riva comes to us from Verona on loan. A very solid M(C)/DM midfielder whose skillset fits our team very well, I would love to pick up his option, but I doubt I will see that sort of money (20.5 Million) anytime soon.

Žiga Laci is a depth purpose signing more than anything else. AEK wanted very little for him in terms of salary and playing time, he agreed to be a fringe player, and I plan on using him as a substitute more often than not, but we be comfortable if he were to start more than a few games at D(C).

I could talk about Gašper Lukač for ages. How I just happened to glance up at a screenflow result from an U19 international comp and saw his pass % completion was head and shoulders above everyone else, how my first look at him showed me a 19 year old player whose minimum number in six attribute categories was 13, how when I fully scouted him I about fell out of my chair, and how when Gorica said they only wanted 1M for him I did fall out of my chair, and kept saving the game every five minutes until he was actually here. I don’t know how long I can keep him, but while he’s here I am expecting great things from the kid. And those of you who have read will know those expectations have been met.

Nelson Delossa comes to us on loan from Borussia Mönchengladbach, with injuries and scheduling issues, my midfield was getting a bit, and needed some help. Delossa was a very solid pickup, doing as well as I expected him too.

The same issues I was having in my midfield also happened at the AM position, and Đorđe Petrović came in on loan to help provide some cover. A very good youth player, the Serbian had several flashes of potential, but his clause was too much for us to pick him up at the end of the season. He strikes me as one of those players who is going to have a very long and respectful career.

The Season

Preseason started the 1st of July. European Qualification started the 23rd of July, when the squad was still in flux, I was making moves while trying to prepare the squad for the possibility of playing a lot of games at the beginning of the season. My fears were realized when we played 11 (!) games from the 23rd of July to the 30th of August across all competitions. My expectations were exceeded when we won 10 of those games:

Stjarnan, or Ungmennafélagið Stjarnan as it is known in Iceland, was a squad I did not want to take lightly, hell none of the squads we faced in the Qualifying Rounds were teams I wanted to take lightly. FC Twente beat a very good AZ and SC Cambur teams to take a Qualifying Spot, and Vojvodina is one of the better squads in Serbia not named Red Star, and none of those teams should or could be taken lightly. I found a squad balance early, I have more than enough depth at lot of positions that the drop off between starter and substitute was not the great (which can be a bad thing in some cases), and it allowed me to set up a rotation that was pretty effective. Sure, some players had off games, but I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that after we lost our first game of the season away at Braga, we had a 14 day vacation due to international games, and when we picked up our seasons again, we went on one heck of a winning streak.

My main goal in the League phase was to not lose a game. Draws were nice, wins were preferable, but losing…we were going to do our best to avoid it. And we did a very good job. The change from last season to this season was one of familiarity I think. Players familiarity with each other, with the tactic, with their role within the tactic, and the fact that despite the outs we had, there were still a lot of starters left meant we had a solid foundation in place, it was building something on top of that foundation that was going to be the challenge. The previous season, by the end of December, in just League and Cup games we had drawn 7 games and lost 3. This season those numbers were 3 draws and 3 losses, and only one of the losses was a blowout. And to be honest, the loss against Sporting could have been a draw, because they were a man down for 60 minutes of the game, we just could not capitalize.

We went into the New Year on a high note, in 3rd place, with only Benfica and Porto ahead of us. And we kept the momentum going, beating Leiria to go into the Cup Semi Final, and a sneakily good Hapopl Be-er Sheva team in the League First Knock Out Round.

March was when it started to fall apart. A 3-0 loss to Sporting was no unexpected, and while our 1st Leg victory against Club Brugge in the Round of 16 was nice, Brugge had an off game, 10 of their starters were rated 6.6 or less. We had a chance in the second leg, being a goal down until the 61st minute, when Magnus Bech Riisnæs went off with a second Yellow. Brugge scored in the 71st minute, knocking us out.

By all accounts, it was a great run in the Conference League. It enhanced our reputation quite a bit, enhanced my reputation quite a bit, and showed the footballing world that Santa Clara had some very good players playing in the Azores.

Then the wheels fell off.

We stopped scoring. We stopped defending. We went from 3rd place to 6th place, and it looked like we were going to miss out on European Football again, when we pulled out a 4-2 victory against Maritomo and ended the season in 3rd place.

