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THE SOPHARA JOURNAL - March 2036 Edition

YOUTH INTAKE 2036

The official report on the prospects the SYA has graduated is out, and at first look it seems like a decent Intake. It received a 4/5 rating and is highlighted by London-born left winger Victor Ofusu (4+/5 PA) and Stockholm-born DC Pers Magnusson (3+/5 PA). Notably, SYA Germany produced two prospects, with Finn-Patrick Behnsen looking like he has decent potential down the wings. None of the SYA's other branches produced any prospects this year, however - the club is still waiting on its first prospect to come up from SYA Colombia. Although they carry relatively mediocre PAs (2+/5), both Vincent Emegha and Mohamed Osho - who are English/Nigerian - look like they have potential. Manager Abul Ezz is also reportedly watching left-back Robert Brooke (1.5+/5 PA) with great interest. 

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NxGN 50 2036

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WINNER

MARK AITCHISON, (Scotland: 5 Caps), Defender – Hiberian, 17-years-old (Previous: 9th)

Two years into his career and he is already a Scotland international and one of the best players on one of the best teams in the Scottish Premiership….Was first highlighted last year when he debuted on the NxGn Top 50 list as a 16-year-old rookie who the Scottish media was hyping as possibly the next big thing defensively….He has been ever-present for Hiberian during his second year, playing in 28 Games and registering 3 Assists, 1.21 T/90, 94% PC, and 7.14 AR….At 1.91m, he is naturally strong in the air, but the ‘Professional’ youngster has his head in the right place, as well….Many are predicting a move south to the English Premier League soon, although the talk has not come from the player himself.  

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2ND PLACE

GEORGE ADAMU (Nigeria: 26 Caps/1 Goal), Defender – Sophara United, 19-years-old (Previous: 7th)

For the first time in its history, the top two players on the NxGn Top 50 list are both DCs….The Sophara United product has been a common name to see on the Nigerian team sheet for a couple of years now, going to the World Cup at Japan 2034 with the African nation as a 17-year-old….Is Nigeria’s highest valued player at £75M – the next highest valued player is FC Nordsjaelland’s 23-year-old DC Bello Obinna at around £40M….The ‘Wonderkid’ has been a shining example of the well the SYA can work – born in the Delta region of Nigeria, he was scouted and brought to London, along with his parents and siblings, where he has become an global name, an international footballer, and earning almost £70k per week, a number that is sure to double soon….Has been having a solid season thus far, playing in 27 Games and registering 97% PC and 7.03 AR.

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3RD PLACE

GUIDO MOTTA (Italy: 18 U21 Caps/5 U21 Goals), Left Winger – AC Milan,19-years-old (Previous: Unranked)

Born in northern Italy, Guido Motta has been in the region all his life as he has come up through the AC Milan youth system….He was unranked last year but he finished the season with 10 Goals in 19 Appearances while also registering 7.10 AR….He has 10 Goals again this season, with 1 Assist, 1.48 D/90, and 7.06 AR….Was part of the Italian team that finished Runners-Up to France at the 2035 Euro U21 Championship and was awarded the Goal of the Tournament for a sensational free-kick against Turkey….The ‘Wonderkid’ is a strong, quiet, and mysterious person, but he has proven to be a great weapon for AC Milan and it is only a matter of time before he starts getting considered for the Italian national team.

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OTHER NOTABLES

West Ham scooped up Wang Xiaoyu (39th) for £2.1M from Korean side Seongnam this season. The 18-year-old Chinese international (8 Caps) has a huge following back in his home country. Born in Haining, which is about an hour’s drive southwest of Shanghai, he came up through the Korean club’s youth system before being bought by West Ham. He is fast and he is a good tackler – he is sure to make more than the single Appearance he has in his first season in England……Erik Achterberg (27th) inexplicably drops 19 spots on the list even though he has gotten better and made a £14.5M to Lazio from boyhood club FC Utrecht since the last time. The 18-year-old defender has also won his first Cap for Holland. The 1.97m tall DC has made 8 Appearances for Lazio this season thus far, registering 1.45 T/90, 95% PC, and 6.88 AR……17-year-old Juventus rookie Graziano Marengo (13th) has already earned himself a starting lineup spot in one of the world’s biggest clubs. The defender has played in 20 Games and registered 1.42 T/90, 90% PC, and 6.74 AR. He can play anywhere on the defensive line……It has been a tough year for Dougal Yule (10th) – the Sophara United striker has been a point of contention ever since he replaced Joe Reardon in the starting lineup last year as a rookie and the cries against him have only grown louder as he has struggled in his sophomore season. Still, he has 8 Goals in 28 Games and has gotten noticeably faster and stronger as he moves up 7 spots on the list……Sean Travis (4th) has done a better job at Sophara United of winning over his doubters than his teammate. The 18-year-old midfielder has not played especially well but has convinced a lot of experts that he will be the kind of player that they are expecting.

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THE SOPHARA JOURNAL

SEASON REVIEW 2035/2036

TEAM REVIEW

Since its creation, Sophara United has been all about making statements, pushing the boundary, looking past just the business side of things, and instilling a winning culture. Well, on May 24th, 2036, the club made another statement – a statement that they were here to stay, an official declaration of belonging, and a stamp of insistence that they be given their due respect. This was no rag-tag team of teenagers put together on a whim of a football-obsessed owner/manager – this was a professional group of footballers who, together, formed one of the best teams on the planet. This was a team that featured international stars, one that featured some of the brightest prospects in the game today, one that featured the tactics of one of the most famous and sought after managers in the world. This was a team that can defeat Southampton 7-1 at Wembley to lift the FA Cup trophy for the first time in club history. They were not satisfied with just getting the victory – this team wanted to use that platform to let the rest of the world know that they belonged and were here to stay. Sophara United can now add the FA Cup trophy to its growing list of accolades, which also includes the 2022 League Two and 2023 League One trophies. The winning didn’t end there, however – the equally as big prize was that the goal that Abul Ezz had set out for the 2030s (to qualify to Europe) was finally accomplished. Thanks to their FA Cup win, Sophara United were going to be participating in the Europe League during the upcoming 2036/37 season.

The drama set in early this season with the aftermath of Bekir Celik being dropped from the Turkish national team, an unthinkable act for one of the biggest stars in the nation. It ended up only being for a few months, but it set a fire in the striker, whose 27 Goals were second only to Erling Haaland’s 28 Goals. Also in September, Richie Hunter signed the richest deal in club history when he put pen to paper on his new four-year contract that started paying him £180k per week. He got the Minimum Release Clause he had been holding out for, albeit at a much higher figure than first proposed. The £230M Release Clause essentially ensured that Abul Ezz will only be required to let go of the midfielder if he becomes the most expensive transfer deal in football history – an unlikely scenario regardless of how talented the English international might be. The ‘Wonderkid’ has developed into one of the most skilled MCs in the world today as he continues to improve his attacking skills, something that was once a weakness but is no more.

Uneven form and inconsistent results were the name of the game for much of the season, but they team managed to find the right flow and lost only once in their last 10 matches. The defense took a serious step back from 8th to 19th in the Premier League, going from 47 to 67 Goals Conceded. There is no specific reason for the collapse in the defensive effort but rather shortcomings from many sides, something that Abul Ezz said he was going to spend the summer working on. The offense did what it always did – score goals and rank amongst the best in the league. Last season, they had scored 64 Goals and were the 5th best offense in the league – this season, they scored 71 Goals but remained in the same position. Celik was Runner-Up in the Top Goalscorer award while Dougal Yule cemented himself in club folklore after scoring a hat-trick in Sophara’s huge 7-1 FA Cup Finals victory over Southampton. They finished in 9th Place in the Premier League, the same position as last season although they admittedly played better in 2034/35.

The First Generation Era ended in 2033 – whatever is happening today is in the midst of another era all-together. How it will be identified and what will be its redeeming features remains to be seen, but what it has that the First Generation doesn’t is a FA Cup trophy. That victory was delivered in such violent fashion in the form of a 7-1 mauling of Southampton that the footballing world in England could not stop talking about for a while afterwards. It was a very real, very literal validation of everything the club had done and was doing, of its mission and its vision. Abul Ezz’s idea and concept had worked so well that they had won an FA Cup with 15 years of its creation.

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GOALKEEPERS

DARREN ALLEN (England: 1 Cap) – Age: 24 ('28 Youth Class) – Position: GK

Darren Allen has not missed a game in five straight seasons, playing in 38 Games again this year. Unfortunately, this was probably his worst season of his career thus far, with much of that to do with Sophara United’s general disastrous defensive efforts. In was not all bad news for the GK, however – he finally earned his first Cap for England. While expectations remain tempered about whether he can become a regular for the national team, he earned himself a new five-year contract that will pay him £115k per week from the club. Was prominent during the team’s FA Cup run (7.26 AR) as they won their biggest prize yet. Although his 7.01 AR was the lowest of his career – and a noticeable drop from 7.26 AR of last season – the numbers suggest he was still one of the better GKs in the league. He has his manager’s full trust, who recently said one of the things he appreciated most was Darren Allen because he ‘removed the headache of having to manage at least one position. Goalkeeper? Darren. Next.’

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FULLBACKS

PATRICK BOLA (DRC: 33 Caps) – Age: 27 ('25 Youth Class) – Position: DL

Sensing a little heat under his starter-seat, Bola played better this season (6.79 AR) than last (6.73 AR), but it might be too late. The DL position is starting to have some interesting prospects coming through, one of which it is an open secret that Ezz is a fan of. Still, nothing will change in the short-term as long as Bola can get back into the groove of things at Sophara United Stadium. His switch to the DRC has earned him acclaim and stardom back in Kinshasa and Lubumbashi, where he has become a central figure in the national team, reaching the AFCON 2033 Quarter-Finals in 2033 and 2035. Many in the DRC attribute his playing for the rise in the national team’s stature over the past few years, and he is considered the nation’s ‘Key Player’ in the latest reports. For the club, he played in 34 Games, registering 2 Assists, 2.13 T/90, 90% PC, and 6.79 AR. His form was simply not good enough according to his manager, who said he expected the left-back to do better next season. For his part, Bola has acknowledged he has not been up to par and has promised to work his way back to his form from a few years ago.  

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MOHAMMED ADU (England: 23 U21 Caps) – Age: 24 (’27 Youth Class) – Position: DR (DC)

Even though he is eligible for the Ghanaian national team, Adu has continued to refuse to switch his allegiances and follow his teammate Bola’s path by declaring for the West African nation. He did not do his England prospects any favors, however, as his form regressed noticeably from last season with his AR dropping from 6.94 to 6.83 AR. In 33 Games, Bola registered 2.25 T/90, 88% PC, 73 Tackles Won (team-high), 115 Interceptions, along with the 6.83 AR. He is considered to be one of the smartest players in football today, seemingly always making the right decision and rarely making mistakes. He has been a starter for 7 years now, and despite the initial thinking that Chris Bolland would be able to give Adu competition for the starting spot, that has just not transpired and is unlikely to do so in the future. He isn’t the ideal DR nor will he ever be of a world-class level, but Adu remains of the team’s most reliable players.

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HOT PROSPECTS & OTHER NOTABLES

Chris Bolland (’32 Youth Class) turned 19 this season and has yet to show the kind of growth needed as a player to live up to his promise. He played in a career-high 11 Games (5 Starts), registering 1.81 T/90, 91% PC, and 6.68 AR. His rating was downgraded to just 2.5+*/5* PA with 2*/5* CA….Joseph Doumbia (’29 Youth Class) will likely see a reduction in his playing time in the coming few years – he played in 8 Games for the second straight season but with the rise of players such as Robert Brooke, he might see that go down by half. The French DL is only 23 but has been on the scene since the late 2020s, spending a couple of years on loan in the early 2030s.

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CENTRAL DEFENDERS

AKIM LAWRENCE (England: 5 Caps) – Age: 28 (’23 Youth Class) – Position: DC

The Captain embodies Sophara United – the poise, the class, the hard-working attitude – while serving as the bridge that will inevitably connect the First Generation era with whatever has come next. The first player that was of Premier League-level that the SYA produced, Akim Lawrence is also the best defender the acclaimed academy has ever developed. This season, he played in all 38 Games for the second straight year, registering 1.29 T/90, 97% PC, 63.93 PC/90, and 7.15 AR. He was the Premier League leader with 143 Interceptions for the second straight season, also leading the league with 552 Possessions Won and 487 Headers Won for the second straight year. He got to go to the World Cup two years ago and collected a bronze medal at Japan 2034, and although he has yet to be considered an England regular, he is hoping to be called up for the final team for the Euros at Portugal 2036.

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GEORGE ADAMU (Nigeria: 26 Caps/1 Goal) – Age: 20 (’32 Youth Class) – Position: DC

One of the SYA’s greatest success stories, Adamu was recruited from his birth nation of Nigeria by the SYA Ghana team. One of the top prospects from the ’32 Youth Class in what has become the greatest in club history, he became the highest ranked Sophara United player of all-time on the NxGn Top 50 list when he got ranked in 2nd Place in the latest edition. He was named in the PL Team of the Week three times this season, as he played in 35 Games and registered 2 PoMs, 97% PC, and a career-high 7.15 AR. Abul Ezz has suggested on several occasions that Adamu has got what it takes to one day be captain of the club, and the 20-year-old is already a star in Nigeria. He is the highest-valued Nigerian player in the world today by a long shot, and now as he enters his 20s and the 2030s turn into their later years, the judgement on just how good Adamu can get begins.

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HOT PROSPECTS & OTHER NOTABLES

Alfie Williams (’32 Youth Class) might no longer carry a 4+*/5* PA rating, but people tend to forget that he was considered the star of the greatest Intake in club history at that time….Turns out, he hasn’t even been the best player at his position from the ’32 Youth Class, with that distinction going to George Adamu….The 19-year-old is 1.91m tall and very strong in the air, which makes up for his lack of technical ability….The Welsh defender played in 10 Games and registered 96% PC and 7.10 AR….Williams has earned his place in the rotation and continues to improve every season….Tevin Kildare (’32 Youth Class) is the only other notable prospect in the first team….The 20-year-old played in only 3 Games, registering 7.10 AR, as he has become sort of the forgotten man in the ’32 Class talent pool.

