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[FM22] An Adventure in Europe's Outskirts (Currently Managing: Olympiakos)


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The European Adventure

A self-imposed challenge to find success outside of Europe's elite.


I have been playing FM now for over a decade, however nearly all of my saves in the game have been classical "dynasty" approaches where I steadfastly stick to managing one club to glory, until I get bored! Usually these saves take place in countries where the sky is the limit, once you reach the top your resources are more or less unlimited and maintaining dominance becomes mundane. This year I wanted to try something different.

In FM22, my overall goal is to find success outside of the elite leagues of Europe. I have a craving to find something new, to explore new leagues and new teams. To this end I will set myself rules, these are designed to keep my approach in check and make sure my time playing the game always feels fresh, whilst also taking a realistic and immersive approach to career progression.

The Rules

  1.  I may not manage a club in the countries of the top five European leagues (i.e. England, Spain, Germany, Italy or France).
  2.  I may not manage a club in the UK or Ireland.*
  3.  I must attend all job interviews offered to me at eligible higher reputation clubs.**
  4.  I may not spend more than 4 seasons at a single club.
  5.  And of course, no use of the in-game editor or save-scumming.

*This rule is perhaps an extra unnecessary imposition, but is simply to prevent me from drifting too close to home!
**There is an exception to this rule, which I will come to!

The Setup

I have loaded a save that includes every division available to me in Europe, in the FM22 base game. This is with the exception of the leagues in England, Spain, Italy, Germany and France, where I have loaded the top division on view-only. The reason for this is to make sure the mechanics of the game world function as normal - clubs in these divisions will hopefully be managed by the AI as typically as possible but I will not have access to them.

In preparation for the save, I took myself through each of these divisions to explore which clubs I might want to target. I have produced a list of around 40 "cool clubs", basically teams that I have some degree of affinity for whether that be their history, their club colours or even just because I liked the name! Here is my exception to rule 3, if I am at a "cool club" and wish to see out my 4 seasons with them, then I will be able to veto attending interviews at higher reputation club.

To start with however, I want the authentic FM journeyman experience. So I will start the game unemployed, at the very bottom of the ladder. My manager, or "character", setup is as follows:

  • I am a 32 year old unemployed French-Canadian coach.
  • As a youth player I trained in Germany, however was released before turning professional.
  • I had a semi-professional career in the German and Canadian lower divisions, before retiring early to pursue coaching.
  • I have a National C license.

The Objectives

What does success look like for this save? I suppose my general objective is to bring success to clubs that have not seen it before, both domestically and in European competition. More precisely however, I would like to achieve the following.

  1.  Manage for 30+ seasons.
  2.  Manage at least 10 different clubs.
  3.  Manage a top-tier team across 4 different countries.
  4.  Manage at least 3 clubs from my "cool list".
  5.  Learn 5 new languages (in addition to the English, French and German already spoken by my manager).
  6.  Topple a top-team in any league.*
  7.  Win the Conference League.
  8.  Win the Europa League.
  9.  Win the Champions League.
  10.  Win European silverware with a club in a country that has never had European success.
    •  Champions League, any club not from Holland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia.
    •  Europa League, any club not from Holland, Portugal, Russia, Sweden, Belgium, Ukraine, Turkey.
    •  Conference league depends on in game outcomes!

*By this I mean to break the stranglehold of certain clubs that maintain a significant competitive advantage over their rivals, for example Dinamo Zagreb in Croatia or RB Salzburg in Austria. My definition of a top team is a little loose as some have leagues have a couple of teams that dominate, so I will assess whether I have met this goal on a case-by-case basis. 

I am under no illusions that all of this may not be possible, certainly without the time build the standing of an individual club - but this experience is about testing myself. I want a real sense of satisfaction when ticking these off, so the bar has been set very high.

In documenting my save here, I hope it will stay as a record of my achievements. However if anyone reading this is still looking to find their project on FM22 and would like to give this (or a variation of it) a go as well, I would be very interested in hearing where they end up.

Edited by Saintmat
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Season 1 - September 2021


Knattsprynuféelagið Þróttur Reykjavík

Iceland - 1. delid Karla

Naturally my first step in starting the game was to apply to every club managerial job going and see what stuck! I received interview offers from 5 clubs, across Iceland, Bulgaria, Belarus and (2 from) Turkey. Of these, I received just one job offer - Knattsprynuféelagið Þróttur, or to you and me, Throttur Reykjavík of the Icelandic second tier. Although my options were limited, I was actually pleased to be offered this job as I had thought it looked the most interesting of the potential options to me. I'd not managed in Iceland before but had noted the short season length being a particularly interesting characteristic.

Not a lot of information was available about Throttur. I enjoy the club crest and colours, being a Southampton fan, made me feel at home! The club hasn't had any great period of success and make up one of a number of Reykjavik based clubs in the Icelandic system. The stadium is literally adjoined to the national team stadium, however I've been unable to ascertain whether there is any link between the club and the national team setup. If anyone knows anything about this club and would like to inform me please make yourself known!

As for the squad itself, well it is very very young. The average age is 22, and the first team is comprised primarily of young players who have come through the academy, even younger loanees from Icelandic top tier clubs, and a smattering of imports from abroad. The media prediction was 11th, or second bottom, so the bar wasn't particularly high for my first job of the save. Without much of a budget to change the squad, I set out to make do with the players at my availability. Setting out with a somewhat pre-historic rigid 4-4-2, hoping to make use of my wingers Kairo Edwards-John and Viktor Elmar Gautason, and physical forwards (Sam Ford and Robert Haukson).

Season Outcome

Prediction: 11th
Actual Finish: 4th


Taking over in May, a quirk of the Icelandic season is that it is done and dusted by September. In my 22 games we managed a 4th place finish, just 3 points outside of the top two. Unfortunately a poor run in June gave us too much to do as we hit form in the second half of the season. Our highlights included beating local rivals Fram 3-2 after going behind 1-2, and dispatching eventual runners up Fjolnir 4-0 after the arrival of striker Vice Kendeš. Kendeš was brought in to replace Sam Ford, who was on a non-contract agreement with the club and understandably departed on a free to Exeter City.

I experimented with a more progressive 4-3-3 approach at times, with mixed results. The main issue with the squad is a lack of strength and quite often we will lose 50-50s which put us in compromised positions. However there is possibly something to build on here. As mentioned there are a number of young prospects and some of these players stepped up when needed, notably 16 year old Hinrik Harðarson who became the clubs youngest ever player and scored 3 goals for me.

Now the long Icelandic winter is ahead of me, I will keep an eye on managerial movements across the continent in case a particularly interesting job comes up - although plan A is to build on this years finish and return Throttur to the Icelandic top division.

Edited by Saintmat
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Will be interesting to see how you get on. I'm also managing Throttur and will be posting my career shortly. Incidentally Grindavik who finished 12th in the league in your first season were right at the top of the league in mine!

Iceland is an interesting league to manage in, with a number of English players and managers who appear to be plying their trade. Ex Newcastle man Danny Guthrie is playing for Fram.


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Season 2 - September 2022


Knattsprynuféelagið Þróttur Reykjavík

Iceland - 1. delid Karla

Oh man, where to even start with this season. After spending many hours hammering the continue button and re-shaping my squad, the Icelandic football season restarted in early February with the League Cup. As this wasn't the most important competition I used it as an opportunity to experiment with a more positive approach, against sturdy top division opposition. Whilst my team showed promise, unfortunately we were far from clinical enough to make it work, and ended going out in the group stage with 4 draws and 1 loss from 5 games. The Icelandic cup threw us a wobbly, and after 120 mindnumbing minutes, we lost 8-7 on penalties to divisional rivals Kordrengir. Our league season began considerably better, with immediate reprieve against Kordrengir and a late draw to eventual league winners Grotta.

June saw our best spell of the season, winning 4 on the bounce before a hugely disappointing 2-0 home loss to local rivals Fram. Thereafter we hit a patch of inconsistent form, but coming into the edge of July had done enough to keep us within touching distance of the top 2 at that stage, Grotta and IA. With our prospects high and competition tight, we started August incredibly well, briefly going top after a comeback win over Vestri. Sadly, that was where my players seemingly decided that they'd done enough and our end of season form tanked, including a 2-1 loss to bottom side Throttur V. Despite this horrific series of events, going into the last day we unbelievably still had a shot at promotion, alongside 40% of other teams in the league, courtesy of a 3-0 turning over of Fram. All we had to do was win, and hope Fram lost again.

What followed was possibly the most heartbreaking FM experience I've ever had. After 90 minutes of virtually no highlights, and with Fram losing, our opponents winger with 10 for free kicks, decided to curl a free kick into our top corner.

We finished 6th.

It took every iota of my being not to rage quit.



So, where now? Well my contract is expiring in October, and I must say I am quite feeling like now might be a good chance for a clean slate. I am finding the long Icelandic winter rather tedious to get through and feel that perhaps this is the right moment to look for pastures new. My manager has learned Icelandic (1/5 ticked off for objective 5!), and I'm not convinced there is anything particularly new to be learned or gained by staying. Perhaps I will change my mind, but for now I am anticipating a new challenge in the near future.

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On 23/11/2021 at 21:43, chile_paul said:

Will be interesting to see how you get on. I'm also managing Throttur and will be posting my career shortly. Incidentally Grindavik who finished 12th in the league in your first season were right at the top of the league in mine!

Iceland is an interesting league to manage in, with a number of English players and managers who appear to be plying their trade. Ex Newcastle man Danny Guthrie is playing for Fram.


I'll keep an eye out for yours! Yes it's quite a volatile league, I think that goes for the top division also as Valur (last season's champions) sit in the relegation places with one game to go.

There really are some great players. My assistant manager and backup midfielder is ex-Man Utd youth player Sam Hewson, who if memory serves me right was a good pickup on much older versions of FM!

And 3rd bottom Vestri this season have had no other than ex-Arsenal striker Yaya Sanogo doing everything possible to keep them in the league.

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On 29/11/2021 at 18:30, Saintmat said:

What followed was possibly the most heartbreaking FM experience I've ever had. After 90 minutes of virtually no highlights, and with Fram losing, our opponents winger with 10 for free kicks, decided to curl a free kick into our top corner.

We finished 6th.

It took every iota of my being not to rage quit.

Ouch, that's tough, I'm sure that karma and the FM Gods will reward your restraint.


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Season 3 - May 2023


FC Sellier & Bellot Vlašim

Czech Republic - Nárdoní Liga

So, after giving myself a couple of FM-free days in the wake of the end of season 2, I actually ended up veering towards a 3rd attempt at promotion with Throttur. Initially I flip-flopped with my decision, applying for a few jobs but after receiving no offers I eventually signed a new contact in September and plowed on with the long Icelandic winter. By December I'd started to assemble a team which may or may not have succeeded, but as you can already tell, I never went and found out. After requesting on multiple occasions to complete my next coaching badge, a request in January was turned down once again because doing so would "make me a more attractive prospect for other clubs". In a decision I admit was laced with some mixture of boredom and frustration, I threatened my resignation... which was duly accepted.

Screw 'em.

Fortunately, the job market was rife with opportunities. With no master to please, I cast my net wide and assessed what came in. I was offered two jobs, one in the 2nd tier of Slovakia with an overachieving but dirt poor team, and another in the 2nd tier of Czech Republic. Enticed by a £100k transfer budget and a significant step up in reputation, I signed on to become the new manager of FC Vlašim.

The first port of call was to find out a little about my new surroundings. From what I can tell, Vlašim is a club that has never had any great deal of success. Based in a small town outside Prague, the club benefit from an affiliate relationship with Slavia Prague, frequently taking youth players on loan for their first experience of senior football. The in game records only go back to 2009, but seem to indicate (at least in that time) this is a low-to-mid table club that hasn't experienced the top-flight.

The situation in January saw the club sitting 3rd bottom, just above the two relegation spots. Despite a considerable amount of financial damage, I was afforded a rather large budget to reform the playing squad and fortunately a rather large mid-season break in which to do that. In my experience transfer fees at this level are never quite worth it, so I shifted it all to the wage budget and set about finding the best unattached players I could find.

The squad itself seemed ok, not the best, but definitely under performing their ability. In a fascinating example of FM-AI logic, the club had spent £86k in the previous summer on two right wingers... despite not playing a formation that used wingers... and so had not actually given a debut to a player with the agreed playing time "star player". Really makes you think.

One of the primary issues was a lack of goals, so the main focus of my efforts were to improve this situation. I picked up two strikers of neatly complimentary styles (i.e. big man, little man) and a handful of squad players to beef up my options. The season started relatively well, with the highlight definitely being a 4-2 win over Opava in my 2nd competitive game courtesy of absolute banger from ex-Juventus youngster Nicholas Penner. However I was soon to discover this team had another fairly serious issue - the two starting center backs were just awful.


A heavily compressed April nearly saw me out of the door before my journey with Vlašim could take off. In the course of 7 games I failed to pick up a win, conceding 7 goals and scoring just 3. The offensive performance generally did not fail to create chances, but we frequently conceded cheap goals. About halfway through this run I ended up replacing my two CBs with a Slavia Prague loanee (Vlček) and a Croatian free transfer (Stanić) - sadly to little effect. With my reputation not being high enough to really convince the players of my ability, and with relegation looking like a real possibility, I headed into the final 3 games in desperate need of a win. Playing fellow stragglers Blansko, we took the lead only to concede yet another equaliser in the 86th minute. My head was in my hands, but in a stirring last gasp effort, central attacking midfielder Filip Blecha popped up to score a last moment winner and secure our survival.

With my job done I used the last two games to experiment a little more tactically, and with the freedom granted by survival managed a credible 2-0 win over 5th place Viktoria Zivkov.

Going into my 4th season, I plan to see where I can take this Vlašim team. Most of the player contracts are up in the summer, and I've managed to **** off one or two of my new signings after accidentally making a couple of promises I couldn't keep. Consequently some of the clubs better players may not be staying on, but where there is hardship there is opportunity.

I'm sure everything will eventually straighten out.

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On 01/12/2021 at 11:11, chile_paul said:

Ouch, that's tough, I'm sure that karma and the FM Gods will reward your restraint.


You'd have thought so wouldn't you! :rolleyes:


On 30/11/2021 at 19:10, DefinitelyTaylor said:

I often quite enjoy the Icelandic divisions but it can be a very acquired taste. A tough ending to the season but hopefully, as it seems you've made your decision already, you can find a suitable club to take over.

I did enjoy my time there, particularly how the very compressed league season really piles on the pressure to get a result each week. Ultimately though having to churn through months of pressing continue with a rather large game file just wasn't all that fun and I couldn't risk the same level of disappointment for the effort.

The beauty of this save though is I could quite easily end up heading back if the right opportunity came up!

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  • 1 month later...

Season 4 - May 2024


FC Sellier & Bellot Vlašim

Czech Republic - Nárdoní Liga

So, without getting ahead of myself...


šampionů! šampionů! OLE OLE OLE!!!



*Ahem* let's get back to the start shall we!

The summer of 2023 was my first opportunity for a proper squad overhaul. In total 16 players left the club, 14 on free transfers and 2 for transfer fees totaling £60k. Despite mounting debts, I was given a wage budget of £50k a month. At this level of the game, transfer fees are a waste, so I focused my efforts exclusively on players with expiring contracts and loans from Slavia and clubs in the Czech top flight. After scouring the release lists of the clubs in most of the top European divisions, I managed to assemble what I considered to be a vastly superior squad to the one I had inherited. Whilst on paper the team did not have any stand out stars at this point, there was strength in depth for every position on the field. Pre-season was comfortable, and the squad seemed to take well to my now much more attacking 4-3-3 shape, having mainly used either balanced or positive mentalities in season 3.

We were in danger of losing all of that momentum after the season opener however as we crashed to a 3-0 away loss to out-and-out league favourites and recently relegated Sigma Olomouc.

Apparently that kicking was exactly what we needed - in our next match against Viktoria Zizkov, we won by a mere 7 goals to nil :eek:

Not helped by a raft of injuries to our defenders, we found it hard to hold on to leads. No match exemplified this better than conceding a two goal cushion late to a Jihalva side that had done nothing of any real note all game. We managed to keep getting the odd good result until September, when our form really took off. After losing to Varnsdorf, the team went unbeaten in the league for 12 games (spanning the long winter break). Oddly, the match that stood out and told me that this squad were in a chance of doing something special this season was actually our 3rd round exit to Jablonec, at that time 3rd in the top division and in good form. We dominated them from the first whistle, accelerating into a comfortable 2-0 lead and not giving them a sniff, until they pulled back a scrappy goal following a fortunate deflection. We went on to create more chances but couldn't find that 3rd goal to make it comfortable, and in the 4th additional minute Jablonec got their even scrappier equaliser. From there on extra time was a foregone conclusion, with my team exhausted and unable to deal with the opposition resurgence. At the end of the game, we came away with an xG of 3.73 to their 1.55 - a 4-2 loss was harsh, but to me the message was clear, we can mix it with it with the big boys.

