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"Les grandes équipes" - Vaya Con Dios, FM23

August 21st, 2023



Twenty minutes ago, Iñigo's Bar had been almost lifeless save for the staff and the geriatric regulars who cared more about drinking than football. Two hours ago, the place had been full to the brim with blue and white clad fans, eagerly anticipating the start of the coming season. Six years ago, Iñigo had been on the verge of closing the place down. Taberna de San Lázaro had always been the Compostela supporter’s bar, but the hardcore group of devoted fans was small, and business hadn’t been this good since the nineties.

The routine was well rehearsed. On the morning of matchday, Iñigo would take the pre-arranged delivery into the cellar and make sure everything was stocked up on the bar. Then, he’d dress ready for service and wait for his staff to arrive. Mariana was always a paragon of timeliness, dressed to impress and with her hair tied up high in an immovable bun. Diego was consistently slightly late, turning up red-faced with his mop of hair gleaming with sweat. Iñigo would tut and shake his head, Diego would offer a curt apology and run into the back to hastily put his apron and badge on. Francois, a bohemian student from Paris, would wheel his bicycle in through the back door, whistling to whatever was playing through his headphones.

Despite their flaws they were a good bunch, and they could work a bar like clockwork. Some particularly faithful fans would be in as early as 11am, eager to get a seat on the sun-soaked terrace, lazily nibbling away at tapas and arguing over who should be in the team that day. The majority of them would turn up a couple of hours before kick-off, and before you knew it the bar was practically buzzing with excitement. Drinks would flow, and the sounds of chatting, laughter and the occasional broken glass (swept up swiftly by the dutiful but belated Diego) would ring through the walls of this once forlorn little bar by the Estadio Vero Boquete.

Then, as suddenly as it began, it would stop. The last couple of stragglers downing their last gulps of beer would rush out after their friends, and the throng of supporters would shuffle on past the Praza De Concordia towards the home of SD Compostela.

The staff would start to clear the empty bottles and clean the sticky tables. Shiny new flat screen televisions, graciously donated by the Compostela supporter’s trust, showed the game about to begin. Iñigo would sit down by the bar’s entrance to watch the match and greet anybody who might come in. Diego, a lifelong Madridista, would refuse to partake, preferring instead to watch Los Blancos on his phone. Mariana would lean on the bar and watch her beloved Compos, whom she had followed since she was a girl. Francois had no time for football – he usually spent the next ninety minutes smoking on the terrace.

As soon as the game finished, Iñigo would jump up and return to the bar. Twenty minutes later, and the place is once again a whirl of blue and white, of clinking glasses, cheers of ‘Salud!’ and chants of ‘Compos, Compos!’ until the early hours.

Tonight was no different. At 2am, after the bar was tidied and locked up, Iñigo finally retreated upstairs to his living quarters. This was his favourite time of the night. With a languid sigh, he kicked off his shoes and slumped onto the sofa, nursing his aching feet. Always one to think ahead, he would record LaLigaTV’s coverage, eager to hear what the pundits had to say. He flicked on the television, played the recording and cracked open a well-deserved beer.

A catchy theme tune plays as the screen flashes with highlights from the day’s La Liga matches.

Hello and welcome back to LaLigaTV, where we’ve just watched Compostela get their season off to a comfortable start with a two-nil victory over Vallecano, courtesy of a debut goal by Gianluca Del Duca, and a late confirmation by Angel Correa on his return to Spain. I’m Guillem Balague and with me tonight are former Valencia midfielder Gaizka Mendieta, and a man who knows a thing or two about Compostela – former club captain Alvaro Casas, good evening Alvaro.”

“Good evening Guillem, glad to be here.”

“So, Alvaro, what did you think of the game? Not a bad start for Compostela.”

“No certainly not Guillem, I think the scoreline doesn’t so much reflect the game. It could have easily been four or five goals for Compostela, but it’s good to get a win under their belts to start the campaign.”

“Compostela have made all sorts of headlines lately haven’t they, Alvaro? It’s been quite remarkable to see what Ferdinand De Borja has achieved.”

“Yeah for sure, five years since I retired now and they’ve just gone from strength to strength. Me and Ferdinand still talk, he’s a great guy and his vision for the club has come to fruition which I’m so happy to see.”

“I bet you wish you were still there!”

Alvaro Casas laughs.

“Yes it would be great, but I wasn’t good enough so I quit while I was ahead!”

More laughter from the whole commentary team.