3rd Place is Europa League Football, and given that Benfica ran away with the league in an “Invincible” season, and Braga was 10 point’s behind them, that it took a last day victory for us to even finish 3rd is galling. Not that we ever had a shot at second place, but still, had we lost, yes we would have been in 6th place and been in the Conference because Benfica won the Cup, but it still feels like we threw something away.

Financially we were doing a lot better. Our competition Prize money was way up due to ue European Run, but for some reason our broadcast revenue was down?

And to give you an idea of what we are facing when it comes to beating Benfica:

So yeah, it could be awhile…

Budget wise, despite our decent season the numbers are still pretty low: 12.12 p/a in salary, and 7.24M in transfer budget. Annoyingly, I still only get 10% of the transfer revenue…I’ve asked to have it increased and have been rebuffed each time.

There’s talks of a takeover, which the current chairman keeps trashing, and while the offseason news seems to be swinging back and forth between ok and bleh, there was this:

Trabzonspor has to be kicking themselves right about now…

There was also these instances of good news:

And while I can’t prove our run to the Round of 16 was responsible for all the points gained, I know we played a role in this:

Squad wise, I am quite happy with most everyone. I mean honestly, if you aren’t mad at at least one player, you aren’t doing your job right in my opinion.

For a young keeper who was supposed to get just some spot starts, Machorro had a very good season. Angel Bazan did what was expected, and I was pleasantly surprised by both Alessandro Fontanarosa and Stefano Dalla Riva, who had very good stints for us. Miguel Terceros was the best all around player, his 16 goals and 10 assists put him on everybody’s radar it seems. The tactic I play requires a very good DM, and Şirahman Kudaş was perfect for it. At the end of the season he was really starting to get noticed, so I was able to resign him to a new contract that had a 20.5M release clause. I wanted to go higher but his agent said no. Blas Armoa also had a very good season, and as you can see from the number of games players had off the bench, I did a decent job of rotating everyone in and out for the most part.

Against the Big Three this season, were we horrible. 0-4 against Benfica, with a – 8 goal differential.; against Sporting we went 1-2, beating them in the League Cup Group Stage once; and against Porto we went 0-2 with a -5 goal difference.

You will notice I didn’t mention the Youth Intake. It was nothing special, although during the year we did convince the board to improve the training and Youth Facilities.

All in all, a very good season, European Football awaits us again, but I fear this offseason is going to be a lot busier than I want it to be, and because of the financial restrictions we have, I am not sure we are going to come out even, let alone ahead of where we are now.

But that’ s a worry for tomorrow, today it’s the beach:

Derrubando Os Três Grandes: Santa Clara, an FM 23 Story, Part 5

The First of Many Steps

Last season we finished solidly midtable, which was to be expected. Also expected, unfortunately, was the fact that my board is as parsimonious as ever and refuses to allow me to have more than 10% of the transfer budget, which means for the time being we are looking for players who can contribute while not costing us to much. We also needed to strengthen our youth squad and get some depth, even if that depth wasn’t necessarily “Deep”. Our goal this season was two fold

  • Finish in the Upper Half of the table
  • Try and sign players who could help us achieve that while providing us the bedrock to build our future successes on.

I think we did that, but holy frick was the offseason long. But I think it was worth it. In total we brought in 22 players this year, 21 of them in the summer transfer window alone. Conversely, 13 player went out in the summer, and 7 in the January transfer window. Granted, some of the outs were on loan, but many were players who while good enough to keep us midtable, weren’t good enough to bring us forward, and so out they went. And, in somewhat of a surprise, we actually banked a €2M profit.

I am not going to show all the players we brought in, frankly more than a few were just bodies for the U19’s and 23’s to practice against, but I will show you the ones who contributed, and because these are end of seasons screenshots, you can see how well they did.

How much of this is moving people just to move them?

Şirahman Kudaş and Kılıç Arslan Kuruçelik my scouts found in Turkey last season. Both are capped at the U21 level, and both played for Trabzonspor, who inexplicably let both of them go on frees. I signed them at the end of last season, but they could not play until this season. Both have potential, but as you can see, Kudas stepped in and had a fine season at Center Mid.

Magnus Bech Riisnæs is a center mid from Vålerenga, a squad with enough quality and depth they let him test the market. At 800K he was the right price, and he also had a fine season.

Miguel Terceros came in to player winger, and he had a great season, easily one of the best pickups we had.

Gerrit van den Berk was primarily a bench player, but I think he has a good future in front of him, and will contricute nicely of the defensive back line next season

Rafa Marín was on loan from Real Madrid, and was a solid presence at the back.