By the end of March we were mixing it at the top of the table. My main rivals at this stage were Opava, and Varnsdorf, two teams who like us were predicted a low-mid table finish at the beginning of the year. Opava in particular were flying prior to the winter break, but had spluttered in the immediate games after the season resumed. A 1-0 win over Vitkovice took us to the top of the league, however we then put in easily the worst 60 minutes I've seen the team play all year against Jihalva, losing 1-2 at home to the low-mid table team (meaning a total 65 minutes of poor play against the same team across two games, cost us 4 points... it's a wonder I enjoy this game!). This was followed by an equally damning 0-1 loss to rivals Varnsdorf, and we rebounded back to 3rd.

The next match, away to Trinec, didn't start much better. We conceded two goals in the first 5 minutes from absolutely nothing. At this point I was resigned to another season of disappointment, echoing the frustration of my last season in Iceland. Step up our season superhero - Danill Sukhoruchko. Our Ukrainian deep lying forward had started the year in imperious form, but had found goals harder to come by when the opposition bothered marking him. At 2-0 down, Sukho decided enough was enough, grabbed the team by the scruff of the neck and proceeded to kamehameha his way through the Trinec defense, scoring a hat-trick and ending the game with a 10.0 rating.

I could have kissed the man.


This seismic event kick started the season back into life, and we finally started showing what we were about again. The next 7 games saw us take 6 wins (and a small speedbump of a loss to Sokolov - another emerging bogey team), but Opava were not letting up. Going into the final game of the season, we sat at the top once again with 64 points to Opava's 62. For context, the champions of the previous two seasons had amassed 57 and 53 points, so this was no typical year. Taking the lead on the penultimate game of the year, with a 2-1 reversal of SK Lisen, we just needed a point to take home the title. The complicating factor was that the game would be away to Brno, who themselves needed a win to secure a playoff spot and were lead by the top scorer in the division, Imad Rondic. On the other hand, our talismanic striker Sukhoruchko had picked up an injury a few games prior ruling him out to the end of the season. Anything less than a point and we would rely on Opava losing to Vyskov.

The game did not start well. Brno evidently had much more quality on the pitch, and we were lucky to not go down a goal in the first half. We rode our luck until the 70th minute, when finally my players put their foot on the ball and decided to start playing. At the 79th minute, I went wild (and possibly scared the neighbours a bit) - this time the hero was Daniel Kozel. This player was one I had kept on from my first half season with Vlasim, mainly as a rotational option for the mezzala position. Kozel isn't a particularly gifted player, but what he does do is work his bollocks off and seems to come up with clutch goals. Making a trademark late run into the box, Kozel got away from his marker and connected with a short low cross from winger Radek Matulka.

Brno were in trouble, and inevitably came back with a response. We were under pressure for the next 10, holding out until we finally gave Imad Rondic one too many chances on the 91st minute. Then things went from bad to worse, right back Artur Vashchychyn crashed into the Brno left winger and got himself sent off at the 93rd minute. Switching to a defensive shape and pulling players back into a 4-4-1 I attempted to stifle the game. In the 96th minute (of 4 added on), we lost the opposition striker Mandic and - with my heart in my mouth - he chipped our keeper... AND SENT IT WIDE.

That's enough heart attacks for one season!

1235097195_S4LeagueProgress.thumb.png.15b83ca1455718f99108188fff455d96.png 501033955_S4BrnoMatch.thumb.png.136ea537d63ba9c7d6f49cdab83e6eb3.png

And so with that, Vlasim were promoted to the Czech Prvni Liga for the first time in their history, and I secure my first trophy in FM22! Sukhorochko ended the year as the second top scorer in the league, but so many other players excelled themselves across the course of the season. It will certainly make my decisions for who to keep and who to move on a lot harder. There are definitely some areas of the pitch I anticipate us needing to strengthen, and I can also see offers coming in for a couple of our stand out players too - it is set to be an interesting summer.

Some other achievements can also be ticked off the list. My manager is now fluent in Czech (2 out of 5 languages learned), and in terms of general progress the board funded me for the National B, and now the National A during the summer break. Let that be a lesson to Throttur!

I'd like to give a season in the top division a go with Vlasim and see where that takes me, so there are no immediate plans to move on, but if the right offer comes in then who knows!

609289808_S4Fixtures.thumb.png.acedff66ed55ba706fcf78bf905c503a.png 2020653577_S4LeagueTable.thumb.png.89c54b8d5021ca102a27265089a1de03.png

.... šampionů! šampionů!... OLE OLE OLE!!!


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On 08/12/2021 at 06:24, karanhsingh said:

Nice, I like the objectives you have set out. Good luck with this. 

Btw, which clubs are on your cool list?

Thank you!

Quite a few, there's only one in the Czech Republic (Bohemians 1905). I'm already wanting to add some that I missed but that feels like it might be cheating so I'm sticking with these ones for now! I'll copy/paste the full list below.

  1. - Austria Vienna (Austria)
  2. - Rapid Vienna (Austria)
  3. - Dinamo Minsk (Belarus)
  4. - KAS Eupen (Belgium)
  5. - Hajduk Split (Croatia)
  6. - Bohemians 1905 (Czechia)
  7. - B 93 (Denmark)
  8. - HJK (Finland)
  9. - FC Inter (Finland)
  10. - Panathinaikos (Greece)
  11. - PAOK (Greece)
  12. - OFI (Greece)
  13. - Feyenoord (Holland)
  14. - Sparta Rotterdam (Holland)
  15. - Debreceni (Hungary)
  16. - MTK (Hungary)
  17. - Ujpest (Hungary)
  18. - Beitar Jerusalem (Israel)
  19. - Bodo/Glimt (Norway)
  20. - Lillestrom (Norway)
  21. - Moss (Norway)
  22. - Tromso (Norway)
  23. - Valrenga (Norway)
  24. - Viking (Norway)
  25. - LKS Lodz (Poland)
  26. - Academica (Portugal)
  27. - Braga (Portugal)
  28. - Boavista (Portugal)
  29. - Belenenses (Portugal)
  30. - Nacional (Portugal)
  31. - Dinamo Bucharest (Romania)
  32. - FC Rapid 1923 (Romania)
  33. - (the other) Steaua Bucharest (Romania)
  34. - Torpedo Moscow (Russia)
  35. - AIK (Sweden)
  36. - Djurgardens (Sweden)
  37. - Elfsborg (Sweden)
  38. - GAIS (Sweden)
  39. - Hammarby (Sweden)
  40. - IFK Goteborg (Sweden)
  41. - Stockholm Internazionale (Sweden)
  42. - Grasshoppers (Switzerland)
  43. - Vaduz (Switzerland)
  44. - Dnipro-1 (Ukraine)
  45. - Metalist 1925 (Ukraine)


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  • 2 months later...

Season 5 - May 2025


FC Sellier & Bellot Vlašim

Czech Republic - První Liga

Good lord, this season took a long time (in my defence, some quite significant life changes have occurred since my last update!). June/July 2024 seems like a distant blur right now!

So, to recap, in season 4 I took FC Vlasim to the První Liga for the first time in their history and was set to embark on my first season of top flight management. The squad had excelled it's ability in achieving promotion, and so I was faced with the age-old FM challenge of reshaping an over-performing and under-prepared team for a slog of a season, on a limited budget. The only two players I really considered might cut it were our star striker, Daniil Sukhoruchko, and the goalkeeper, Ureche. One feature of the Czech leagues is a really sharp turnaround from post-to-pre season, and with little time to work with I set about a mass player trial operation to find the best value amongst Europe's soon-to-be released players.

So this exercise went on for a couple of weeks of in-game time, my squad was starting to form nicely and pre-season matches were set to begin, but then out of the blue a curve ball was thrown my way...

Remember last seasons cup exit at the hands of top flight Jablonec? Well as it turns out their manager had retired at the end of the season, and I must have made some sort of impression because apparently I was sat right at the top of their shortlist! Now, ordinarily I would ignore these overtures and plow on with my underdog story, but that's not what this save is all about. As per rule 3, I must attend all interviews offered to me at higher reputation clubs, and on 7th June, Jablonec came calling.

Dutifully, I turned up and had a polite conversation which seemed to go well, and sat and waited by the door. I shouldn't have really because they did not make a quick decision. June and most of July came and went, pre-season continued in earnest at Vlasim, and with just a week to go before the season proper began, the letter finally came.


After all that effort and preparation put in at Vlasim, I pulled up my roots and headed North, to the small glass-makers town of Jablonec nad nisou close to the Polish and German borders. I'm not going to deny that letting go of my boys at Vlasim was a hard thing to do (especially knowing how the AI tend to treat your former employees!), but I think after the season I ended up having this choice will seem justified.


FK Jablonec

Czech Republic - První Liga

In terms of the history of the club, Jablonec appear to be something of an overachiever given they hail from a historic town of 45k people and play in a 6k seater stadium. Ever-present in the top flight since 1994, they have somewhat consistently achieved top half finishes and European qualification on a number of occasions, with the best finish being 2nd in 2010. They maintain a healthy competitive rivalry with fellow top flight side Slovan Liberec (just 30 mins up the road), and the slightly further away Mlada Boleslav. As with many clubs of this size in the Czech Republic, there is an emphasis on home-grown talent and positive attacking football, and this is very much reflected in game with the club cultures. So while Jablonec are certainly not a big dog in the league, they provide a good fit for my approach to the game and a firm platform to have a go at the considerably better equipped Prague sides, as well as the historically successful Viktoria Plzen and Banik Ostrava.

So what was I walking into? Well to start with I had a tough act to follow. The team had finished 3rd in the regular season, but were brutalized in the final Championship group round of games, picking up just 3 of 15 points and losing out to mid-table Mlada Boleslav in the European playoff match. Despite that disappointing end of the season, I thought that theoretically the club should have a good amount of talent if they made a 3rd place finish right? My initial assessment of the squad told me this was true, but it was, to put it lightly, top-heavy and generally on the wrong side of 30. There was no shortage of attacking talent, however at the other end of the field I was left with just two aging contracted center backs who frankly looked ****, and one left back. Much like my experience of Vlasim, I wasn't given a hugely generous budget to work with, but unlike that experience, here I did not have time on my side. To make matters worse, the coaches and players had seemingly spent pre-season sat around drinking and playing blackjack or something because not a single friendly had been played since the end of last season.

Well what do you do when you have a week before the season starts, an unfit team unfamiliar with your tactical approach, and a squad in need of rejuvenation? You panic of course. In my haste, I picked up a couple of overpriced foreign talents I had some amount of residual reputational-based knowledge and set about the unavoidable start of the season. Naturally, as FM has a tendency to throw these things your way, my first game would be against my dear boys of Vlasim. I'm not going to lie, losing this one would have been pretty embarrassing. Fortunately however I was spared that fate and we took the 1-0 win courtesy of an 80th minute goal from our winger Vanicek. The rest of July was less successful, but in August after a few weeks of training the squad started to find its feet. We took 3 wins and 2 draws after an adjustment to the more positive qualities of the squad.


The big story in August however was not our form. Despite my reservations about the overall quality of the squad, I had inherited one considerably talented newgen youngster in the form of 18 year old midfielder Jakub Strnad. He had broken into the first team at 16, played every game of the season before my arrival, was a cut above the rest of the squad when it came to his ability to see and hit a pass and clearly still only just developing. So it was entirely unsurprising when the perennial wonderkid-hoggers of this world turned up and started a bidding war. Ordinarily I'd have held out for as long as possible, but in this instance the club had accepted a release clause of £5.5m in his contract and this put me in a weak negotiating position. Seeing as £5.5m would be a club changing amount of money anyway, I sought a deal for this fee, plus the option of a loan back to the end of the season. On 21st August, Manchester City coughed up the money and I didn't even lose a player. Now I had just 19 days to make the most of this unexpected windfall before the transfer window closed, so I set about making my much needed adjustments.

With the club philosophy asking me for young players for the first team based in the Czech Republic, I scoured the national youth teams for anyone who looked vaguely talented and available, picking up two footed wide forward Kevin Huňa and a promising newgen creative midfielder called Adam Ambros (for a fee which I should admit I got a bit carried away with). My best decision of the season however involved driving all the way back down to Vlasim, leaving a fat old bag of money on the doorstep of my former employers, bundling Daniil Sukhorucko into the back of a van and hightailing it back up to Jablonec. No one was going to ruin my beautiful boy.

It took a little bit of time after my transfer business concluded before we found any rhythm with our form. September saw some promising performances, and my first true big scalp with a 1-0 win over Slavia Prague, but not really a great run of form. Then in October things nosedived quite dramatically, leaving us briefly in the bottom half of the table, the loss to Zlin being particularly painful. In November however, we truly found our feet and once again I had some old friends to thank. We visited Vlasim (now playing at a larger capacity ground in Prague) who were bottom of the table, on the back of a narrow win against Bohemians. At this point Sukho (as I will now take to calling him), had failed to making any significant mark on the first team, scoring just one goal in a half-dozen appearances. Something about the blue and white stripes of our opponents however really got him going that day, and reminiscent of his barnstorming turns in the previous season, he finished the game with 4 goals.

Sukho was back baby :cool:

We proceeded to win 3 of our next 4 games before the winter break, only losing to a Sparta Prague side who were romping ahead in the league.


Having successfully navigated these choppy waters, I found myself with time, money and a convincing sense that the team was taking shape. Tactically, the team seemed to be performing well with a mix of a 4-3-3 and a 4-2-3-1, so I opted for some refinements rather than revolution. My main focus then was on transfers and contracts. My first port of call was to pick up Martin Vitik, a central defender on loan from Sparta who had made a strong impression in the first half of the season. His contract was due to expire at the end of the season and he saw good sense to continue his career somewhere he would be getting game time. I also moved on Milan Ristovski, one of our many forward players who was something of an expensive jack of all trades. Crucially he had not settled into the new system, so I snapped up an offer of £1.2m from Craiova in Romania. Two free transfers arrived in midfielders Martin Calderon and Michael Kingsley, two players I had trialed with Jablonec at the start of the year but now their wage demands had dropped quite considerably I could justify their acquisitions. My most exciting purchase however was Adam Pospech, an 18 year old physical center back who has been playing first team football in the 2nd division at a very high standard for the past 2 seasons.

Naturally then he only managed 94 minutes of action in our first two games of the restart, before FM and a Mlada Boleslav striker decided to break his leg. :seagull:

Clearly this incensed the team somewhat and we smashed them 6-2, Sukho picking up a hat-trick of course. In fact Sukho managed 7 goals in the opening 3 games, and in general the team were absolutely flying. This was followed by a rather painful 2-0 home defeat to local rivals Slovan Liberec, which I can only put down to an unfortunate clash of styles where we very much come out the loser. Our form however meant we were competing to finish in the top 6, and thus qualify for the end of season Championship group, and on top of that we had quietly made our way through the early rounds of the Pohár. The next 4 games saw us beat Slavia (again), Viktoria Plzen and Banik Ostrava, and Mlada Boleslav in the quarter finals of the cup. These results more or less secured our top 6 finish and put us through to the semi final against Viktoria. We pulled the same trick twice, taking a 2-0 victory and sending us to a cup final.


Into May and the Championship group then. First up was Slavia, who we'd done the double over in the regular season but obviously still posed a major threat. Honestly we should have taken our 3rd win against them, dominating the game and nullifying their threats, but two key mistakes cost us the game. We bounced back with another win over Viktoria, and took the lead against Sparta, only for mistakes (tactical and individual) to cost us that one. Up next was a crucial game against Banik Ostrava, who we'd failed to beat in our previous two encounters. A few tactical tweaks then and we came away with a 2-0 victory on the road. This was to be all she wrote for our league campaign though. Slovan Liberec, who had been miserable in every other game during the post-season, turned up with a view to stinking the place out. They very much achieved what the came for, and we sank to a 1-0 home defeat. Must do better next season in these derby games!


I am however slightly skipping ahead there, as prior to the Liberec game we faced off with Sparta Prague, in the Pohár final. We'd taken 3 Ls from 3 games against league champions Sparta, in fact they only lost 1 game all season. Clearly this was going to be a difficult encounter. I did however harbour some quiet confidence, in the recent 1-3 defeat we might have lost the game but overall our strategy of a very high line and a hard-pressing midfield made things a lot more difficult for them than they would have liked. My confidence was raised further when the team sheet told me that Sparta had rotated heavily for this one (despite already wrapping up the league by this stage). This was good, but it did mean that they had more pace in behind and so the super high line was dropped back a notch.

