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A season in speech.


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Monday, 14th February, 2033
Pre-Match Press Conference (CA Bragatino vs. Ponte Preta,
São Paulo State Championship)

"Honestly? I see it as vindication. I think that- maybe for the first time- there was some doubt in some quarters about my willingness to open the chequebook, about my judgement in the transfer market. Those 24 hours were an opportunity for the naysayers and doom-mongers to ramp up their rhetoric."

I wasn't waiting for the interpreter to catch up- I knew some of the words might have required a moment or two's consideration, but I trusted him to get across what I meant. Whatever he said would be better than my paltry attempts at communicating in Portuguese.

"Look, the board have never set hard limits on what I can and can't spend- I'm just naturally very careful with the money and don't like overspending. And, yeah, I think Southampton did get a bit of a steal from us, but Neicer [Mina] wanted to go, and we're not in the business of standing in the way of someone's career just for the sake of it."


Guess I should probably pause a bit here, give a bit of context for those of you seeing this press conference in isolation. So, I'm Law Martin, and I manage a top flight Brazilian team, Ponte Preta. No, I hadn't heard of them either.

You might recall I ran a bit of a diary a few years back, where I wondered out loud whether I should renew my contract at overachieving Oldham Athletic, or take a leap to a bigger stage ahead of the inevitable Championship struggle. You may also recall that story didn't have an ending, and that's because the decision was ultimately taken out of my hands. I'd barely recovered from the celebration hangover when I was summoned to the board room, and told to explain myself... and my diary, which they had somehow discovered.

Suffice to say, the board did not like my musings about my future, about my "lack of loyalty". They did not like my comments about the shoestring wage budget, and they especially didn't like my pessimistic rating of our chances in the Championship without significant investment. A "lack of ambition", they called it. Whatever.

The season ended on 3rd May- we lost to Walsall, but it didn't matter- Oldham finished second, and were promoted automatically. By the 31st May, with virtually no time left to run on my contract, I was sacked- a petty move, if ever I heard one. It was still a shock. Suddenly, I became linked with any job in English football that came open- and then, just as suddenly, it was August. The start of a shiny new season, and despite all the chatter and speculation throughout the summer, nobody had offered me employment. I started to get desperate, and cast a wider net.

And that, boys and girls, is how I ended up here, in São Paulo, Brazil, wearing a polo shirt embroidered with the crest of Associação Atlética Ponte Preta, fielding questions about our terrific start to my full second season in charge at the club. Last season, we finished fourth in Serie A, after leading for most of it, and winning the regional São Paulo State Championship. Not bad for a newly-promoted side, right? Now, the year is 2033, and we sit top of that same São Paulo State Championship with six games played, 24 goals scored, and zero goals conceded. It helps that we've played mostly teams from Serie C and D, but I didn't set up the competition.

All caught up? Good.


"Look, as soon as Neicer got wind that Southampton were interested, we started putting wheels in motion to find a high quality replacement- we looked at a few faces we already had, to see whether they were ready to step into his shoes, and we looked at a few from elsewhere. The goalkeeper is the foundation of the team. Yes, we like to get the ball forward and attack, but we can only do that because those attacking players can trust and rely on their teammates at the back to take care of any quick breaks or counter attacks. Neicer built that trust from strong performance after strong performance, and I think that Franca is already doing the same. Six games without conceding is an achievement whoever the opposition are, and for £3m [from Atlético Madrid], it's starting to feel like we've got a bit of a steal ourselves."

And so, we ditch the diary format. It got me in too much trouble- I'm not making that mistake again (yet). Instead, I figured I'd share with you our "season in speech". We'll keep it breezy- a few conversations, maybe drop in on a team talk or two, maybe the odd interview, press conference or discussions with others- we'll find a groove and see what works. This should be a good season- we're aiming high, and are out to prove that last season's fourth-placed finish in Serie A wasn't a fluke. We've got the Copa Libertadores to contend with for the first time in six or seven years, and at the moment I'm feeling good about the project we've got going on here.

Let's see if it lasts.

Edited by Lawlore
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Saturday, 19th February, 2033
Phone Call with Cassiano Martins, manager of Palmeiras



That, I did not expect. On the other end of the phone was Cassiano Martins, the former Brazil manager, and in those two words, it seemed that we'd come to an agreement for the sale of our 22-year-old goal machine, Iuri. Last season he hit 33 in 46 games, playing as the deeper of two strikers. In theory, he was supposed to be the supply man to whoever he was partnered with, but in practice, he was just a terrier inside the box, always wanting the ball, and always looking to stick it in the net. Cass was now manager of Palmeiras, who finished 8th last year. He only joined them for the final furlong, and didn't have much chance to right the ship. He did, however, identify that a lack of firepower was a big part of the problem, and it seemed Iuri was the guy he thought could fix it.

"So, that's sixteen and a half up front, the rest in instalments. That good?"