Rafael Camacho I brought in to be a jack of all trades at the attacking midfielders positions, and his versatility as a super sub caught they eye of a few teams, including Vålerenga, who is is moving to.

Blas Armoa is a Paraguyan International, who had lost his spot at Sportivo Luqueño, and came to us with the promise of First Team playing time, and as you can see, he did a finer job for us.

Ollie Smith wants to be a winger, but I made the loan player from Man City our striker, and he responded with a 7.21 rating and 23 goals. As much as I would like to keep him though, we just can’t afford him, a line which I fear has becomes this saves motif…

Dylan Lennon did a capable job as a spot starter, but I think we may have better options now…

Lasse Madsen played when Ollie Smith couldn’t, and although his form looks nice, you can definately t4ell during the games when Ollie Smith is on the field, and when Lasse Madsen is.

Joaquín Jara did a fine job for us at the DM position, but his form really fell off near the end of the season.

André Álvarez Pérez had a fine season as part of the Defensive Center back rotation.

Angel Bazán was out lone January transfer window pickup, a Peruvian international who didn’t get a lot of games, but with Smith going back to City next season, and Lasse not being any better (on paper anyways), the opportunity is there for Angel to grab the position and make it his own.

The Season

Our primary goal this season was to try and avoid injuries, to do well in the Cup, and to win the games we were supposed to win, win most of the game were were supposed to draw, and lose close. For the most part, we suceeded.

Not the best start to the season…

This season, Benfica, brought in €151M in players, Verratti for €18.25M, Davinson Sanchez foe €21.5M, Jonathon David for €48.5M, and Manor Solomon for €50M. And to facilitate that they sold €247M of players. Meanwhile my budget was at about 6M, so yeah…it could be a problem. And it was, as Benfica thrashed us 7-2. The rest of the beginning of the season went as expected, although Sporting needed and 86th minute goal to win, only losing by 1 to them is an accomplishment, if only a small one.

Small Steps

Beating Boavista was nice, but drawing with Porto was a bit frustrating as they were a man down the last 30 minutes of the game and we couldn’t capitalize. Draws against Vitoria and Braga were OK, as long as we aren’t losing points it’s all good, but Porto showed their quality when they beat us 4-2 in the Cup Group.

Into the New Year on some good news

I don’t know that losing to Porto threw some sort of switch to get the team to buckle down and come together as a squad, but not losing ion the next 8 games was quite the accomplishment. Yes, it took extras time to beat Varzim in the Cup, but we came back to draw against Famalicão and Casa Pia. The year also ended on a high note for me, as I was voted coach of the year, and I turned down interviews from Lyon and Sassuolo.

A Great Start to the New Year

Sixteen games between losses is quite the achievement no matter what level of football you are at, and we were tied with Benfica until the 73rd minute, when the broke ahead and scored 2 more. But I think they days of us rolling over and giving up are soon to be behind us. Am I upset that some of these draws weren’t wins? Sure, who wouldn’t be? But I am very happy they were not losses.

Ending on a High Note

The fact our only two losses at the end of the season were to Porto and Sporting Speak volumes as to how far we have come in a short amount of time. The number of draws however tell me we still have quite the distance to go, but as a result of our late season push and not losing the last of our 4 games:

Top 5!

We qualified for the European Conference League. Sure, we might crash out early, but still, it European Football.

A Solid Foundation

Gabriel Batista was stellar between the sticks for us. He’s not getting younger, and I doubt he will improve much, but a lot of the draws we had were due to him.

Rafa Marin and Ollie Smith did exactly what I expected them to do when I brought them in on loan, but it was Terceros who had the surprising season, with 12 assists. Rakip had a solid season as well, but I have younger players with higher potential waiting in the wings, so he will be moving on. Dimitrovic had a good seasons as AM(L), but he is starting to attract a lot of attention, and I am not sure how long he will be in Santa Clara Red. And as you can see, we have a lot of young potential on the squad, the question is can we not only develop it, but keep it for any amount of time to improve the club? That remains to be seen, but I know the job is going to be a lot harder because not only is the board still saddling us with just 10% of the transfer revenue, our budget for next season is just 4.02M, and our payroll isn’t much higher. It will be quite some time before were moving and selling players like Benfica and Sporting…

Financially speaking, were are on solid ground. However, we lost a ton of TV revenue money this season, and I am hoping a decent performance in the European games can make up for that next season. I was able to improve the facilities, but in July we got a welcome piece of news:

Every Little Bit Helps…

So, the season had come to a close, I was scouting my tail of in preparation for the next season, when this piece of news came across my desk:

If this screws up my transfer window in any way…

Derrubando Os Três Grandes: Santa Clara, an FM 23 Story, Part 4

Our form is…Confusing at times.

