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[FM 17] If You’re Not First, You’re Last Redux – Redemption For The “Nearly Men” Of Europe


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As the dust settled with non-FM obligations last week, my old save beckoned.  But, so did FM 17.  In a moment of weakness I gave in to that annual, foul temptress.  But memories of Sweden are still calling me.  So, let’s try this again, shall we…


It’s The Hope That Kills You


As football fans, we can all relate to that sentiment. The "what could have been" moments. The heartbreak. The days when your overpaid, selfie-obsessed striker couldn't hit water if he fell out of a boat.  

Barbosa at the Maracana, 1950.  Messi in the final of the Copa America, 2016. Baggio in the World Cup final, 1994. Ghana at the 2010 World Cup. Bayern Munich in Barcelona, 1999. John Terry in Moscow, 2008.

(Ok, if I'm being honest the last two were pretty frickin' beautiful and count among my favorite football memories. But, I digress...)

For many, redemption comes in one form or another, some more glamorous than others. Titles won. Individual glories and accolades.  The heartbreak simply another chapter in the broader narrative.

For others, the heartbreak defines them.  Haunts them.  Overshadows prior accomplishments, triumphs and accolades.  The moniker of the "nearly men" is applied, and supporters grow old thinking, "what if...?"

This is the story of those teams.


Since its inception in 1955, 22 different teams have won the Champions League (and its predecessor). 17 teams have reached the Final, only to fall short:

Atlético Madrid (1974, 2014, 2016)

Stade de Reims (1956, 1959)

Valencia (2000, 2001)

Fiorentina (1957)

Eintracht Frankfurt (1960)

Partizan (1966)

Panathinaikos (1971)

Leeds United (1975)

Saint-Étienne (1976)

Borussia Mönchengladbach (1977)

Club Brugge (1978)

Malmö FF (1979)

Roma (1984)

Sampdoria (1992)

Bayer Leverkusen (2002)

Monaco (2004)

Arsenal (2006)

Similarly, 8 different nations have brought home the World Cup. Yet, 4 have reached the Final and returned home with empty hands:

Netherlands (1974, 1978, 2010)

Czechoslovakia (1934, 1962)

Hungary (1938, 1954)

Sweden (1958)

This save will chronicle my (second) full-blown attempt to bring glory to as many of these sides as possible.


As with before, there are no hard-and-fast rules beyond the concept of the save. While I enjoy developing youth, I will not take a youth academy only approach at these clubs.  Rather, I will work within club-specific plans without any self-imposed transfer restrictions (e.g., a 2-4 year-plan makes sense with the like of Arsenal, versus a 6-8 year plan with Malmö ). I will leave on high -- thus, once I've won the Champions League, I must move on. Surely I won't be fired...will I? After my first club, I will only accept a position with one of the sides listed above, or a club that manages to join this elite (!?) group of "nearly men." Likewise, if a club manages to win the CL under another manager, they are removed from the challenge.

On the international scene, the same basic rules will apply -- I will only accept an international management position with an eligible nation. If I win the World Cup, I must move on. Nations can be added to and removed from the eligible list, based on results at the World Cup. With respect to Czechoslovakia, I consider both the Czech Republic and Slovakia eligible.

While some of these sides are "easier" than others, I will begin with one of the "smaller" clubs and proceed from there, wherever the winds take me.

I am also holidaying 2 years into the future, to allow for a unique playing environment. I've loaded the top leagues in Belgium, England, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Serbia, Spain and Sweden, with a large database/pool of potential players.

Up Next: The stage is set.  June 2018.

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Time continues to skip forward randomly. Details at elev...



Once again, two years of holidaying have not changed the landscape significantly.

In 2017Barcelona beat Arsenal in the CL final, 2-1.  Tottenham, Sevilla and PSG reached the quarterfinals.  (I would love little more than to add Sevilla (and Bilbao!) to the roster of eligible clubs…)

In 2018, Real Madrid beat Barcelona in the final, with Tottenham the only club of note reaching the quarterfinals.

And thus our journey begins…

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Malmö FF's appointment of Håkan Telleus, formerly the head of a nascent ABBA-inspired Malmö Ultras group and noted tactical blogger has taken many by surprise.  When reached for comment, Telleus noted that his desire to pursue his coaching badges arose after a fever-dream in which his beloved Di Blåe were guided to European glory by an unheralded American manager, only for that manager to abandon them for greener pastures.


Yes, there is some work to be done, but we're in great shape to start -- 1 point off the pace, with no European competition to clutter up the calendar in the fall.