“Ok, so Gaizka, your thoughts on Compostela this evening?”

“I think they were great Guillem, Gigi Duca looks so comfortable already and it was nice to see him get a goal on his debut. Tactically we’ve seen through preseason how they’ve changed things up a bit with some new additions and I think they’re going to look so much better this season. I think the last couple of years De Borja has had to adapt without having that quality in their squad but now they’re a lot better and we’re seeing them take a more attacking, free flowing approach. There’s some really exciting talent in that team, they’re a young and eager team who I think will do really well this season.”

“Yes well obviously they’ll be hard pressed to top last season won’t they? Getting top four again is a big ask I think, even for Ferdinand De Borja.”

“Ok, we’ll get back to Compostela shortly but first I want to talk about the other results from this evening, starting with Barcelona’s victory over Girona….”

Like every weekend, Iñigo's eyes could stay open no longer, and he drifted off to sleep.



I've been waiting for this one...

That's right. SD Compostela will compete in the UEFA Champions League 2029/30!

I deliberately haven't played a champions league club yet so that when I hear that majestic theme in-game it's all the sweeter. And this season, I will. This season, the Vero Boquete will play host to the likes of Bayern Munich, PSG and Manchester City.

The 2027/28 campaign was a landmark one at Compostela, and now we've gone one (or maybe two, skipping the Europa League) better.

So, how did they do it?


Season Review

I think the words of Isabel Moreno and Jake Candlin sum it up pretty well:

The start of the season was dazzling, with a 13 game unbeaten run that was only unravelled by a trip to Spotify Camp Nou:

For a while, it looked like we were going to win the league, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't at least a little bit hopeful. However, as is usually the case, the second half of the season was tougher. We struggled with fatigue from playing in three different competitions, and the loss of a key player in the January window was a considerable blow - I thought for some time that we might lose our grip on the top four. However, we weathered the storm and managed to record a third place finish!

That's pretty good if you ask me, and we were never going to stop the irrepressible force of Jurgen Klopp's Real Madrid anyway. Reaching the level of them and Barcelona would take a long time, and I'm content with holding our own against them in the league. I think it might be a bit early to declare ourselves 'the best of the rest', but if make the top four next year I'm proclaiming it.

Our cup campaign was impressive, reaching the quarter-final before being unceremoniously dumped out by Sevilla. In the conference league, we reached the round of 16 but as a lower seeded team. That earned us a match-up with Tottenham, who beat us resoundingly in a 5-1 aggregate defeat. Harry Kane is still there in this world, now 36 and still putting them away. If it's any consolation, Spurs ended up losing to Marseille in the final, so they're still trophyless in 2029!

As a little aside, I felt particularly smug about winning the manager of the year award, which had proved elusive the previous season.


The Standout Performers

I've built a strong but young squad at Compostela, so it's not too much of a surprise that they struggled a bit when things got tough. It's testament to their heart and desire that they kept strong and managed to get us into the Champion's league. A couple of players stood out as being integral to our success:

Fabio Silva:

Talk about making an instant impact!

Fabio Silva joined at the start of the season for £2.6M, and he's pretty good isn't he? An average rating of 7.27 across 34 appearances was enough to bag him player of the year, and he finished as the club's top scorer across all competitions with 20, shortly followed by his strike partner, Afena, who registered 19. A solid performance this season from Fabio, marred slightly by his whinging about wanting a move to get into the Portuguese national team - but he's under contract for another three years, so let's see if a bit of UCL action changes his mind.

Junior Kroupi:

Eli Junior Kroupi is a special little player. A record of 18 goals, 9.27 Progressive Passes/90, and 7 player of the match performances isn't a bad return for his first season at the club, and it's clear he's a big game player. That should come in handy when we're playing against the mega teams of Europe, although I need to decide where I want him to play. This year, he's mostly slotted into the central slot of our three-man midfield as an Advanced Playmaker, but I think his profile and traits would suit a role as a False 9. In fact, he tends to score whenever I've played him up front but we're already well stocked in that area, so I think I've got some planning to do ahead of pre-season.

Beñat Prados:

I think with every long-term FM save there's at least one player you fall deeply in love with, and for me that's Beñat Prados. A true fan-favourite, he's been with us since our first season in La Liga 2 and I think he'll be here a while yet. If he wasn't such a terrible leader he would certainly be club captain, and although he won't win any awards this season he's been vital for the squad. Maybe that's just my romance tinted glasses affecting my opinion, but how could you not love a trusted club servant who scores thunderb*stards like this in the 88th minute against Barcelona when you're battling for a top four finish:

Lorenzo Blasco:

If one award winner wasn't enough, how about two?