I think it is safe to say we over performed last season. A 5th Place finish was well above expectations, but part of me is left wondering what sort of form we are going to fall back to this year: Scrappy fighters clawing draws from teams we should be losing too and wins from teams we should be drawing to? Is the European Stage going to be too bright for the squad, sending us back to the beach for an early vacation? It doesn’t help that our finances are…well, odd. I still only get 10% of any transfers, and despite the fact we are in a good place financially, the board seems reticent to actually spend any of it right away. Part of that I can under stand, and while I am reasonably sure I wouldn’t put the club into penury, at the same time it’s a little more than galling to see the balance we have and the boards lack of desire in putting some of it to good use.

The Loan Market is still broken (This was pre patch, it’s less broken now), and while we had some money to spend, we either couldn’t afford the salaries of the players willing to transfer in, or we couldn’t afford their transfer fee’s. And we lost out on more than one player because our club rep isn’t good enough to beat out similar clubs in different leagues.

That meant we spent an inordinate amount of time scouting free agents, and holding out until deadline day to get a deal or three.

I, like a numpty, was so involved with the save I forgot to take screenshots as I signed them, so the screenshots here are from later in the season, and you can see how good they were/weren’t.

You spend a lot of time looking for ways to not spend a lot of money in some saves…

Raul Asencio is a versatile attacking player, capable of both wings and the striker position. The worst thing I can say about him is that he’s not a defender, but considering what and where he plays, that’s not a problem.

Andre Castro I brought in a defensive depth. Sure at 36 he’s old, but per club rules he only signed a 12 month contract. Sure, he’s not as physically gifted as he used to be, but his technical’s are good enough to make up for any shortcomings he might have, and as you can see, he did a good job for us this season before retiring.

Libasse Ngom I brought on as depth at striker. The scouts say he’s a good Premier player, and I think he can do a job off the bench for us. That said, while there isn’t anything outstandingly bad about him, part of me can’t help think that he’s one of those “looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane” sort of players. He had a great career in Senegal, 39 goals in 68 games, but Portugal is a step up.

Eddie Roper comes from the Portland Timbers Academy. There are some things to like, his teamwork, his positioning, the fact he stays back at all times, but he does have holes in his game: vision, off the ball, and apparently an injury worry as well. But he’s young enough that I think with some playing time and training, he can be a solid contributor.

Lala I brought in because he can play the backline and he has potential, but he could also be lost in the shuffle.

Justin DeGrange is one of those intriguing youth players who comes across as one of two things:

  • A youth player who with training, game time and coaching will develop into a very good player
  • A player who is already at or close to his potential.

Hope for A, prepare for B.

Joseph Kwabena I think could be a very good player in the future. I brought him on as wingback depth, but can also see him getting time up top as an attacking mid. His passing skills and quickness are already above average, and I think he could be a player who tops out in the 140 Ability range.

Mateus Ludke comes in as our new WB( R). I am hoping he can be part of a rotation, he’s the primary option this year, and while we aren’t going to be able to exercise the optional contract clause for him,

Victor Boniface comes to us on loan from Union SG. He’s an intriguing player, but I think the injury woes are new to him this year. Not sure I am a fan of the “attempt’s overhead kicks” playing style, but I believe he is good enough to stand in the box and occupy a couple of defenders. Part of me would like to purchase him, but Union is asking for close to 10M for him, and I don’t see the board giving us that sort of money anytime soon.

Lino Sousa I brought in to play WB(L). He is one of those “Solid but Unspectacular players that every teams has and needs, and as long as he does a credible job for us this season without making too many mistakes, I’ll be happy.

I needed a backup keeper, Diego Marino was willing to come in and be a backup. At the ends of the day, just another guy, but I am curious about a keeper who “Dwells On the Ball”…how exactly does that happen?

Papa Cheik Diop, the Senegalese International, had left Lyon for Aris in the Greek Superleague, but was not getting any playing time. Aris released him after two seasons, and I think he was happy to come to Santa Clara and be a full time starter. He’s another solid player, one I expect who’s may contributions on the filed will go unnoticed.