We started fantastically. Sparta were unable to get out for the opening exchanges and we won a penalty on 18 minutes when Dalbert clumsily went through Vanicek on the edge of the box. Joy turned quickly to despair as Sukho stepped up only to see his penalty saved by Joao Virginia. Fortunately the early pressure paid off again, this time Sukho played provider, releasing Huňa over the top and he cut it back for boy wonder Strnad. We were under the big boy's skin and they didn't like it. After another 10 minutes of relentless pressure, Sean Klaiber went in heavy handed on our star left back Zeleny and forced us into an early change. This was of some significance, as our setup relies on his overlapping runs down the left hand side and I did not have a natural left back on the bench. I expected the tide to turn here but Sparta did not respond to our setback. Half-time arrived without much further action, and I had nothing but praise for my team. Into the second half then, and still no response came. On 54 minutes another highlight, this time a 30 yard free kick being stood over by Strnad.

I should add some context at this point - we would not be keeping Strnad any longer than this season. Man City agreed to the loan extension but the player did not want to stay on, and to be honest I don't blame him. As talented as he has been for us, Strnad only featured in about half of this seasons games. I found it difficult to get the balance right for him and his performances suffered, so I could not keep him in the team. I put him in the team for the final purely based on his performance against Sparta in the league, ahead of one of our stand out players of the season, Adam Karabec.

Evidently, he decided that he had a point to prove today. Strnad is not a great free kick taker by any stretch, but you wouldn't know that from watching this. He hits a powerful, curling ball around the outside of the wall and post which flies into the bottom corner of Joao Virginia's net. This was well and truly his game.

Then finally the Sparta response came. Two first teamers come off the bench, and just 2 minutes later with us penned back one Sparta CM pings the ball over the top to the other CM for that classic FM22 unmarked midfielder run goal. I was expecting this to be the moment for the momentum to shift.

Not so. We swing a corner into the box and the ball is taken down clumsily by the Sparta defender and his hand, and the referee points to the spot for the 2nd time in the match. This time it's Strnad who steps forward to lay claim to his hat trick. Unfortunately, and slightly unbelievably, Virginia makes yet another penalty save. I am distraught!

And so we wait for our profligacy in front of goal to come back and bite us. And yet it does not. Sparta stir but do not threaten, and I cut them off at every pass. As their frustration builds, so does their yellow card count, and we keep the Czech giants at bay.

By 90 minutes we have exhausted them, and young right winger Tomas Langr releases Sukho behind the center back. My Ukrainian dreamboat makes no mistake from open play, crashing the ball to the keepers right. We've done it, the game is won and I'm in bedlam. I barely even notice when minutes later, deep into injury time I did not believe existed, my makeshift left back for the day is released behind the Sparta lines and cuts back for Sukho to ram home his 2nd and our 4th.

I don't have the words to describe how good that one felt. 4-1 against the near unbeaten league champions and frankly it could have been more. Their keeper finished on an 8.5 and not a single other player got close to a 7.0, I think that tells you everything about their performance on the day.


šampionů! šampionů! OLE OLE OLE!!!



What a season, what a post. This has taken me an entire afternoon to write. Well done if anybody has made it this far!

What next then for season 6? Well most of the transfer business has already been settled. Contracts have been signed and I know (mostly) who will and won't be around for the next year. I have spent a bit of the Strnad money on another player Man City had been targeting in January but declined to go in for, a left winger from Slovacko who had been tearing up trees in the top flight at just 19. Needless to say I am excited to see him in action.

I am also keen to see if Sukho can top his last year with us. He finished as top scorer with 22 goals in the end, not bad for a player everyone rated as 2 star when I brought him in.

My goal with Jablonec more broadly would be to have a shot at objective 6, topple a big team. Undoubtedly Slavia and Sparta maintain a significant financial and competitive advantage, and the presence of two of these teams makes things even harder - I'd be relying on both of them having weaker seasons, and Viktoria and Banik being unable to take their place too. I also have my first European campaign to look forward to. We are (I think) being spat out into the 3rd qualifying round for the Europa League. Success in that competition could be tricky, but I could see us having a fair shot at getting through some rounds in the Conference League, which could potentially fulfill objective 7.

I have about 3 seasons to make that a reality, but being the ambitious sort I am always on the lookout for better opportunities - and definitely a chance to manage a team from the cool list. Let's see how this summer pans out!


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Season 6 - May 2026


FK Jablonec

Czech Republic - První Liga

Part of me misses those halcyon days in Iceland where I could crack out a whole season in the space of a week, but then I don't think this would be so much fun!

Onto season 6 then, in Jablonec. This time round I had a full summer to mould the squad. As mentioned in the last post, I had picked up a left winger (Kasalek) for a small sum, but my main priority was replacing our goalkeeper who had signed a contract with APOEL after I failed to notice he'd moved in the last 6 months of his deal. After weighing up a few targets, Gianluca Saro from Crotone was who I ended up going with. Certainly not an outstanding keeper, but a solid all rounder. Other than a few depth signings, on loans and free transfers, I did not conduct much other business and the core of the squad remained the same.

In pre-season, I was introduced to a trophy I hadn't come across before - the Czechslovakian Supercup - played between the winners of the Czech Pohar (us), and the Slovakian Cup winners (Slovan Bratislava). As a fan of these localised cross-border competitions, I was excited to see my team in competitive action against non-domestic opposition. We ended up playing out a corker of a game, coming back from a 2 goal deficit to win 3-2, courtesy of a last minute Karabec winner.


The season opened with last year's once-defeated champions, Sparta Prague. Not the start I would have picked, but fresh off the back of our Supercup victory, we repeated the trick pulled in the Pohar final of last season with a 3-1 win. Unfortunately we couldn't back that up against Slovacko, in a classic case of "being FM-ed" to a 0-1 loss, then squeezed out a slightly underwhelming 1-0 win over lowly Teplice. As August arrived, so did our bow in Europe. We'd been drawn against Basel in the Europa League qualifying rounds. There were harder teams we could have faced, but Basel didn't look like pushovers. That certainly proved to be the case, in the first leg we huffed and puffed but they never looked in any sort of discomfort. Given the sizable difference in budgets and pure reputational stature, I didn't think we stood much of a chance in our home leg. Instead my team put in a great performance and took the tie to extra time with 1-0 90 minute lead. In extra time however I learned a lesson in paying attention, Canadian Liam Millar came off the bench and I didn't reset our opposition instructions, and he duly scored. Sukho put us back in it, but in the 120th minute Millar struck again.

Demotion to the Conference league didn't seem like the worst thing in the world. We had one qualifying round to get through, and participation in the group stage would guarantee a good chunk of money for the club. We drew Standard Liege, again a good team but not one I would necessarily expect to beat. Sukho had other ideas. The Ukrainian hitman scored a hat-trick as we smashed the Belgians 5-2 in a topsy-turvy game. The second leg ended up being more hairy than I would have liked, but an early Kevin Huna goal put us just far enough ahead to make it through.

Meanwhile our league form had suffered with the fixture pile up. A credible win over Banik Ostrava was followed by a disappointing draw at Bohemians, and a loss to early leaders Viktoria Plzen. Fortunately things picked up soon after with a 3-0 win over promoted Pribram.


From here, things really started to pick up. In the Conference league we drew a group of Atalanta, Ferencvaros and Dnipro-1, with our opening game against the Italians. If the gulf between us and Basel and Standard was big, that was nothing compared to a Serie A club. Lady luck was on our side however, as they picked up an early red card. They did go ahead courtesy of Chukweze, but my superlative defying striker Sukho struck again for an equaliser and we saw out a very very credible 1-1 draw. The league and cup form continued to improve as well, with a particular highlight being a 3-1 win over rivals Slovan Liberec who had given me so much trouble the previous year.

We didn't turn up in round 2 of the Conference league, but in hindsight a 0-0 draw in Ferencvaros was not a bad result. It was around this time I started getting a few job offers. Slavia Prague were having an awful campaign and were consigned to 14th place. Following my self-imposed rules, I attended the interview they offered me 2 days before we were due to play. After weighing this one up however, I decided that a 3rd job in the Czech Republic was not a step I wanted to take. I decided that if they could offer an increased transfer budget and a few more concessions I would make the move, but Slavia did not take the bait and picked someone else. Perhaps sweeping them aside 3-1 put them off me or something? Another 3-1 win followed against Dnipro, with that man Sukho popping up with a brace yet again.

November was not quite so successful. Promoted Brno were having a great season, but were extraordinarily fortunate to come away with a 2-1 win, having lost the xG battle 1-3. Imad Rondic who had been so strong in the Nardoni Liga just ended up having that sheer force of will that we couldn't deal with. This was then followed by 3 games in 6 days, and that issue was compounded by being taken to extra time in the cup. Away to Dnipro we didn't have the legs but ultimately a 1-0 loss could have been worse. This culminated with our second win over Sparta Prague however, who like their rivals Slavia, were not having anything like a stellar campaign. Next in Europe was the away leg at Atalanta. This time, we were the recipient of an early red card, and so went through the rest of the game in damage limitation mode. Despite that setback, my team rallied and we held out for another credible European result, a 0-0 draw.

At the end of November I was faced with yet another interesting juncture. Fenerbahce this time were seeking out my services, and this one would be a harder proposition to turn down. Purely on a financial level this would be another level, and in any case I had to seriously consider the job given the objectives of this save. In the end however, the choice was taken out of my hands and they went with somebody else. At the very least it is nice to know my achievements here were not going unnoticed!

A few more matches followed before the winter break. We were FM'ed for a second time in the season by bottom side Teplice, but did follow that up with a 2-1 win over Mlada Boleslav. For the last European group round we actually stood a chance of qualification. It was basically between us and Ferencvaros for the 2nd place spot behind Atalanta. In another huge European night, we rained down on the Hungarian champions and came away with a 5-1 win, so we would be heading to the first knockout round. With Christmas rolling in, we left for the month and a half break with a 3-0 win over Banik Ostrava in our pockets. 


The January window saw little change in the squad makeup, other than the addition of Marek Mihal, a diminutive and pacy striker to give us a different sort of profile up front, to compliment Sukho. In the league we were neck and neck with Viktoria Plzen, with no other challengers particularly close, so naturally the first game back in from the cold was against Viktoria. Despite a dominating performance we only scored 1 goal, and naturally when you don't take your chances the game punishes you, in this case with another late goal. Back onto Europe and we had been given a rough draw of Sporting Lisbon who had dropped in from the Europa League. This was less than ideal and in the first leg we did not show up at all. Sporting quite clearly had the quality and frankly should have scored more. Ahead of the second leg we found our feet again, this time a last minute winner of our own and Kevin Huna coming up clutch to see away Mlada Boleslav. I'd fended off some reasonable bids for him in January, so was pleased to be rewarded for keeping him around! So, a trip to Portugal was next on our list. To be quite honest, I expected very little here. Losing the home leg made this a near impossible task. However, in an incredibly open game, Huna stepped up for the second match in a row to curl home a last minute goal and took the tie to extra time. Then we did it again, a near post corner to Martin Vitik and at 120 minutes we were heading through to yet another round.

I began to wonder if something special might be happening...

March arrived and this was the month of Okyere Wriedt, who had gone from star man when I turned up at the club, to a utility option and the fringes of the squad, and back to being an integral part of the first team makeup. A draw with Pribram aside, this month in the league was good, not least because Viktoria had started to drop an alarming amount of points and I was pulling away. Sparta Prague however were not far behind, and I knew that with the Championship group to follow the regular season, I would need as big a cushion as I could muster. In Europe we had an easier draw, Maccabi Tel-Aviv of Israel. Of course Maccabi are still a much richer and talented team than my Jablonec, but we'd developed a certain confidence in these fixtures and clearly feared no one. At home we won 4-0, more goals from Sukho, then away we only took a 1-1 draw but the damage had been done.

In April things started to get a bid mad. The Pohar returned and all of a sudden we were looking at a full month of 2 games a week, with more of that to follow if we managed to be successful. Gulp!

Huna stepped up in the cup, which meant that we would face Plzen in the Semi final at the end of the month. Our reward for the quarter final in the Conference league was Dynamo Kiev. At risk of repeating myself, this was yet another case of being financially, technically, mentally and physically outmatched, and yet another case of us upsetting the odds. Huna continued to establish his credentials as the man for the big occasion, collecting a brace in our home leg. The scoreline was in defiance of the performance of a very capable Dynamo side, and so going into the away leg I knew we would still have work to do. That proved to be the case, as Kiev took a well deserved 1-0 lead into the second half. However my main man Sukhoruchko was in one of those moods again, and against the side that let him go for free he ghosted in to the area on a deep run and slotted it past their keeper. We held out at 1-1 and booked our spot in the Conference semis. We couldn't could we?

Despite the congestion, we managed to maintain our pace in the league. At this stage I am making full use of the squad, essentially having two separate 11s to rotate in each game. With Viktoria Plzen in freefall and Sparta Prague spluttering, we tied up the regular season needing just a singular win in the Championship group to secure the title.

In the semi final of the Pohar, we take on Viktoria who despite their bad form give us a heck of a game, however after drawing level at 1-1 we put on the after burners and speed away to a 3-2 win. This sets up May to be another two games a week month, which will include an attempt at tying up the league title, retaining the cup and a shot at European glory. No pressure then.


Into the Conference league semis, where we met Salzburg. In the home leg we start well, but Michael Kingsley loses his head early doors and hacks down the opposition LB in an attempt to win the ball high up the pitch. Thankfully we have some experience of this, and manage grind out another 0-0, where nothing really happens despite some intense Salzburg possession and pressure. I'm disappointing to lose Kingsley, who is a particularly unique BWM when it comes to his skill set, but at least we aren't going into the second leg with a deficit. Meanwhile we have the league to finish off. I realise this should be a more monumental occasion than it really is. Only one club outside of the "big 4" in Czech football has ever won the title, our arch-rivals Slovan Liberec. However it certainly seems like a foregone conclusion, moreso after Viktoria drop yet more points. We face Mlada Boleslav, who haven't really given us much trouble this season and have somehow snuck into the Championship group with distinctly low points total. Nevertheless I have to rotate for this one. Things don't start well, we concede a goal in the 1st minute, and a second in the 10th. Just before half time, on loan midfielder Novotny pulls one back and that is crucial as it allows us to get a foothold back in the game. A little tactical tweak at half time frees up Marek Mihal, our January signing, and quickly we have overturn a 2-1 into a 2-3. The momentum is ours, until the 85th minute when they pull us back, but it is too little too late. The Prvni Liga belongs to Jablonec!



šampionů! šampionů! OLE OLE OLE!!!

With that, I am ticking off the first of my major objectives - topple a top team in any league. With a budget just a quarter of the size of Sparta Prague's and considerably smaller than Slavia, Banik and Viktoria, we have sauntered away with the title. As expected it did require a few poor seasons, but having so many of those happen at once was not so expected, and certainly not so soon. I'm not complaining!

Into the European semi second leg, and we faced a trip to Salzburg. As expected we come under some early pressure, but Sukho grabs a quality goal on the counter to put us in the lead. They pull back shortly after, but we maintain a grip of the flow of the game and come 78 mins, Eric Bailly rashly goes through Sukhoruchko and receives a second yellow card. This game still was not a foregone conclusion however, and we head into extra time for the umpteenth time this season. I'm preparing for penalties, but then, just after the restart, we score the best weirdest goal I've seen in my time playing FM. The Salzburg DLP intercepts our move and passes the ball back to his keeper, Ronning. Under pressure from Sukho, Ronning punts the ball long..... straight onto Sukho's head and into the back of the net.

I went absolutely wild.

Jablonec would be heading to their, and as far as I can tell their country's, first European club final. Awaiting us was Valencia, but more on that later.

With the league title ours, sights were set firmly on the Pohar final, with Banik Ostrava awaiting us. This was a side that had given us some difficulty in the past, but suffered from a crippling lack of consistency. A week prior we see them off 3-2 in the league (which would prove to be our only win in the Championship group!), in a game that should have been much more straightforward after their main CB was sent off in the first half.

You might have noticed that a lot of our games this season, particularly crucial ones, have featured red cards. I'd be interested to find out how many but unfortunately I don't really know how to extract that without purely counting them out. I mean I'm a meticulous nerd but that's too far even for me. Anyway, I digress - the point I was trying to make is, if you think you've seen all the red cards for this season think again.

The final is a tense and nervy affair, we edge the first half, and as the half time whistle approaches, the red mist descends once again on Banik. The culprit this time is midfielder Tetour, and all of a sudden the game opens up. But it wasn't done there. One minute later, Banik's other midfielder, Janos, slides in hard on Karabec and before we've even made it into the dressing rooms, we know we will be facing a 9 man team in the second half. This should be a cakewalk right? Well, yes it should, but Banik go for a low block and we struggle to break them down, through our own seasonal fatigue. So despite the considerable player advantage we end up needing extra time. Again. Thankfully, the old near post corner routine comes to rescue me from the indignity of losing a final with a two man advantage. Banik weren't done though. Well, with the red cards anyway. One of their substitutes decides he's had enough too, and on 120 minutes trips up our captain Houska, and they are down to 8.

