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[FM19] European journey - CSKA Sofia and onwards!


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FM19: European journey - CSKA Sofia and onwards!

Hello everyone!

Been lurking on and off here for quite some time, and after recently picking up FM again in my spare time, I've decided to finally join the fray with a CU thread. Usually my first career on any FM game is reserved for my favorite team - CSKA Sofia, and this one will be no different I'm afraid :cool: 

I thought about switching to a different club for this first thread, so as not to overlap with other users, but since I've been away from the series for a few years, this will be a relatively
laid-back save to begin with. We won't be aiming for major continental trophies or the Ballon d'Or, and given my dubious transfer skills a few surprises are bound to happen along the way.

In terms of geography, you might have noticed the UEFA logo above - this will be our playground for the duration of the career. While obviously managing a team in one of the top 5 leagues is among my goals, it might take us some time to get there, and the lower divisions will probably come into play at some point.

The Club


Club: CSKA Sofia
Status: Professional
Founded: 5 May 1948
Stadium: Balgarska Armia
Capacity: 22,995 (18,495 seated)
Nicknames: The Reds, The Armymen



Bulgarian First League - 31 x 🏆

1948, 1951, 1952, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1958–59, 1959–60, 1960–61, 1961–62, 1965–66, 1968–69, 1970–71, 1971–72, 1972–73, 1974–75, 1975–76, 1979–80, 1980–81, 1981–82, 1982–83, 1986–87, 1988–89, 1989–90, 1991–92, 1996–97, 2002–03, 2004–05, 2007–08

Bulgarian Cup - 20 x 🏆

 1951, 1954, 1955, 1961, 1965, 1969, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1983, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1993, 1997, 1999, 2006, 2011, 2016

Bulgarian Supercup - 4 x 🏆

1989, 2006, 2008, 2011

European Cup / UEFA Champions League

Semi-finals (2): 1966–67, 1981–82

UEFA Cup / UEFA Europa League

Round of 16 – 1998–99


As you can see, it's been a while since The Reds have been crowned Champions of Bulgaria, although they did win two Cup trophies in the past decade, together with one Supercup. Hence, our immediate goal with CSKA Sofia will be to end the cycle of Ludogorets domination, who have 7 domestic titles in a row as it stands. Next up we will try to gradually re-establish CSKA on the European scene, starting with a return to the group stages, where the team last featured in 2010–11 (Europa League Group L, 4th place). I will also try to improve the financial situation as much as I can, boost the national team with CSKA players, and push the board to invest in the club's facilities. Might add a few goals to this list as we go, but this should do for now.

Win the Bulgarian First League 
Retain the Bulgarian First League 

Win the Bulgarian Cup 
Retain the Bulgarian Cup 

Win the Bulgarian Supercup 

Group Stage Europa League ✔️
Knockout Phase Europa League 

Group Stage Champions League 
Knockout Phase Europa League 

Have a current CSKA player score a brace in a Bulgarian national team game 
Have a current CSKA player score a hat-trick in a Bulgarian national team game 
Have at least 6 out of 11 starting players in a Bulgarian national team game 

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A few surprises might await us down the road, but the first one is already here - I actually thought of creating this thread a few weeks ago, and started my career, but never found the time to organize the information. As a result I've already completed a full season with CSKA   :onmehead:... so let's do a sort of a review before we move on!


The First Professional Football League, or First League (Първа Лига), is contested by 14 teams over the course of a single season. They play each other twice for 26 rounds, before the table is split into two.

The top six teams form a Championship group and play two more games versus each other, for a total of 36 rounds. This group decides the Champion, the runners-up (Europa League qualification), as well as the bronze medal winners. The team that ranks second is automatically awarded with a place in the UEFA Europa League qualifying rounds. The third team in the final standings participates in a play-off match against a representative team from the bottom eight. Depending on the winner of the Bulgarian Cup final, a possible fourth team from the first six may compete in a play-off match for an UEFA Europa League spot instead of the third ranked team.

The bottom eight are split into two Relegation groups, where teams play two more games versus each other, for a total of 32 rounds. The top two teams from each of the groups form a bracket to select a single club, which then qualifies for the European play-offs final. The bottom two teams in each group also form a bracket, later joined by the teams which finished second and third in the Second League. This bracket determines which teams are relegated or promoted at the end of the season.

Wonderfully complicated system of play-offs, no doubt, and it actually produced some widely-discussed real life results last year when Vitosha Bistritsa survived relegation even though they finished the regular season 1-10-21 with a GD of 17:60, recording their single win in round 32. They later went 1-1-3 in the playoffs, but saved themselves after 2-2 and 4-2 on penalties in the final versus former First League heavyweights Lokomotiv Sofia. The drama!