On the out’s, I think the only player of consequence was Roberto Valente. He had a good first season with us (32 Apps, 10 goals, 4 assists and a 7.11 rating, but fell off in the second season (18 Apps, 2 goals, 3 Assists and a 6.91 rating). When I went to sign him to a new contract, he wanted star player money, and a highest match clause.

No. No. Hell to the No. I listed him, and Slavia Prague snapped him up for 2.2 Million. For a guy we brought in on a free, I am OK with that.

A Very Good Start

We got the season off on the right foot. A decent preseason, followed by wins against Derry City and Zilinia was very nice. I really thought Real Hispalis had our number, but a good first game at home gave us the 2 goal buffer we needed to see things thru. In fact, our only stumble was against Leiria in the League Cup game, as we had to go to penalties to beat them.

Back to Earth

September reminded me we were still a team with faults. Nacional is not the strongest squad, but they handled us quite easily. Portimonense has a very strong squad, and Porto is of course Porto. In the Europa Conference though I was happy to beat a solid St. Gallen squad, and holding Pogon to a draw was also a good result. Our defense was stout in that match, as Pogon had 22 shots but only 3 on target.

Reverting Back to the Mean

Losing to Benfica, even 5-0, is expected these days. This season they sold 129M in players (Gouveia, Aursnes, Silva, and Enzo Fernandez), but then turned around and spent 101M on Jonathan Burkhardt, Nketiah, Maitland-Niles, Esteve and Lyanco. Holding the to 5 is probably a good job really. Losing to Rio Ave though, in extra time no less, was a gut punch. In European football, wins against Mura and St. Mirren were nice, but Bodo/Glimt (The 6-0 slayers of AS Roma in the real world) absolutely bossed us. That score could have been a lot worse. Beating Radnicki was very nice, and I was looking at going into January on a high note, losing to Porto turned that into maybe a B-Flat…

Mostly Expected Results

For the most part, we were beating the teams we were supposed to be beating, but drawing to relegation bound Ferreira and losing to relegation bound Estoril in back to back games was frustrating. Making it to the Knockout Rounds of the Conference LEague was nice, and we did what we needed to do against St. Gallen, again, but 7 games in 29 days was really starting to take it’s toll on the squad. Niggling injuries kept cropping up, keeping players from performing at their best, and it was only a matter of time before we ran out of steam.

The Seasons Injuries, at least the Major ones…
Times Up…

March and April are months I would like to forget. Making the round of 16 was great, and the money was nice too, but AA Gent showed us how far a gap there is between us and the bigger squads. The second game they played a pretty rotated side, and still had twice as many shots ands shots on target as we did. Sure it took two late goals for them to win, but more important was the fact we couldn’t stop them from scoring two late goals. Benfica crushed us 7-2, and while beating Sporting was a highlight, they played a lot of their 2nd stringers. Three losses took us out of European contention, and although we finished the season strong, and where we were supposed to finish, I will admit to being disappointed.

Mid Table woes…

Our Youth Intake, in GIF Format:

Yes, it was that bad. We didn’t sign any of them. In fact, my two best youth prospects this year were ones I found scouting…

The Good News: A Team of Solid Players. The Bad News: A Team of Solid Players

Raul Ascenio led us with 12 goals, Paulo Henrique had 9 assists. Boniface was underwhelming at best in my opinion, and the one player I had a lot of hope for, Bojan Dmitovic, spent most of the season nursing various injuries (see above). The other issue is that two of our better contributors, Luan and Oscar Barreto, are getting older, and were noticeably different players at the end of the season, while Castro announced his retirement. Oddly enough, I think he had the most well rounded season out of everyone, and when you consider Diop is the only player who had a rating above 7.0, the fact we did as well as we did speaks volumes.

The club still has issues though. FOr the moment, my share of transfers is capped at 10%. They don;t want to spend any money on an affiliate, finaces are tight enough I refused creating a B Squad, and our budget next year is not great:

Believe me, we looked in ALL the couches

The good news is we do have some up and coming youngsters, the club did improve the training and youth facilities, and the money from our European adventures has the club comfortably out of the fear of debt and into a decent semblance of financial security. Why they won’t give me more to spend, I am not sure, but until we are able to start spending money, toppling Os Três Grandes is going to be a bit harder. And I am OK with that. Next season, the aim is European Football again, and I think we have a good chance of getting there.

“Verjemi mi, brat, to imam”

So, with regards to my Santa Clara series, I am a little bit ahead of where I am in the blog. By about two years.