Another player who has been with us since our time in the second division, Blasco has come on leaps and bounds and he's now one of the first names on the team sheet. He's nicely well-rounded - great in possession, but he's no slouch when in it comes to defence and played mostly in one of the Carrilero slots in our midfield three. I think we may struggle to hold on to him in the summer. If we do, we have the best young player in Spain at our disposal. If not, then he'll fetch at least £56M which would soften the blow.


The Transfers


Somewhat of a fire sale has happened this year...

Sotiris Alexandropoulos (DM) - £2.2M to AEK

Carlo Francis (GK) - £3.5M to Leeds

Christian Joel Sánchez (GK) - £275k to Middlesborough

David De La Vibora (DL) - £250k to Valencia

Emili Rosanas (ST) - £4.6M to Norwich

Marc Jurado (DR) - Loan to Lorient (optional future fee of £500k)

Rafaël Ianc (GK) - £70M to Barcelona

Without a doubt the biggest transfer story of our season was the £70M sale of Rafaël Ianc to Barcelona. In hindsight, selling him halfway through the season to a league rival might have been unwise - but it turned out ok in the end didn't it?

In truth, I had no intention of selling him, but as a lower reputation club with some great players it's part of our model. For Compostela, £70M was too much to refuse, especially for a player who point blank refused to sign a new contract. I think his departure had a lot to do with our slump in form - Christian Joel Sanchez was also moody as he wanted to play more and said he'll be considering his options, so it was up to Carlo Francis to finish the season. He did ok, but with a year left on his contract I accepted an offer for him from Leeds. Christian Joel Sánchez is also off to Middlesborough, so I think we'll need a replacement for our Champions league campaign...


Bento (GK) - £13.25M from Palmeiras

As always, I've kicked our recruitment off early, starting with a club record purchase of Bento Krepski from Palmeiras. It's a break in form from our usually youth-focussed recruitment, but I purchased two young keepers in the winter window and figured we needed a quality, experienced number one. Out of my targets, he was one who wasn't asking for a (relative to us) extortionate wage. Hopefully we'll get a good couple of years out of him whilst I push to win us some silverware.

Sacha Boey (DR) - £7.5M from Galatasaray

We've had some movement on our defensive flanks this window, and Marc Jurado is off to FC Lorient after five years at Compostela. I'm bringing in Sacha Boey to both improve our depth and offer a different option than what we already have. I'm considering some tactical tweaks for the coming season and I think he'll suit what I might be going for, as well as how we play currently. Hard working and defensively astute, I've liked him in real life for a bit so when the option to get him came up I took it gladly.

Rigoberto Lewis (DL) - Free from Arsenal

On the left flank, David De La Vibora has left to join Valencia. He's been a good servant for the past few years, but he's just never quite hit the heights he could've. Now 26, it's time for a change.

Out of my options, Lewis was the cheapest - free, in fact. I'm usually wary of seemingly good players being released by clubs, as I assume there must be something they don't like about them. However, the purchase of Antonio Luque was a similar scenario and that's been a resounding success. I like the look of Lewis, and I think he'll serve as a very competent deputy to Miguel Gutierrez. I've checked his character profile carefully, and he's got a good personality. My scouts think he should adapt well, and hopefully both my assistant Deon Burton and former Arsenal man Mark McGuinness can help make that happen.

Ángel Correa (ST) - Free from Monaco

Adding some experience to our youthful squad will be Ángel Correa.

His medal cabinet includes a La Liga, a Ligue 1 with Monaco in 2028, a Europa League and a Spanish Cup. He's obviously past his best at this point, but I think I'll be happy to have him around as an option to bring on to try and change a game. Pace is a thing that seems to have left him with age, but he's an orchestrator and having him in the hole in the supporting striker position could be tasty. He's here for a year, and I'm hoping he can make a difference - at the very least he'll be a good mentor!

Désiré Doué (CM) - £8.25M from Rennes

Rounding out our notable additions and probably my favourite of the bunch will be Désiré Doué.

He's just excellent on the ball, and although he's got some areas to improve (decisions and composure, for example) I think he's exactly what I want as a member of our new-look midfield. His passing ability and vision stand out, as well as the 'uses outside of foot' trait - Jogo Bonito. For some reason he's been out of favour at Rennes since the start of the game, having never really broken into their squad. Mikel Arteta had put him on the transfer list, and I think £8.25M is a steal.