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CENTRAL/ATTACKING MIDFIELDERS

SEAN TRAVIS (England: 3 U21 Caps) – Age: 19 (’33 Youth Class) – Position: MC

All the talk about Sean Travis being the ‘next Paul Gascoigne’ has died down and gone away, but controversy still follows the 19-year-old with his every step seemingly. Not all of it is bad – he came in 4th Place in the NxGn Top 50 list this year, so he obviously has his fans. He got called up to the England U21 team, and two of the top three goals in the Premier League this year belonged to the young midfielder. If nothing else, Travis has become somewhat of a star thanks to all the attention before his 20th birthday and has become one while playing decent football. In 34 Appearances, he registered 8 Goals, 5 Assists, 81% PC, and 6.82 AR – not spectacular numbers, but not bad, either. His problem remains consistency – he is capable of great things, as witnessed by his two fantastic goals this season, but there are games where can’t seem to get it right. Until he can deliver that kind of consistency, he will always have his detractors who would have rather seen Joe Sheppard play out his prime years instead of watching Travis replace him.

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RICHIE HUNTER (England: 10 Caps) – Age: 20 (’31 Youth Class) – Position: MC

As of the latest report, Richie Hunter was officially the highest valued English player on the planet at approximately £125M. Now one of the first names on the English national team’s sheet, Hunter is headed to Portugal 2034 to participate in his first ever European Championship with a nation that finished 3rd in the World Cup just two years ago. In 34 Appearances, he registered 2 Goals, 9 Assists, 60.60 PC/90, 40 Key Passes, 83% PC, and 6.86 AR, down slightly from 6.90 AR last season. Like Travis, Hunter has had a problem with consistency – not as pronounced as his comrade at MC but a problem, nonetheless. Still, the ‘Wonderkid’ can take over a game on his day, playing much larger than his 1.67m frame. He is extremely smart and is tireless, part of the reason he was named the PL Young Player of the Month in November. This was already his fourth season as a starter as he equaled his career-high in assists, but the biggest news about his season is that he recommitted to the club to the tune of a five-year, £180k per week contract. He did so early in the season, finally coming around as he spoke of his admiration for his manager.

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HOT PROSPECTS & OTHER NOTABLES

The first name off the bench at the MC position remained 32-year-old club legend Joe Sheppard (17 Apps (2 Starts), 3 Gls, 3 Asts, 7.23 AR), who has breathed fresh life into his career in his new role. The 7.23 AR is his highest in four years, and he now has 145 Goals and 145 Assists in 519 League Appearances over his career. He also has a 7.17 AR career average, having lifted every title the club has ever won. Known as the ‘Brain of the First Generation’…… Nyren Minton-Collis (’29 Youth Class – 9 Apps (3 Starts), 2 Gls, 6.80 AR) saw his playing more drop more than half this season. The 23-year-old has publicly began expressing that he wants to be involved in more games but has drawn no response yet from his manager or the club’s backroom staff. With minutes from neither Travis or Hunter available, it is difficult to see where Minton-Collis will get the playing time he wants from. The problem is that he has not been able to garner enough trust from Abul Ezz for his manager to favor him……Giorgos Sofokleous (’26 Youth Class – 8 Apps (3 Starts), 6.53 AR) has been a cult favorite amongst the hardcore fans of the club, but that might finally be over after a disappointing season from the Cyprus international midfielder. The 26-year-old, who has 50 Caps/5 Goals for Cyprus, has not been able to prove that he belongs amongst the best in the world……Ousman Samba (’28 Youth Class – 4 Apps, 1 Goal, 6.68 AR) has played with 6 different teams on loan during his career before finally making his debut for the club this season. The 24-year-old Gambian international (36 Caps/2 Goals) is the highest valued Gambian player and helped them reach the Second Round of AFCON 2035. He was then named the new captain of the nation, and is perhaps best-known for his passing ability.

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WINGERS

TED BAAH (England: 14 U21 Caps/4 U21 Goals) – Age: 20 (’32 Youth Class) – Position: RW

Only two players are worth over £100M on the team – the first is Richie Hunter, and the second at just around £100M is Ted Baah. Part of the much-vaunted ’32 Youth Class, the right winger has officially made the starting position his own, sidelining Aaron Woodward to the bench as the better option as a permanent Jakub Berkovec replacement. In 36 Games, he registered 4 Goals, 8 Assists, 1.30 T/90, 81% PC, 80 Key Passes (9th in PL), 3.23 CCC (3rd), 3.21 D/90 (9th), 96 Dribbles Made (3rd), and 6.89 AR, down from 6.97 AR last season. He has gotten better over the past couple of seasons – his body has filled out and he has become a lot quicker. He looks like he has the makings of a future England winger, but the ‘Wonderkid’ is still young. The English/Jamaican – who was born in London – is described as ‘driven’ and a ‘highly technical player’ by the Sophara backroom staff.

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AHMED RAZAK (England: 17 U21 Caps/11 U21 Goals) – Age: 24 (’27 Youth Class) – Position: LW

After completing his 9th season with the club (7 as a starter), Ahmed Razak signed a new contract at the end of the season that will pay him £60k per week for the next five years. In 30 Games, he registered 3 Goals, 14 Assists (1st in PL), 3.15 D/90 (10th), 31 CCC (1st), and 7.00 AR, up from 6.94 AR last season. Despite having to deal with minor and moderate injuries all season, he still was able to lead the Premier League in Assists and Clear-Cut Chances – this was actually the second time in three years he led the league in Assists, as he equaled his career-high set three seasons ago. This is the fourth season in a row he gets 10 or more Assists in a season, and he is up to 73 for his career thus in 262 League Games. He is driven in his goals, he does his job well and without too much fuss and throws in a fancy move or two every game for extra measure. He has become a hugely important member of the team.  

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HOT PROSPECTS & OTHER NOTABLES

Aaron Woodward (’29 Youth Class – 23 Apps (4 Starts), 1 Asts, 2.74 D/90, 6.68 AR) last three seasons as starter at ring wing (2031-34) before Baah replaced him. There was a point in the early 2030s where it looked like Woodward could become something special, but he just never developed past being a serviceable option in the rotation despite his speed and quickness. The 22-year-old is small (1.70m) but fast and has good technique with the ball……Stan Drummond (15 Apps (4 Starts), 2 Asts, 6.67 AR) looked all set to leave the club this summer, the latest in a list of First Generation legends who were looking for somewhere else to close out their careers. But then the 32-year-old shocked members of the team by surprisingly agreeing to the last terms offered months before that, finalizing a deal that will likely keep Drummond at the club for the rest of his career.  

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FORWARDS

BEKIR CELIK (Turkey: 51 Caps/23 Goals) – Age: 26 (’25 Youth Class) – Position: SC

All hell broke loose and the Turkish media had a field day in early September when Bekir Celik was dropped from the national team. Although he was reinstated a few months later, the results were clear – it had motivated the striker to be better. In 33 Games, he registered 27 Goals (2nd in PL), 6 Assists, 6 PoMs, 43 Key Passes, 58% ST (5th), and 7.26 AR, up from 16 Goals and 7.06 AR last season. He was second only to Erling Haaland in the Premier League, and the 27 Goals represented the second-highest mark of his career, with the 29 Goals during the 2027/28 season being his career-high. Celik might have peaked early – he is the only player in Premier League history to win the PL Young Player of the Year award 3 times – but he is still amongst the most dangerous strikers in the league on his day. He has one more year before his contract expires but it is widely assumed he is going to finalize the issue with the club after the Euros at Portugal 2036.

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DOUGAL YULE (Scotland: 3 Caps/1 Goal) – Age: 17 (’34 Youth Class) – Position: SC

After what was an agonizingly bad start to the season from Dougal Yule – one that quickly brought out all the naysayers and doubters – the young Scottish sensation turned it around and ended the season with 14 Goals and a hat-trick in the club’s sensational 7-1 FA Cup Finals win over Southampton. He also earned his first Cap for Scotland and will be heading to the Euros at Portugal 2036 not only the youngest player on the Scottish team, but amongst the youngest players to have ever competed at the tournament. As for his second year with Sophara, he played in 36 Games, registering 14 Goals, 3 Assists, 1.00 D/90, 50% ST, and 6.79 AR, which was actually a little drop from the 6.82 AR during his rookie season. The young star has had to overcome the immense pressure of shockingly replacing the club’s greatest player of all-time as a 16 year old unproven rookie and he has responded to it surprisingly well. Born in the small town of Burghead, northeast of Iverness, on the shores of the North Sea, Yule is on the version of becoming a global sensation if he continues to develop at his current pace.

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HOT PROSPECTS & OTHER NOTABLES

Stacy Whiteside (’32 Youth Class – 25 Apps (9 Starts), 4 Gls, 4 Asts, 3 PoMs, 7.04 AR) has been compared and even labeled the ‘next Alan Shearer’ thanks to his height (1.95m) and ability in the air….He did very well this season and might also have found some playing time at left wing thanks to his ability to do well down that flank….He has gotten surprisingly quick over the past two years and now is usually one of the quicker players on the pitch….Outside of veterans such as Joe Reardon and Andy Holland, no other player or prospect has had the chance to break into the rotation at the forward position.

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END OF SEASON REVIEW

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THE SOPHARA JOURNAL

 

MAJOR LEAGUES REVIEW 2035/36

 

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Winner: REAL SOCIEDAD

The last two years have been full of surprises – Ukraine taking the World Cup at Japan 2034, Barcelona reclaiming the La Liga title from Real Madrid after 12 years in 2035, and now Real Sociedad lifting the Champions League trophy for the first time in 2036….No star, no top tier goalscorer, no fancy midfielder, just a solid team coached by Argentinian manager in Esteban Cambiasso, a former bulldog-type hybrid defender/midfielder was a workhorse during his playing days….They defeated equally surprising Finalists Borussia Dortmund in Berlin – this was the first time the former had made the CL Finals and the 3rd time the latter had made it, winning it all in 1997….Former defending champions Bayern Munich fell in the Quarter-Finals to Real Madrid, who then lost to Dortmund in the next round….Juventus were the beaten Semi-Finalists in the other tie, with Real Sociedad having taken care of Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain both on penalties in the two previous rounds.

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ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE

Winner: MANCHESTER CITY

After 6 years, Manchester City finally reclaimed the EPL trophy, winning the title for the 15th time in their history….This was Erling Haaland’s (38 Apps, 28 Gls, 6 Asts, 9 PoMs, 7.52 AR) 7th PL title and record-breaking 10th PL Footballer of the Year award….At this point, there is little doubt that he is the greatest Premier League player of all-time, having already been its record goalscorer and several other things….The deposed champions Manchester United (2nd) might be waving goodbye to an era that brought with it 4 PL and 2 CL titles….Chelsea (3rd) and Newcastle (4th) grabbed the last two Champions League spots, with Sophara United (9th) headed to the Europa League for the first time in its history thanks to winning the FA Cup, also for the first time in the club’s short history.

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SPANISH LA LIGA

Winner: REAL MADRID

After a short break from winning, Real Madrid and Kylian Mbappe (36 Apps, 20 Gls, 10 Asts, 4 PoMs, 7.58 AR) recaptured the Spanish La Liga title from Barcelona….It was the 37-year-old club and France legend Mbappe’s 11th La Liga title in the 14 years he had spent in Spain….Mbappe has now won the Real Madrid Player of the Year award 13 times – the only year he has not won while with the club was 2030, when Declan Rice beat him for it after delivering 17 Assists….This was Real Madrid’s 46th La Liga title, a new record….Real Sociedad (3rd) might have won the Champions League but they dropped one spot from last year as the top two welcomed Villareal (2nd)….This was Villareal’s highest finish since they finished in 2nd Place in 2008….The former champions Barcelona (4th) grabbed the last Champions League spot….After Mauricio Pochettino was sacked last summer after they failed to win the title, the Real Madrid manager job was given to former AC Milan, Roma, and Portugal manager Paolo Fonseca, who brought the title back to Madrid but lose out on the Manager of the Year award to Villareal’s own first-year manager Edu Exposito.

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GERMAN BUNDESLIGA

Winner: BAYERN MUNICH

It is Patrick Weissmann’s (34 Apps, 13 Gls, 18 Asts, 7 PoMs, 7.88 AR) world and we are all just living in it….The 26-year-old ‘Elite Midfielder’ won his 5th Bundesliga Player of the Year award, equaling the record held by former Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski, who won his throughout the 2010s and early 2020s….It is now an incredible 24 titles in a row for Bayern Munich. The questions at play now are when and how will it end? Their dominance has been truly unprecedented….Leipzig (2nd) finished as Runners-Up again after advancing to the Champions League Quarter-Finals for only the second time in their history….They ended up losing to Borussia Dortmund (3rd), who advanced to the Finals before losing to Real Sociedad….This was the second straight season Dortmund finish in 3rd Place….Wolfsburg (4th) again grabbed the last Champions League spot, but they have not done very much with their opportunities in the competition.

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ITALIAN SERIE A

Winner: JUVENTUS

The resurgence of Pedri (38 Apps, 8 Gls, 10 Asts, 14 PoMs, 7.64 AR) continued this year – his third with Juventus – as the club won their 4th Serie A title in a row and the 33-year-old Spanish midfielder won the Serie A Best Player of the Season award for the first time….In Pedri’s three years that he has spent in Italy, he has won 3 Serie A titles, a Champions League title, and the most prestigious individual award available in Italy….AC Milan (2nd) had their highest finish in 5 years, with Roma (3rd) and Inter Milan (4th) grabbing the last two Champions League spots.