But recently, something happened that I feel compelled to share, if only because I can hear the anger and cry of the players, coaches, fans, announcers, and surrounding region of Moreirense. I imagine them calling for my head, for dishonoring the game, for not playing football the way it was meant to be played, but yet another voice in my head (it’s OK, this one was already here, it’s the ones that show up uninvited you have to worry about) says there are players, coaches, pundits and fans of the game who appreciate what happened on the pitch that night.

So, what exactly did happen?

This happened:

Not Photoshopped, I swear

We lost. Because after 14 minutes in the game I was down 2 players. And for 76 minutes, I tiki-taka’d the hell out of them. In fact, if Paulo Alves doesn’t wake up in the middle of the night on occasion in a cold sweat, I would be surprised. So, how did we do it?

Since I first started playing FM, I have been a 2 striker tactic sort of player. My 4231 always morphs into a 424, or a 343, or a 4312, there’s a 3412 formation I really like as well, but this year, when perusing the SI forums, I cam across this post:

I don’t know a lot about the history of the sport, it’s something I am working on, but I was intrigued by the ideas in the post, and so I decided to use it in my blog save. It has led to some…interesting results, but at the end of the day I am liking it, and may try it in another save or two if I get the chance and don’t have 2 strikers on the squad.

This was what the team looked like at the end of the game

Perez went off on a double yellow, Inocencio came on to replace him and I took off Armoa. Three minutes later, Paredes went off on a straight red, I took Terceros off and Kwarbena came on. Then I pulled the lines back and set the tactic to Defensive.

With the exception of lowering the instances in which we trigger press, I kept the instructions the same:

At half time, we were pretty much stuck on our side of the pitch. But we we moving well, and defending well, the only downside being when we did lose the ball, the home team didn’t have to do much to get into scoring position, but we had obviously flustered them, because all of their shots, except one from inside the box, were missed.

The Second half, was more of the same

Final passing stats at the end of the game for Santa Clara:

Hero of the game: Gašper Lukač. The kicker? The 18 year old Slovenian U21 International only played 76 minutes…

He’s currently 3 star current/ 5 star potential. I love him because not only does he play short simple passes, his decision making, technique, anticipation and first touch offset the lower passing. He’s fast and agile enough to get to where he needs to be, is a solid defender, and he’s not the flashiest, becase he doesn’t need to be. I suspect this game, when he saw Paredes get sent off after a two footed lunge in front of the ref, he set his jaw, and said “Verjemi mi, brat, to imam.”

Having watched the entirety of the game, because how could you not really, he moved around the midfield, received the ball, and almost immediately kicked it to the most reasonably open player. I’ll be honest, I am not sure what Alves was doing, if he sent a player or two to man mark and/or press Lukač they didn’t do their job’s. And some of them are not the most technically gifted either, van den Berk in particular has a pretty low Passing, but he had the second most on the club this match.

The finishing 9

I think this is one of a few games I am going to go back and study, if only to see and learn how the team moved and interacted with each other. Player positioning and how they move the ball hasn’t been at the forefront of my mind when watching games. But this game and a couple of others, plus my desire to get a little more into the weeds on such things, means I will probably be watching this one quite a bit. I’ll get some stuff wrong of course, at the end of the day the glasses just make me look smart.

Like a lot of FM Managers, I have a few favorite players across FM. Viktor Kolarev from FM17, Hans Kremer in FM18, Ryan Bates in FM20, but I can say without a doubt, for FM23, not matter what my later saves bring, I will always imagine…

Do I throw this or not…is the debate I am currently having with myself. Alvares getting sent off on a double yellow 11 minutes in may have been the result of an over eager referee, but the only person to blames for the two feet first hard tackle that left Luis ‘seeing sound and hearing color’ for a few minutes was walking down the tunnel. He apologized as he walked by, but it was hollow. He knew it, I knew it. I also knew the only thing more hollow than his apology was going to be his bank account when I fined him two weeks salary because of it. If I could fine him more, I would. I look at the bottle of water in my hand, flipping it a few times, and decided that it’s just was not worth it. I look off to the side, and see Kwabena still warming up, while Wesley Carvalho, my solid and steady assistant manager looked at me with a shrug and “No idea boss” gaze. I gathered my thoughts, and turned towards the pitch to yell for Magnus to come over. The captain nods but gets pulled aside by the ref for a moment.