I've never had that happen to me before, and I suspect I never will again.


And, at risk of repeating myself...

šampionů! šampionů! OLE OLE OLE!!!

Well that wraps up the double, just the 5th time a Czech team has achieved such a feat and the 1st time that team wasn't Sparta Prague. I'm certainly quite proud of this one! :D


Of course, we still had the big one to play. A European cup final, against Valencia, at the Benito Villamarin, and a chance to tick a second major objective of mine from my list in one season. Now you might think this would be a step too far, but given how my team had surpassed every challenge thrown at us this season, especially on the big occasion, I had a quiet sense of confidence about this. This was reinforced when I read the odds were not overwhelmingly in Valencia's favour. And strengthened further as I noticed two of their key players were going to be ruled out through injury and supension. My team, although jaded from a long season, were all available for selection, and I could enter the match with my preferred first XI.




Sadly, this fairytale did not have a happy ending. :(

It took just 6 minutes for Valencia to take the lead, and frankly, we never really recovered from that setback. After about 30 minutes we established our foothold in the game and played some good stuff, but couldn't create that chance to see us through. As we tweaked things in the 2nd half, Sebastien Haller (whose physical presence had been a nuisance all game) lost his man on a wide free kick and crashed home a second. We continued to play well, but I got the feeling that Valencia were simply coasting through this one. In the dying embers of the game, Carlos Soler curled a free kick into the top corner. 0-3 was exceptionally harsh.

And with that deflating end to the season, I'm left to ponder what might have been, and what the future holds...



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Season 7 - July 2026

SK_Rapid_Wien_svg.png.9ce97465f25c9272cdc3e2940efa0688.png                               vs                            CSKA_Sofia_Logo_2020.png.defd6817583302cc3938704df1d72367.png

Weighing up my options.

In the interest of maintaining my momentum with these updates, from now on I'm going to try and do some more frequent but shorter entries here.

So, for my first of these posts, I wanted to briefly talk about a little dilemma I'm having right now. Before the Conference League final, my mind was made up. I would leave Jablonec at the end of the season and move on to new pastures. After handing in my resignation I applied for a range of jobs that interested me. Far from the first round of applications at the start of this save, I had accrued a degree of reputation and felt I could afford to be a little more selective in my eventual destination. Applications went in to four clubs; Rapid Wien, CSKA Sofia, Heerenveen and Ujpest. Additionally I received invitations to interview with Viktoria Plzen, Standard Liege and Zorya Luhansk.

From these seven clubs I am now faced with a choice of two. I turned down the three interview offers from Viktoria, Standard and Zorya. Part of the reason for leaving Jablonec was to add a new country and a new league to my manager profile, and having won everything in the Czech domestic game, there was nothing left there for me to prove. Standard Liege are a big name, but are financially in huge debt and besides, a move to Belgium is not what I imagined at this stage of my career. Zorya Luhansk I might have considered, but FM is still a form of escapism for me and I have made a conscious decision to avoid the Ukrainian, Russian and Belarusian leagues, especially given the most recent update changing how these clubs operate. With Ujpest, this would have realistically been a step down, as they are a lower mid-table Hungarian team. I initially applied as they were on my cool list, but felt that maintaining some amount of realism was important to me and eventually decided to withdraw, despite being offered the job. Heerenveen was more straightforward, I interviewed but pushed my luck and they chose another candidate. This was no biggie as ultimately I see the Dutch league as a final destination for my manager and saving the country for a move to one of the big boys there feels like a good idea for now. I was more interested in seeing how far I would get in applying to a team in the highest ranked leagues available to me.

This leaves me with Rapid Wien and CSKA Sofia, who have both offered me the job. And frankly, I am a bit torn. So let's weigh up the options...

Rapid Wien        SK_Rapid_Wien_svg.png.9ce97465f25c9272cdc3e2940efa0688.png

Historically one of the most successful clubs in Austria, Rapid Wien (along with their city rivals Austria Wien) were one of the first clubs to go on my aforementioned "cool list". As a reminder, at the start of this save I made a list of clubs across Europe who I thought might be interesting projects, based on various subjective factors but typically some combination of current and historical status, and aesthetic qualities (basically do I like the name or the kit). Rapid like many teams in these parts of Europe now have ended up victim to the new money and dominance of Red Bull Salzburg. They boast a crazy 32 titles to their name, and intriguingly a single German Bundesliga, presumably won during occupation by Nazi Germany, but last won the Austrian title in 2008 and have been a long way short of challenging for some time.

In game, they have recorded a short series of mid-table finishes, rarely challenging in the end of season Championship group. They have just sacked Didi Kuhbauer (for a second time), and are offering me the following contract. I do not have great visibility of the squad and their attributes, but it is distinctly small and a rebuild would almost certainly be required. The facilities are ok, and they are not in European competition. Potentially this looks like a 2-3 year job at least, as I would be living under the thumb of RB Salzburg.


CSKA Sofia           CSKA_Sofia_Logo_2020.png.defd6817583302cc3938704df1d72367.png

So what can CSKA Sofia offer me? Well for a start they weren't on my original list, but if I recall correctly they weren't far off being included. Like Rapid, CSKA offer a similar tale of being a fallen giant now dominated by a new domestic force. 31 times winner of the Bulgarian Parva Liga, the "army men" as they are known fell into ruin in the mid 2010s, following a long decline in the absence of the Governmental support they had been receiving in the late 1990s. These days Bulgaria is dominated by Ludogorets Razgad, a team many will be aware of for their Champions League exploits. Despite being based in a small town of 25,000, Ludogorets have won every Bulgarian title since they arrived in the top flight in 2011, and are bankrolled by one of the richest men in Bulgaria via his veterinary pharmaceutical company. CSKA on the other hand were nearly dissolved in 2015, and only exist today thanks to some rather dodgy shenanigans, much akin to the MK Dons style hostile takeover of another club (in this case, Litex Lovech, who have also reformed). This caused a fanbase split, and now CSKA Sofia share their league with, well, another CSKA Sofia, named CSKA 1948 and run by a subset of the original fanbase, while the owners of the old-CSKA run the team offering this next job to me.

Thanks to this video from Hitec Sevens explaining this in detail - it is worth the watch! And you might also care to watch his video on Ludogorets Razgad too. Very interesting stuff.

In my save, CSKA have basically continued their trajectory as the perennial bridesmaids in Bulgarian football. The position is now available due to the retirement of... *checks notes*.... Alan Pardew! The old dog seems to have made the step up from his DoF role in 2024. Besides the time it took, it is scary sometimes how well FM imitates real life. The squad, in contrast to Rapid, is large and would probably require some amount of trimming. The club boast a wage expenditure of £3m a year, considerably more than their nearest rivals but even further from the £7m a year being pumped in by Ludogorets. The job basically looks to be to try and overturn the dominance of Ludogorets, and return CSKA Sofia to the top spot. Additionally, they will compete in a qualifying round in a weeks time to gain entry to the Conference League group stage, and so potentially I can have another stab at this competition and my objective of winning European silverware with a club in a country that has never tasted it before. If I take this on, I'll have a transfer budget of £4.7m, a wage budget of £413k and a two year deal. Notably, they are only offering £5.5k p/m in wages, less than I was on at Jablonec.


Pros and Cons

Rapid Wien 


  • On my original list. In fact many clubs from that list are no longer realistic options as they would be major steps down. I want to manage 3 from that list in my career, so this would be a good chance to get started on it.
  • The foundations and money are available for a rebuild.
  • A realistic step up, a bigger club in a bigger league than Jablonec.
  • £25k p/m contract represents a significant pay rise and would realistically be an attractive opportunity for my manager.


  • The job doesn't seem quite so interesting, and looks like it would have to be a long term project. For this next step in my career I think I want a two year job max.
  • I don't have great opportunities here to tick off other objectives. My manager already speaks the language, and I have already toppled a big team in my league.
  • As a watcher of Zealand's Floridsdorfer challenge, I'm actually quite familiar with the Austrian Bundesliga now and that mysterious allure of a new league isn't quite there for me any more.

CSKA Sofia


  • An interesting club history in an unknown new league. I quite liked the idea of taking on one of these 'schism' clubs (e.g. Steaua in Romania), so despite their absence from my original list I think they probably ought to have been on there anyway.
  • As long as I last I can potentially teach my manager Bulgarian, which will be my 3rd of 5 targeted new languages.
  • A squad packed with some of the best talents in the country, and youth facilities which raise the prospect of finding some good wonderkids to work with. I already see one in the squad who PSG are sniffing about.
  • Club philosophies that closely match my own (develop youth players and play attacking football).
  • A shot at the Conference League (admittedly this might be quite ambitious).
  • More of a short-term job than Rapid are offering.


  • £5.5k p/m is pitiful. I would want to try and negotiate this higher.
  • A hard grind against the might of Ludogorets doesn't sound fun. I would have this at Rapid too though.

And the decision is....







Ultimately, I think this seems like the more fun option. Passing up the opportunity of ticking Rapid off my cool list is a bit of a shame, but there are others on that list too and CSKA might as well have been on it too. The official list will have to wait.

So now it's time to pack my bags for Sofia....!

Edited by Saintmat
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  • Saintmat changed the title to [FM22] An Adventure in Europe's Outskirts (Currently Managing: CSKA Sofia)
  • 1 month later...

Season 7 - August 2026


CSKA Sofia

Bulgaria - Prva Liga

Well, so much for writing more frequent updates. On the other hand this should be a shorter one, so there is that!

Right, let's do a stock check.

On first assessment, the squad was about where I thought it would be. As mentioned, there are a couple of standout promising youngsters, namely Andrey Nistorov and Yavor Geshev, so I will start with them.

Nistrorov is certainly the more developed of the two. At 20 he has been in the team for a couple of years, and has mostly been played as a center back. I'm not exactly sure why, as besides some decent core defensive technical attributes, he lacks the physicality I want in that position. Where Nistorov excels in his his reading and mental presence in a midfield role, so I have immediately set about playing him as a deep-lying playmaker. On arrival PSG were sniffing around him but their interest seems to have waned and I'm currently left with cursory offers from FC Kopenhaven which I can easily bat away. He does have a release clause of £3.2m, which I would quite like to shift but his agent is playing hardball on negotiations with that one, so I will have to hope their tune changes before we get to January.


Geshev on the other hand is undoubtedly a more attacking-minded player, but again one who I have had to remould. Naturally an AMC (a position I tend to avoid using if I can), and with some familiarity as an attacking left winger or in the strikers position, I was a little stuck with what to do with him at first. What he has in abundance is technical ability on the ball (passing 16, technique 17) and a great combination of agility (16), balance (17) and flair (15) to hold on to it. In my favoured 4-3-3, he fits best as an attacking member of the midfield two, and after just a month of training and game time has already developed into an accomplished player in this position. On top of that, with 3 seasons on his contract and no release clause, I can see this guy being the one to build the team around (should I keep him happy).


Elsewhere, an increasingly familiar problem was apparent, one that I've encountered in each club on my arrival - i.e. a complete lack of defensive depth. It might be chance, but it does seem apparent that the FM AI isn't very good at maintaining quality cover in the defensive positions, and so this is the one area I set about recruiting in the transfer market for. My issues were made a little harder when the captain and starting center back, a 33 year old Dutchman, decided he wanted to return to his home country. After receiving a £600k offer I couldn't really turn that sort of money down for a player of his age at this level, so he made his way to the exit door.

The main priority was at right wing back however. In my system this is an important role and I needed someone who could offer genuine quality down the flanks. Thankfully, I know that Portugal is a good place to shop for these sorts of players and picked up Tiago Almeida, a 24 year old recently released by Panathinaikos. I have had to put good money on the table for someone who is arguably uninspiring, but in the absence of any better options and with the importance of the role very high, I feel satisfied that this is my guy. At center back I repatriated Kaloyan Kostov, a young Bulgarian who had been on Benfica's books for many years. I fought off interest from Ludogorets and CSKA 1948 (our "schism" club) to secure his signing and the early indications are very positive there.


Otherwise the rest of the squad is reasonably well balanced. If I had any queries about who would step up as my main goalscoring threat, they were answered rather abruptly. Jordy Caicedo, an Ecuadorian striker with rather intimidating speed and strength, has scored a mere 14 goals in 10 appearances so far. If he keeps up this rate, the season will be an absolute doddle... (I doubt it!).


In terms of the objectives for the year, it seems as predicted this will be a hard grind against the mighty Ludogorets. In fact I already played them once, in just my 3rd league fixture, and frustratingly lost to a last minute winner, scored immediately after getting what I thought was an undeserved equaliser just minutes before. In mitigation, the fixture calendar was rather cruel to us in this timing, as we played the match sandwiched between the two halves of our Europa Conference League qualifying campaign. Previous readers will know of the heartbreak in Jablonec, reaching the final only to be swatted aside by Valencia. One of my key career objectives is to win this competition, and doing so with a team of a nation that has not seen previous success is another one. In that context, I would really like a solid crack at this with CSKA Sofia.

Things have got off to a good start in that regard. We have qualified now for the group stage, managing victories against opposition in Norway (Brann), Hungary (Puskas Akademica) and my old foes from Switzerland (Basel), who had knocked us out in Jablonec from the Europa League qualifying path. Unfortunately my prospects of making it much further don't look quite so good. We managed to draw the hardest team currently in the competition (Arsenal), as well as formidable opposition in Partizan. The group is rounded out by Odd of Norway. I will hope to make my way into the 2nd place spot by exercising damage limitation with Arsenal, and muscling out Partizan. Let's see how that goes.

For the time being however, the focus will be on keeping pace in the league. Ludogorets will be tricky to overturn, but I am confident that it is not an unassailable gap. CSKA 1948 will be our other main competitors, so the games with these teams will be crucial. Beyond these two, the general quality of the league is a lot lower than in the Czech Republic, so it is essential that we don't trip up anywhere unnecessary as we go.


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  • 2 weeks later...

This is fantastic made, heard about our save on the Football Manager Show podcast so thought I’d check it out, loving the updates.

You’ve inspired me for my final save of FM22  - started a save with every top division in Europe.

Just landed in January and been offered a job in Latvia, let’s go. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

Season 7 - December 2026


CSKA Sofia

Bulgaria - Prva Liga

I've finally made it to the winter break, so this feels like a good point for an update. How has it gone you ask? Well, it is safe to say things haven't gone quite as planned. Thankfully I'm not out of a job, but I have certainly been living perilously at times.


After a promising start in our opening fixtures, things took a nosedive in the league from then on. We took just one win in the next seven, in a run of fixtures mostly against teams we would expect to beat. No results were more frustrating than against splinter club CSKA 1948, conceding a 2-0 lead with just 5 minutes to go. In fact conceding late goals has been a theme for most of my time in charge so far. In all competitions, we have conceded no less than 13 in the last 10 minutes or in extra time.

I'm not going to lie, I seriously considered cutting my losses with this one and moving on to the next one.

However in November I decided to make a tactical switch, ditching the 4-3-3 that had served me so well in the Czech Republic and embracing the 4-1-3-2 shape that so many FM players seem to have had success with in this year's version. My take on this has emphasised attacking overlaps from our full backs, taking advantage of the technical abilities I have acquired on either flank. This seemed to unlock a new dynamic within the team, and we have now won seven on the bounce, including rather impressively a highly deserved 1-0 win over the previously unbeaten Ludogorets. Take that big-pharma.


We find ourselves in 3rd place going into the break, trailing the eternal nemesis Levski by 10 points, but also carrying 3 games in hand. All things considered I'm thankful to even be this high given what I've gone through. Ludogorets look out of sight this year, so the rest of the league season will likely be taken as an opportunity to properly familiarise myself with the opposition and take a view for challenging next year (if I make it!).

The league is only half the story though, the Conference League has been even more of a rollercoaster.


We were drawn against easily the hardest top seed in the draw, Arsenal, and with Serbian team Partizan and Norwegian team Odd. Whilst being lined up with the Gunners was a hiding to nothing, I fancied our chances against the other two. We'd certainly overcome more testing opposition in the qualifiers anyway.

Our opening game in London went, well pretty much how you might expect. Any hopes were dashed before kick off when Arteta named a more or less full strength side. Despite some initially promising attacks, we quickly fell behind on the score-sheet. Then, as anticipated, we managed to get the best of Partizan and Odd. We made hard work of the Norwegians, going 2-0 down in the first half, but roared back in the second half. This was in the middle of our league slump so proved to be a huge turning point in the season. In November we hosted Odd, but this time our pesky habit of conceding late goals cost us. Despite being 2 goals to the good with 10 minutes to go, we could not hold on for a win. That was yet another one of the :seagull: moments. At home to Arsenal I attempted to shut up shop and hope for the best, but alas they wanted to qualify and again a full strength side blew us away with ease.