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FRENCH LIGUE 1

Winner: PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN

Number 15 for Paris Saint-Germain, who remain just as unstoppable as ever….The worry for the club and its faithful is who will replace the 33-year-old club and Spain legend Ansu Fati (32 Apps, 13 Gls, 6 Asts, 4 PoMs, 7.56 AR) when it becomes his time to move on….The club has not been able to draw in the type of superstar talent the other big European clubs have lately, although they do remain an incredibly talented team….Rennes (2nd), who are tycoon-owned, finished Runners-Up again, while Lyon (3rd) got the last Champions League spot ahead of Marseille (4th), whose 4th Place finish is their highest since they finished in 2nd Place during the 2019/20 season 16 years ago. 

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THE SOPHARA JOURNAL - Summer 2036 Edition

 

EURO 2036 – Germany Wins Second Straight Title, Defeat Hosts Portugal in Finals

Portugal were hosting the European Championship for second time – the first was in 2004 where they lost to Greece in the Finals – and for the second time, Portugal were on the losing side in front of their home ground in Lisbon in the Finals of the tournament….To be fair, Germany looked untouchable – the result was 2-0 but the difference in the quality of football suggested a result far greater than that….The Germans were led by three players, with Valentin Elm (5 Apps, 3 Gls, 3 Asts, 2 PoMs, 8.06 AR) winning the tournament’s 2036 Best Player award….The other two players that have now led Germany to back-to-back Euro titles are World Golden Ball and Goal 50 winner Patrick Weissmann (7 Apps, 3 Gls, 3 Asts, 7.46 AR) and Manchester United’s £80M striker Sascha Parson (4 Apps, 3 Gls, 7.50 AR)….World Champions Ukraine defeated Italy again in a repeat of the Japan 2034 Finals in the Second Round but fell to the eventual champions in the Semi-Finals as many around the world observed to see if the Ukrainian win at Japan 2034 was a fluke or not….Portugal defeated Spain at the World Cup 2026 Finals in New York City and they did it again this tournament, knocking their Iberian rivals out in the Semi-Finals before falling against the Germans at the last hurdle….Turkey and Sophara United striker Bekir Celik (3 Apps, 4 Gls, 7.80 AR) won the tournament’s Golden Boot award and was exceptional but could not get his nation out of the Group Stages….The Best Young Player award went to 21-year-old Spanish GK Quique Mora (6 Apps, 4 GC, 3 CS, 7.53 AR) – Leipzig acquired the star GK from Anderlecht for £27M a few months ago but he is a product of the Girona youth system, and he already has 22 Caps to his name….This was Germany’s 5th title, setting a new record for nation with the most titles – they were previously tied with France.  

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COPA AMERICA 2036 – Brazil Wins 11th Title, First in 12 Years

Led by the latest star in football, 26-year-old Roma GK Emilton Guevedi (7 Apps, 1 GC, 6 CS, 7.71 AR), Brazil won its 11th Copa America title, its first time in 12 years….Guevedi won the Copa America Best Player award as the accolades continue to pile up – in the past two years, he has won the World GK of the Year and World Golden Glove awards, the 2035 EPL Golden Glove award, and the 2035 CL GK of the Season award….Brazil defeated the former defending champions Argentina in the Finals in Montevideo, Uruguay, with Colombia taking 3rd Place….The Colombians lost Brazil in a big 4-1 result, but turned it around against Peru, who lost to Argentina 1-0 after becoming surprise Semi-Finalists….Peru upset Mexico on penalties in the previous round….Neither Brazil nor Argentina are considered to have a good team historically compared to their previous national team generations….Argentina or Brazil have won 5 of the last 6 Copa America titles.

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THE SOPHARA JOURNAL - Nov. 2036 Edition

GOAL 50 2036

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WINNER

PATRICK WEISSMANN (Germany: 109 Caps/26 Goals) – Bayern Munich, 27 years old, Midfielder (Previous: Winner)

Is it too early to start talking about Weissmann’s place amongst the all-time greats of the game’s history? Portugal 2036 saw Germany take their second straight European Championship title, with Patrick Weissmann playing a crucial role once again, scoring 3 Goals and registering 7.46 AR. Just prior to the Euros, the reigning World Golden Ball – and favorite to repeat - winner broke Bayern Munich’s record by registering 7.87 AR in the Bundesliga and tied Robert Lewandowski’s record with his 5th Bundesliga Player of the Year. The freshly appointed Germany captain – he was given the honor just after Portugal 2036 – is widely considered the best player in the world today, and all eyes will be on him at South Africa 2038 World Cup in a couple of years.

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2ND PLACE

ANDRES RAVIZZOLI (Argentina: 90 Caps/40 Goals) – Bayern Munich, 28 years old, Forward (Previous: 5th)

The journey of redemption continues for the Argentinian forward, who is in the midst of his 4th season with the Bundesliga champions. After being branded a bust at Manchester City and sold in 2034 for £166M, Ravizzoli has turned the narrative of his career around and how now delivered three straight 20+ Goals for Bayern Munich, winning the Bundesliga 3 times and the Champions League once in the past three years. He led Argentina to their second straight Copa America Finals but could not defend their crown, losing to Brazil in Montevideo, Uruguay. At Japan 2034, the only World Cup he has participated in so far, he scored 5 Goals as Argentina advanced to the Quarter-Finals before losing to eventual champions Ukraine. The two-time Bundesliga Top Goalscorer winner came in second last year but made his third straight Bundesliga Team of the Year as he has proven himself more than good enough to take the torch from club legend Dusan Vlahovic. The media has now dubbed him a ‘Legendary Striker’, he is a star for his home country, and his estimated value is figured to be north of £300M – it is the highest in the world, so high that it has no firm approximation.

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3RD PLACE

PEDRI, 33 (Spain: 181 Caps/44 Goals) – Juventus, 33-years-old, Midfielder (Previous: 3rd)

The plan was to build around Pedri and Ansu Fati in Barcelona and dominate the 2020s and 2030s, and it all looked it would come together after those two led Spain to the World Cup title at Qatar 2022. Of course, Fati left to Paris Saint-Germain and Pedri spent the 2020s chasing after Real Madrid, most of the time unsuccessfully. He moved to Bayern Munich in 2030 for £149M but spent three relatively unhappy years in Germany before moving to Italy in 2033 for £70M. Since then, he has re-found the spark that made him second only to Mbappe in Spain during the 2020s, and he finally won the Champions League in 2034 with Juventus. He is 5 Goals away from joining the 150+Goals/150+Assists/100+PoMs club, having played in 582 League Games over the course of his career.

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OTHER NOTABLES

Making his debut on the list is Edmundo Coelho (47th), who made the move to Newcastle United for £70M from Feyenoord this past summer. The 23-year-old ‘Elite Midfielder’ won the Dutch Eredivisie title before moving to England, also taking the Runners-Up medal as part of the Portuguese team that made the Euro 2036 Finals before losing to Germany on home soil……24-year-old Manchester United DC Florian Schwarz (46th) was brought to England from Roma for £94M this summer. The Austrian ‘Elite Defender’ becomes the most expensive Austrian player of all-time – Roma initially bought him for £11M in 2031 from his boyhood club of Austria Vienna……An integral, and most valuable, part of the 2036 Ukraine team that won the World Cup at Japan 2034, 30-year-old Petro Shapoval (42nd) scored a career-high 16 Goals in his 9th season with Roma last year. He then went to the Semi-Finals of the Euros at Portugal 2036 with Ukraine before losing to eventual champions Germany……Still the only SYA player to make it on the Goal 50 list, Jakub Berkovec (40th) is currently in the middle of his 6th season with Chelsea. The former Sophara United ‘Elite Winger’ has won the FA Cup, Carabao Cup, and the Europa League twice since joining the club in 2031 for £94M. The 27-year-old is a superstar in his home country of the Czech Republic, although he is generally associated as one of the leaders of a disappointing and underachieving generation for Czech football.

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Ollie Cresswell (37th) has been one of England’s top players throughout the 2030s, let alone becoming a legend at his club Chelsea. The 30-year-old winger was appointed the new England captain by the new England manager Bo Henriksen, who replaced Toni Ordinas after just under two years at the helm……One of the stars of Ukraine’s World Cup-winning squad at Japan 2034 and now a European Championship Semi-Finalists after Portugal 2036, 25-year-old Chelsea midfielder Maxym Stolboyvi (31st) has grown into becoming one of the world’s premier players at his position. The ‘Elite Midfielder’ is a passing artist and is now in his second season for the London club after moving for £117M from Real Madrid in 2035……The newly appointed Manchester United vice-captain Bobi Ristovski (26th) has been in the spotlight since his passing ability put him on the NxGn Top 50 lists in the mid-2020s. While he was known for underachieving early in his career, he has since been a crucial member of the Man United squad that won 4 Premier League and 2 Champions League titles in the 2030s, including scoring 21 Goals during the 2034/35 season……Most of the credit goes to the frontline duo of Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford or the German comrades of Florian Wirtz and Lars Schefcyzk for Manchester United’s early and mid-2030s dominance, but Jude Bellingham (22nd) is just as important as any of them. The England legend moved to Man United from Borussia Dortmund for £118M in 2029, and then the trophies started rolling in. The 33-year-old has 136 Goals and 108 Assists in 564 League Appearances for his career, which started in Birmingham.

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The newly crowned Portugal 2036 Best Player winner, 30-year-old Tottenham winger Valentin Elm (18th) scored a career-high 23 Goals in 2034/35 as he came second to Erling Haaland in the PL Top Goalscorer award. He was also awarded the Portugal 2036 Goal of the Tournament for his scorcher against Holland, a fitting trophy for the ‘Elite Attacker’ as he has become one of the world’s greatest international football stars……The form is starting to finally live up to the hype as Jean-Louis Mathieu (16th) scored over 20 Goals (22) for the first time in his career. The 28-year-old France and Chelsea – who bought him from Saint-Etienne for £67M in 2032 – ‘Elite Striker’ has become a star player for his country and also just won the Europa League this past season……The highest ranked Ukrainian on the list is 25-year-old Tottenham DC Volodymyr Shevchenko (14th) – the World Cup winner moved to England for £105M from Bayer Leverkusen in January of this year, just over two years after moving to Germany from his boyhood club of Benfica (POR) for £40.5M. The Ukrainian ‘Elite Defender’ has become Tottenham’s record signing and Bayer’s record transfer sale……Gerd Goller (10th) has become one of Germany’s most important players, with the 27-year-old ‘Elite Forward’ one of the most technically skilled players in the world today. The Paris Saint-Germain attacker has scored 13 Goals in each of the past two seasons, his first with PSG since moving from Hoffenheim for £81M in 2034……Erling Haaland (4th) is 36-year-old and still might be the greatest forward in the world today. He remains the top player in the Premier League and he remains breaking club and league records. He is a ‘Legendary Striker’ in every meaning of the word, and there can be no argument he is the greatest player to ever step foot on an English Premier League pitch.

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The Sophara United Journal would also like to take this opportunity thank one of the greatest footballers in the history of the game, Kylian Mbappe. The France and Real Madrid legend called it a career while still at the top of his game, a ‘Diamond Quartet’ winner having lifted the Spanish La Liga, Champions League, European Championship, and World Cup trophies. His rivalry with Erling Haaland in the 2020s was a continuation of the intensity featured in the 2010s rivalry of Lionel Messi vs. Cristiano Ronaldo – while the Norwegian ended up being named ‘Player of the 2020s’, Mbappe’s years at the very top of the game have been longer and he is generally considered the more skilled footballer of the two. According to Abul Ezz, Sophara United’s manager, Mbappe belongs in the conversation of the greatest of all-time, alongside Pele, Maradona, Zidane, Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Haaland.

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THE SOPHARA JOURNAL - March 2037 Edition

2037 YOUTH CLASS INTRODUCED

The SYA might have to wait a little bit longer to claim its latest superstar prospect as the incoming '37 Youth Class - 3.5/5 as compared to last year's 4/5 ranking - looks void of any big-time potential. The hottest prospect looks to be right winger Nicholas Ansell, but will he have enough talent to challenge a very skilled Ted Baah for playing time? Three of the four prospects considered 'Top Talents' are right wingers, with a second being Daren Porter, who might be better off as a striker if he can develop his shooting skills. All in all, the Sophara Journal is confirming that the '37 Youth Class initially feels like a disappointment.

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THE SOPHARA JOURNAL - April 2037 Edition

Dougal Yule Tops NxGn Top 50 

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WINNER

DOUGAL YULE, (Scotland: 9 Caps/5 Goals), Forward – Sophara United, 18 years old (Previous: 10th)

The English Premier League’s current leading goalscorer with 24 Goals, there is no longer any doubt about whether Dougal Yule is a star….The Scottish international is also the current World U21 Footballer of the Year and European Golden Boy winner….He has won the PL Young Player of the Month an amazing 6 times out of a total of 8 this past season….There is also no question that he is the biggest star in the game under the age of 20 today, with an official value of over £100M….His manager Abul Ezz took a lot of heat for suddenly dropping the club’s greatest player of all-time and leading goalscorer Joe Reardon when Yule first came up through the SYA, claiming he needed to give the Scottish striker as much experience as possible to aid his development because “he is going to be special”….Since then, Yule has become a fan favorite, and has spent a lot of time on the highlight reels this season with fancy passes and outrageous goals….Has been most compared to a young Michael Owen – he isn’t the biggest guy on the field, but he is exceptionally quick and capable of pulling off amazing moves and shots.

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2ND PLACE

MARK AITCHISON, (Scotland: 15 Caps), Defender – Hiberian, 18 years old (Previous: Winner)

Last year, Mark Aitchison became one of the two DCs who topped the NxGn Top 50 list’s top two places for the first time ever – this year, Aitchison and Yule make it the first time two Scottish players take the top two positions on the list….The ‘Wonderkid’ was last year’s NxGn winner, and if it wasn’t for Yule’s fantastic year, he would have won it again this year….Simply the most talented defender under the age of 20 on the planet today….Has been a star for his club in the Scottish Premiership this season, having broken the European Championship record for youngest player ever to appear in a match….It’s tough to imagine the defender staying in Scotland for too much longer – he will be of interest to the majority of Europe’s top clubs soon, if he isn’t already.