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World Cup 2018 Update

Well, that was...underwhelming.  Very, very little of surprise in Russia.  Brazil knocked off England in the final.  Jamaica went through in Group A ahead of the hosts, which was entertaining...but that's all of note.







Up Next: Allsvenskan 2018 Review

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Rome wasn’t built in a day, but I wasn’t on that particular job…


Malmö FF
2018 Review

I enjoy nothing more than proving people wrong.  To all those who said a blogger couldn’t manage, p*** off.  The Allsvenskan trophy has been returned to its rightful owners.

The fundamental talent was already here.  We hit the ground running, and barely skipped a beat.  Behind the scenes, I brought in a number of additional coaches and support staff to fully build-out the foundations for future success.  A new training program was also implemented, focused on developing technically-proficient players across the entire pitch.

My inclinations toward a 4123 were not far off base, but it was necessary to make a change based on the personnel at the club (and the young players who were interested in joining).  So, after initial/early success with the 4123 I began transitioning the side to a fluid/dynamic, attacking 4411 with heavy pressing.  But, I wasn’t entirely pleased with the side.  Not good enough.  Not enough potential.  So, numerous players who simply couldn’t make the cut were shown the door.  Some, I couldn’t keep and had to sell. 

Bah...who am I kidding?! It’s a youth movement all around... 

After an inordinate amount of time scouting…watching matches, personally flying to all corners of the globe.  We brought a handful of players that can make an impact.  Maybe two handfuls.  Khanye was the signing of the summer, without question, as he’s already breaking into the XI.  Depodé has the potential to be the long-term lynchpin at the back.  Augustsson was already here and breaking into the side.  Raiding Swedish talent from other clubs could prove essential, with Vujovic, Lundqvist, Salah all coming over from Bromma…although my tiara-wearing predecessor must get credit for Vujovic. Engström has some potential, from Enskede.  Bagger was spotted playing by himself in a park in Denmark, FFS.  Okoye, Antolic and El Amrani arrived from more distant shores.  But, Zajicek… he’s something special.  A player to build a side around.  The fulcrum of our attack for years to come.  If he develops.  If we can keep him.

The big challenge will be continuing the success into a 2nd season, especially once the European qualifying matches begin to create fixture congestion in the late summer.  Time will tell if this was merely beginners’ luck or the start of something truly grand.

I sit with a glass of red wine before the fire, the long winter settling in, fully aware that the real work begins here and now.  As I book a flight to Croatia to see a talented young defender play a U19 match, I shudder and nearly collapse with an overwhelming sense of déjà vu.  Why am I thinking about Mallorca and the … err … backroom staff … all of a sudden? 

Goals for 2019: Continue to tweak/finalize my base tactics.  Establish domestic dominance.  Reach the Group Stages of either the Champions League or Europa League.  Buy more wine.    


Squad|League Overview|Finances Overview|Income Detail|Expenditures Detail|Transfers

Allsvenskan Fixtures|Svenska Cupen Fixtures

Challenge Overview:

Season update.png

Challenge status.png

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Thanks, guys. I had serious heartburn about starting over, but am loving every moment in 17.

@BoxToBox Zajicek may be one of the best signings I've made as a mid/lower tier club in the past few iterations of the game. I'm very excited to blood him quickly in 2019.

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1 minute ago, ManUtd1 said:

Thanks, guys. I had serious heartburn about starting over, but am loving every moment in 17.

@BoxToBox Zajicek may be one of the best signings I've made as a mid/lower tier club in the past few iterations of the game. I'm very excited to blood him quickly in 2019.

By far my favourite kind of signing, can't wait to see him shine.

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January 2019.  The lads are due back in training tomorrow.  The ruthless cull of the playing staff has continued.  A fair number of players won't be back -- not good enough to make the cut, it's lights out for you.

Berget insisted on a move abroad, so he's off on a transfer to Marseille.  Hard to begrudge him that one, and we wish him well.  We've signed some balding sixteen year-old from Crete to support Khanye on the wing.  No, not the crazy one.  Our's has an 'h' in his name.  The h is for "He's not a frickin looney tune.'  

Speaking of morons, thank **** Christiansen is off as well, on loan to Groningen.  Perhaps the Dutch will find his incessant moaning and persistent injuries endearing.  

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38 minutes ago, King Costly said:

I'm not going to lie, I don't really have any idea what's going on here but I'm enjoying it nonetheless :D 


That's a perfectly fair reaction.  Long story short, there is an entire world in this save that I've flushed out in some form or another -- people, events, etc.  Parts of it may never be explored.  All of the characters are recurrent from last year's version of this save, with two exceptions -- @BoxToBox's John Drake and his Munster Energie squad have been partially incorporated into my world, and Telleus is the manager this time around (although his backstory is the same).  There's definitely some self-referential comments in here, which wouldn't make sense at all unless you'd read the FM 16 thread (e.g., Hampus as Captain Ahab and the Inception hashtags).