So the final game was away to Partizan. As things stood, we needed a draw to clinch qualification. In the unlikely event Odd could beat Arsenal, we would still qualify on our head to head record. In the middle of a hot streak and having already beaten Partizan, it felt like nothing could go wrong. After 30 minutes we took the lead, deservedly so, with Smolenski finding the back of the net. Partizan gave us a good game but in the end it wasn't enough and we happily saw out yet another.......... nah, that definitely sounds too good to be true. Here's what actually happened.


I could barely breathe.

Well, fair play to Partizan, at least this means they qualify in dramatic.... oh for **** sake what's happened here?


Unbelievably, Odd win 3-1, and leapfrog the both of us. Courtesy of Partizan not being hammered by Arsenal in their fixtures, our reward is a bottom place finish in the group.

You couldn't make it up.

So what now? Well top of the list is basically a January makeover, or as much as I can manage.

In lieu of a deeper squad summary, the squad is mostly just ****. Most pertinently this affliction exists in the defense, I only have one center back that I trust (Kostov) and the man is to be frank, exhausted. The goalkeeping situation isn't much better either. So these are the priority areas, but I'll be looking at all positions for improvements. We have under performed in xG, xConceded and xPoints, to which I understand means we are doing the right things in the middle of the pitch but are not decisive enough at either end. Even Jordy Caicedo, who started the year in such blistering form, has struggled for goals. In honesty it's just a case of a striker returning the average. This would have been more of a problem had Martin Smolenski not stepped up, an outside forward converted into a central one, and has bloomed in his new role. He is top scorer in the league with 16 goals and earned a new contract in the process. But we cannot be so reliant on just one player at a time, I need options all over the pitch. I've managed to pick up a few extra players since the last update which has helped. Uros Lazic is a two footed full back who can play either flank, and this versatility has been useful after some unfortunate injuries. Mads Bidstrup and Thiago Dantas are two central midfield options who became available when their wage demands dropped to a more reasonable level. Their additions have aided the switch in formation, and all have started their CSKA Sofia careers well.

Lazic.thumb.png.c61a80b5db5b4ff35ebc178957e89fb2.png Bidstrup.thumb.png.ca975d5be9c7beeca8f4425ec0efffa7.png Dantas.thumb.png.81a23bef0471e272a81f1fde0f71c93d.png

The strategy now is to raid the loan market and beef up the squad for the rest of this season. There seem to be some options available to me from the elite clubs, and I have been scouting those for a couple of months. I've also been concentrating efforts on South America, Colombia in particular, for some juicy wonderkids on cheap deals.

With just the league and the final rounds of the Bulgarian cup (handily shoe-horned into a couple of weeks at the end of the season) to focus on, hopefully I can power through this next section a bit faster than I have the last few! I also have the promise of a "golden generation" youth intake to look forward to, and it's not like the game can disappoint me any more right? Right? RIGHT? :rolleyes:

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On 23/06/2022 at 21:21, jackknowles1996 said:

This is fantastic made, heard about our save on the Football Manager Show podcast so thought I’d check it out, loving the updates.

You’ve inspired me for my final save of FM22  - started a save with every top division in Europe.

Just landed in January and been offered a job in Latvia, let’s go. 

Sorry only just spotted this!

Glad you enjoyed reading :) Good luck in Latvia! I had the division loaded but the timing has never really worked to go there. Think on the trajectory I am on (unless things take a turn!) it is unlikely I'll be there in this year's version.

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  • 1 month later...

Season 7 - March 2027



CSKA Sofia

Bulgaria - Prva Liga

With the regular season coming to a close let's fire off another update.

First order of business is... well, my business. As mentioned in my squad summary and transfer plans, I had very little faith in my defenders going into the Christmas break. With a bit of money to play with, and my scouting arrangements a bit all over the place, I focused on two key markets for new recruits; firstly underused players at top European clubs available on loan, and secondly young Colombian talents on the cheap.

At Roma I found Nicolas Pignatel Jenssen, a well rounded if unspectacular right sided Norwegian center back. Whilst not a thrilling addition, and not cheap either, I was just pleased to have acquired a player of requisite quality to help solidify my defense. Sadly though I've not seen too much of him since he arrived, courtesy of a classic FM new arrival injury on the eve of the season restart.


Thankfully not all of my eggs were in this particular basket, as my Colombian focus paid off twice. Of the two, Jose Valencia is the more promising of these. A highly physical, assertive, professional personality and left footed defender, who at 20 has just been capped for his country - a £1m fee looks like a bargain at this stage. Generally I prefer my central defenders to have a bit more about them on the ball, but at this level that will be a rare find indeed. The second arrival from South America is Frank Martinez. Also a 20 year old, Martinez fits a similar profile to that of Valencia's, if only a notch or two down at this stage. However I picked him up on a free, shoring up a gap in our squad in the short term and in the long term I'm confident that with a good amount of game time he'll develop into pure profit.


The other area of concern was my Goalkeeper, with both of my current options not remotely up to scratch. Unfortunately however I didn't manage to identify a suitable upgrade in time for January, and with just an unpromising league campaign and no European football to worry about I figured that I would rather wait for the right player than rush into signing another unsuitable one.

Moving on then to the actual football.


The mid-season friendlies brought much promise and hope that finally the team might just be shaking off their bad habits. Then of course the first game of the restart comes around and we lose 1-0 in classic CSKA fashion, as defined by a) dominating the game (2.25 to 0.45 xG), b) conceding a late goal (85th minute) and c) to a set piece. I do wonder why I bother sometimes.

Since then however, things have been a bit brighter. You'll note the unbeaten run, but there are a few caveats to that. First of all, a somewhat wonky fixture list seems to have piled up all of the bottom half of the table into this second half of the season. The second is that between some fairly competent performances are games where our old habits continue to plague us. Following a very professional 4-0 second half drubbing of Hebar, we managed to concede a two goal lead to CSKA 1948 in the derby (only to be rescued by a last minute winner in our favour for once) and then do the same thing again against Arda within the last 10 minutes of the game. So don't be fooled by the fixture list - our problems are still there.

Luckily however, our relatively good form (results wise at least) has contrasted heavily with a complete collapse from Levski and CSKA 1948. This means we head into the 6-team championship group with an 8 point lead. Finishing 2nd is crucial as it will keep my board happy, and more importantly put us in a Conference League qualifying position. Sadly though, my debut season in Bulgaria seems to have coincided with Ludogorets having their best ever year in the game so far. They have lost just one game all season (I wonder who that was against :rolleyes:) and have already wrapped up the title.


With that in mind, my main focus will be on the Bulgarian Cup. We play a semi final against Slavia Sofia, and if we succeed will likely face Ludogorets in the final. Having already given them two good games this season I would hope to be within a shout of adding another trophy to my growing collection!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Season 7 - May 2027



CSKA Sofia

Bulgaria - Prva Liga

Right, let's close the book on this one! At the end of the regular season the league splits into three groups. The Championship group is a mini-league of 6, with everyone playing eachother once. We were also still in the Bulgarian Cup, and as the league had already been wrapped up by this point, it presented the only opportunity for any silverware this year. Let's start with the league shall we...



Things got off to a disappointing start, losing away to Arda, hypothetically the 'easiest' team in the group. We had struggled against them already so to come unstuck wasn't surprising, but frankly the team just didn't turn up to this one. At this point things could have got sketchy, but we managed a 1-1 draw to a Ludogorets team on autopilot. This was followed by an insane three week gap for the cup fixtures to take place, which I'll get around to. Levski had bottled it once again, so really the last three fixtures were non-events. We had a much more comfortable time in our derbies with CSKA 1948 and Levski, than we'd had earlier in the season and that was pleasing to see, but realistically these weren't real tests.

All in all, we finished just the 24 points adrift of Ludogorets, and a sizable 10 points ahead of 3rd placed Levski. It's hard to know how to feel about this finish. For a start, this was the strongest Ludogorets side in my FM save so far. To put this into context, they conceded just 13 goals all season, and their previous best points tally was 80. Their yearly salary is £10.3m compared to our £3.7m, so ultimately the fact they dominated so hard is not a huge surprise. That said, we ended up with a points tally that most seasons would never get us into 1st anyway, so there is a huge amount of improvement needed if we are going to challenge.

Moving on then to the cup. We faced a two leg semi final to bottom half side Slavia Sofia.


What followed was 180 minutes of the most tedious FM I think I've ever had. Slavia stunk the place out and we had nothing for it. A late tactical switch (or in other words, I threw **** against the wall to see what would stick) managed to secure us our berth in the final, but this certainly exemplified some of the issues this team has with the more defensively minded outfits that litter this division.

I'm sure you can guess who awaited us in the final. Following the league game with Ludogorets, we had a two week wait with no competitive fixtures to prepare for the repeat match-up in the final. Whilst we held our own against them in the league, I knew we needed every edge we could get. I scheduled two friendlies to keep fitness sharp and settle on my lineup. On the whole I didn't shake too much up. Our positive/attacking mindset had caused problems for them in the past (probably because we are the only domestic side that will do that to them), so it was mainly a matter of getting the right midfield balance and making sure the set pieces were set up appropriately.


And despite all that, none of this mattered anyway. Just 8 minutes in, Lazic found himself isolated against Cauly, their right winger, and tripped him just as he went into the box. Mattson slotted away the penalty and realistically that killed any chance of us winning this one. The thing about this Ludogorets team is that they are so good, they can just hold onto the ball forever. At the end of the first half we did win a penalty, but unfortunately Valera saw his effort saved. In the second half I felt a bit like a little brother aimlessly windmilling my arms at the much larger and stronger older brother. The players had fight, but honestly were never anywhere near them. None of their outfield players scored higher than a 7.3 all game, but they didn't need to.

This one just wasn't to be.

Next Steps

Frankly, this has been one of the more soul draining experiences in my save so far. There are a few reasons for this, but I think the biggest is that the Prva Liga is really not a great place to try and play attacking football. Beyond the big four, teams will generally stink the place out and most play with between 2-3 ball winning midfielders. With the way I know how to win games in FM22 not really working, I need to figure out a new strategy to help get the best out of my team in these fixtures.

The other issue I've had is with a team in a real state of flux. I've already talked about my issues with the squad, and realistically I'm in a position where revolution is needed, a small remodeling won't do.

Ultimately these two things take time to solve, something that I'm not really getting as much of recently.

We'll see how we get on, but at the moment I'm considering whether the best way to keep the save going is to move on again. The only question with that is where I would land, and having taken a quick look at the available jobs there really isn't much that currently appeals.

I'm still keeping an eye on my original save goals, and my character has now learned Bulgarian, which ticks of the 3rd of 5 new languages. No progress with anything else though.

On the other hand, I could see myself staying - it might just be a little while before you get another update from me! I'm sure you're all on tenterhooks... :rolleyes:

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Nice to see that more people choose the less famous leagues with smaller clubs. In my last long term savegame (80+ seasons in FM18) I managed Farul Constanta (Romania), Dunav Ruse (Bulgaria) IMT Beograd (Serbia) BSK Bijelo Brdo (Croatia), Inter Bratislava (Slovakia), Ferencvaros (Hungary), Lask Linz (Austria), FC Köln (Germany) and Excelsior Rotterdam (Netherlands). I just started a new save on FM22 where I want to win the 6 Champions Leagues around the world. I've selected nations where no team won any international tournament, ever. I started in the Solomon Islands with Central Coast and my journey will hopefully bring me in Philippines, Malawi, Canada, Venezuela and Finland.

I really liked my stay at Bulgaria. Don't know how the competition is this year, but the play-offs were fun in FM18. You could end up in the relegation group, fight yourself from one play-off to another and end up getting a European ticket. 

Enjoy your game!

Edited by Jorgen
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2 hours ago, Jorgen said:

Nice to see that more people choose the less famous leagues with smaller clubs. In my last long term savegame (90+ seasons in FM18) I managed Farul Constanta (Romania), Dunav Ruse (Bulgaria) IMT Beograd (Serbia) BSK Bijelo Brdo (Croatia), Inter Bratislava (Slovakia), Ferencvaros (Hungary), Lask Linz (Austria), FC Köln (Germany) and Excelsior Rotterdam (Netherlands). I just started a new save on FM22 where I want to win the 6 Champions Leagues around the world. I've selected nations where no team won any international tournament, ever. I started in the Solomon Islands with Central Coast and my journey will hopefully bring me in Philippines, Malawi, Canada, Venezuela and Finland.

I really liked my stay at Bulgaria. Don't know how the competition is this year, but the play-offs were fun in FM18. You could end up in the relegation group, fight yourself from one play-off to another and end up getting a European ticket. 

Enjoy your game!

Your new save sounds great, doing a Hexagon Challenge, will you post it on this forum?

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5 minutes ago, maxtothemax said:

Your new save sounds great, doing a Hexagon Challenge, will you post it on this forum?

Not sure yet, but I might do that, if the savegame feels good enough to continue after if I'm about 2 or 3 seasons in.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Season 8 - September 2027



CSKA Sofia

Bulgaria - Prva Liga

Having spent most of my updates at CSKA complaining about the quality of my first season squad, you'll be unsurprised to hear that there was considerable turnover this season. What you might be slightly more surprised about is exactly who is left... if I'm honest I'm still scratching my head about it.

Two problems faced me going into the summer. First of all, I wanted to reform this squad by moving on aging players and replacing them with the best young talent I could find, which meant finding destinations for some of the bigger earners at the club. The second problem is that the players I ideally wanted to build around were attracting significant amounts of interest from bigger clubs abroad and in some cases, I was fairly powerless to stop them leaving. Ultimately I knew I would lose some, but I hoped I could keep most. This was a bit of a delicate situation.

To cut a long story short, I (sort of) succeeded in the first task, but was really quite unsuccessful in the second. First the outs:


You'll see by the total accrued, we made £22m in player sales this summer. Whilst a nice juicy figure on the face of it, I only received 60% of the revenue so this wasn't quite the windfall you'd imagine. The bulk of that came from losing those players I wanted to keep. Nistorov and Geshev were always going to be impossible to keep, after clubs met their release clauses. I wasn't quite as prepared to lose Kostov (£4.5m to Torino) and especially Almeida (£5.75m to Granada) after the board went above me to accept those offers. This ripped the core of my team apart and made it difficult to justify shifting on some of the bigger earners around the club who I'd been planning on selling. One I did mage to rid myself of was Yomov, a club stalwart but being played out of position and far past his best. Most of the rest of those fees were for players who I wanted to cash in on due to stalling development.


On the other side of the coin, I did manage some ok pickups. Notably Pardo comes in as the new first choice keeper, a position that had given me huge frustration last season. Two footed and with room to develop, this guy is a huge upgrade. I also picked up an Argentinian striker who had performed well at the U20 World Cup, Centurion. For a fee of £1.4m rising to £2.7m, this guy is hopefully going to be the future of goalscoring here. He has some development ahead of him but I'm hopeful. The last headline is Stojanovic, a Serbian playmaker from Partizan, who comes in as the clubs highest earner. After losing Geshev, I needed a new player to build my midfield around at Stojanovic fits the bill. Pleasingly he has really hit the ground running, scoring two absolute belters in his opening matches for us.


Filling out the rest of the signings are a mixture of free transfers with value, and some of the better Bulgarian talent that I'd identified last season.

My early season performance was rather dictated by the events of the transfer window. As seems to be the case in all seasons here, the Bulgarian season opener is ruthlessly busy. My pre-season friendlies went very well, but our momentum was put to a halt after losing the Bulgarian supercup to Ludogorets on penalties. In a classic Ludogorets performance, they held us at arms length all game but didn't bother to score. Getting the better of these bastards will feel good one day. After that we faced the grueling job of setting a good pace in the league as well as qualifying for the Conference League group stage starting in the very early rounds, with fixtures twice a week.


The league has gone reasonably well, as you will see. We scored 12 goals in four matches, including against Botev Plovdiv who we only managed to take 2 out of 9 points from last season. Ludogorets once again have proven to be the momentum killer, and that fixture could not have been worse timed (which I'll talk about more in a moment...). We actually did reasonably well against them but completely ran out of steam in the second half, and conceded a cheap goal from a set piece immediately followed by a sucker punch on the counter. To make matters worse, they'd been in (relatively to themselves) poor form at the start of this year and would have been there for the taking had other things not conspired against me. Urgh.