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3RD PLACE

JOHN ADEPOJU (England: 4 Caps), Defender – Manchester United,19 years old (Previous: 11th)

This time last year, Adepoju came 11th Place on the list and was an Arsenal player who was on loan at Blackburn….Since then, he guided Blackburn to the Premier League via the Playoffs, registering 7.16 AR in 40 Games, won the 2036 Championship Young Player of the Year, was bought by Manchester United for £54M in the summer, and finally won his first Cap for England at the age of 19 this past September….He has been good this season for his new club – in 19 Games, he has registered 2 Goals, 98% PC, and 7.11 AR….The ‘Wonderkid’ has been called by his manager Thomas Frank – who has been at the helm of Man United since 2026 – as one of the most respectful and easiest players he has ever coached….Has been called a ‘Model Citizen’ by the club’s coaching staff….He was part of the England U19 team that won the Euro U19 Championship in 2034.

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THE SOPHARA JOURNAL

SEASON REVIEW 2037/2038

TEAM REVIEW

The hottest player under the age of 20 plays in London for Sophara United – and he’s Scottish. In the last few years, the SYA has produced the likes of Akim Lawrence, Jakub Berkovec, Bekir Celik, Richie Hunter, and George Adamu, but all of them might be eclipsed by the developing footballing genius that is Dougal Yule. Bekir Celik and Richie Hunter might be the biggest names on the team, but this was most definitely the 18-year-old Yule’s year. He won the World U21 Player of the Year and the 2037 NxGn awards before capturing the English Premier League Top Goalscorer award with 28 Goals – the first Sophara United player to ever win it. His exceptional season led to Sophara United’s highest ever finish of 6th Place, qualifying to Europe through placement for the first time. We are in the initial stages of the second generation of Sophara United football, and although not much is known about it yet – identity, characteristics, ceiling/floor, etc. – what is becoming clear is that Yule is emerging as perhaps its best player.

Speaking of Europe, the club’s first adventure on the continent was, by all means, a quantified success. They reached the Semi-Finals of the competition, falling at the last hurdle of their Italian challenge – in the previous two rounds, they had defeated AC Milan and Juventus, respectively. The Second Round matchup against AC Milan was an especially outstanding affair – they lost 5-1 away from home in the second leg but even that could not overcome the 6-1 win the club recorded in their very first European knockout round game thanks to a couple of braces from young stars Dougal Yule and Stacy Whiteside. Against Juventus, a 3-1 loss in Turin was overturned by a 3-0 victory in London – it was only Inter Milan that managed to get anything out of their match in London, drawing 2-2 after beating the Lions 2-1 in Milan. Yule scored 10 Goals in 12 Games to come in 3rd Place in the Europa League Golden Boot award, a competition which Inter Milan ended up winning after beating Tottenham 2-0 in Sevilla, Spain.

A fantastic first showing in Europe was thanks to their FA Cup win last year, but next season the club’s presence in Europe will be because of their best-ever 6th Place finish in their 11th season in the Premier League. Their 20 Wins was also a club-best, and it came thanks to a much-improved defense and the outstanding attacking play of Yule and Celik. Although the 70 Goals scored were one less than last season, they moved up one spot and now rank as the 4th best offense in the Premier League. The big improvement came in their defense – they went from being second worst and 67 Goals Conceded to 11th best and 50 Goals Conceded. The team finished 11 Points from 4th Place, the closest they have come to the Champions League yet, the competition that manager Abul Ezz has openly admitted is the ‘Holy Grail’ of club football. They had a best ever season in the Premier League but they were not able to defend their FA Cup title, losing to Chelsea in the Quarter-Finals. The club was also a Fourth Round disaster in the Carabao Cup, losing at the hands of Bournemouth.

Sophara United is in its best state since its creation in 2021 in any way you look at it. They are coming a season where they have achieved the owner/manager’s objective for the decade – qualify to Europe. They technically achieved it last year, but that was through winning the club’s first ever major trophy in the FA Cup and not through the league. This season, however, there was no question about the mission being accomplished – the 6th Place finish is good enough to send the club back to the Europa League for another crack. Their first try in the competition was a success – can they build on it? With over £450M in the bank, will they look to expand and develop more branches for the SYA, with the latest being in Uruguay, in order to get a better foothold at international prospects? Can they push for Champions League qualification before the 2030s are over?

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GOALKEEPERS

DARREN ALLEN (England: 1 Cap) – Age: 25 ('28 Youth Class) – Position: GK

He might not have the same buzz around him as in the early 2030s when he was the Premier League’s youngest starter at GK – still a teenager, Darren Allen made his debut in 2028 and become the club’s starter in 2029. The drama that ensued between him and Elvis Kozic – the fight that brought about the fall of the First Generation, according to the club’s fans – after he was named starter lasted over two years, ending only when Kozic was finally sold to Brighton for c was finally sold to Brighton for £2.4M in 2032. Since then, Allen has won the PL Young Player of the Year (2033), the Sophara United Player of the Year (2035), and his first England Cap (2035). Now considered a veteran despite his young age, Allen has become a familiar face around the league – he no longer is the hotshot young prospect but the mature, steady, and reliable hand that gets the job done properly, even if it is unspectacular.

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FULLBACKS

PATRICK BOLA (DRC: 41 Caps) – Age: 27 ('25 Youth Class) – Position: DL

Like 2035 in Nigeria, Bola and the D.R.C. got knocked out of AFCON 2037 in Algeria in the Second Round, but the left-back managed to eclipse 40 Caps for his nation. He is star back in Kinshasa and is one is the most recognizable Congolese strikers, only recently becomes the second most valuable player from D.R.C. after the emergence of Saint-Etienne’s winger Francis Ilunga. He did better this year in terms of form than the previous two but remains at a level that below what is expected. Bola spent the late 2020s and early 2030s teasing with his potential, but he never hit the ceiling some thought he might and now is considered a mediocre Premier League full-back. He is the best DL in club history, however, finishing just ahead of the first ever club captain Drew Dowell in the ranking. The AFCON tournament held Bola to only 27 Games this year, as he registered 2.83 T/90, 90% PC, 61.53 PC/90, 71 Tackles Won, and 6.81 AR. He is one of those players that has played a role in both the First Generation era and the current one, carving a long career at the game’s top level.

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MOHAMMED ADU (England: 23 U21 Caps) – Age: 25 (’27 Youth Class) – Position: DR (DC)

This was the best season of Mohammed Adu’s career – in 35 Games, he registered 1 Goal, 2 Assists, 1 PoM, 2.01 T/90, 90% PC, 65 Tackles Won, 138 Interceptions, and 6.99 AR. His 138 Interceptions were the best in the Premier League, making it the first time Adu top the PL in a statistic.This was his 8th season as the starter at DR for the club, and it was only this season that he scored the first goal of his career. Many still rank Ger Lennon and even James Burgess ahead of him in the race for the best DR in club history, but if he keeps playing at this pace with this form, he should overtake at least one of them by the end of the decade. Like Ahmed Razak, he has remained committed to England despite having Ghanaian eligibility and the high probability of becoming a main member for the Ghana national team. A consistent performer in an improving defense.

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HOT PROSPECTS & OTHER NOTABLES

Finishing his 16th and likely final season with the club, Ger Lennon (8 Apps (1 Start), 6.47 AR), 32, will see off the rest of his career elsewhere. After 390 League Games, spanning two decades, it is safe to say that Lennon has placed himself in the club’s history. He was the team’s starting DR throughout the 2020s, giving up the spot but maintaining his presence in the rotation as the 2030s began……Perhaps for the first time in its history, the club now has an official back-up behind both full-back positions. Joseph Doumbia (24 years old, ’29 Youth Class – 17 Apps (9 Starts), 2.21 T/90, 92% PC, 6.93 AR) is the DL back-up and had the best season of his career thus far. The French defender registered a career-high 6.93 AR backing up Bola, stepping up and delivering during AFCON 2037 when Bola was with his nation of DRC at the competition..….Chris Bolland (20 years old, ’32 Youth Class – 9 Apps (4 Starts), 1.05 T/90, 93% PC, 6.68 AR) is part of the famed ’32 Youth Class, but has not developed the way some of his other class comrades have. There was hope during his teenage years that he could be something special, but those were quickly dashed after a couple of seasons. Still, he has been a serviceable member of the rotation and even has played in 4 U21 Caps for England.

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CENTRAL DEFENDERS

AKIM LAWRENCE (England: 6 Caps) – Age: 29 (’23 Youth Class) – Position: DC

When his career is all said and done, Akim Lawrence will go down as one of the finest DCs in the Premier League in the 2020s and 2030s. The first top tier-level player the SYA ever turned out, he is also the finest defender in the history of the club and perhaps top five of all-time when it comes to greatest players of Sophara United. In 36 Games, he registered a career-high 3 Goals, 37 Shots Blocked (Best in PL), 387 Clearances (5th in PL), 119 Interceptions (4th), 470 Possessions Won (3rd), 40 Key Headers (11th), 9 Key Tackles (8th), 1.22 T/90, and 7.23 AR, which equaled his career high. The club captain is now also its record holder for all-time League Appearances with 522 Games, in which he has registered 7.12 AR. He never did become an England regular but Lawrence has become one of the most respected players in the nation thanks to his football IQ and professionalism.  

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GEORGE ADAMU (Nigeria: 37 Caps/1 Goal) – Age: 21 (’32 Youth Class) – Position: DC

One of the four players worth over £100M on the squad, George Adamu has become one of the SYA’s success stories. He claimed 2nd Place in the 2036 NxGn Top 50 list just over a year ago and has generally been considered one of the best young DCs on the planet. His AFCON adventures with Nigeria have not gone well – they got knocked out in the Second Round this year at Algeria 2037, unable to help return his nation to its glory days of the 2020s. His Sophara United career, however, has gone fantastic – in 27 Games this season, he registered 79.34 PC/90 (Best on team), 97% PC, 103 Interceptions, and 7.11 AR, down slightly from 7.15 AR last season. He is a star player for his nation and has been for a couple of years now as he has become the highest valued Nigerian footballer in the world today, but he has also become a star player for the club. His defensive skills are approaching an elite level, he is a tough and a brave player, and he has one of the highest football IQs around. His manager has tipped him to be in the running as a future captain of the club – at 21, he already has four years of starting in the Premier League under his belt.

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HOT PROSPECTS & OTHER NOTABLES

Alfie Williams (20 years old, ’32 Youth Class – 23 Apps (14 Starts), 1.57 T/90, 94% PC, 7.10 AR) continues to prove himself more than capable of being part of a successful rotation in the Premier League, playing in a career-high 23 Games this year. He has never averaged below 7.10 AR in a season and is now a full-fledged Wales international, having won 2 Caps with his nation thus far. The 1.91m defender is a strong the air and is known to be tough and brave, first coming into the first team as part of the fabled ’32 Youth Class……Behind Williams were no other potential prospects, only club legend Tom Horgan (32 years old – 6 Apps (3 Starts), 6.96 AR). The veteran, whose contract expires next summer, was last a starter in 2033 but the ‘Heart of the First Generation’ has stuck around and played his role a leader for the younger players coming in over the past few years. He has stated his want for more playing time as he enters the last few years of his career, so next season could be his last with the club.

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CENTRAL/ATTACKING MIDFIELDERS

SEAN TRAVIS (England: 7 U21 Caps) – Age: 20 (’33 Youth Class) – Position: MC

The last couple of years have killed the ‘next Paul Gascaoigne’ talk and has even got Sean Travis labeled the ‘wrong’ to Dougal Yule’s ‘right’ in the Abul Ezz ‘Shake-Up’ experiment. Clearly, the ‘Resolute’ midfielder – who has a fantastic attitude and maturity level – is not the nation’s next big answer in the middle of the pitch, nor is he likely to be his club’s most talented or best player at any point. Abul Ezz should have stuck with Joe Sheppard at MC and kept Travis on the bench – the thought of Sheppard connecting with Yule this season had many fans feeling nostalgic and asking what if. The England U21 international did not actually have a bad year – in fact, it was probably the best of his career. In 31 Games, he registered 5 Goals, 2 Assists, and a career-high 6.97 AR, up from 6.82 AR – in all respects, he was a decent Premier League CM this season. If he was 16 and displaying this level of skills, it would be fantastic – the problem is, the difference between 16-year-old Sean Travis and the 20-year-old one is not that much skill-wise. Unless there is something that clicks and he develops an insane amount in the next couple of years, it does not look like Sean Travis will be the player Abul Ezz hoped he will be.

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RICHIE HUNTER (England: 21 Caps/1 Goal) – Age: 21 (’31 Youth Class) – Position: MC

The most valuable player on the team and the second most valuable English player today, Richie Hunter remains both Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain’s main target this summer. His form has not been up to standard – in 34 Games, he registered 1 Goal, 3 Assists, 83% PC, 39 Key Passes, and 6.86 AR, the same as last season. There is no denying that he is the most talented player on the team skill-wise, and not that far off from being a world-class midfielder. His size (1.67m height) will always be a disadvantage but one of the most frequent things said about him is that he plays much bigger than his size. He is resolute and extremely smart, rarely not making the best call – not just a right one – on the pitch. He is only 21 years old but is already approaching 200 League Games played for the club as he gets himself comfortable with being one of England’s most important players.

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HOT PROSPECTS & OTHER NOTABLES

The sale of several MCs over the past couple of years left plenty of playing time open and Teriq Saimovici (19 years old, ’34 Youth Class – 14 Apps (8 Starts), 1 Assist, 86% PC, 6.80 AR) took advantage, making his debut for the club after spending the last two years out on loan. The English/Barbadian midfielder is defensive-minded but with good ball technique, adding a twist to the otherwise conventional anchorman-ish roles, similar to N’Golo Kante in the 2010s……One of Gambia’s biggest stars, the 24-year-old Ousman Samba (25 years old, ’28 Youth Class – 17 Apps (4 Starts), 3 Assists, 83% PC, 6.68 AR) was an unlikely survivor of the culling that happened at the MC position over the past couple of years with the departures of Nyren Minton-Collis, Joe Sheppard, Ronnie Flood, and Tommy Sullivan. Abul Ezz kept hold of the physical midfielder as he believed him best suited for the rotational role required and of the adequate age, and he has continued to develop and has rounded out as a decent Premier League CM.  