For whatever it's worth, something about the chaotic madness of the narrative amuses me greatly, and gives me something to do when I can't have the laptop open and running!

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Well, well. Who's laughing now?  I'll admit...to myself...that the mini-exodus of senior players  was cause for concern. And the primary cause for my sudden obsession with prodigious quantities of cheap red wine and absinthe. Especially when we drew our first Svenska Cupen group match and our first two matches in the Allsvenskan in astonishingly dreary fashion.

Dark days.  That obnoxious blogger was having a field day on Twitter. I probably shouldn't have insulted his dear mother outside the training ground that day. How was I supposed to know she had a bad hip, and couldn't engage in the...err...frolicking I'd intimated had gone on the night before? 

A few tactical tweaks here and there, though...and we're on the rise. Things have turned around and we're closing on those nancy-boys of Djurgarden.  They're still trying to figure out who repainted their home locker room pink, with a Justin Bieber mural. And how. No doubt it was my old firm, the Super Troupers. The whole thing reeks of their influence. I'll have to call my old lieutenant, Ludwig, from a burner phone to confirm.

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Interpol File No. 9538S-BS; Wiretap on line 094-127-723

April 24, 2019; 11:37 PM




HÅKAN TELLEUS:  This is Håkan.

LUDWIG HAMMAR: Hey, man.  Yeah, it’s Ludwig.

TELLEUS: Uh-huh.  I've been meaning to call, but I've been slammed.  What’s going on, I’m kind of busy.

HAMMAR: Congrats on the win tonight, brother.  Kalmar’s keeper had a 'mare tonight, eh?

TELLEUS: Yeah, he did.  But, really, I’m busy, man.  [muffled background noise]  What’s up?

HAMMAR:  You’re welcome.

TELLEUS: For…what, exactly?

HAMMAR: [muffled] You know.


HAMMAR: How many keepers have you seen get scored on from 40 yards, and get megged, in the same match?

TELLEUS:  Other than tonight?  Ludw…what are you saying?

HAMMAR:  You’re welcome.

TELLEUS:  Ludwig.  What did you do?

HAMMAR: Just a little investment.

TELLEUS: For ****’s sake, Ludwig.  We’ve talked about this.  This isn’t funny. 

HAMMAR: Maybe Iricíbar had a bad night.  Maybe it was a good night for him, on the whole.  You know, with a bit of perspective.  [whirring; shredder noise]

TELLEUS: What is…what are you doing?  Enough.  I’m hanging up now.

HAMMAR:  Don’t go, Håkan!  I’m only kidding.  [laughing]

TELLEUS:  Not funny, man.  That's not funny.

HAMMAR:  [laughing] I dunno, I had you going there.

TELLEUS:  Well, to be fair it would be an easy thing to believe.  Those goals…I mean, my blind grandmother could have stopped the second.  While napping.

HAMMAR:  Give Nana my best, will you?

TELLEUS:  Of course, of course, brother.  But, seriously, what I can do for you?  I’m busy as **** here.

HAMMAR:  You’re coming by for Walpurgis night, right?  I’ve got a few lovely ladies who’d love to make your acquaintance. 

TELLEUS:  Wouldn’t miss it for the world.  Wait.  They aren’t professionals, are they?  The last time you pulled this stunt –

HAMMAR:  Stop.  Right there.  That was a one-time thing.

TELLEUS:  Amsterdam.

HAMMAR:  Ok, twice.  But, the point –

TELLEUS:  The twins in Bordeaux?

HAMMAR:  Uhh.  Yeah.  Three times, then.  Well, four, really.  Twins and all.

TELLEUS:  Those cousins from Växjö?

HAMMAR:  No, no…they were from Sigtuna, weren’t they?

TELLEUS:  That was a completely different weekend!  What the heck is wrong with you?!

HAMMAR:  Where do I start?

TELLEUS:  Forget it.  Just…just…nevermind.  I’ll be there.

HAMMAR:  Any chance you could bring a few of the lads around, I know that we’d all love to toast them after we crush Djurgårdens that evening…

TELLEUS:  They’re in training, man.  No booze.  And I don’t want them to be tempted by the likes of whoever you've scrounged up to "toast" them…        

HAMMAR:  Easy, easy.  They’re good, upright young women.  Family.

TELLEUS:  Your cousins?  They’re underage.

HAMMAR:  No, what I mean is that they’re ... basically family.  Neighbors, more like.