I hate parking my car on the street, now I have to park the damned bus and all I have is an econoline van…I am not a happy coach…

“Hej, Trener.”

I look up, it’s Gaspar. I have a hard time pronouncing his name, I wish I knew why, I call him ‘Gaz” but I can tell he’s not a fan of it. I think he has a hard time pronouncing mine as well, because he always says “Hey, Trener.” Hey Coach. Everyone else on the team is ‘bratec’, which means brother, but the way he says it, you know he’s saying ‘Bro.’ Bro, pass it here; Hey Bro, go there.

He standing on the sidelines, looking up into the stands, listening to the catcalls of the crowd as they heap amusement and abusement on us for our current predicament. I really like this kid. It was his performances in the U21 Internationals that convinced me to spend money to scout him, and after getting those reports back signing him was an easy call. Since he has arrived he’s been nothing but outstanding for me. This is his first full year as a starter, and while I expect great things, I also don’t want to put to much to soon on this young mans shoulders.

He looks at the crowd, looks at me, and over at the opposing coach, Alves, who is smirking at us. Gaspar looks back at me, and it takes everything in my power to not step back. I’ve seen that look before, I’ve given it more than a few times in my life, and I’ve been on the receiving end of it more than once as well. It’s the look that says “You have gone and made me mad and now you must pay…” Gaspar looks back over at Paulo, and then hocks an impressive amount of spittle near the man, and looks back at me before Paulo even reacts. Gaspar raises both his hands to me, as if in apology, then says “Hej, trener, verjemi mi, bratec, to imam…”

Kwabena chooses that moment to finish warming up, and runs onto the field, Gaspar a few steps behind him and yelling for Magnus and those closest to him to come over.

Paulo steps outside of his area to get close enough to me without breaking the rules. “O que ele disse, Thierry?” he asks. I flip the water bottle in my hand, and look at the former Portuguese International. I don’t know him all that well, but that smirk he gave me earlier has put him on the wrong side of OK for me, at least for the remaining 76 minutes of the match.

“Ele disse que você fodeu com o Paulo. Pegue uma caneta e um pouco de papel, você está prestes a começar a estudar…” I laugh at him, move back into my area, and motion Wes over to tell him to be prepared to take a lot of notes, because he and the analysts are going to earn their money.

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!


Derrubando Os Três Grandes: Santa Clara, an FM 23 Story, Part 2

The 1st Season: Fighting, Clawing, Scraping.

So, we have a mic of screenshots here, the dark ones are from the Statman skin, the light ones from the Mustermann skin, both available on the SI forums. They are both brilliant IMO, and well worth a look!

The season did not get off to a good start. Luckily everyone’s expectations were low enough that it didn’t really matter, but as a coach, it was frustrating.

With the world cup being played, there was going to be a decent winter break, and I for one was thankful, because of the first 20 games we played, we won 6, drew 6, and lost 8, which at first glance seems respectable, but when three of the wins come in cup competitions against lesser opponents, it really does open your eyes a little (OK, maybe a lot) as to how poorly we were doing.

There were some “Expected Losses”, losing 3-1 to Sporting was one of them. Losing to Porto as well, despite the fact they were up 2-0 after 17 minutes, Fabio Cardoso getting sent off and a straight red in 25th minute gave me a glimmer a hope that being a man up, we could do something. Instead Eustachio scored in the 35th minute, and they defended really well the rest of the match. Draws against Arouca and Casa Pia, who were both bottom of the table at that point, were frustrating, as was losing to Boavista in the League Cup Quarter final, only to turn around six days later and beat them 4 -0 had me reaching for the scotch.


But we had a process, and I wanted to stick to it, and so after we beat Boavista 4-0, I went back and looked at the Fall games, and other than the 3-1 losses to Porto and Sporting, the only other multi goal loss we had was against Portimonense, and that was 2-0. Against Maritomo we were a man down after the 27th minute, and it took a PK for them to score. Arouca clawed the draw back in the 82nd minute, Casa Pia on a PK in the 85th, we drew with Benfica after scoring in the 67th minute, Braga beat us in the 88th minute, Rio Ave fell apart the second half but we fell short a goal. The more I looked at it, the more I realized we weren’t really getting outplayed, we just weren’t making the most of our chances, and I was hoping the 4-0 against Boavista was a sign of things to come. The other part of me said I was being delusional, but that voice in my head wasn’t invited in and was kicked out short order. Trust in the process, I kept reminding myself. The Process being: Hang on for dear life and don’t get relegated.