And as for Europe... well there won't be any group stage football for us this season :seagull:. The opening round did not prove any sort of problem, but against Lausanne I feared the worst. We conceded 3 second half goals in the first leg which had me fearing that the worst habits of this squad from last season were still hanging around. Fortunately we finished the job capably in the second, which was easily the best performance of this period. Unfortunately we were given one of the tougher ties in the fourth qualifying round, Vitoria are no rollovers, and came at us with a troubling 3-4-3 shape that I haven't seen too much this year. At another time I think we would have come through this, but we conceded a hugely deflating late equalizer in the first leg, which was sandwiched around the aforementioned Ludogorets fixture. In the second leg we huffed and puffed, but ultimately lost out to a first half goal against our phenomenally exhausted defense. All through this time I'd been dealing with an injury crisis, which left me with only two fit center backs for the majority of these games. You do feel at times the game knows how to push your buttons and this was one of those moments. 

I feel perpetually frustrated at CSKA. As pleased as I am with some of the incomings, to be honest this summer could and maybe should have gone a lot better. I quickly maxed out on the 5 player cap for non-EU players, which then locked me out of making further additions from last seasons scouting missions to South America. Crucially, I failed to make significant improvements to the defensive unit, which the game absolutely punished me for. Some of the reason for this was out of my control, like losing Almeida and Kostov. But ultimately I didn't have the reputation I needed to bring in some of the targets I had in mind, and I didn't react sooner. On the last day of the window, I bought in Zhelev, a promising center back who I'd resisted picking up because we had to overpay a rival to get him, and I had targets in the free transfer market who I was waiting to drop their wage demands. Frankly, if I'd bit the bullet on this one sooner, we might be playing European group stage football this season.

Having put the foundations in place for this club, I'll continue as I am for now. That being so, I'll certainly be keeping one eye on the job market. In fact I very nearly didn't start this season with CSKA at all, after I was approached for a job by both Rapid Wien (clearly they had regrets from the year before!) who I turned down, and AZ in the Netherlands, who ultimately went with Benni McCarthy instead. It's good to know my stock is high!

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Season 8 - December 2027



CSKA Sofia

Bulgaria - Prva Liga

Normally when I come to writing these updates I start with typing out a long list of my gripes and tribulations, particularly in my time so far with CSKA.

In this instance however, I have just one thing to report.


We've been absolutely f***ing fabulous.


And Ludogorets can suck it too.


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Season 8 - March 2028



CSKA Sofia

Bulgaria - Prva Liga

The mid-season transfer window provided a good opportunity to capitalise on my strong league position.

This time I managed to resist departures of major first team players, principally offers for Jose Valencia who has firmly established himself as the club's best center back. The one outgoing I did sanction however was Uros Lazic, the versatile wing back option picked up in my first summer window at the club. Whilst he was a useful and solid player to have in the squad, he also took up one of my five non-EU spots, so when offers came in from Spain and Mexico for a £3m profit on the fee originally paid, I couldn't really turn them down.

After this, and persuading the club to refill the transfer budget with some of that sweet money I'd made them, I brought in three key players to bolster the squad. Firstly I needed to replace Lazic, so after a bit of scratching around in my shortlists and not finding what I was looking for, I stumbled upon a familiar name... Tiago Almeida, who had left for just under £6m that summer was not getting game time at Granada and was available for a return on loan! The other two of this trio of arrivals however are much more exciting.


Michel Wouters had consistently been rated as an A* purchase by my scouts since they became aware of him a season ago. A Colombian defensive midfielder (of Belgian descent?!), Wouters clearly excels in the physical and mental side of the game. What had held me back was a rather patchwork assembly of technical abilities, however with my first team DM out injured for most of the season and some interest in my backup defensive midfielder building too, it felt like Wouters was worth a shot.

Nemeth on the other hand was a player I'd craved since we played against his Partizan side the season before in the Conference League. In the summer he just flat out was not interested in us, but evidently our form book persuaded him otherwise. A strong finisher, with good pace, Nemeth fits in well as a left footed option to compliment our spearhead. Despite a clear drop in his attributes, which I can only put down to sub-par adaptability, Nemeth has settled well with 8 goals in 10 games since he arrived.

Going into the second part of the main stage, we had to face the gauntlet of 3 games in 6 days that seems to characterise the Bulgarian schedule. To make things worse we also face an injury crisis through this period, with 3 of our 4 preferred options at wing back out of action.


Things got off to a rocky start, drawing with lowly Levski Lom at home. The squad pulled through however and we won the following two in tight games. Unfortunately, Ludogorets made it 9 points from their own run in this period, and so made up some ground on us. We picked up some steam against Vrasta and Arda, but were then sucker punched by a CSKA 1948 team that simply played out of their skins on the day. And since then, we won the remaining four, but Ludogorets have managed to narrow the gap to 6 points heading into the Championship group after winning literally every single League fixture since the winter break. They really are relentless.


The Championship group throws up an interesting set of fixtures. We open with Ludogorets, and follow that up with CSKA 1948. These two games will be crucial in determining the outcome of this league season. If we can stay undefeated, I back us to win the remaining three thereafter against Arda, Etar and Botev Plovdiv. That however will be a big ask!

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Season 8 - April 2028



CSKA Sofia

Bulgaria - Prva Liga

In a departure from my normal format, I thought I would try to document the run-in for season 8. First though, a quick overview of what is on the line for those who don't want to re-read a whole bunch of posts!

So, in March 2028 we enter the Championship group at the end of the Bulgarian league season. This 6 team mini-league will determine whether or not CSKA take home the league title for the first time in 20 years. Standing in our way is the Big Green Menace (TM) of Bulgarian football, Ludogorets. These big-pharma bankrolled cretins have swept aside all before them since entering the top division in 2011, winning a consecutive 16 titles. The Razgad-based outfit have snowballed to the point that their financial position dwarfs CSKA by a factor of 4 in terms of salary, and in-game they have progressed to the quarter finals of the Europa League, so as you might imagine their players are pretty good. Undoubtedly the star among their ranks is FM22 American wonderkid Yunas Musah.


In our favor however is a strong league position at the top of the Championship group. Without question this squad has benefited enormously from not having to juggle the dual responsibility of a league title challenge and European football. We have made the most of that advantage, only dropping 8 points all season. Despite that record, we only hold onto a 4 point cushion ahead of Ludogorets, who themselves have refused to drop the chase since the Christmas break, recovering well from a slightly wobbly start to the season.


The fixture list shakes out like so, with some classic Bulgarian disjointed scheduling. We start with Ludogorets, naturally. This feels like both a blessing and a curse. A win, and we cement our position at the top and will need just two wins from the remaining four to secure the Championship. Lose however and the momentum swings back into Ludogorets favour, requiring us to get maximum points from the remaining four. That game is followed up two weeks later by the two-leg Kupa Bulgariya semi final (against Ludogorets, of course), which sandwiches the other crucial tie in this group, away to CSKA 1948. Our shadow club sits in a distant third place, but have the distinct honour of being only one of two clubs to beat us this season in the league (I reckon you can guess the other one). Needless to say, much depends on April. Another two week break brings the final three matches, in which we face three teams we have comfortably dispatched already this season, but in close proximity. Hopefully, things won't be quite so tense, but if April goes poorly then we will be necessitating performances in these games.

Matchday 1 - Ludogorets - Prva Liga - 2nd April 2028

When it comes to our actual results against Ludogorets, we hold onto a mixed but competent record of 3 wins, 1 draw and 4 losses. On the whole we tend to perform well, I think we are probably the only domestic side that actually gives their defense something to think about. Nonetheless, their players are considerably stronger and if we are not on our game then they will very easily starve us of possession and an opportunity to do any real damage, as they notably did to us last season in the final of the Bulgarian cup.

As mentioned, this is a game with a huge amount riding on it. Fortunately, I am blessed with finally having a squad fully available for selection. There are some key decisions to make. Firstly who to partner Valencia at the back. Konstantin Zhelev has performed well for much of the season but his form dropped off towards the end and his understudy, the 18 year old Mihael Hadzhiev, has taken advantage. Ultimately form takes precedent here and Hadzhiev gets the nod. The second crucial decision is how to balance the defensive aspect of my midfield. January signing Wouters has generally done ok but hates big matches, and was at fault in the loss to CSKA 1948 in March. I also have Gokhan Gul back from injury, but he is not match sharp and might struggle to make the pace. Another possibility is to play both and try to swamp the midfield, but I decide in the end to be bold, and to go with Gul at BWM. Upfront Caicedo has been in tremendous form, so will definitely play, but who to partner him with. Tamas Nemeth has been on good form also, but is less versatile and industrious than Martin Smolenski, our vice-captain, and Facundo Centurion. Smolenski brings a unique facility in enabling a later switch to a 4-1-4-1 if I need it but has scored just one goal since Christmas. I conclude that tactical flexibilty will be crucial, so he comes in for his first start in months.

So with the first XI decided upon, and tactical tweaks implemented, we go to meet our maker...






Holy smokes! I certainly wasn't expecting that. The decision to bring in Hadzhiev paid off immediately. With 20 jumping reach, the kid is predictably an absolute menace with near post corners. This one nearly broke the crossbar, then pinged down past the line and back out of the goal. I expected a reaction, and just a minute later we lost track of Yunas Musah on the counter but lady luck smiled on us in the end as the American shanked the ball high and wide. Still a warning sign that I heeded with a quick tactical change. Then on 20 minutes Fede Varela, the creative beating heart of our midfield sent in a second ball from a cleared corner, and Jordy Caicedo ghosted past his man to fire past the flailing Ludogorets keeper. We're in dreamland!

Naturally this angered the beast even more, and Ludogorets managed to sustain some pressure. Our keeper, Pardo, makes two terrific saves in close proximity; first a piledriver from 30 yards and then a near post header from Musah. Approaching half time I'm worried about conceding an initiative, but instead we strike again. Young right back Yunchev whips a ball in and Caicedo loses his man for a far post header into the bottom corner. I'm pretty sure their CB will be having nightmares about him tonight.

3-0 up at half time, and that could not have gone any better.

Into the second half, and Ludogorets look dead and buried. Jose Valencia, our star center back is unlucky not to score. First with I think the hardest shot I've seen in this year's match engine, somehow tipped around the post by the Ludogorets keeper. Then again as he comes in at the nearpost, but is denied by the crossbar. On 75 minutes Ludogorets introduce Sandro, but I think after what happens next he might have been wishing he stayed on the bench. Their winger, Jacobs, produces a rare bit of energy in the game and picks the ball out of the air and fires a first time volley, which smashes against our defender and flies into the air. As the ball drops, Pardo is in no mans land and Sandro simply needs to nod the ball into an empty net from 6 yards out. As the ball falls over the Spaniard's shoulder, his foot goes through the ball... and the ball goes about 10 yards over the top. I almost feel sorry for the guy.

Still, I don't take anything for granted here and shake up the tactics. On come Wouters as an extra defensive body in midfield, and Centurion replaces his compatriot Valera, moving to the left of the 4-1-4-1 shape. From this Caicedo nearly has his hat-trick, hitting the crossbar for the third time in the match. Then we get our cherry for the proverbial cake, as some neat interplay finds Centurion again, excelling in his creative role, who perfectly tees the ball off for an onrushing Stojanovic to pummel a low and hard shot into the bottom corner.

This is absolutely the best result so far of the save. We secure the momentum and a 7 point lead, leaving us painfully close to that trophy. We can all but seal the deal with victory over CSKA 1948 in our next match, but first we have to face down Ludogorets once more.

Matchday 2 - Ludogorets - Kupa Bulgariya - 19th April 2028

Here we go again, round 2 of 3.

I go with a similar lineup to the previous match, with a couple of tweaks - notably Centurion starts ahead of Smolenski. The team are primed with a couple of friendlies in the two week break. Ludogorets spent their time knocking out Tottenham from the Europa League, so they will be sharp.


The game starts with the same ferocity that left the last one. Teddy Alloh, our left wing back, feeds Caicedo down the outside and he powers a shot low and into the near post. It feels like we've caught them cold again. Two minutes later their pressing forward, Burokov rises high at the far post off a corner and smacks the ball hard into the crossbar. Fortunately it bounces back into the floor and then Pardo's grateful arms. Just like last time, we've had an early let off. 

The clock ticks on and Ludogorets get two chances around the 25-30 minute mark. They're holding onto the ball and we are not looking after it well enough. Time for some tweaks. I put a tight mark on Coulibaly and try to get the team to hold onto possession. Clearly that first instruction wasn't heeded though, and instead we lose the marauding midfielder through the lines. He shifts it onto his right and curls one past Pardo from range. It's frustrating, but I remind myself these guys are good - we'll do well not to forget that.

Fortunately our set piece preparation pays off yet again. This time a wide free kick is curled in by the cultured boot of Fede Valera, and Valencia crashes home a header from range across goal into the opposite corner. Straight of the training ground. I give a chef's kiss.

Half time comes around, and we're a quarter of the way through this tie. I take decisive action. We're losing Coulibaly too often, so off comes Kotev and on comes the more defensively minded Wouters. Kotev is unlucky in honesty, but I need to rebalance things and he was the odd one out. The other change is to pull Centurion into an inside forward role on the left hand side. He's not involved enough in the game for my liking so far and with the connection between our midfield and strikers quite stretched, I'm hoping bringing him back might get him more involved in the build up.

As the second half whistle blows, a quick flurry of chances at both ends. Of major concern is that Coulibaly is still getting free. I tell Wouters to stick to him like a rash. Somehow it feels like there is no stopping this guy today.

Immediately thereafter, Ludogorets win a penalty. Musah is apparently shoved in the penalty area. :rolleyes: The American duly fires home the spot kick. 2-2.

Time rolls on without much happening. We seem to have a few chances, but are lacking a clinical edge today. For my last roll of the dice I take off Gul, on a yellow, and bring on attacking midfielder Lapeyre. 

I am regretting the decision instantly as Ludogorets retake control. Sandro has come on and is causing us problems. He hits a free kick off the crossbar, then from the resulting scramble heads over the bar. We're playing with fire here.

The team settles though, and as we come into the 90th minute, we get a free kick. Smolenski steps up, and nearly breaks the upright. So close!

With that the game is up, and a real ding-dong battle comes to an end. Round 3 will hopefully be as intriguing!

Edited by Saintmat
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Season 8 - April 2028



CSKA Sofia

Bulgaria - Prva Liga

Matchday 3 - CSKA 1948 - Prva Liga - 22nd April 2028

Just three days after our game with Ludogorets, we come up against CSKA 1948 in what is undoubtedly the most important match currently remaining. A win here and we put ourselves within three points of the title.

Results in our games against 1948 in my time so far have been mixed. There is a distinct edge to these games, as you might imagine. Most significantly they sucker punched us into a 4-2 loss just a couple of months prior, one of few blots on our record this season. Had we won that, the title race would possibly already be over. Time to finish the job then...

I rotate the team somewhat from the 2-2 draw in the cup. Primarily this is over fitness concerns, but a few are based on form. Hadzhiev has been great recently but struggled enormously against Ludogorets, so it's time for Zhelev to get another chance to recapture his form at CB. Up front Tamas Nemeth is also restored to the lineup. He was unlucky not to feature in the games against Ludogorets but I felt justified in seeking a different profile of player. Both these guys will have something to prove.



We take a huge step closer to the title with this one. The result and match report flatters us a little. 1948 put up a reasonable fight, but it seems nobody at the moment can deal with Caicedo. His first was the result of some great interplay between Lapeyre in midfield, and Nemeth, with some one touch passes finding Caicedo in half a yard of space just inside the penalty area. That was all he needed. While the best chances fell to us, we had a few scares. Kun Temenuzhkhov is their star man up front and causes us all sorts of bother, despite being about 4ft tall (I am guessing with that as you can probably tell). They have good technical quality in attack and hit the post on a couple of occasions. Valencia made it 2-0 from a type-cast near post header before half time, but they responded with a set piece routine of their own, as Cordoba piled in at the back post to make it 2-1. Fortunately thereafter we regained control of the match, and Caicedo put the tie to bed with a great second ball into the box from Valera.

Not always the most convincing here, but we got the result and that's all that matters. Had Ludogorets lost they would have handed us the title right here, but instead they got an 81st minute winner against Botev Plovdiv to win 2-1. Oh well!

I will be short a left back though going into the second leg with Ludogorets, as Mazikou is ruled out for a month. His job-share partner, Teddy Alloh, is equally injury prone, so I will be on thin ice here.

Matchday 4 - Ludogorets - Kupa Bulgariya - 30th April 2028

Time for round 3 baby!

I've learned my lesson from the first leg, and have opted to go with a similar lineup to that which demolished Ludogorets in our league fixture. Zhelev retains his place at CB after a more convincing performance against 1948, and Gokhan Gul comes in for the suspended Wouters at CDM.




Christ alive, I was hoping this would be quick! This is how it unfolded.