TELLEUS:  That doesn't make any sense.  But...whatever, I'll see what can be done.  Some of these young kids haven't been away from home like this before.  You know Tomas, that Czech midfield we brought in?

HAMMAR:  Know him?  I’ve cyberstalked the **** out of him.  His girl is smokin.

TELLEUS:  She went back to Milan, so he’s a little down.  Could use the good cheer of Walpurgis to get a feel for Sweden.

HAMMAR:  Damn, well, Zaji will land on his feet.  And, I’ll make sure [REDACTED] gives him the kind of education every young man should get at least once in their lives.

TELLEUS:  For ****’s sake, man.  We’re in-season.  Save it for Mallorca.  Don’t make her the Victoria to his Beckham.

HAMMAR:  First of all, Becks is a...wait, Mallorca’s really happening?  That isn’t just a rumor?  I thought it was just some stupid dream you had.

TELLEUS:  Listen, I told the lads, focus.  Now.  If we win the league, then we hit the beach.  On me.

HAMMAR:  I’m there, bruh.  Can’t wait!

TELLEUS:  Who said that you’re even invited, BRUH.  And, who talks like that?

HAMMAR:  Not funny, *******.  You know it isn’t a party without Big Daddy Ludwig.

TELLEUS:  Alright, man.  I really have to go.  The interns are here.  [muffled, indecipherable sounds]  I'll call you later, to discuss other...business.

HAMMAR:  Ok, ok.  Have a good one, brother.

TELLEUS:  You, too, man.


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Interpol File No. 9538S-BS; Wiretap on line 094-127-723

April 25, 2019; 1:12 AM






LUDWIG HAMMAR: Go for Ludwig.

UNKNOWN MALE VOICE: [muffled] It’s…uh…me.  Can you talk?


UNKNOWN:  [muffled] No names.

HAMMAR:  Sorry…err…man.

UNKNOWN:  Just listen, I only have a minute.  I need to know.  Was that you and the Troupers, who…ehh…infiltrated… Djurgårdens?

HAMMAR:  I don’t know what you’re talking about.

UNKNOWN:  ********.  You know exactly what I’m talking about.

HAMMAR:  You gotta BELIEB me, man.

UNKNOWN:  [laughing nervously] Ok, ok.  Say no more.  I don’t want to know.  Just…you should know that some of their Ultras are coming down from Stockholm, looking for trouble after the match on Saturday.

HAMMAR:  Really?

UNKNOWN:  You didn’t hear it from me, man.  Just be safe.

HAMMAR:  Word of advice, pray for those Stockholm pansies.  Believe me, they’ll not be writing about this trip on TripAdvisor.

UNKNOWN:  They’re not tourists, Ludwig.

HAMMAR:  Exactly.


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So much for that slow start...a 9-0 thrashing of GIF Sundsvall followed the annihilation of Djurgardens.  We fell back to earth for a few matches, but got this message after hammering Norrkoping, 5-0.


It's only May.  

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Two men sit in a van, fiddling with various electronics.  They sit in a dark, desolate parking lot on the outskirts of Malmö.  A faded electronic sign for The Itchy Kitty Nightclub buzzes overhead.  It's 4:00 a.m.

"Testing, testing, 1, 2, 3.  Testing, 1, 2, 3.  Can you hear me now?"  

"Yes, Matteo.  You're coming in loud and clear."

The first man adjusts his glasses slightly.  "How's the video feed, Roberto?"

"Crystal.  Let's do this.  Good luck.  Stay safe.  Backup is only a moment away.  Remember, the distress signal is 'crackerjack.'"

With a weary sigh, Matteo stands up on the shag carpeting which covers the van's interior, stretches, and slides open the door.  The night is brisk and quiet.  Too quiet.

This is no ordinary night.  [ed: It's a Tuesday, FFS.]  These are no ordinary men.  Roberto and Matteo are part of a select Interpol unit, tasked with investigating match-fixing across Europe.  And they think they've caught a big fish.

Matteo and Roberto have been diligently tracking their target for weeks.  Coded phrases, including excessive references to "grapefruit" and a "Captain F'in Ahab" (the latter increasing in frequency over the last week) have led them to believe that a deal is about to go down.  They have diligently tracked their target here, after intercepting a call referencing mentioning "the package" and sticking with him during what appeared to be a surveillance-detection run.

Matteo exits the vehicle, his head on a swivel to seek out potential threats.  "There's nothing here, man.  This is ridiculous."

A Dodge minivan pulls into the lot.  The driver glances at Matteo, and promptly leaves.

"I think we've been made, man."

"Stick with the plan, Matteo.  The target is still inside.  We've got cameras on the back."