Also joining are:

Karim Hanafy (CAM) - £600k from Arab Contractors

Ananias Dutra (GK) - £55k from OES

Djibril War (CB) - £180k from Guijuelo


Preparing for next season

It took me longer than normal to finish the 2028/29 season, owing mostly to moving and other life things getting in the way. I think the upcoming season will be one of the last I get to play with Compostela, with FM24 due to be released around November time. I'm glad that we've managed to reach the Champion's League, and I'm determined to win a trophy before the end of this save!

With that in mind, I'll be implementing some tactical tweaks in the coming season in the hopes of improving our performances from last season. Although we've been successful, a wise man fixes the roof when it's sunny.

I'm keeping the 4-1-3-2 shape as I like it so much, but I think we're good enough both technically and physically to start playing more positively. I realized that one of the most prominent proponents of the shape we use was Marcelo Gallardo at River Plate. We've also got some real South American flavour running through the squad, so why not stand on the shoulders of a giant?

This is how I think we're going to look going into the coming season. The low block is switched for a high press, and I think the shape lends itself better to maintaining possession - with a overloaded, technical and hard-working midfield we should have a real presence in the middle of the park.

Instead of screening Carrileros, I've opted for two Mezzalas in Blasco and Luque, supported by Désiré Doué. I had hoped to complete the signing of Marco Asensio after he left PSG, but he opted for Sevilla instead. It's a shame, because I think he'd be great as one of our Mezzalas. I want them to act as dribbling 8s, driving the ball forward, linking defence and attack and creating chances for the frontline. They'll also be shifting out wide when necessary, offering options to the full-backs. The shape should create plenty of passing triangles and I'm excited to see what we can do with more time on the ball.

I was impressed with Junior Kroupi last year, and I think he'll make an excellent False 9. A little bit more flair wouldn't go a miss but he's a great distributor and should score plenty too. Backing him up will be the experienced Angel Correa, who needs no introduction, as well as Ratko Vojvodic who I'm trying to mould into a supporting role. They'll play alongside Fabio Silva, who will be supported by Afena and Gigi Duca, fresh off the back of his loan at QPR. He impressed there, and I'm convinced he's the second coming of Luca Toni.

I was even more certain of the Luca Toni reincarnation when he scored nine goals in one half of a friendly, including this:

Splendido, Gigi!

The back line remains largely the same, except for the additions of Rigoberto Lewis and Sacha Boey. Both of them are more full-backs than wing-backs, and so if we're under pressure they offer a nice switch to a different skill set from Paz and Gutierrez. I think I'll stick with my centre-back pairing of Nxumalo and McGuinness, but Erick Silva is seriously pushing for a starting spot.

Here's a great example of the new system in action against Vallecano in preseason:

Posession is lost in the opposition half, and Bertini picks up the ball.

He lays it off to Kolbeinn Þórðarson, who is pressed quickly by Prados. The press from Prados forces Þórðarson into making a sloppy pass, as Medina has pressed to cut off the passing lane and steals the ball before it reaches Gyokeres.

Medina lays it off to Blasco...

Who quickly shifts the ball forward to Fabio Silva, acting as the deep lying forward in this instance.

A textbook through-ball from Silva to Del Duca...

Who calmly slots the ball into the bottom corner!

That's just one snippet against a poorer team, but it gives me a lot of confidence that Gallardo-ball is the way forward. Muneco!


So, my first post in a while - it's been a bit of a whirlwind!

Anyone who follows along on Twitter will know I've gone through a bit of a brand refresh, going by my given name instead of a moniker - and a new logo! Exciting.

I'm at that bittersweet point of a save now where you don't want it to end but you know at some point it will. We've got a great crop of young players, and I want to see them grow and flourish. Like I mentioned earlier, I think I can still fit a few more seasons in before the end of the cycle.

I'm leaving it just one more post before I update our save objectives and see what we've achieved. I'm acutely aware that this is my first save for a long time where I haven't won a proper trophy. The Champions League is probably a bit of a pipe dream, but we are in the Spanish Super Cup which is only two games so with a bit of luck we could clinch that. The Spanish Cup is also a possibility, but I'm setting our target at making the top four again and maintaining the Champions League cash flow. On our current trajectory, we'll be La Liga champions in a couple of years!

If Atleti can do it, so can we.

As always, thanks for reading.


FM Patrick

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