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WINGERS

TED BAAH (England: 22 U21 Caps/7 U21 Goals) – Age: 21 (’32 Youth Class) – Position: RW

The ‘Driven’ right winger is not far from earning his first Cap for England if he continues down this path of development – Ted Baah is considered a star player for the club and has the English media calling for his call-up, claiming he merits one based on his talent and form. This is one that turned out right for Abul Ezz – after Berkovec was sold, Ezz started Woodward for just a year before turning to Baah, which was an unpopular move at the time. He stayed patient with him and now it looks like the winger is on the verge of a breakout season. This year, he played in 31 Games and registered 3 Goals, 11 Assists (career-high), 2.95 D/90, and 6.95 AR, up from 6.89 AR last season. He might be the highest valued English player (approx. £100M) that is not on the national team, although that looks like it will change soon. He has become one of his manager’s favorite players, one that Ezz thinks could one day be a potential candidate for captain. He is part of the fabled ’32 Youth Class that also includes George Adamu, Alfie Williams, and Stacy Whiteside, potentially being the best of a talented bunch.

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AHMED RAZAK (England: 17 U21 Caps/11 U21 Goals) – Age: 25 (’27 Youth Class) – Position: LW

Over three months of missed action thanks to four injuries, including a season-ending torn groin muscle, limited Razak to just 25 Games, of which he started 18 of them. He registered 3 Goals, 9 Assists, 1.49 D/90, and 7.11 AR, up from 7.00 AR last season and a career-high, but this was the first season in the past five that he didn’t get at least 10 Assists. With Whiteside impressing during Razak’s absence, he might have to contend with some competition next season. He was named in the PL Team of the Week twice this season but the Premier League leader in Assists and Clear-Cut Chances last season dropped in both. Nevertheless, his overall play has seen a noticeable improvement despite a drop in some of his numbers and he is capable of big things on any given day.

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HOT PROSPECTS & OTHER NOTABLES

Aaron Woodward (23 years old, ’29 Youth Class – 12 Apps (3 Starts), 1 Asts, 2.12 D/90, 6.70 AR) has not scored in two years and has only one in the past three – not a good look for someone who claims he is naturally a striker. Still, Woodward – who served as the club’s starter at right wing a few years ago – has become a regular part of the rotation, even if he is not the starter he once was. The fact that he is only 23 feel unusual as it seems the player has been around a lot longer than that….Someone who literally has been around that long is Stan Drummond (33 years old – 14 Apps (0 Starts), 1 Asts, 3.36 D/90, 6.77 AR), who had a change of heart at the last minute and decided to accept Abul Ezz and Sophara United’s contract. He will stay with the club until 2040, so most likely he will end his career as a one-club man. In 490 Games, he has 120 Assists and 7.01 AR, as well as 67 Goals.

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FORWARDS

BEKIR CELIK (Turkey: 59 Caps/31 Goals) – Age: 27 (’25 Youth Class) – Position: SC

Sick of the talk that he is a leader of a failed generation of Turkish footballers, Celik scored 4 of Turkey’s 5 Goals at Portugal 2036 and had a sublime – albeit short – tournament that still could not get his nation to the Second Round of the Euros. What his performance did do, however, is erase the talk that Turkey’s failure was in big part because of his inability to show up in the major tournaments – he showed up in a big way even though it was not enough. He then went on to win his 6th Sophara United Player of the Year award, equaling Joe Reardon’s record, and breaking the record with his 5th Footballer of the Year in Turkey award. He played in his second lowest amount of Games (30) in the past 10 years, registering 18 Goals, 9 Assists, 6 PoMs, 55% ST, and 7.37 AR, the second highest mark of his career. He is now Sophara United’s all-time leading scorer with 230 Goals, done in 391 Games while registering 84 Assists, 54 PoMs, and 7.20 AR. Still, while he is unarguably amongst the greatest players in the history of the club thus far, not many would put Celik on top of the list – yet. He has reached ‘Icon’ level at the club and his shirt was the top selling for the first time this season. Who knows, in a few years, Celik might indeed have replaced Joe Reardon as the club’s GOAT.

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DOUGAL YULE (Scotland: 9 Caps/5 Goals) – Age: 18 (’34 Youth Class) – Position: SC

The hottest player on the planet under the age of 18 and the current NxGn and World U21 Player of the Year winner, Dougal Yule has now become the youngest player of all-time to win the Premier League Top Goalscorer award. Sensational pass after unbelievable goal, he was an ongoing highlight reel throughout the season – he played in all 38 Games, registering a league-league 28 Goals, 6 Assists, 5 PoMs, 50% ST, and 7.27, a new career-high and up significantly from the 6.79 AR of last season. If anyone is old enough to remember a young Michael Owen, then they will have an idea of who Dougal Yule currently plays like except with more flair and tricks. The initial doubt and frustration at Yule taking Reardon’s place has subsided – there is no one with any knowledge of the game that will not tell you that Yule is the much better player. His potential could be world-class, even better than the SYA’s most skilled product of all-time, Jakub Berkovec.

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HOT PROSPECTS & OTHER NOTABLES

Stacy Whiteside (21 years old, ’32 Youth Class – 35 Apps (27 Starts), 7 Gls, 10 Asts, 2 PoMs, 2.52 D/90, 7.08 AR) has impressed so much that there have been loud calls for his call-up to the English national team. This was his finest season to date in his career, setting career-highs in nearly every meaningful statistic. He made the PL Team of the Week three times this season, covering the forward and left winger positions. Also part of the fabled ’32 Youth Class, Whiteside was part of the English U19 team that lifted the Euro U19 Championship title in 2033……Other than Whiteside, the only other prospect of note is rookie Victor Ofosu. The left-footed 17-year-old already has impressive speed but still needs to work on his overall game.

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END OF SEASON REVIEW

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THE SOPHARA JOURNAL - Extra Edition

SECOND GENERATION UPDATE (2033 - Current)

The accomplishments for the First Generation (G1) are plenty - known for its brash, in your face, never-say-die style on the pitch and exceptionally professional behavior off of it, the First Generation (G1) are the foundation on which this club was built on. Lasting from 2021 to 2033, the First Generation Era was highlighted by the team's romp up the leagues and into the Premier League in shockingly fast fashion, going from the League Two to the top in just five years. Sophara United's rise was unprecedented, and when football in the 2020s is mentioned anytime in history, one of the main happenings of the decade will always be recorded as the club's ascend to the Premier League in 2026. 

The Second Generation has yet to be given a nickname, a 'Generation of....' that defines it. The First Generation (G1) is just that - the first - and is in no need of any additional definition. But there was always talk about who and when, a bit of which was decided when the official year of conclusion for the First Generation (G1) was announced as 2033. That meant that the Second Generation (G2) started in 2033 and has been in effect for the past 4 years. Thus far, they have finished in 6th Place in the Premier League, the club's highest ever finish, gotten to the Semi-Finals of the Europa League in their first trip to the continent, and won the FA Cup in 2036 - their biggest accomplishment thus far by far. 

The Second Generation (G2) is highlighted by three players - Jakub Berkovec, Akim Lawrence, and Bekir Celik, although some might add Darren Allen to that mix. Berkovec was sold to Chelsea for £94M and is a star in the Czech Republic, Celik is perhaps Turkey's most famous footballer, and Lawrence is an English international DC, the club captain and its all-time appearance record holder. The secondary tier of Darren Allen, Ahmed Razak, Mohammed Adu, Patrick Bola, and Tommy Sullivan - starters that are all still with the club except for Irish international Sullivan - have all played significant roles in the accomplishments of the G2 so far.  Ousman Samba, Joseph Doumbia, and Aaron Woodward - and perhaps also Nyron Minton-Collis - have all been meaningful rotational players for G2. Lawrence, Celik, and Bola were the bridges between the eras, playing meaningful minutes in both. 

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THE SOPHARA JOURNAL - Summer '37 Edition

MAJOR LEAGUE REVIEW 2036/37

 

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Winner: NEWCASTLE UNITED

Led by Scottish ‘Elite Winger’ Scott Green, Newcastle United defeated Roma 1-0 in the Finals in Istanbul to win the Champions League title for the first time in their history….The English club finished 8th in the Premier League this season and Roma were making only their second appearance in the CL Finals, making it 4 out of 4 unlikely Finalists over the past two years….Last year, Real Sociedad won their first ever CL title by defeating Borussia Dortmund in Berlin….Scott Green (11 Apps, 6 Gls, 1 Ast, 7.56 AR) was the star of the show this year, hauling his club to the CL title after a huge 7-0 result against Wolfsburg in the Second Round before taking out Chelsea and Bayern Munich….Last year’s champions were knocked out by Manchester City in the Quarter-Finals before the former English champions were taken out by Roma….The Serie A team also knocked out last year’s beaten Finalists in Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain in the Quarter-Finals and Second Round, respectively….Last time Istanbul hosted a Champions League Finals it was 2005 and Liverpool defeated AC Milan….Newcastle’s American manager Pellegrino Matarazzo, who has been in charge at the club for 10 years now, etched his name in the history of the club after leading them to their first CL title.

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ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE

Winner: CHELSEA

Manchester City’s (2nd) reign back on the top of the English Premier League lasted only one year as Chelsea won their first PL title for the first time in 14 years….Chelsea’s last title was won by players such as Romelo Lukaku, Kai Havertz, Ben Chillwell, and Edouard Mendy, while this one was led by player such as James Maduka (30 Apps, 22 Gls, 8 PoMs, 7.33 AR), Jean-Louis Mathieu (32 Apps, 17 Gls, 9 Asts, 4 PoMs, 7.35 AR), Marcos Romero (26 Apps, 3 PoMs, 96.29 PC/90, 98% PC, 7.38 AR), and Ollie Cresswell (18 Apps, 7 Gls, 9 Asts, 2 PoMs, 7.52 AR)….Manchester United (3rd), who are now two years removed from the title, and Tottenham (4th) grabbed the final two Champions League spots….Newcastle United (8th) will be heading back to the Champions League after winning the competition despite their dismal final league finish….18-year-old Dougal Yule (38 Apps, 28 Gls, 7.27 AR) became the youngest player to ever win the Premier League Top Goalsocer award, helping Sophara United (6th) to their best ever finish and first ever European qualification through their league place….In charge of Chelsea since 2033, Zinedine Zidane won his first PL Manager of the Year award as he claimed his first title in England.

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SPANISH LA LIGA

Winner: REAL MADRID

Angelo (33 Apps, 12 Gls, 9 Asts, 8 PoMs, 7.61 AR) has been one of the finest players in the Spanish La Liga this decade, winning his 3rd La Liga Player of the Year award this season as his club Barcelona (3rd) finished 21 Points behind the two-time champions Real Madrid, whose star these days has become Joan Aliaga (36 Apps, 10 Gls, 8 Asts, 5 PoMs, 88% PC, 7.60 AR)….Aliaga has led his club to the title in both seasons he has been with them since moving from Chelsea for £88M and was crowned its Player of the Year….Real Sociedad (2nd) finished as Runners-Up for the second time in three years as 27-year-old Gerard Julia (36 Apps, 23 Gls, 7.35 AR), who had never scored more than 8 Goals in a season, led the league with 23 Goals….The last CL spot went to Atletico Madrid, bringing back familiarity to the top four….That makes it two titles for Real Madrid manager Paolo Fonseca in the two years he has been in charge at the club as he won his first La Liga Manager of the Year award.

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GERMAN BUNDESLIGA

Winner: BAYERN MUNICH

An incredible 25 Bundesliga titles in a row for Bayern Munich, who continue to dominate Germany like no team ever did before them….Patrick Weissmann (32 Apps, 8 Gls, 22 Asts, 4 PoMs, 7.82 AR) won a record 6th Bundesliga Player of the Year while setting a league record for assists….It is not too early to start talking about the two-time European Championship and two-time Champions League winner’s place in club, league, and world football history as he is also the current and now two-time World Golden Ball winner….Leipzig (2nd) were Runners-Up for the third straight year, while Borussia M’Gladbach (3rd) and Borussia Dortmund (4th) took the last two Champions League spots.

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ITALIAN SERIE A

Winner: INTER MILAN

Ten years after their last title, Inter Milan have won the Serie A and can finally give the three-time Serie A Player of the Year Warren Bondo (34 Apps, 9 Gls, 12 Asts, 8 PoMs, 7.55 AR), 33, the second title he has been so desperately after….His first title came during his first season with Inter Milan in 2027/28…Despite their disappointing finish, AC Milan’s (4th) Yannick Rousseau (36 Apps, 13 Gls, 9 Asts, 10 PoMs, 7.66 AR) captured his 3rd Serie A Best Player of the Season award, confirming his status as the Milan club’s best player this decade….Juventus (2nd) gave up the title after 5 consecutive wins – they won 7 titles in the 2020s and have won 5 out of the 8 seasons in the 2030s….Roma (3rd), who made the Champions League Finals this year only to be beaten by Newcastle United, grabbed the other CL spot left.  

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FRENCH LIGUE 1

Winner: PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN

Paris Saint-Germain are still going strong with their 16th French Ligue 1 title in a row….Making his £85M move from Manchester United to PSG last summer, Charalabos Zaradoukas (30 Apps, 11 Gls, 9 Asts, 8 PoMs, 7.61 AR) won the French Ligue 1 Best Player award in his first season in France….The 24-year-old Greek ‘Elite Winger’ played wonderfully alongside PSG and Spain legend Ansu Fati (27 Apps, 11 Gls, 5 Asts, 5 PoMs, 7.53 AR), who turned 34 this past season is now only 7 PoMs away from joining the 250+Goals/100+Assists/100+PoMs club, and his 7.60 AR career average is ridiculous….Lyon (2nd) had their strongest finish in 10 years, led then and now by 35-year-old Greek left winger and club legend Christos Tzolis (31 Apps, 5 Gls, 9 Asts, 2 PoMs, 7.19 AR)….Rennes (3rd) took the last Champions League spot, beating out Lorient (4th) only by Goal Difference.