Matteo returns his attention to The Itchy Kitty.  "I'm going in."

Matteo enters the club.  The smell of day-old Patchouli and cheap cigarettes washes over him.  A four-piece modern jazz ensemble plays softly on the stage, with an empty microphone.  A sign over the bar indicates that it's open mic beat poetry night.

"What the holy ****...?" mumbles Matteo.

"Everything ok in there, man?" asks Roberto, from the van.  "Can you see the target?"

Matteo casually glances around the room.  The few patrons in attendance don't seem to notice his presence, and instead appear lost in the saccharine seductive haze of the music.

Matteo continues to glance around the room, taking a seat near the stage.  He spots the target across the room.  A non-descript box sits on the target's table next to a drink, which sits untouched.  

"He's here, Roberto.  I've got eyes on him.  And the package." 

"Be cool," warns Roberto, lounging in the shag-carpeted van.  "Just let it happen and make sure you get it all on video.  You're ours now, Ludwig."

Ludwig Hammar sits at the table, blissfully unaware of Matteo's presence.  All of his focus is on the stage and the empty microphone.  He glances at the box, nervously, and pulls out an Itchy Kitty-branded book of matches.

As the band closes out a jazz-infused Adele instrumental, an aging hipster approaches the microphone.  

"Let's hear it for Sexual Chocolate, the house band here at the Kitty."

The patrons softly applaud, with only mild interest.  

"Alright, alright, alright...up next, for his debut here at the Kitty.  Ludgwig!  Let's here it!"

With a confused look, Matteo whispers into his lapel mic, "Roberto, I think we may have misunderstood what's going on here..."

Ludwig cautiously takes the stage, sipping his drink and carrying the box with him.  He opens the box.  Matteo leans in, now more curious than concerned.

Ludgwig removes a large, Apple Blossom scented Yankee Candle from the box.  He lights the candle, turns his back to the crowd and nods to Sexual Chocolate.  The band begins to play.  

After a moment, Ludwig turns rapidly to the microphone, lit candle in hand and begins to half-sing, staccato and with great gusto, to a rollicking jazz beat.

Woman! Woe-man...Wooooe-MAN!

She was a thief, you gotta believe...she stole my heart any my cat.

Betty, Judy, Josie and those hot pussycats...they make me horny, on Saturday morning

Girls of cartoo-ins, will leave me in ruins...I want to be Betty's Barney.

Hey Jane...get me off the crazy thing...called love?

With an arched eyebrow and casual smirk, Ludwig extinguishes the candle with a soft blow.

The room is deathly quiet.  The aging hipster alone applauds enthusiastically as Ludwig puts the candle back into the box.

"Thank you," mumbles Ludwig.  "My band, Sonic Death Penguin, will be at the Battered Ram on Friday...hope to see you there."

Matteo sits in stunned silence, ignoring the increasingly urgent questions from Roberto in his earpiece.  Finally, Matteo speaks.  "Roberto, we've made a huge mistake."


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Malmö FF
June 2019 -- Champions League Mini-Update

We're not quite deep enough into the save for the Champions League to start throwing out new teams.  I'm hoping we'll get there soon :rolleyes:

Luis Enrique's Barcelona knocked off Mourinho's United, to continue the Spanish monopoly on the Champions League.  Barcelona and Madrid have split the last 6 titles between them.  PSG, Leverkusen, Man City and Atletico were in the hunt this year, with Ze Germans reaching the semifinals.  





Elsewhere, Arsenal won their third straight title in England, with Bayern continuing to dominate the Bundesliga.  PSG remains the dominant force in France.  Napoli have broken Juventus' run of titles in Italy.  Messi continues to dominate the individual accolades.







 In Malmö, we're rampant.  Berisha has been unstoppable.  Domestic dominance should not be an issue given the respective quality in the Allsvenskan, and we're obliging.  The real question will be how we fare once the Champions League qualifying rounds begin in July and we're forced to rotate the side more frequently.  I firmly believe that we're ready for the Group Stages, but may need a favorable draw to get there.  I continue to tinker with my tactics, but only ever so slightly.  I also rejected my first offer to manage another eligible club, Fiorentina.  I've got unfinished business here in Sweden.







Up Next: Malmö FF return to Europe, and Sonic Death Penguin rocks the Battered Ram.

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Oops...I neglected to mention, Arsenal's run of success has come under Wenger.  Typically, he promptly retires in my saves with someone like Roberto Martinez taking over, so this is an interesting development.


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Jan Lundqvist with the runner-up goal of the tournament at the U20 World Cup:



Sweden went out in the quarterfinals:



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