We get off to what is becoming a trademark fast start. Alloh gets in behind the Ludogorets right back, Barrios, to square to Caicedo for a tap in. Barrios was a new arrival at Ludogorets this summer, on the sum of £205k a month. That's more than the salary budget for much of the rest of the league's whole squads. On this evidence, I'm not sure what they're getting for their money!

Just a couple of minutes later and Valencia crashes one off the crossbar and into the air. I get a distinct air of dread about not putting that one away, and my fears are realised shortly afterwards. Our right back, Yunchev, is struggling to manage their left winger and left back, getting caught out of position and losing Tepetkey. His initial cross is harmless, but gets picked up by their right winger who goes over to a challenge from Alloh. Musah puts away a spot kick and we're back to 1-1. Damn.

The momentum is swinging in their favour, so I deploy the 4-1-4-1 early. We won't threaten much in this shape but hopefully it will stem the flow of chances emerging from the flanks.

From here we exchange a few chances, going closest when Caicedo nicks the ball off of an idle defender and drives towards goal, squaring for Stojanovic. He forces a great save out of the Ludogorets keeper, Kalinha. That's all we get before half time though.

At half time I realise that away goals is in effect, and should things stay this way at full time, then we are through. I won't be relying on that however, this team have done late damage to us before, and don't look as meek as they did in our recent league fixture. I stick with the 4-1-4-1 for now, but aim to transition back to the 4-1-3-2 around the 60-70 minute mark, situation depending.

We start the second half as we did the first. Smolenski gets in behind but his square ball is cleared for a corner. Valencia then thumps one into Kalinha but it's cleared again. That's the intent I want to see.

Then nothing much for a little while. My cursor hovers over the tactics bar, ready to make a change. Just as I ponder my substitutions, we get a highlight. Valera is now out of position on the left flank, but finds a pocket of space to feed Minkov, onrushing past the last man. He has an easy ball and Caicedo gets his second of the match. This guy. 2-1 up and as we've not had a Ludogorets chance in a while, I stick to the 4-1-4-1. The ball is firmly in their court to make changes, so why rush mine?

The clock ticks on, and still nothing from Ludogorets. On 70 minutes I freshen up the midfield, but nothing more. Their best players, Musah, Coulibaly and Cauly have all been withdrawn. They are exhausted I imagine from a Europa League semi final recently. Still there is enough talent on the pitch for damage to be done.

On 85 minutes Caicedo forces another great save out of Kalinha, this time from a difficult header. I sit here hoping that's not an omen.

It was, of course. Sandro gets free and Alloh again is the culprit, sliding in unnecessarily and shunting the ball to Borukov who is unmarked in the middle. They don't deserve it, but we're heading to extra time.

And at this point I give up on trying to narrate and play at the same time(!).

Caicedo gives us the lead with a neat finish and secures his hat trick. Really that should be the end of it. But as I kept telling myself, they always could get back in it - and so they did. We fail to deal with a cross into the box, and it is met on the volley by Normann, who sends Ludogorets through at the last.

That is a really gutting way to lose a semi final, and we are clearly done in by the away goals rule applying after extra time. There will be no double this season, but the league title is very much still on...

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Season 8 - April 2028



CSKA Sofia

Bulgaria - Prva Liga


шампион! шампион! OLE OLE OLE!!!

We're champions of Bulgaria baby! :D


It was a phenomenal campaign... with a rather anti-climactic end. We took a 0-0 draw at home to Arda after a two week break following the semi-final exit. I'd assumed this would mean we needed a win over Etar in our next game to take the title, but instead Ludogorets went ahead and took their own 0-0 draw to CSKA 1948 - and just like that a 16 season unbeaten run of titles was over. I can't lie, I don't quite feel satisfied about that!

Nevertheless, the title is ours and regardless of the circumstances, this is an achievement in itself. Ludogorets have an absurd financial grip on the league and overcoming that level of quality and maintaining consistency over the rest of the division is no mean feat.

The challenge next season will be to repeat the trick but also while maintaining a European campaign.

And on that note, I thought I'd use this opportunity to look at my original save goals and what the plan is from here.

Original Objectives:


  1.  Manage for 30+ seasons.
    • 8 seasons in so far, 30 might be a challenge! I'm planning on skipping FM23 (at least any plans to have a main save in that game), so who knows I may make it this far. Chances are though even if I do we'll get a save crash. TBD!
  2.  Manage at least 10 different clubs.
    • CSKA Sofia is club 4. Again, 10 might be a challenge, but let's see.
  3.  Manage a top-tier team across 4 different countries.
    • 2 out of 4 on this one, so very much on track. Retrospectively could have made this 5/6 countries but that will probably happen anyway.
  4.  Manage at least 3 clubs from my "cool list".
    • This has been a dismal failure! Unfortunately most of the clubs on this list are no longer a "step up" for my manager, and being the role playing sort I am not keen on taking an artificial step down. I'm going to ditch this objective, and replace it with something new...
  5.  Learn 5 new languages (in addition to the English, French and German already spoken by my manager).
    • I'm on track here, with 3 out of 5 complete (Icelandic, Czech and Bulgarian).
  6.  Topple a top-team in any league.*
    • If I had any lingering doubt about the legitimacy of ticking this one off with Jablonec, I think we can say for certain I've done this in Sofia!
  7.  Win the Conference League.
    • So close and yet so far :(
  8.  Win the Europa League.
  9.  Win the Champions League.
    • Not had a sniff of either of these yet!
  10.  Win European silverware with a club in a country that has never had European success.
    •  Champions League, any club not from Holland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia.
    •  Europa League, any club not from Holland, Portugal, Russia, Sweden, Belgium, Ukraine, Turkey.
    •  Conference league (including above) depends on in game outcomes!
    • Again, missing out with Jablonec hurts, as this one is definitely the most challenging!

All in all, I'm feeling satisfied with my progress in 8 seasons. There are a few sticking points however, particularly around objectives 4 and 10.

I'm clearly not going to complete #4, so in it's place I will create a spiritual successor. The idea of the list was to add to my FM-CV some clubs that had some interesting culture and history to them, mainly drawn from some spotty research I conducted before embarking on this challenge. As it is unlikely I will fire myself off to the Hungarian second division for example to revive Debrecen, and I want to maintain a general upward trajectory (as long as my manager performance justifies that of course!), instead I will deploy an objective that targets higher reputation clubs. So, from here on, objective 4 reads as:

"Manage at least 3 clubs who have previously appeared in a Champions League/European Cup or Europa League/UEFA Cup final"

There is a little bit of overlap with my previous list of clubs*, but this now means I need to sit in the hotseat at 3 of:

  • RB Salzburg
  • Anderlect
  • Club Brugge
  • Panathinaikos
  • Fehérvár
  • Ajax
  • AZ
  • Feyernoord
  • PSV
  • Twente
  • Benfica
  • Porto
  • Braga
  • Sporting
  • Steaua Bucharest (or) FCSB**
  • Partizan Belgrade
  • Red Star
  • Malmo
  • IFK Goteborg
  • Galatasaray

*I have removed Russian, Belrusian and Ukrainian clubs from my plan since the last patch made changes to the functionality of these leagues.
**This feels unlikely, but in any case it would more than likely be FCSB (despite the fact the official claim for the 1986 title lies with 3rd division Steaua).

And then I still have #10 to consider, by far the trickiest to pull off as the circumstances have to be just right. From where I am, I have 2, maybe 3, shots at this in eligible nations. To my current advantage is the fact that that a Bulgarian club is eligible to tick this off for me, so for that reason I want to give a 3rd season with CSKA Sofia a go. We go into the Champions League qualifying and, while I'm not going to deliberately throw a game to drop down a competition, it seems unlikely I will go far here. So the ambition will be to have a run at either the Europa or Conference League.

I'm realistic that is a tall order though, so for that reason I'm planning my next career steps carefully. My ambition is to at some point end up at one of the big Dutch or Portuguese clubs, as this will give me the best chance of a Champions League win within the 4 season limit I've set. So rather than jumping straight to these countries, I'll need to make an intermediate step. The way I see it, this is ideally at a Greek club. There are two key candidates, Olympiakos and Panathinaikos, where I could imagine having a strong run in European competition. Failing that, PAOK and AEK might also offer a similar, albeit further back, platform. The only realistic alternative would be RB Salzburg in Austria, or at a stretch a strong Swiss club.

So, with that in mind, the plan from here is to:

1. Remain at CSKA Sofia for the next two seasons, provided I am in good European standing during that time.
2. Keep a firm eye on roles at the aforementioned Greek clubs, and with RB Salzburg. If they come up, then I'll strongly consider a switch.

And of course, I'll need to attend job interviews at higher reputation clubs all the while - but unless I get a truly spectacular offer, I'll be sticking to this plan.

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  • 2 months later...

Season 9 - December 2028



CSKA Sofia

Bulgaria - Prva Liga


"Robert Cuisance stands on the touchline at Vasil Levski, hands held behind his back, watching in quiet contemplation. His young, dynamic and hungry side are in the 90th minute of this Eternal Derby, leading 5-0 and cruising to the final whistle. The Prva Liga has failed to provide a challenge since the title was wrestled back from Ludogorets in May of last year, indeed this result will be eighth time Armeytsite had scored five or more goals to win this season. Victories over their nearest rivals had propelled them into a nine point lead going into the winter break. Truly, CSKA had returned to domestic domination."

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"So what of this season's European foray? Cuisance's squad began their campaign in the early months, as do most in these European outskirts. The return of the league title ensured the return to Champions League qualification for CSKA, entering in the second round and dispatching Astana, of Kazakhstan. Having already been sent to one cold and unforgiving wasteland, the third round draw sent the team to another - Scotland and Glasgow Rangers. This particular challenge however was one too far, and in the end they fell to a 4-3 aggregate defeat at Ibrox."

"From here then, CSKA would need to confine themselves to the potential of Europa League, or Conference League football. Hammarby were drawn in the playoff. With the squad now formed with new recruits, the Swedes could not resist and a 4-2 aggregate victory sent Cuicance and his men to the group stages."

"Third seed in Group B, and a tough test to make it through. Qarabag would likely be the whipping boys, but CSKA would be returning to North London, albeit the white half this time. Arsenal had made a mockery of the Bulgarians two seasons prior. Rounding out the group was RB Salzburg, certainly monied and certainly dangerous, few second seed draws could have been tougher."

"First up, some English redemption and perhaps the finest moment for Cuicance in Sofia. Spurs provided stern opposition, but a nuanced tactical plan ended up sending CSKA into a two goal half time lead. The Lilywhites fought back in the second, but their aging stars couldn't find a way through and CSKA hold out for a famous 2-1 win."


"The next four matches provided elation and frustration in equal measure. Salzburg capitilised on an early red card in their visit to Sofia, returning home as 2-3 victors. Qarabag were poorer than anticipated, and across the double header CSKA scored no less than than 14 goals. With the goal difference filled and 9 points secured, qualification would rest on the return fixtures with Spurs and Salzburg. Sandwiched in between tricky domestic matches, an unfit Sofia side could not repeat their earlier trick against Spurs at home, losing 0-2. With third place leading to the Conference League, CSKA's next European destination would rest on the return to Austria. So as the group stage started with redemption, it would end on revenge. Sofia held firm for 89 minutes, and with a good old near post corner, Jose Valencia pops up with the critical header and wins the game 1-0."


"Two weeks ago CSKA learned that they would be heading to Rome, Lazio the opposition in the next round. An opportunity at European glory, and to go further than a Bulgarian team had gone in many years."

"Alas, Robert Cuisance is not thinking about that now, and nor will he. He is enjoying the latest performance of his CSKA team. Darting runs from Tamas Nemeth, imperious defending from Jose Valencia. The return to form and ruthlessness after injury to midfielder Stojanovic. There is no doubt in his mind, this is the most talented squad he has had in his eight and a half seasons as head coach."

"And with that thought, Cuisance contorts a rueful smile, as he acknowledges this will be the last time he composes these players. He knows that once the post match rituals are over, he will be collecting his already packed bags in his apartment and ordering a taxi to the airport."

"New opportunities await..."

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Season 9 - December 2028



Greece - Super League

FM23? Never heard of it.

So, time for a new chapter. I wanted to close the last one on an interesting note, hence the style change in my last post. My time at CSKA Sofia felt like a bit of a breakthrough and I'd finally managed to assemble a squad that truly felt my own. Leaving them behind was a bit of a wrench, although who knows if I might be able to get a few to follow me to Greece.

The Olympiakos job popped up in mid-December when their long serving manager got the Atletico Madrid job. As mentioned in a previous post, this was the league I was looking at most closely and it felt like an opportunity that I couldn't really turn down. Notably, this represents the last real opportunity I will get in this save to complete my objective of European club silverware in a nation that has not seen it before. As regular qualifiers for the Champions League group stages, realistically this means dropping down a rank or two to do this within four seasons, so let's see how we get on with that one.

The expectations of the board are essentially to maintain the domestic domination. Olympiakos in save have won the title 8 seasons on the bounce. Anything less than 1st could equal an embarrassing exit. The board also expect success in the Kypello Ellados (Greek Cup), so between that and my European ambition I will need a robust squad to cope with the fixture congestion. More on that later.

First, an assessment of my situation on arrival. Joining in late December, the team sit in their usual 1st place perch. However form dipped under the caretaker and the lead has been cut to just one point. There is a bit of a scrum below us, with the other 5 remaining of the top 6 spots (denoting the qualification positions for the end of season Championship group) separated by just 6 points. My introduction to Greek football looks relatively kind, we have a number of fixtures crammed into January, but February is nicely spaced out before we hit the end of year group. I don't have any European football to worry about - they finished 4th in their Champions League group.


Onto the squad then. One of my big bug-bears with FM is AI squad building. Teams seem to very rarely value two things - age, and defenders. Every time I have arrived at a new club I seem to have far too many aging players and not enough center backs. Olympiakos takes this to the extreme. The average age of the squad is 29, and I have two center backs (31 and 32 respectively) who I would consider playable. Looking around the youth team there is nobody who particularly stands out as knocking the door down for a first XI spot, so scouting and recruitment will be key to quickly advancing this team. Frustratingly, there is only one Greek player in the whole first team squad, so I'd like to re-introduce a bit of nationalist pride. Like in Bulgaria, I also have a 5 cap limit for non-EU players. Two of those are taken up by my playable center backs. Fortunately at least one slot is going to free up soon. This is shaping up to be a dramatic summer window.

My goals then, are as follows:

Season 1

  • Secure League and Cup double.
  • Use January window to reinforce squad with younger, known players, any I can get my hands on.

Season 2

  • Summer window clearout. 5 players are out of contract which will help, but I will be actively looking to sell a few more big earners going into the last year of their contract.
  • Use as much financial resource as possible to bring in healthy mix of young players, ideally with a few Greeks.
  • Reshape the staff team.
  • Qualify for Europa League for a title run (may have to take an objective hit from the board by missing out on Champions League group stage, or possibly by taking a 3rd place spot).
  • Maintain domestic domination.

Seasons 3 & 4 

  • Rinse, wash and repeat.


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  • Saintmat changed the title to [FM22] An Adventure in Europe's Outskirts (Currently Managing: Olympiakos)
  • 4 months later...
Posted (edited)

Season 10 - September 2029



Greece - Super League

Ahh. Football Manager. I remember you.

Between a PC meltdown and general life getting in the way, the time to crack on with this has been hard to find! Yet find time I have - and finally I have another update to post.

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I finished my first half-season with Thrylos some months ago. To say there was any drama in re-taking the title for a 9th season in a row, and completing the domestic double by winning the Kypello Ellados would be... generous. At the very least it allowed me to add some new trophies to the cabinet, and provided the opportunity to familiarise myself with the squad. In my last post I was rather disparaging about the state of the squad, and whilst there was certainly a fair amount of deadwood needing to be moved, there were certainly some good players in there too.

Notably, Devyne Rensch. Under the last regime, this Dutch wing back was used as primarily as a member of the supporting cast. For me, he was straight into the team and performed fantastically. So fantastically in fact that Barcelona decided to bid £31m for him in the early part of the summer. Now given his importance I had hoped to build the team around him, but £31m is a LOT of money in Greece and in the end this sale really kick-started my transfer activity.


In total 15 players left the club for a total of £83m, and I spent £58m on 19 incoming players. The average age fell from 29 to 25, injecting a much needed jolt of potential to my first team. There are too many moves to go through each individually, but I am particularly proud/excited/sweaty about a few. Soares is a Brazilian defender with green numbers in all the right places. Atte Poyhonen is a fickle little Scandi sod, but christ alive can he pick a pass. And Brahim Clement is more of a traditional winger who offers us something different going forwards. At 19/20 all three of these have great futures in the game.