Yeah, it was. Iuri was a bit of a difficult one. Transfermarkt has him listed at somewhere around £11.5m, and I don't really want to sell him. However, the clubs with the bigger reputations, fatter budgets and the higher expectations had taken note of how consistent he was last season, and had been circling for a while. Two goals in our last match, a 4-0 win over São Paulo, had put him back in the spotlight. And, while I haven't yet heard from anyone outside Brazil, I know full well that we risk losing him for way less if anyone spots his Foreign Club release clause at £11m. Better to sell him for a few quid more while the chance is still there, right?

"That works for us, Cass."

Daniel, over at America Mineiro, had come in offering £12.5m earlier in the week, take it or leave it, and I had to hold my nerve to leave it. But Cass... Cass knew how to get his man. He'd come in with a shade under £15m, and bitten my arm off when I returned looking for £20m. I couldn't turn down £20m, not when he could leave Brazil for just £11m. It sounds crazy, considering he only joined two years ago for a shade under £2m, but it's a testament to how central he was to our rampage last season.

"You think he'll go for it?"

"I don't know, Cass. I'm sure he'll weight it up, but he knows we've got a good thing going here. The fans love him, he's getting games, he's getting goals. I suppose it depends how attractive you can make 8th place sound."

A cheeky gag, to say the least. Truth be told, Palmeiras really were one of Brazil's big hitters, and with Iuri up front and Martins at the helm, other clubs would ignore them at their peril. Champions in '27 and '28, and Libertadores winners in '30. The 8th-place finish looked like a blip, and one bad season does not a bad club make.

The one saving grace in it all is that we've got a few others who could potentially step up and step into his shoes- there are eight players vying for two striker slots, and the rotation has kept competition fierce. Goals have been coming from everywhere, so if Iuri were to go, hopefully we could weather that storm. I don't want to sell him, but if I hold out too long, I fear I may not get much choice.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Monday, 23rd May 2033
Contract Negotiations with Nour Mejri and his agent, Mohamed Ali Kordi.

"Please, Mohamed, can I finish?"

"Go ahead."

It's been a long morning already (although a check of the watch shows we're actually now into the afternoon), and this meeting feels like it's been going round in circles. It hasn't been helped by the language barriers in play- we started with me speaking barely adequate Portuguese to Nour, whose lessons are just about up to "I like football" and "I have a cat". He's a good lad, but that meant I had to dumb things waaaaay down, and he then had to translate everything to his agent in Arabic. Eventually, we just found a direct English to Arabic translator online, and skipped Portuguese altogether. It wasn't perfect, but we finally seemed to be making some headway.

"This is not about tying Nour to the club for his whole career. We understand that in the future he will want to move to Europe, to play at the highest levels, to win trophies and become financially set for life. We know that, and we're not trying to stand in his way of that."

A pause, followed by a flurry of translation, leading to both the Tunisian kid and his agent nodding in unison.

"This is about ensuring everyone is aware of his value. Yes, we want to increase the release clause..."

...at £4.5m, it was a timebomb. It had been necessary to get the kid to sign in the first place, but he'd settled in so well over the past five months that now it stood out like a sore thumb. If Iuri could be sold for £20m- and he was- then Mejri was already on his way to being worth the same.

"...but we also want to be sure that Nour is earning in line with the rest of the squad here. For us, he's not a player for the future any more- he's starting matches and scoring goals, and we want his pay to reflect that while he is at the club."

Another moment of silence as this was translated and relayed between the pair of Tunisians. The pair had already brought up how his strike partner, Bahia, had just got a new contract on £13k/week- a point quickly countered by explaining how that too came with an increased release fee. Although they hadn't been the intended front two this season, they had established themselves as such throughout the Sao Paulo State Championship, ahead of the likes of Jorge Perez (star of last season who has been found out), Arne Krueger (German teen who hasn't settled very well here in Brazil) and Iuri (current record in three months at Palmeiras out of 25 games: played two, scored zero).

"My friend, it is a simple matter that the offer is not good enough. The goals Nour is scoring for the club have already won points that otherwise would not have been won. An increase to the amount you are proposing (£7k/wk) is just not enough, especially as you are trying to keep him at the club for longer with this increase to the release fee."

He's referring, specifically, to Mejri's recent hat-trick against Sport Recife, helping us to a 4-1 win after going behind early on. He's not wrong. The teenager's contract has a good while to run on it, but his performances and the existing release clause means he'd never see out the end of it. From his perspective, earning less now, while he's making his name, means he can be earning more elsewhere sooner.

"But Mohamed, there is a gradation in his pay rises, with his performances and goalscoring..."

As I try to explain, a wave of the agent's hand and abrupt interruption, even without translation, signals that this is shaping up to be the end of the meeting.

"You should pay the boy the same as his strike partner, starting now. This is fair, and this will give him reason to want to stay at the club for longer. If not, in six months time when the world has discovered him like your scouts have, he will go to Manchester or Paris or Madrid for the fee in the existing clause. This is how it is, and there is nothing further to discuss in this."

Dick. I think he can tell my stomach's rumbling.


Look, I know when I'm beaten. Hands are shook, the clause for selling him to foreign teams is up to eight figures (albeit barely), and his salary matches that of his strike partner. Nour Mejri just became one of the best paid teenagers in Brazil- hopefully that security will now bring with it a bagful of goals.

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