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[FM20] - A Mediterranean Cruise - From Israel to ???


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Maccabi Tel Aviv - May 2025

We went into the final month of the season with four league games remaining, as well as the Gvia HaMedina cup final. We could complete the treble, or it could be the ultimate bottlejob. The board aren't terribly impressed with our recent form (just three wins in ten), and the dressing room morale is bordering on toxic. A few of the players came to me about the negative atmosphere, and my response that they should stop whinging and maybe try winning some matches instead didn't really help. I don't think it's a exaggeration to say that if we don't go and win the league my job will be on very shaky ground.

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3rd May

Maccabi Haifa had their 35th game a couple of days before we did, and if they'd won they would have gone equal on points with us. They had so many chances to win but evidently didn't bring their shooting boots with them, while Maccabi Petah Tikva scored with one of their only two efforts on target. That's a big opportunity blown for them.

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5th May

We then had our 35th game, and it was against our other rivals from this year, Hapoel Be'er Sheva. We bossed the game completely and never allowed them to get going. We weren't free-flowing going forward, but made the breakthrough in the second half when Claudiney Lempeck bounced on a loose ball just outside their area, and played in Nehoray Biton to smash one in from 20 yards. That's Hapoel Be'er Sheva officially knocked out of contention, and a six point gap opened up over Maccabi Haifa (with nine left to play for).

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10th May

Speaking of Maccabi Haifa, they were up next. Win and we're champions. Draw and they could hypothetically still catch us, but in reality we'd be champions with our much higher goal difference. Lose, and the momentum could swing back in their favour.

We allowed them to take an early lead, a terrible defensive header just putting the ball back into a dangerous area instead which they capitalised on. We kept going though and after the break earned the point we deserved, a long ball from Eduardo Guerrero being chased down by Mbala Nzola to dink over the keeper. The draw leaves Maccabi Haifa technically still in the fight, but unless they can score 30 goals over the next two games it's safe to say we've got the title in the bag.

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14th May

We weren't involved in this round of league fixtures due to the Gvia HaMedina cup final, so the pressure was on Maccabi Haifa. They won to keep their ever so slim chance still alive.

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14th May

I'm glad the title was 99% ours, otherwise this Gvia HaMedina cup final would have come at a really bad time. I would have had to make choices about potentially resting players, but as it was I could go with my strongest XI available. The opposition were my old club Hapoel Nof HaGalil, the classic twist which pundits would say you couldn't script. Which is lucky, because if this was a script they'd be the plucky underdogs, and I'd be the sellout bad guy.

We had all the early chances, forcing their keeper into action four times in the opening 15 minutes. A couple more chances were blazed over, and I demanded more from my players. We needed to score while we were on top. And in the 26th minute that moment came. A free-kick broke down, but we kept the press high and won the ball back just outside the area. Eduardo Guerrero whipped a cross in, and Nehoray Biton gave the goalie no chance with a bullet header. 1-0. We almost blew it straight away at the restart though, as they broke away down the right and when the ball came in and was volleyed at goal, Rok Vodisek had to be on his toes to tip the ball round the post. But that was only a temporary reprieve. From the resulting corner their midfielder was left unmarked in the middle and headed home for the equaliser. Absolute amateur hour. 1-1. From there it was a case of getting to half-time on equal footing, we lost any sort of attacking impetus and were being outnumbered and outworked all over the pitch.

I told the team I expected much better from them in the second half, and in the 52nd minute we had the ball in the net. But we'd spent too long faffing around in the build-up, by the time the ball was finally played into the box our forward had strayed a long way offside. Nothing of note happened for the next 20 minutes, until we just decided to stop defending. In the 70th minute their forward was played through, our defence just stood and watched, and he had all the time in the world to pick a corner. 1-2. The rest of the game was just an exercise in seeing how many times we could be caught offside, until it got from bad to worse in stoppage time. We gave away a stupid free-kick in a dangerous area, and their player was unmarked at the far post to volley home. 1-3. An absolutely pathetic capitulation. There's no excuse at all for losing this game, unforgivable. I was only able to fine one player after the game (which is stupid, I should have been able to fine all of them), so instead gave each of them an individual criticism. I also held another team meeting to tell them just how useless they were.

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17th May

In a weird fixturing quirk, we had our penultimate game of the season on the same day that Maccabi Haifa had their final match.

As a punishment I dropped nine of the players who started in the cup final. I would have dropped all 11 if I could, but with an under-19 game the day before there weren't enough players available to replace all of them. We won 2-1 with a brace from Mbala Nzola which was enough to claim the title. Not that it mattered, but Maccabi Haifa lost anyway.

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20th May

With the final game of the season coming just three days later I had to rotate back in some of the disgraced players, but it was Isaac Karamoko who opened the scoring, finally getting his first goal for the club.

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We ended up winning the title by nine points, with the joint highest points tally of the last six years. Although at various times we were pushed by Hapoel Be'er Sheva and Maccabi Haifa, in the end we made it to 1st place pretty comfortably.

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Maccabi Tel Aviv - May 2025

That was quite stressful. The first few months of the season when we were winning every game and flying through the early rounds of the Conference League were fun, but March through May was a lot less enjoyable. With two more trophies added to club's haul this has to be considered a successful season, but I'm still angry about it not being a treble. We should have won the Gvia HaMedina as well. 