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THE SOPHARA JOURNAL - Nov. 2037 Edition

GOAL TOP 50 for 2037

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WINNER

VALENTIN ELM (Germany: 109 Caps/26 Goals) – Tottenham, 31 years old, Attacking Midfielder (Previous: 18th)

At this point in his career, Valentin Elm has already become a club and country legend. He moved to Tottenham in 2026 for £58M from his boyhood club Leipzig and 11 years later, he has been crowned the best player in the world by Goal 50. The Tottenham captain has had an amazing decade and an even greater past two years – after winning the Premier League and ending Man City’s streak at 6 in 2031, Elm won the Euro 2032 title, the FA Cup in 2035, and successfully defended his European Championship title with Germany at Portugual 2036 last year, breaking Germany’s record with 8.05 AR while being crowned the tournament’s Best Player as well as winning the Goal of the Tournament. This year was even more memorable – he has already won several awards, including the German Footballer of the Year, the Europa League Player of the Season and its Golden Boot while equaling Falcao’s record of 17 Goals set in 2011, the 2037 Best Player in Europe, and the 2037 Tottenham Player of the Year – incredibly, only the first time he has won it in his Tottenham career. He also set new records this year – although Tottenham lost to Inter Milan in the Europa League Finals, it was Elm’s tournament as he set a new competition record with 6 PoMs and a new club record with 15 PoMs. In other words, no other player on the planet had a better 2037 than ‘Legendary Attacker’ and the new Goal 50 winner.

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2ND PLACE

PATRICK WEISSMANN (Germany: 118 Caps/28 Goals) – Bayern Munich, 27 years old, Midfielder (Previous: Winner)

Losing the Goal 50 after two years of winning it does not mean that Weissman is not the undisputed best footballer in the world today, it just means Elm had a better year. The fact is, Weissman is a unique player with a unique set of skills that he is absolutely great in. He is not only the best passer in the world today, he is one of the finest in the history of the game. He is exceptional defensively and he is exceptional offensively, one of the best in the world on best sides of the pitch. Where he shines, however, is as a playmaker in the middle – in 32 Games last season, he registered 8 Goals, 4 PoMs, 7.82 AR, and set a new Bundesliga record with 22 Assists. He has not entered his prime years yet and already has 102 Goals and 171 Assists in 409 Games – it is not out of the realm of the possible that Weissman could potentially become the first ever 200+Goals/200+Assists/100+PoMs/7.50+AR player in the history of the game. A legend that has already taken his place on the throne after Mbappe and Haaland.

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3RD PLACE

PEDRI (Spain: 189 Caps/48 Goals) – Juventus, 34 years old, Midfielder (Previous: 3rd)

This is the third year in a row that Pedri finishes in 3rd Place in the Goal 50 list, even at his advancing age. The Spain legend – who was Fati’s partner-in-crime during their World Cup run from 2022 to 2030 in which they made 3 Finals and won 2 titles – not only apparently likes 3s but also became his nation’s most capped player of all-time a couple of months ago. He won the Juventus Player of the Year award for the 3rd straight year, as well, with the left winger have joined in 2033 for £70M after 3 mediocre years at Bayern Munich. After moving to Italy and winning the Champions League for the first time, he famously said “Not everyone is a Bayern Munich player” in reference to the style of play the German club puts out. One of the finest footballers of the century, he will always be known for his national squad partnership with Fati and the World Cups they conquered together.

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OTHER NOTABLES

50 - Ilias Akhomach (AC Monaco, 33): The 2037 Goal 50 list starts off with Ilias Akhomach, who is probably appearing on it for the last time. The 33-year-old Monaco legend has kept the club relevant since he moved to the club in 2024 for £4M from his boyhood club of Barcelona. Although he has never won a Ligue 1 title, he did lift the Spanish La Liga title with Barcelona and the World Cup with Spain in 2030 – he has 84 Caps/7 Goals for his nation, an accomplishment to put alongside his World U21 Footballer of the Year (2025), French Ligue 1 Best Player (2027, ’31), and Champions League Midfielder of the Season (2030).

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45 – Henrik Poulsen (Paris Saint-Germain, 27): Denmark’s newest captain, Henrik Poulsen made his 7th straight French Ligue 1 Team of the Year. There is no question he has been the best DL in France during the 2030s, but he has finally started getting global recognition. He moved to PSG in 2030 from boyhood club FC Midtjylland in Denmark for just £4.2M – now he is worth almost £100M.

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44 – Giampietro Patrizi (Tottenham, 30): Save for Vincenzo Castiello of Real Madrid and Gianluca Bonvicini, Giampietro Patrizi is arguably the most famous Italian footballer on the planet. The Tottenham RW joined the London club from Eintracht Frankfurt for £83M in 2032 – one season after they won the PL title – helping the club to their 2nd Place finish during the 2034/35 season. He registered a career-high 14 Assists last season and is now in his 6th year with the club.

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43 – Labros Sideris (Inter Milan, 22): The feeling is that this time next year, Inter Milan’s ‘Elite Striker’ will be much further up in the list. Sideris is still very young but the Greek star (36 Caps/24 Goals), who took the Serie A by storm in his first season in Italy after moving for £62M from Hannover 96, scored 20 Goals and won the Serie A Young Player of the Season and the 2037 Club World Championship Best Player this past summer. One of the quickest players in the world, he is close to spectacular with the ball going forward.

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40 – Jakeb Berkovec (Chelsea, 28): Jakub Berkovec remains the only Sophara Youth Academy product that has made the Goal 50 list, moving up a couple of places from last season. The ‘Elite Winger’ is close to getting 100 Assists for his career and remains a ‘Star Player’ for his nation despite the general feeling of underachievement from his generation. He has 91 Caps/25 Goals for the Czech Republic and is recognized as one of the best right winger’s on the planet.

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38 – Marcelo (Newcastle United, 28): After spending six seasons with Lorient, he joined Newcastle United for £72M at the beginning of the last season and ended it with a Champions League medal. A bit of a forgotten man in a successful albeit small French Ligue team, the 2031 Mexican Rookie of the Season, he left the French club as its current and three-time Player of the Year as well as its biggest sale of all-time. He won the Copa America with Brazil (32 Caps/3 Goals) in 2036 and the Champions League title in 2037.

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15 – Luke De Meyer (Bayern Munich, 22): The comparisons to Erling Haaland are not unwarranted, and while the Belgian striker (29 Caps/14 Goals) is not as tall as the Norwegian, he certainly has a lot of the same attacking skills. He moved from PSV Eindhoven to Bayern Munich for £67M this summer, joining a team that appears to be a dream match for him. The comparisons between Dougal Yule and De Meyer have already started, with many in the media hoping it can be a new Mbappe vs. Haaland like it was in the 2020s and early 2030s.

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12 – Volodymyr Shevchenko (Tottenham, 26): To many, the Ukrainian World Cup title would not have happened if Shevchenko wasn’t leading the back – he was admittedly just as important as any other player during that improbable run. It is no coincidence he is the highest ranked Ukrainian on the list and has turned into one of the world’s best defenders.

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10 – Mansur Chachaev (Manchester City, 22): Patrick Weissman is the undisputed best player in the world today, but experts predict that Chachaev is well on his way to challenging the German for that title soon. The ‘Elite Attacker’ cost Man City £174M three summers ago – while De Meyer gets compared to Haaland a lot, it might be Chachaev who is the next Haaland, which is ironic because they are teammates now. He is the youngest player in the top ten by a wide margin.

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9 – Lars Schefczyk (Manchester United, 31): With most people drawing close to Manchester United’s latest dynasty – one that ran from the late 2020s to the mid-2030s and netted 4 Premier League titles in a row and 2 Champions League wins – let it not be forgotten that Lars Schefczyk is arguably the 2030s best DC. The German was the Euro 2032 Best Player and has won numerous accolades across his career. The Bayern Leverkusen youth system product – who moved to Man United in 2028 for £66M – will end his career as both a Germany and Man United legend.

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7 – Gianluca Bonvicini (Paris Saint-Germain, 31): Italy’s finest in the 2030s, Gianluca Bonvicini might not have been part of Italy’s most successful era but the nation’s captain (he is also PSG’s captain) has led the team to the Euro 2032 and the 2034 World Cup Finals, and also collected the bronze medal at the World Cup at Spain 2030. In other words, Italy has been one of the best teams in the world under his leadership. One of the success stories of football – came up through the ranks in Italy before his big £109M move to PSG in 2031.

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THE SOPHARA JOURNAL - March '38 Edition

YOUTH CLASS OF 2038 INTRODUCED

 

There was much abuzz about the '38 Youth Class leading up to March 16th, but what was clear from months ago was that the most talented player was a full-back. That full-back goes by the name of Ben King, and he is the only 4+*/5* PA rated player in the Intake. The '38 Youth Class has been given a 4.5*/5* rating and has been dubbed as a potential 'Golden Generation' class. Outside of King, however, there is work to be done. There is potential down the wings thanks to Karlis Andrejevs and Maxwell Obi, and James McMullen looks like the only player talented enough to compete with King for the crown of best player in the '38 Youth Class. 

SYA Ghana delivered two players, albeit both of them recruited by the local scouting team from Nigeria. Other than that, no other branch delivered a player this year, a disappointing return for a team that is sending its reaches out everywhere it can. Still, this looks to be a strong Intake, especially as that it has been four years since anyone from the SYA has really cracked the first team rotation - that last player was Dougal Yule.

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THE SOPHARA JOURNAL - June 2038

SEASON REVIEW 2037/2038

TEAM REVIEW

The culmination of the work put into the club over the past 18 years happened this season – next year, the beginning of the dream that everyone worked so far for begins. At the turn of the decade, Abul Ezz was asked what his goal for the 2030s was – he replied with one word: Europe. Of course, the Europa League has been a fantastic experience for the club, and Thursday night at the Sophara United Stadium has been magical in its own right, especially during their run to the Semi-Finals of the competition last season. But everyone knows that Ezz really meant the Champions League, a competition he has made no secret that he holds in the highest regard, the ultimate trophy in the world of club football. His dream has always been to be a Champions League winner, and that journey will officially begin next season as the club finished in 4th Place, a record high position for Sophara United.

Dougal Yule, who turned 20 after the season ended, led the Premier League with 28 Goals again this season, winnings its Top Goalscorer for the second straight year and also the EPL Young Player of the Year, becoming the third Sophara United player to win the award after Bekir Celik and Darren Allen. He was the focal point of a strong attack that was the 3rd best in the Premier League, with Celik and Baah also registering double digit goals scored.  The defense improved to 7th best and the 43 Goals Conceded were the lowest the squad has let in since joining the Premier League in 2026. Three players from the First Generation Cowboys - Tom Horgan, Stan Drummond, Andy Holland - remain on the team, but only Drummond and Holland will live out the dream of experiencing Champions League football next season as Horgan is retiring this summer. The Second Generation Breachers - led by Akim Lawrence, Bekir Celik, and Darren Allen - have already placed themselves in the history books of the club as having been the first squad to qualify to Europe, but it is the incoming Third Generation that has many people excited. Led by the likes of Dougal Yule, Ted Baah, Richie Hunter, and George Adamu, the Third Generation has already played a big part in helping the club get to the Champions League. Never has the team featured potentially 4 world-class players in the same starting lineup, but that is exactly what will happen if those four develop to their true potential. The good news? They are almost there. 

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GOALKEEPERS

DARREN ALLEN (England: 2 Caps) – Age: 26 ('28 Youth Class) – Position: GK

Allen has become one of the most important players on the team and the Second Generation, officially nicknamed “The Breachers” due to their success in breaching through and making it to Europe, along with their starting GK are going to feature in club football’s biggest stage next season. He played in all 38 Games for the 7th season in a row, registering career-highs of 1.13 Con/90 and 12 Clean Sheets to go along with 7.18 AR, his highest of the last three years. He has finally become an English international, and although those that claimed that he could one day become a world-class GK have long since disappeared, Allen has become somewhat of a hallmark figure around the Premier League these days. He has been a starter for Sophara in the league since his teenage years in the late 2020s, surviving the Kozic drama of the early 2030s before finally become one of the most recognizable faces in the league today.

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FULLBACKS

PATRICK BOLA (DRC: 44 Caps) – Age: 28 ('25 Youth Class) – Position: DL

 Now 29, Patrick Bola has quietly turned into the only starting DL some fans of the club have ever known – this was his 11th season as the club’s starter and has become known as one of the ‘Bridge’ players who have played a prominent role in both the First Generation and Second Generation eras. This season, he played in 32 Games and registered 2.16 T/90, 90% PC, and 6.82 AR, right about on par with his averages the past two seasons. He isn’t the biggest star on his DRC national side anymore but he remains an important player and a celebrity in his home country. He has never been the most gifted nor the most dominant player at his position, but he has managed to carve out a long and meaningful career for himself that is still in its prime.

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MOHAMMED ADU (England: 23 U21 Caps) – Age: 26 (’27 Youth Class) – Position: DR

Mohammed Adu carries a 6.89 AR for his career, one in which he has played 304 Games in the Premier League. This season, he registered 6.91 AR along with 2.10 T/90, and 89% PC in 34 Appearances. He broke into the first team in the late 2020s and became the starter at the turn of the decade, turning into one of the core pieces of the Second Generation, otherwise known as the ‘Breachers’ as opposed to the First Generation’s name of the ‘Cowboys’. A smart player with decent pace, his intelligence has helped him develop good defensive instincts that have made him a PL-level player. He will get to experience at least one of his prime years competing in the Champions League as Sophara will be in the competition next season.

