Episode 3 -The Exodus

To quickly recap, we ended last season by winning the Dutch Cup and therefore qualifying for the Europa League. I’d already agreed deals for Tom Carroll and Kelvin on frees, based more on their reputation than scouting. You have to move quick on the old Bosmans you know!

So, I started this season with my eyes firmly fixed on the transfer list. A backup striker was a must, as I still wasn’t convinced by Joel despite his Cup final performance. I decided to ask my Director of Football to suggest a signing, as nothing  was coming up on the transfer list, and he came up with Milos Nikolic, a 19 year old forward from Vojvodina. I set my scouts to work and they came back with favourable reports, so I picked him up for the princely sum of 750k.

My scouts also highly recommended a Brazilian holding mid by the name of Marciel, who was being courted by Liverpool. He looked solid enough, so I quickly nipped in for a 1.3m deal. Then I realised he’d already been on loan this season, so was ineligible to play for 4 months. D’oh!

I was happy enough with my dealings, and settled down to forcing PSV into my possession based 4-2-3-1 system during pre-season.

All of a sudden, Ajax were on the phone. My deadly nemesis Fred Rutten, who had previously referred to his previous employer as “a tin-pot club”, wanted to take my centre back Nicolas Isimat-Mirin to the Amsterdam Arena. I haggled and got 5m out of the jerk. I went back to Marcel Brands, the Director of Football who’d impressed me with his Nikolic signing, and asked for a new centre back. Again from Eastern Europe, Matej Mitrovic was the man, costing 4.75m. Statistically just as good as Isimat-Mirin, 2 years younger, it made sense.

Offers started flooding in for my players. Jose Canas decided that Championship football offered him more opportunities than the Eredivisie, and went to Norwich for 800k at 30 years old. Hector Moreno, our captain, threw his toys out of the pram, demanded to follow Canas to England, and eventually was sold to West Brom for 6m. Defensive reinforcements arrived in the form of free transfer Javi Ramirez, who’d impressed on trial, and Arsenal outcast Carl Jenkinson, who had been middling along for Everton. They lost 2.2m on the 975k deal, having spent 3.2m on him in 2016.

Transfer deadline day came along, and I was fighting off the moneybags of Europe. Liverpool and Dortmund were sniffing around a youngster by the name of Zeus, who I hoped would make the transition to first team football in the next few years, while Joel was attracting some attention from the Russians. I managed to save Zeus, who was not happy about being saved, and refused to sign any new deals, but with an hour to go in the window, Joel landed in St. Petersburg, the subject of a 12m bid from Zenit, more than twice his market value. And I got it all in cash. No installments, no dodgy 50 league games clauses. AS Monaco cam in for Santiago Arias, probably my best player, but still only worth 4m. I laughed and bumped the price up to 11.25m, thinking they would walk away. Monaco signed the cheque instantly and smuggled Arias into France. So I had made about 35m in the transfer window, and only had an hour to use it. I could go risky and blow it on a marquee signing to really have a go at the league, or play it safe and go for depth. Remembering my days at Aston Villa and Zeca-gate, I played safe. 5 players with low ratings, but half decent potential came in on free transfers, and to bulk up our pitiful strikeforce, I spent 2m on Argie winger-cum-striker Alejandro Melo.

While all this was going on, my form was dipping. With several new players to bed into the side, we won 1 of our first 4 league games. We did get into the Europa group stages, battering Dinamo Bucharest 5-0 on aggregate. Once the transfer window had closed, my possession tactic seemed to reignite our chances. We went unbeaten until November, Fred Rutten’s Ajax ending our run, whihc included a 3-1 win over Spurs in Europe. Striker Milos Nikolic, who has inexplicably been banging the goals in with 12 in 19 competitive games, breaks his foot in mid December thanks to Slovan Liberec, and derails any chances of the title.

Fast forward to January, and we’re sitting around 6th place, but the league is close, we have games in hand and could challenge the top 3. Liverpool come back for Zeus and steal him on a compensation package, giving me a measly 625k for a player who will be godly, given his name. I will keep an eye on him and see what I’ve missed out on. New captain Andres Guardado heads home, disappearing into the Mexican sunset of Toluca for 600k which given he’s 32 and worth 300k, isn’t horrific. Our best midfielder Felipe Gutierrez, who’s been a bit miffed about me giving game time to a talented youngster rather than playing him every game, goes to Sporting Lisbon for 6m. His value shoots up to 15.75m instantly, so I think I’ve made a bit of a cock up there. I’m sure 19 year old Stijn Yahia will continue to do a cracking job in his place though. Utility midfielder Emre Colak goes to Dinamo, again unhappy about game time. Too many midfielders certainly spoil the team morale.

I’ve had to buy another striker, as backup Melo isn’t cutting it, and little South Korean fellow Suk Hyun-Jun has disappeared completely since December. I had to do my research to find him, eventually discovering he’d gone off to the Asian Nations Cup. South Korea have made it to the quarter finals, so he could be a while.

Lautaro Mesa has arrived from Argentina, he’s cost me 2.2m, and I’m hoping he’s not going to flop like my other Argentine Melo. He has 2 in 3 so far, so the early signs are good. My scouts have uncovered a young Brazil keeper called Jean, who will deputise for Yanick Van Osch, who’s having a excellent season aged just 21. The only other incoming transfers are AC Milan utility player Erick Pulgar, I got him for 3.5m, and he looks like he could be a good asset, while Chelsea have flogged me defensive midfielder Corentin Tolisso for 3.7m, I’m hoping to get him some game time then sell him on.

Just to finish off, I thought I’d quickly look at what else is happening in the world of FM. Emile Heskey is managing Dagenham & Redbridge, Xherdan Shaqiri is back at Bayern, who paid 46m for his services from Man Utd, but he’s only played 5 games since his transfer in last year’s January window. He’s transfer listed at 9.5m, worth a punt maybe???

Manchester Utd are down in 7th place in the Prem, with City leading. Juve are still dominating Serie A, no other title winner since 2011. Thomas Vermaelen has got himself a first team place at Barca, while Neymar rots on the bench at the expense of Cristian Tello. Martin Odegaard is strutting his stuff for Liverpool, while average Benfica winger Goncalo Guedes has just signed for PSG for 45.5m.

It’s a funny old game.