I'm not entirely sure what I want to do next. Now I've won the top tier I could look at moving on to the next country (Greece or Turkey), but I feel like I should defend the Ligat Japanika title first. I'd also like to right the wrong by winning the Gvia HaMedina. Plus there is the Champions League to have a crack at, I believe we will be entering in the First Qualifying Round.

Getting into the Israeli Hall of Fame could also be a target, but that would require at least two or three more years of success. And I'm not too sure I can manage that. With the way my tactic was found out in March I think I need to overhaul it somewhat, but I'm not really good enough at the game to stray away from what I know.

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The board are happy enough, I met all competition targets required and most of the club culture ideals.

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This is probably the most average ratings I've seen over 7.00 in any FM20 save I've played so far. Asaf Hazut came out on top with a rating of 7.34 but was injured for a lot of the season. Just behind him was Guido Broun with a rating of 7.33, and he was voted our player of the season for this (8 goals from central defence also helped).

Speaking of goals, we had a lot of them. Four players reached double figures, but the most impressive won't be seen below. Uri Asulin left in January when his foreign release clause was met, and he almost certainly would have added to his 22 goals if he'd been around longer. In his absence Juan Manuel Gutierrez top scored with 24 but only 8 of these were in the league, so I was more impressed with Nehoray Biton netting 19 from the left-wing (including 13 in the league). Mbala Nzola also did well grabbing 13 from limited playing time.

Rok Vodisek was the league's goalkeeper of the year with 17 clean sheets (30 in all competitions)

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Previous clubs and players - May 2025

Hapoel Nof HaGalil

Hapoel Nof HaGalil had a terrible time of it in the Toto Leumit cup, but made a better start to the season in the Ligat Japanika. After seven games they were up in 5th place, but a run of just two wins in the next 13 games saw them plummet down the table. They never fell into the relegation area, but it was pretty close at times. During the spring Yossi Abuksis was on the brink of losing his job, but a couple of wins in April secured safety with four games remaining. Progression to the Gvia HaMedina cup final also gave the board confidence in his abilities.

And annoyingly, they won the Gvia HaMedina cup final at my expense. From being 1-0 down after 27 minutes they quickly hit back and turned the game around to win 3-1, and pick up the trophy in the most successful day of Hapoel Nof HaGalil's history.

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Uri Asulin

After joining Espanyol for £2 million in January Uri Asulin has increased his value to £2.9 million and is earning nearly £10k per week. Game time has been difficult to come by in La Liga, but he's made the most of it. In just 594 minutes (made up of 3 starts and 13 sub appearances) he's notched 3 goals and 5 assists, helping Espanyol to finish 9th.

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Edited by DaneBramage
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Maccabi Tel Aviv - June 2025

We're favourites to win the league again with the media and the bookies, but our board are slightly more cautious about our chances, expecting just a title challenge. I'd like to retain the Ligat Japanika, and also add the Gvia HaMedina cup.

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We signed just one player in the transfer window, and it's already looking like a bad deal. Turns out that I didn't check the profile for Emir Murati properly, I thought he was Israeli but he's actually Italian. With six foreign players already at the club there's no room to register him for the league squad, and he already wants to leave.

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Maccabi Tel Aviv - July 2025

After a few friendlies competitive football began with the qualifying rounds for the Champions League. In truth, these games were no more difficult than the friendlies. We smashed our way past our Latvian and Hungarian opponents, scoring 30 goals in the process. Lots of players padded their records with simple goals during this time, but one player I was impressed with was Guy Gerassi. I've just promoted him from the under-18s after he had a great year out on loan last season, assisting 22 goals in 35 Liga Leumit games as he helped Hapoel Umm el-Fahm to promotion. He scored on his debut for us, as well as bagging a hat-trick of assists.

In between this we also had the Super Cup, and our chance to gain a measure of revenge from Hapoel Nof HaGalil. We beat them easily to add another trophy to the collection.

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Maccabi Tel Aviv - August 2025

We encountered our first real challenge in the third qualifying round, as a trip to Greece showed us that getting into the Champions proper wouldn't be an easy task. We were promptly sent back home with our tail between our legs, suffering a 3-0 loss. In the second leg at our place we nearly managed a comeback, but the two goals weren't enough and we were punted down to the Europa League.

I assumed the Georgian opponents at this stage would be a tricky tie, but it wasn't to be. We punished them over and over again, reaching double figures in a game for the second time this season. They attempted a fight back in the return leg, but we didn't allow that and put a few more past them.

The opening game of our Ligat Japanika campaign followed the same pattern, a comfortable 3-0 win.

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We made a small profit on the immediate sell of Emir Murati. His final game was the loss to AEK Athens, but in his short time as the club he scored five times and assisted two more during his six games.

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Our Europa League group has been drawn and while it's not the toughest group possible, I don't fancy our chances. Porto and Olympiakos are both Champions League regulars so will likely be aiming for the top two spots, while this is only St. Gallen's second European participation in the last six years (a failed attempt to qualify for the Conference League proper in 2022). 3rd place goes into the Conference League first knockout round, so that could well be the most likely option for us.

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Edited by DaneBramage
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