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HOT PROSPECTS & OTHER NOTABLES

The departure of Ger Lennon – who grew a moustache and joined Barnsley in the Championship after leaving the club on free last summer – was supposed to leave playing time for incoming prospects, but the lack of talent at the full-back position has been one of the talking points in terms of how to further improve the SYA…. Chris Bolland (21 years old, ’32 Youth Class – 8 Apps (3 Starts), 2.56 T/90, 89% PC, 6.93 AR) might be one of the forgotten men of the famed ’32 Youth Class, but he did a serviceable job when called upon this season. His form was a lot better – he upped his 6.68 AR from last season to 6.93 AR this year…. Joseph Doumbia (25 years old, ’29 Youth Class – 6 Apps (1 Start), 7.00 AR) saw a big drop in his playing time but he remains the first option of the bench behind Bola. The French full-back has etched out a role for himself in the Sophara United rotation and has earned the trust of the coaching staff to be able to fill in and do a decent job, albeit in a limited capacity.

 

CENTRAL DEFENDERS

AKIM LAWRENCE (England: 7 Caps) – Age: 30 (’23 Youth Class) – Position: DC

Appointed club captain at the beginning of the 2030/31 season, Akim Lawrence – otherwise known as ‘El Capitan’ – has been the longest serving captain in the history of the club thus far after completing his 8th season as Sophara’s leader. There can be no more fitting player – he is a ‘Bridge’ player and also one of the three key figures of the Second Generation, along with Celik and Chelsea’s Berkovec. He is now the club’s all-time record holder for Most League Appearances with 548 Games, in a career that has now spanned 15 seasons and has 17 PoMs and a 7.12 AR while continuously ranking amongst the leaders in key defensive statistics such as Shots Blocked, Clearances, Interceptions, Possessions Won, and Headers Won. He is a prototypical DC, rarely making an error and almost never trying the fanciful, as his 98% PC will testify. He has accomplished a rare feat in that he has represented two countries at the international stages (Dominica & England) but it is the latter he will be going to the World Cup at South Africa 2038 with this summer.

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GEORGE ADAMU (Nigeria: 46 Caps/1 Goal) – Age: 22 (’32 Youth Class) – Position: DC

Now the questions about George Adamu have shifted from ‘How high is his ceiling’ and ‘Can he be a world-class DC’ to ‘Is he a better DC than so and so’ and ‘What is the little still missing for him to be world-class’ – a stark change in attitude towards the player now that he has become a star at the international stage. Nigeria’s highest-valued player by a long shot at almost £100M, he earned his new contract that will pay him £140k per week after delivering a career-best season. In 31 Games, he registered 4 PoMs, 1.12 T/90, 99% PC, and a career-high 7.26 AR, up from 7.11 AR last season. The 2036 NxGn and African Defender of the Year Runner-Up, Adamu has been tasked by the Nigerian public and media to lead the national team back to its golden days of the 2020s, when they won 4 AFCON titles (’22, ’25, ’27, ’29) including winning the last 3 in a row as well as advancing to the Quarter-Finals of the World Cup in 2026 before losing to Spain. His manager has touted him as a potential future captain for the club and designated him vice-captain to Lawrence last summer. He has been one of the SYA’s crown jewels – an exceptional player on the pitch and a ‘Resolute Professional’ off of it.

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HOT PROSPECTS & OTHER NOTABLES

The DC position has never been in a healthier state – there are two international-class starters and behind them another two international players…. Alfie Williams (21 years old, ’32 Youth Class – 24 Apps (17 Starts), 2 PoMs, 95% PC, 7.10 AR) will unfortunately miss out on South Africa 2038 but has become a prominent member of the Welsh national team’s defense. He has earned 7 Caps with the Welsh media backing his inclusion in the squad. In London, Williams has become one of his manager’s most trusted players both in the starting lineup and on the bench, and others have noticed as he named the 2037 Welsh Young Player of the Year……Gerard Lynch (25 years old, ’28 Youth Class – 21 Apps (9 Starts), 2.37 T/90, 92% PC, 6.96 AR) waited almost 10 years for his Sophara United debut, but after spending time with 5 teams in 6 seasons on loan, Lynch quickly established himself as a key cog in the rotation. The Irish international – who now has 7 Caps for Ireland – will not be heading to South Africa 2038 with his home nation but its safe to say that if he continues to play as he did this season he will earn a permanent spot in the national team in no time.

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CENTRAL/ATTACKING MIDFIELDERS

RICHIE HUNTER (England: 27 Caps/1 Goal) – Age: 22 (’31 Youth Class) – Position: MC

It was a huge win for Sophara United when one of England’s most valuable players – and SYA product – Richie Hunter resigned with the club for a massive £275k per week. An exceptional talent that continues to get better, he handles a very difficult position in the squad’s formation that pins a lot of pressure on him with little final reward – in other words, he is the workhorse. That being said, he is definitely recognized for his efforts, and he had one of his best years this season, playing in 35 Games and registering 8 Assists, 1.70 T/90, 83% PC, and 6.93 AR, up from 6.86 AR in 2036/37. At over £120M, he is also Sophara United’s highest valued player of all-time, reaching a level no one else before him has while playing for the club. Although he has shown no interest in becoming captain in the future, he is the essence of the Second Generation – known as the ‘Breachers’ – a tactical, efficient, and intelligent player who focuses on winning the game and giving the team the best chance to do so. He will try to guide England to glory at South Africa 2038 along with Darren Allen, Akim Lawrence, and Ted Baah, with Sophara United’s 4 players equaled only by Tottenham’s 4 in the national team’s lineup.

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TERIQ SAIMOVICI (England: 8 U21 Caps/1 Goal) – Age: 20 (’34 Youth Class) – Position: MC

Teriq Saimovici and Gerard Lynch dispelled the stigma that a ‘Loan Boy’ – a moniker given to players who go out on loan more than once while at the club – does not make it into the first team this season, as the ‘Wonderkid’ not only made it but impressed everyone around the league at his high level of play. While there might have been questions about whether Sean Travis or Saimovici deserved the MC spot next to Hunter at the beginning of the season, that had all but died out in favor of the latter by the end of it. In 34 Games, he registered 2 Goals, 4 Assists, 86% PC, and 7.05 AR, playing alongside Hunter in what his manager has called the most difficult position in the formation. It’s safe to say that Saimovici, who is half Barbadian but was born in Horsham south of London, has earned his starting spot going into next season.

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HOT PROSPECTS & OTHER NOTABLES

Sean Travis (21 years old, ’33 Youth Class – 32 Apps (11 Starts), 1 Goal, 6 Asts, 6.95 AR) was relegated to first MC off the bench this season, officially ending the controversial experiment that resulted in legend Joe Sheppard leaving the club. Travis simply has not shown the kind of progress that was expected him – although he has the right skills, he simply has not developed them enough. He seems to be more comfortable coming off the bench, as backed by his 6.95 AR, which was just a bit off his career-high of 6.97 AR set last season……There is a few prospects at the positions that might end up breaking into the rotation at some point in the next few years, but no one that has the Sophara United backroom staff too excited.

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WINGERS

TED BAAH (England: 4 Caps/2 Goals) – Age: 22 (’32 Youth Class) – Position: RW

The four top-valued English players on the team heading to the World Cup at South Africa 2038 this summer are under 25, with three of them not older than 22. Two of those players are Sophara United stars (Hunter and Baah), but it is England’s latest sensation down the right wing that will have the eyes of the world on him. Many saw it his breakout season coming and coupled with the club making the Champions League for the first time, Baah has been throw to the forefront of the conversation when it comes to the top young players in the world today. In 35 Appearances, he registered 11 Goals, 14 Assists (2nd in PL), 5 PoMs, and a career-high 7.39 AR. Digging deeper, the numbers produce a more telling story – he led the league with 37 Clear Cut Chances and registered 62% ST (4th in PL), 114 Key Passes (8th), 3.66 KP/90 (12th), and 1.57 D/90. He is efficient, he does not keep the ball at his feet for too long, and he is deadly in front of the goal given the right circumstances. His speed, passing, and technical abilities are all approaching elite levels in terms of skill, and the World Cup might be his first showcase.

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AHMED RAZAK (England: 17 U21 Caps/11 U21 Goals) – Age: 26 (’27 Youth Class) – Position: LW

The emergence of Stacy Whiteside most likely means the end of Razak’s stranglehold on the starting left-wing position. It’s been an open secret over the past couples of years that the Sophara staff believe the talent at left wing can be further improved, not being wholly satisfied with the product Razak has put out. He’s had some big seasons – namely, the 2033/34 where he was in-form the entire year and last year despite the injuries – but he’s mostly been a relatively decent player but somewhat of an afterthought when it comes to considering incoming attacking threats by opposing teams. The added element Whiteside brought with him down the left was one of the key pieces to the club’s ascension to Champions League football, one that Abul Ezz surely would have realized. A Second Generation-er through and through, Razak will have to do better if he wants to stop Whiteside from eating more into his playing time.

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HOT PROSPECTS & OTHER NOTABLES

Stacy Whiteside (22 years old, ’32 Youth Class – 33 Apps (28 Starts), 9 Gls, 5 Asts, 3.35 D/90, 7.13 AR) begins the summer as the favorite to start next season as the squad’s primary left winger after his impressive year. Despite his exceptional height (1.95m), his 3.35 D/90 are evidence of his ball control, a rare combination for a player that tall. The English media has been pining for him to get a call-up to the national team, although it will not be at this World Cup……There remains some intriguing talent on the outskirts of the team such as Victor Ofosu and Daniel Gyamfi, but the real talent might be in the U18 team and the current crop that will be rookies this year.

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FORWARDS

DOUGAL YULE (Scotland: 18 Caps/16 Goals) – Age: 20 (’34 Youth Class) – Position: SC

Dougal Yule is the current and two-time NxGn, World U21 Footballer of the Year, and English Premier League Top Goalscorer winner as well as the newly crowned EPL Young Player of the Year. He was named Sophara United’s Player of the Year for the first time and broke Scotland’s record for most goals in a year with 13. The Scottish ‘Wonderkid’ has just turned 20 and he is, without reasonable argument, the biggest young star in football today. His professionalism and quiet, reserved yet friendly demeanor coupled with his absolute brilliance on the pitch (think young Michael Owen with tricks) has endeared to fans and the media alike. He is a killer in front of the goal – 28 Goals in each of the past two seasons – and with his exceptional quickness, he has become a nightmare to contain for opposing defenders. He has been one of the Europa League’s top performers over the past two years, showing his desire to shine on the big stages of the game. This is a player who is primed to take the 2040s by storm.

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BEKIR CELIK (Turkey: 67 Caps/41 Goals) – Age: 28 (’25 Youth Class) – Position: SC

The World Cup beckons once more for Turkey’s golden boy, or at least he gets one more go at it before handing over that title to someone newer and younger. When talk of who is the greatest striker in club history happens, the default answer is Joe Reardon, but Celik’s career is starting to ask questions about that. The ‘Model Professional’, who exudes class and poise all the way, is the club’s all-time leading goalscorer with 247 League Goals and has won the club’s Player of the Year award a record 6 times, statistics that give weight to an argument that is getting stronger with each passing season. While the days of him being the club’s primary weapon are gone in the presence of Yule, Celik still scored 17 Goals and registered 6 Assists, 3 PoMs, and 7.25 AR in 31 Games this season. He will likely join what is considered the benchmark of any great striker when he hits 250+ Goals/100+ Assists/50+ PoMs over his career in the next 2/3 seasons and he has been a leader during the club’s most successful times despite a disappointing stretch over the past few years for the Turkish national team. He won the Footballer of the Year in Turkey award for a record 6th time this year and he has etched himself in the history books of both his club and country thanks to a fantastic career thus far.

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HOT PROSPECTS & OTHER NOTABLES

A prototypical ‘Loan Boy’ having played for 5 different clubs over the past 5 seasons, Darren Patterson (21 years old, ’33 Youth Class – 14 Apps (4 Starts), 0 Goals, 6.80 AR) finally got his chance this year and, for lack of a better word, blew it. He could not score and ended the season with a 22% ST, a worryingly low percentage. The SYA gave the club Dougal Yule but has not turned out any forwards of the required talent since then, so Patterson will likely get another go at it next season.

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END OF SEASON REVIEW

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SOUTH AFRICA 2038 – WORLD CUP

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INTRO/GROUP STAGES

The World Cup returned to Africa for the second time in its history, with South Africa playing host both times, with Ukraine as the defending champions after shocking the world and capturing the trophy in Japan four years prior….Sophara United had a record 6 players representing the club at the tournament, 4 of which were with England, Bekir Celik with Turkey, and George Adamu with Nigeria….The hosts kicked things off in grand fashion during Matchday One, defeating Thailand 5-0 with Greek club Xanthi’s 29 year old striker Mlungisi Nxumalo netting a hat-trick….Germany’s 35-year-old midfield legend Jamal Musiala also got in on the action, scoring a hat-trick in his nation’s 5-0 victory against Equatorial Guinea….Adamu was the first Sophara player to get out onto the pitch, but unfortunately he did not play well and Nigeria lost to Holland 1-0 in a tough match….The Americans had the first real shock of the tournament after defeating Croatia 4-1 – the Croatians had a good showing two years before at the Euros at Portugal 2036, making the Quarter-Finals and bringing hope that one of the darkest eras of Croatian football was coming to an end….Turkey defeated Mexico 1-0 in their first match but Bekir Celik did not have a good game….The 2026 Quarter-Finalists Jamaica started the tournament in demoralizing fashion, losing 4-1 to minnows Guinea-Bissau as Ismael Gomes, Valladolid’s 31 year old striker, scored a hat-trick….Sweden and Spain ended Matchday One with wins against Algeria and Iran, respectively.