The Second Professional Football League, or Second League (Втора Лига), is a much more classic affair - 16 teams play 30 rounds, with the winner gaining automatic promotion, and the second and third-placed teams moving on to the First League Relegation Play-offs. The bottom four are relegated, and replaced by the four champions of the regional Third League divisions.

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2018-19 Season Review

I had more or less decided to follow the starting XI that the team has played IRL so far, and limited my pre-season transfers as a result. Asen Chandarov seemed like a decent option for backup in midfield, and I couldn't resist snatching Dimitar Berbatov on a free transfer, but that was it until January.

When the winter break came, I naturally left everything late, panicked, and paid way too much for Borislav Tsonev. I did manage to lure Serkan Yusein on loan as backup, however, after Botev Plovdiv had earlier sold him to Huddersfield for a hefty sum. Veteran defender Jeremy Toulalan was available for free, so I grabbed him too in case of injuries late in the season.


Almost no outgoing activity early on, but Berbatov eventually fell out of my plans, so I cashed in when the opportunity came and let him go to the MLS. Aleksandar Dyulgerov was always going to be a surplus, but the loss of Angel Lyaskov got me genuinely worried for a while. Nothing I could do about it, since he was stoked with the chance to play in the Premier League, and I didn't want to push it any further. The rest was mostly younger players going on loan, with the exception of forward Evandro who couldn't really get going, and I decided to loan him out to Ponte Preta for the time being.


The Best Eleven for the season featured a few strong performers - Kiril Despodov and Maurides formed a lethal duo that combined for nearly half of my goals throughout the season. The 22-year-old Bulgarian forward was arguably the highlight though, with goals from inside and outside the box, headers, free kicks, a bunch of great assists, and absolutely stunning pace down the right wing - he couldn't find an evenly matched opponent all season long!

Maurides did score a lot of goals, but he proved somewhat inconsistent, and could have easily won the Golden Boot for himself if he had been a bit more focused. In the end Martin Kamburov from Beroe won it on 17 goals as well, but scored in fewer games. Stanislav Manolev was perhaps the surprise here, with some very good performances - he ended up with one of the highest average ratings in the entire league. Lyaskov's replacement Geferson also did well, even though I played him on and off at times.


Our league campaign began quite poorly with a draw away to Dunav, followed by a 0-1 loss at home to Beroe, as I was still experimenting with the starting XI. We fared much better in the Europa League qualifiers, where Montenegro outfit Buducnost Podgorica was dispatched after 2-0 (A) and 1-0 (H). Eventually we found our ground in the league as well, with four wins and two draws in the next six games until Slavia stunned us with another 0-1 at home.

In Europe we were drawn against Ilves Tampere from Finland (2-0 H, 2-2 A), followed by a trip to Scotland to meet Rangers. I honestly thought we might have trouble here, but after a hard fought 1-0 at home we managed to draw 1-1 away and progress to the play-offs. Our next opponent was even more formidable - Greek giants Olympiakos were worth many times my squad, but they were also wasteful in front of goal. We pulled off a 1-1 draw at home and a late 2-0 win in Athens to qualify for the group stage of the Europa League on the first attempt! There goes one objective :) 

Lastly, we played Third League side Chernomorets Balchik in the Bulgarian Cup First Round, with a somewhat relaxed 3-0 win that allowed me to rest a number of first-team regulars. Some of them really needed it, because by that point we had already been drawn into Group I of the EL, together with ... MilanRB Leipzig and Besiktas  :eek: 


The final months of 2018 were a mixed bag - we managed 4 points and finished last in our extremely tough EL group, all of them versus Besiktas (1-1 H and 2-0 A). I tried my best versus Milan and Leipzig, but they were ultimately beyond our reach and ended up progressing to the knockout phase. Ludogorets were the only other Bulgarian team in the group stage phase, but they also failed to make it through. Not a big consolation, but at least we knocked Besiktas out, and our group was definitely worse than the one Ludogorets got.


On the domestic front we drew 0-0 away to Botev Plovdiv, but then went on a 8-game winning streak, scoring 17 and conceding just 3 in the process. Cherno More Varna stopped this great run on the final match day of the year with a 1-1 draw, but we bounced right back after the break with a 2-0 victory over bitter rivals Levski Sofia. By now we were leading the League, with Levski, Ludogorets, Beroe, Botev Plovdiv and surprise package Dunav all not far behind us.

In the Bulgarian Cup 2nd Round we traveled to the southeast and faced Arda, one of the leading Second League sides, winning 1-0 after a close game. In the quarterfinals we won 2-1 at home against Pomorie, also one of the contenders for direct promotion from the Second League. Not gonna lie, very lucky draws so far in the competition for us, as we avoided meeting any of the First League teams.

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