So we went into the January transfer window, maybe not with optimism, but cautious optimism. To be honest I suspect most of the backroom staff were trying to figure out how Uruguay, who beat Brazil 1-0 in the 2nd Round, Spain 1-0 in the Quarters, and Argentina on Penalties in the Semi’s, beat France 2-1 in the Finals.

And South Korea beat Argentina to take 3rd place. Somewhere Messi weeps…

Those of us who figured that out were spending out time trying to figure out how South Korea beat Argentina 2-0 to take 3rd Place. We helped our finances by selling Andrezinho to Valerenga for 100K, and Tassano to Legia for 250K before January. Victor Bobsin left for Empoli and a 1.6M Euro deal, Allano went to Cuiba for 525K, Rildo went to Goias for the same amount in February, Ricardo Fernandes went to Fakel for 42K in April, and Adriano went to Nice for 750K in the summer transfer window. The only real loss was Bobsin, the others were older players who while decent, were not irreplaceable. That said, when I did when to strengthen the squad, I couldn’t bring anyone in, because I didn’t wages to pay for those players who were even considering it, and don’;’t even get me started on loans this version of FM, they are all the way befuckled IMO.

So we hunkered down, trained as best we could, and tried to get the new year off to a good start.

I couldn’t have asked for a better beginning to 2023.

A 4-0 win at Estoril, beating Gil Vicente 2-0 at home, beating Chaves 2-1, beating Vizela 1-0, getting our revenge against MRT by beating them 2-1, when January ended we were 5-0, with 11 goals for and 2 against, and climbing the table

Starting 2023 of on the right foot

Well earned draws against Famalicao and Sporting were very nice, but then Vitoria thumped us 3-0, and a back and forth 5-3 at Porto closed out February.

March was quiet, as we beat Arouca and Pacos de Ferreira, and then April was…frenetic. Our youth intake was pretty solid all things considered, with Michael Santos and Gervasio Cymbron both 4 ½ star potential candidates. Players who’s contracts were expiring were still wanting too much money, and I was pulling out what was left of my hair over some of the negotiations. Games wise, beating Casa Pia was expected, as they were bottom of the table, but only by one goal was disconcerting. Portimonense held us off in a 2-1 loss, we beat Rio Ave 2-0, and Benfica beat us easily 3-1. However, a week later, we beat Braga 1-0, and with 4 games left, we were in 6th place, fighting for European football.

The Two best Youth Intake Prospects, and climbing our way above mid table

Then we crapped the bed. Boavista, who were in a relegation battle, shut us out 3-0. We beat Estoril, 2-1, ensuring their relegation battle with Boavista would continue, but a Victor Carvalho goal gave Gil Vicente the 1-0 victory. Against Chaves we had nothing to lose, 6th place was our spot, and with a 1-0 draw we waited for 5th Place Braga to beat 11th Place Famalicao in the Portuguese Cup, therefore pushing a Euro Conference spot to us in 6th place, and instead they lost 2-0, and we lost out on European football, with a final record of 14-8-12, with 53 goals for and 50 goals against, on 50 points, only 32 behind League Champs Porto.

Noone but ourselves to blame

A look at the Year end statistics will tell you all you need to know about the team though, and to be honest it was both better and worse than I expected. In an 18 team league, finishing 6th in the Offensive Statistical categories is very good, finishing 13th in the defensive ones, not so much. We gave up to many draws and close losses, and finishing last in the league for shutout certainly didn’t help either.

Thanks Braga…

From a League Statistic point of view, we were solid:

And yet, at the end of the day, it’s mostly a façade.

As with almost every club in the Primeira, we had a lot of loan players. While the ones here had some very good performances, Matheus Babi was our leading goal scorer for example, none of them are coming back. Replacing them is going to be hard, because despite overachieving this season, and finishing in the black, the teams finances are shakier than a Lebanese Belly Dancer. Our transfer budget is only 154K, our allowable payroll is just 1K higher than what we are paying now, and that’s before the players I try to bring in on loan clubs start asking me to pay 100% of their salary and huge monthly fees. Our scouting is at a bare minimum, I turned down the opportunity to create a B squad because we can’t afford it, and none of the facilities are getting upgraded.

Times like these I remind myself “Custer Had a Plan too…”

Then the last day of the season came this bit of news:


And I still haven’t gotten my Endrick Signature.

Thanks for Reading!


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!