Matchday Two started with the hosts lining up against Poland and finishing the match 0-0 after each team got a player sent off in the first 20 minutes, becoming the first team to qualify to the Second Round….Russia obliterated Ivory Coast 6-2 with 35-year-old Rennes and Russia legend Arsen Zakharyan scoring a hat-trick….Germany and Colombia both confirmed their advancement after the latter beat Equatorial Guinea 5-1….George Adamu featured in Nigeria’s 0-0 draw with New Zealand in Group F, playing well and leading the line in a strong fashion….England took a strong 5-1 victory against Guinea-Bissau in their first match, with Sophara United’s Richie Hunter playing fantastic (2 Assists) – Ted Baah was the only other Sophara United player to feature in the match, coming off the bench as he continued to recover from injury….Matchday Two ended with the world champions Ukraine running through Syria 7-1, making a statement to the world that they were ready to fight to keep their title.

Matchday Three began with Poland joining South Africa in the Second Round at the expense of Thailand, while Russia and Ivory Coast knocked out the 2034 hosts Japan….South Korea, who made the Quarter-Finals at Spain 2030 and the Semi-Finals at Japan 2034, were knocked out by Tunisia and Romania, becoming the first real shock of the tournament….In Group F, George Adamu’s Nigeria squeaked by with Holland while in Group H, Australia were sent packing home by Costa Rica and Greece….Hunter and Baah both started as England defeated Jamaica 4-0 to qualify alongside Guinea-Bissau in Group L as Jamaica exited early….The final day of Matchday Three ended with Spain defeating Uruguay 5-2 as Juventus striker Joan Villanueva – who has had a rough time in Italy – netted a hat-trick to send his nation to the Second Round.

 

SECOND ROUND

Last in the World Cup during France 1998, Romania – who beat both South Korea and Tunisia in the Group Stages – continued their strong play as they won easily 4-1 against what was a favored Colombian side……The Tunisians exited at the hands of Germany, who took a 4-0 victory against the North African side. The Germans moved to the Third Round having conceded no goals and having scored 11 Goals in just 3 Games……The hosts saw a disappointing early exit at the hands of fellow Africans Ivory Coast, who won the match against South Africa 2-1……The last match of the day saw Russia defeat Poland 1-0 in a tense affair that saw the latter have a player sent off in the second half.

Brazil started out the second day of matches in the Second Round with a 2-0 victory over Nigeria and George Adamu. The 22-year-old defender became the first Sophara United player to get knocked out of the tournament……The USA were impressive against a reasonably strong Costa Rican side, defeating their North American rivals 4-0 that saw all the goals come in the last 20 minutes……A tough match saw Holland come out 2-1 victors against a plucky Irish side……Two goals in extra-time after a 0-0 draw saw Greece advance past Chile in the final game of the day.

Another all-African affair saw Guinea-Bissau defeat Morocco 3-1 to advance to the Third Round. The surprising West African nation had the joint leading scorer in Ismael Gomes, who scored his 5th Goal in the match……Italy needed penalties to inch past a strong Mexican side that refused to quit even after going a man down. Unfortunately for Mexico, their streak of Second Round exits now stretched to 4 in a row at the World Cup……Ghana became the 3rd African team to advance to the Third Round with an impressive 2-1 victory over Turkey. Sophara United’s Bekir Celik ended the tournament with no goals as his nation failed to impress once again……England were led by Richie Hunter’s equalizing goal and strong form as they pushed past Denmark 3-2 in extra-time. Hunter scored the winning goal for the English U19 side at the Euro U19 Championship in 2031, and he relived the moment today in the day’s final match.

The champions needed extra-time in the final day of matches of the Second Round but the Ukraine got it done. Facing a tough Uruguayan side, the defending champions moved on after a 2-1 victory……Sweden defeated Cameroon 3-1 despite the crowd leaning heavily towards the African nation. The Scandanavian nation were going to make their second consecutive Third Round appearance after getting knocked out by Argentina at that stage at Japan 2034……Argentina registered a 3-1 victory against Norway as the South American nation, who are widely considered to have their best team at least 25 years, continued to look strong……The last match of the Second Round saw Spain win 3-1 against Syria, a team that probably made it a round too far this World Cup.

 

THIRD ROUND

Ivory Coast advanced to the Quarter-Finals for the first time in their history after defeating Romania 1-0 in the first match of the Third Round. The African nation were not considered one of the stronger teams to come out of the continent this time around, but they advanced to where few African countries have gone before them……Billed the battle between Mansur Chachaev and Patrick Weissmann, it was the former and Russia who shocked Germany and advanced after defeating the European champions on penalties. This was the second straight disappointing World Cup exit by Germany, having been knocked out by Argentina in the Second Round at Japan 2034……The American dream ended at the hands of the Dutch as Holland came away as 2-1 victors against the USA. This meant that the Americans’ streak of not making the Quarter-Finals continued, having been alive since 2002……A nation rejoiced as this was the first time since 2018 that Brazil was playing in consecutive Quarter-Finals. The South American sleeping giant defeated Greece 1-0 in a tough affair whose only goal came in the 3rd minute.

Ghana were surprising losers in another all-African matchup as the fairytale continued for Guinea-Bissau, who were participating in their first World Cup ever. They defeated Ghana 2-0 as the tiny nation of two million brought back memories of Jamaica’s magical 2026 run……In the first of the two major matches of the Third Round, England defeated Italy 2-0 as Lawrence, Baah, and Hunter all played well. The English team had made the Semi-Finals of every tournament since 2018 and were looking to keep that streak alive……Having developed a reputation of underperformance at the World Cup recently, Argentina were more than joyful after defeating Spain 1-0 in the second big match of the Third Round. Current World Golden Ball and World Player of the Year Andres Ravizzoli scored the winning goal in the 88th minute, sending the South American nation into raptures and officially ending the Fatu/Pedri era for Spain……The last match of the Third Round was another tight affair for the defending champions, but once again they proved their mettle against a tough team in tough circumstances as Ukraine bested Sweden on penalties. The match ended 0-0 after the Ukraine, usually known for their free-flowing attack, played perhaps their best defense of the tournament thus far to set up a match with Guinea-Bissau in the Quarter-Finals.  

 

QUARTER-FINALS

IVORY COAST vs. HOLLAND: This was the African nation’s first ever trip to the Quarter-Finals, and they were lining up against a team that had made the Finals three times but had never won the trophy. An entertaining match would end up in Holland’s favor as they defeated Ivory Coast 3-2 to advance to the Semi-Finals for the first time in 24 years.  RESULT: Holland 3 – 2 Ivory Coast

RUSSIA vs. BRAZIL: Led by Manchester City’s Mansur Chachaev and Chelsea’s Anatoly Malygin, Russia were looking to take advantage of this ‘golden generation’ and advance to the Semi-Finals for the second time in their history and first since 1966. As for the Brazilians, they had not made the Semi-Finals since they lost to Germany on home soil in 2014 but this was perhaps the most unconventional Brazilian team of modern times as arguably its three biggest stars are all GKs, they scored only 6 Goals in their previous 4 matches but conceded none, and they entered the tournament for the first time in recent history not listed as one of the favorites to win it all. It would end here for them, however, as Russia would win 1-0 in extra-time as many in Moscow started talking about how Russia’s run was similar to the Ukraine’s just four years ago. RESULT: Russia 1 – 0 Brazil

ARGENTINA vs. ENGLAND: England were riding high and were one of the tournament’s favorites, going into the match having scored 14 Goals and also having defeated Italy in the previous round. The Argentinian media were cautiously optimistic after the Ravizzoli-led squad defeated Spain in the previous round, setting up another epic showdown in the Quarter-Finals. It was a match to remember from start to finish – Argentina went up 2-0 just before the half, but in the extra-time given for the first half England incredibly equalized the game. This was set the scene for an incredibly exciting second half that saw England advance 4-3 until a last second effort equalized the match for the Argentinians. Sophara United’s Ted Baah was responsible for two assists, but Richie Hunter did not play well. As history will suggest, England’s downfall came from the spot-kick, but not before these two legends of the tournament played one of its greatest matches in recent times. RESULT: Argentina 4 (p) – 4 England

UKRAINE vs. GUINEA-BISSAU: The defending champions entered this match as incredibly heavy favorites to win and advance to the Semi-Finals. They were gearing up for another intense week and were already looking past the West African ‘minnows’ who were just happy to be there. Que in a brace from Ismael Gomes to bring his total to a league-leading 7 Goals and Africa was going to have its first ever representative in the Semi-Finals. Not only that, but Guinea-Bissau became the first team in recent history to reach the Semi-Finals in its debut appearance at the tournament. RESULT: Guinea-Bissau 3 – 2 Ukraine

 

SEMI-FINALS

HOLLAND vs. GUINEA-BISSAU: This was the first time that any African country had reached the Semi-Finals of the competition in its history, and the fact that it was done on African soil by a complete underdog – perhaps the most surprising Semi-Finalists in the competition’s history – was all the more inspiring. They were facing a Dutch squad that had made the Finals of the World Cup three times prior but was no longer considered one of the elite teams of the world. Holland were immense favorites to make their fourth trip to the Finals, this time hosted in Johannesburg, and although it took everything they got, they made it happen. Guinea-Bissau finally fell but not without a fight – Holland won 2-0 but both goals came late after they finally broke the West African nation down. Holland now waited for the winner of the Russia vs. Argentina match. RESULT: Holland 2 – 0 Guinea-Bissau

RUSSIA vs. ARGENTINA: The Argentinians, led by World Golden Ball winner Andres Ravizzoli, felt destined to win their first title since 1986 and the days of Maradona. Russia were led by fantastic young players who had developed into some of the best players in the world, such as Mansur Chachaev. For the second straight tournament, Eastern Europe ended up sending a representative to the Finals, as Russia’s run continues to draw eerie similarities to its neighbors run in 2034. Russia defeated the South Americans 2-1 with all the goals coming in the first half, setting up a Finals showdown with Holland as they advanced to their first ever World Cup Finals.   RESULT: Russia 2 – 0 Argentina

 

FINAL

HOLLAND vs. RUSSIA: The rise of the Eastern European powers was the narrative heading into Johannesburg as Russia had set the tournament on fire and were one win away from repeating the unbelievable run Ukraine had just four years prior. The Dutch, however, had their own story they wanted to write – this was the 4th World Cup Final they were going to participate in but had no title to show for it yet. The long wait to finally lift the world’s most prestigious trophy would finally come to an end in South Africa, however, as Holland defeated Russia 3-1 with Junior Kamango scoring a brace for the new world champions. The Dutch, who had waited 28 years to get back into the Final, lifted the World Cup trophy for the first time in their history, finally bringing closure to perhaps the strongest team to have never won the tournament. RESULT: Holland 3 – 1 Russia

 

AWARDS

BEST PLAYER – Anatoly Malygin (Russia)

The award could have went to any of Russia’s three main players, but Malygin was the choice thanks to his all-around skills and influence on the game. Russia’s rise to the top of the totem pole (almost) is just as much Malygin’s doing as it is Chachaev’s doing, and it showed in South Africa. In 7 Appearances, he registered 4 Assists, 1 Goal, and 7.46 AR as Russia ran through a list of who’s who when it comes to footballing giants – Germany in the Second Round, Brazil in the Quarter-Finals, and Argentina in the Semi-Finals, a combined 11 titles between them. The 26-year-old Chelsea ‘Elite Attacking Midfielder’ showed his complete set of skills, rarely making a mistake and helping propel Russia into the elite tier of football.

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BEST YOUNG PLAYER – Zaher Al-Hallak (Syria)

Syria have quietly qualified for the last 5 World Cups – since 2022 – but this was the first time the country had advanced past the Group Stages, falling to Spain in the Second Round. The reason for their improvement was 21-year-old Lech (POL) striker Zaher Al-Hallak, who hit a brace in their win against Canada and scored a goal against former world champions Spain. His total was 3 Goals in his 3 Games, along with 1 Assist and 7.43 AR, and has already been called arguably the greatest player in Syria’s history. He currently has 41 Caps and 26 Goals for his nation and has been touted by the national media as the ‘next Aref Al-Agha’, a dynamic Syrian striker who led the national league in scoring three times during the late 1990s and 2000s. A product of the Al-Karamah (SYR) youth academy, he was bought by Sporting (POR) in 2035 before he was sold to Sparta Rotterdam in 2036. It was there he had his breakout season, leading to Polish club Lech buying him just one year later for £2.6M, scoring 14 Goals in his debut season for his new club.

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BEST GOALKEEPER – Luis Tavares (Holland)

In an era were arguably the three best GKs in the world today are all Brazilian, Holland and Newcastle GK Luis Tavares – who is also fluent in Portuguese, ironically, as he is also half Cape Verdean – was the one who ended up lifted the greatest prize of them all, winning the World Cup’s Best GK award along the way. The ‘World-Class GK’ is considered one of the top GKs in the world today and has now propelled himself to being the top contender to steal the ‘Best in the World’ prize from the Brazilians.  

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GOLDEN BOOT – Ismael Gomes (Guinea-Bissau): 7 Goals

There have been similar stories to that of Guinea-Bissau but never one with so many extremes. This was the tiny West African nation’s first World Cup adventure, and it set a new record by taking 3rd Place, on Africa soil no less. They became the first African nation to ever reach the World Cup Semi-Finals, doing so on their first try, and the reason for that was the absolute storming tournament 31-year-old Valladolid striker Ismael Gomes had. In 6 Games, he scored 7 Goals and registered 2 Assists and 7.43 AR, leading his nation past teams such as former world champions Ukraine, whom Gomes hit a brace against in the Quarter-Finals, and Argentina on their way to making history.

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I had the update ready for the final season but I lost the save and I had to replay the 2038/39 season. I'm all caught up but I won't write up another update for the 2038/39 season - I'll just continue onwards with the 2039/40 season, the first of the 2040s!

Sophara United missed on qualifying to the Champions League (I did the first time around!) but we will be in the Europa League.

The biggest news, however, was Dougal Yule cleaning up all the awards (Golden Ball, World Footballer of the Year, etc) and scoring 44 Goals in the PL - the only other player to hit over 40 Goals in a season was the legendary Erling Haaland, the 'Player of the 2020s'. 

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