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The main focus for this season, as mentioned previously, will be our European campaign. The qualifying round against Trabzonspor did not pose much of a challenge, so our reward is a Champions League group of Real Madrid, Spurs and Dynamo Kiev. Spurs and Dynamo Kiev are two teams I have a little bit of European history with already, and Real Madrid will be my first challenge against the true creme de la creme in Europe. To be completely honest, the best outcome for me is probably a 3rd place finish. I don't doubt that my team can do better than that - but I want a trophy, and frankly I think I have a better shot of that in the Europa League than here.


Maybe I shouldn't count my chickens just yet though!

An additional challenge amongst all this are the registration rules. Olympiacos haven't done too well to accrue homegrown players, and consequently I have had to leave some good depth options out of my Champions League squad. I pulled this back a little bit by signing aging Greek internationals Odysseas Vlachodimos and Kostas Tsmikas, however they are not homegrown to the club so I am now having to leave out 4 players from my 25 man registration. Hopefully some of these younger players will meet the criteria in a few seasons time, but until then I will be facing my goal of European silverware here with one arm tied behind my back.

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Season 10 - January 2030



Greece - Super League

January 2030 marks my first full year in charge of Olympiakos, and one quarter of my way through a planned four year stay in Athens. My primary goal, as stated repeatedly in previous updates, is European silverware with "Thrylos". 

So let's get the boring stuff out of the way. Given the AI had managed a decade of consecutive league titles with Olympiakos, it would be somewhat embarrassing not to maintain that degree of form with a significantly upgraded squad.


Thankfully that hasn't been an issue! 15 games played and 15 wins on the bounce in the regular season has given us a 9 point lead over AEK so far. The Kypello Ellados (Greek cup) has been similarly successful. A real challenge would be a full season of domestic wins, but I won't hold myself to that particular goal!


On to the good stuff then. Our UCL group pitted us against Real Madrid, Tottenham and Dynamo Kiev. My initial feeling on this was not too good, not too bad. Ultimately winning the Champions League (this season at least) would be a tall order, so my best bet was to secure a 3rd place finish. I figured that I could secure two wins on Dynamo, and squeeze enough points out of Spurs or Real to see us through. First up then, was a trip to London.


Well I certainly didn't expect this! A trusty near post corner from Kim put us into a 1-0 lead at half time, so I set the team up to play on the counter in the second half - and boy did that work out well. Mbala Nzola, my 33 year old Angolan DLF nailed an out of sorts defense with a hat-trick and gave us a 4-2 win.

Next up, Real Madrid. This one will be tougher for sure.



What is happening! I struggle to work out in this case whether this result owes more to a solid performance from us, or whether Real turned up cold. Brahim Clement, my French winger (who is developing wonderfully, thanks for asking) pops up to slot home in the first half and we just get absolutely nothing back from them. This leaves us two games in with 6 points on the board, and with a double header against Dynamo Kiev to follow.

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Huh. Well that's a bit anti-climactic. Dynamo shut us down in Kiev. No one turned up to play, and frankly think I over-tinkered trying to find a way back into the game. To make matters worse, Tsmikas ruptured his cruciate ligaments in this one leading to his instant retirement. While he was always going to play a supporting role this season, his homegrown status was crucial to my registration structure so the consequences of this one are perhaps further reaching than one might initially have thought. RIP big man.

In the return leg, we gave them a better go, but honestly didn't do enough to warrant a win. Just 3 shots on target from 13 tells you everything there.

Going into the business end of the group stage, we had a finely poised situation. Dynamo hadn't just given us trouble, they'd taken a victory over Real Madrid and a draw with Spurs to make them the unexpected group leaders. We sat in second, but would need to get at least a point from somewhere to stand any chance of not finishing bottom here.

For game five, we host Spurs in Athens.


Talk about a sickener :seagull: 

After racing into an early 2 goal lead, we concede 2 absurdly silly goals just before half time to give the Premier League side a way back into the game. They have a caretaker manager since last time, so throw a few different things at us tactically. We freeze up in the second half, but do look like we are going to hold on until conceding a penalty late in the game.

Real take a draw against Dynamo in their penultimate fixture, meaning they go into the final round top of the group. Our next opponents however are in desperate need of a win to qualify, and we have to see this one out in the Bernabeu.

Well you know what they say, if you don't like the heat, get out of the kitchen. :kriss:


Aaaaaand breathe! This has to be the tensest match I've had in FM22 so far. Madrid threw a lot at us, but we restricted them to half chances and my backline held firm. As fun as a barnstorming, goal ridden, rout of your opposition is, there is something really quite satisfying about seeing your team grind out exactly the result they needed.

Spurs win the group in the end, and our point draws us level with Kiev on points - but behind them on results between teams. Another manager would be seething on this, but for me, that is just what I wanted. We head into the Europa League with some valuable experience, a solid set of performances, and a healthy degree of optimism that we can take home this trophy.


The first knockout round pits us against Leicester. Frankly, that's not the draw I wanted, but hey, we move. :brock:


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Posted (edited)

Season 10 - May 2030



Greece - Super League

Let's get straight into the important stuff.

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To say this was disappointing would be an understatement. A dream run into the Europa League was cut short by Leicester. Premier League opposition would never be ideal, but in this case I felt we had an edge. Leicester's first XI probably exceeded ours, but the strength in depth was appalling. The plan then was to try and hold out until later into each game. A first leg goal from Harvey Barnes on half time robbed us of a chance to do that, and we faced an uphill battle from then onwards. My difficulty was compounded by Kiril Desposov, my set piece king and all round talisman, abandoning ship just weeks before the first game with homesickness. In a sleep deprived state I selected the option to offer him a chance to visit home, not realising that would commit him to a month out. Infuriating.

In the second leg we were stonewalled by Leicester, who barely had to get out of second gear to do so.

So, we start from scratch next season. I've learned a lot from this campaign, particularly the value of having a full squad selection available. With just a smattering of options to fill those home grown slots, the flexibility of my team is hugely hamstrung as I rely on the remaining 17 slots in the registration. Next year I will have a similar problem, so I am making a point of identifying targets to fill the 8 homegrown positions.

This left me with just the League and Cup to focus on, which went...


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... pretty well!

Given the huge financial advantage I have, I'm cautious about boasting too hard, but this is my first ever unbeaten season so forgive me for having some pride! What's more, we set a record points total in doing so. The cup was as straightforward as last season, although the final (despite appearances) ended up providing some more jitters than I might have expected.

Planning is well under way for season 11. I am hoping that we might be attracting some big offers, particularly for a few players who have developed into world class quality. This would go a long way to funding some more improvements.

That said, we might not need it after all...



Edited by Saintmat
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Posted (edited)

Season 11 - September 2030



Greece - Super League


I for one welcome our new Russian overlords... :ackter:

Well this is certainly a shake up. I do wish it happened quite a bit sooner! The takeover process and obligatory transfer embargo dragged on right into late-July, by which point most of my identified targets had moved on. In the meantime, I was powerless to react in the event somebody swooped in on a release clause for one of my players, as the embargo unable to offer improved contracts. Thankfully we avoided that particular outcome, but it was certainly not ideal to lose half of the window at the outset.

When our definitely-legit-and-not-at-all-dodgy benefactor finally arrived however, we got to work on a couple of minor adjustments. The expected financial windfall of a takeover was somewhat overstated, but I was afforded a cool £20m or so to work with - much better than the £2m  afforded to me by the original board. An early concern is a board insistence to sign "high-reputation players", something I try to avoid like the plague given my moneyball tendencies. It seems I've been given a bit of time to fulfill that brief, which is good because my primary concern this summer had been to move the squad into a more comfortable position with the home-grown squad limits for European competition. Last season I was limited to essentially a 17 man registration of players I reasonably could expect to contribute.


This necessitated some difficult decisions, but I took advantage of interest in a club stalwart, Kim-Min Jae (now 33), and replaced him with Greek trained ex-Arsenal center back Kostas Mavropanos. Not the most exhilarating move, but an important one to free up slots. Should they still be on our books in season 12, this problem will be eased by the graduation of our youthful first teamers Uros Nad, Thomas Autenreith and Giannis Papadopoulos. I put in additional work on the home-grown front, repatriating goalkeeper Lefteris Choutesioris and ball-winning midfielder Vincenz Hansen. To put it as sensitively as I can, they aren't great, I'm not even sure they are good... but they're not total dog-s**t and we're actually allowed to play them if we need to so they're on the team :rolleyes:

With the rest of my budget I invested in Eibar's advanced playmaker and wonderkid, Fran Amagat. He comes in to provide real challenge to Lazar Samardzic, a 28 year old with similar qualities and great experience, but an imperfect injury record. Amagat proved to be a difference maker in pre-season games against Roma and Fiorentina. If he can replicate some of those performances for us in Europe we will have another world-beater on our hands.


The last little sub-plot to play out this summer was with Brazilian defender Soares. In his one season with us so far, he's proven to be a cut-above the rest of the squad and deservedly holds star-player status. Naturally then I have been fending off some aggressive bids for him. Manchester City came in hard, but refused to pay out the £55m agreed upon with the player. So for now he stays, but let us see what January brings....


We enter the Champions League group stage this season without the need for a qualification round, making my pre-season much more straightforward.  There is no such thing as an easy group in the Champions League, particularly coming in as 4th seed, although with a bit of luck you can get easier groups. We got... something in the middle.


Bayern and Inter will certainly cause us trouble (although we sent Real Madrid packing before, so who knows?), and a rematch with Dynamo Kiev provides a little bit of spice. In season 10, the Ukrainian side very nearly scuppered our goal of 3rd place in the group and they will be in prime position to do that again this year. An additional personal element to this tie is that Kostas Tsmikas sustained his career ending injury in the away leg, making my life considerably more difficult than it needed to be. Revenge would be sweet. Overall, I am just pleased to avoid Premier League opposition, with Arsenal, Tottenham and Leicester all causing me grief in my previous attempts at European glory.

If we do make it to 3rd place, I'm not expecting to necessarily go as far as win the Europa League, but I would like to put the team in a position to go on and achieve that in seasons 12 and 13. As a reminder, my self-set limit is 4 seasons and as such I need to make every run count. A deep run into the competition would do a world of good for my confidence that this is possible.

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Season 11 - October 2030



Greece - Super League

Champions League Gameweek 1 - Inter Milan (H)


What a turnaround!

I can scarcely believe my eyes at the final whistle. I had resigned myself to disappointment when we conceded a near post corner goal just before the hour mark. Until that point, the game had been tight but I had been pleased with the execution of a tactical plan to shut down Hamed Traore, the Nerrazuri's creator-in-chief. But then, maybe I should have had more faith. After all, Inter are gonna Inter!

Matty Cash scores with a cross come shot to put us back in the game, and from then on out we demonstrate some great control, not ceding chances but still creating incursions here and there. Then, as the last ticks of added time evaporate, we take the ball down on the counter. A ball is played long, and somehow Florin Ardelean finds space between two of Inter's three center backs, glides through on goal and slots at the near post.

Cue pandemonium in Athens.

These are the nights you live for!

Champions League Gameweek 2 - Dynamo Kiev (A)


From the sublime... to the ridiculous. Dynamo Kiev gave us problems last season, but you just know when a particular team (or the FM gods) has it in for you when they recover a two-goal deficit with 10 men on the field. The most frustrating thing here however is that there is very little I could have done about it. Both goals come from a real lack of concentration. In no way should we have conceded the first, as three of my defenders run in the wrong direction at the same time when Kiev win back the ball. The equaliser is an excellent curling shot from outside the box, but the ball fell to Florentino Luis unmarked after a clearance from a defensive free kick. At a man up I am speechless to how we could have afforded a player like that so much space.

Aaand breathe. At least Florin Ardelean has continued his vein of form. I'd not been quite so impressed with him last season and only ended up with him as a permanent fixture in the squad after a clause I wasn't aware of triggered. Thank goodness it did, as I've struggled for output from my until recently reliable duo of Kiril Despodov and Mbala Nzola. So far, this really is shaping up to be a swansong for two club legends.

In the other match, Inter and Bayern draw, leaving us with 4 points and still top after two games. A Bayern double header comes next, so this could be a very different group in another couple of games. I'll be hoping for one of Kiev or Inter to tank it in their games, and leave 3rd place open once more.

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Season 11 - December 2030



Greece - Super League

Champions League Gameweek 3 - Bayern Munich (A)


After our first two games had put us in a strong-ish position, we faced a daunting double header against Bayern Munich. The traditional big-hitters had somewhat failed to rejuvenate their squads in eleven seasons of simulation, but this was not true of Bayern. Only a few hang-on's remained and they composed a line up with considerable talent. With that in mind, I approached this game with some amount of caution. Perhaps too much.

An early goal from Croatian forward Kmjic put us on the back foot early, beating everyone to the scramble on a corner routine knockdown. Then just after the half hour mark, we concede a silly goal, this time Matty Cash being the chief culprit. Joshua Kimmich's cross is deflected high, and the Croat piles in early to loop a header over Vlachodimos. Truthfully we never recovered fully from the first half, but we put a better showing in when ditching the wingers in favour of a narrow 4-3-1-2. Fram Amagat scored from a terrific slide-rule pass courtesy of Mazinho, but too little too late.

At the half way mark in the group we read 1-1-1 for W-D-L.

Champions League Gameweek 4 - Bayern Munich (H)


Now this is a bit more like it.

The success of the 4-3-1-2 in the tail of the last game prompted a tactical switch for this one. Ignore the in-game display, in reality I moved Clement out to AMR, to stretch the defenders as much as possible. Santiago took responsibility for getting up and down the left flank. We didn't start well however, eventually punished by a world class curling effort from the abiding Joshua Kimmich. This time however the team showed some spark, and we managed to carve out an opportunity with a deep run from Clement, who delivers and excellent cross for the overload run coming in from Lazar Samardzic. A goal from the German against the Germans.

Clearly the equaliser left Bayern stunned, and we dominate the second half without really creating anything more of note. Still a 1-1 draw here puts us in a good spot. Dynamo Kiev take a win and a draw against Inter in their two games, so we are left in a 3 point lead on the Italians in 3rd place. A win or draw in Milan will mean that we more or less guarantee European football on the other side of Christmas.

Champions League Gameweek 5 - Inter Milan (A)


To quote Paul Whitehouse's unlucky Alf... Oh bugger.

Not one for the neutrals here. Neither side really turn up, and ultimately the tie is settled from a moment of class from Lautaro Martinez. This could have been so much better had we simply come out stronger, but Inter's tactical differential from the last game did an excellent job of neutralising our attacking play. The lesson is you cannot leave things to chance in these competitions. It's go hard, or go home.

To make things worse, Inter go ahead of us on coefficient points leaving us bottom with one match to play. We now have to beat Dynamo Kiev in order to progress at all, something I am yet to manage with Olympiakos in three attempts. We also face an unlikely challenge to qualify for the Europa League, as I need Inter to complete an unlikely late revival and beat Bayern. In this scenario we stay level on points, but go into 3rd on the differential. For me this would be the best outcome, as like last season, I feel a Europa League level run is more suited to this current crop of players.

Champions League Gameweek 6 - Dynamo Kiev (H)


Kostas Tsimikas, that was for you.

This was the performance we had been waiting for. Admittedly, a few things played into my favour. Kiev changed managers after GW4, leading to a tactical switch which frankly does not suit them. More importantly they were missing some key players, and played a half-fit aging Denys Popov, who duly put in a 5.8. Florin Ardelean is continuing to flourish in his Advanced Forward role and has provided an expected counter-point to my preferred role of a Deep-Lying Forward, with on running midfielders. The final word though has to go to Kiril Despodov, who is being phased out this season but showed what he has left to offer with some fabulous playmaking (4 CCCs, 8 KPs). I don't think he'll see much more action this year but nevertheless, this man is truly a great in Olympiakos red and white.

So, we completed our end of the bargain. Let us see if Inter managed the impossible...

BayernInter.png.7a663ff3fc339bf21f191e70346ceea0.png UCLtable.png.f6d344435e0d882d105b48ff0851c8d8.png


In another circumstance, I might have been royally pissed off here. Not this time. In fact, I think I could probably kiss Scott McTominay square in the mouth.

So we head to the Europa League, and the draw is...


Ok. I prefer this to Premier League opposition!

A slightly concerning development is the reveal that my Russian overlords are demanding victory in the Europa League as a minimum expectation. I'm all for ambition, but not when it might cost me my job.

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Season 11 - February 2031



Greece - Super League

On that subject, there have been a few bits of business in January. For the most part, this has been driven by the interest in my players. I try to see this as opportunity rather than damnation, but with the added boardroom challenge of signing "high reputation players", handling squad turnover is much more complex than it used to be.  I was most concerned about losing star center back Soares, who had been attracting interest from the mega-club conglomerate. In the end I didn't receive any bids on Soares and it was his defensive partner, Stephane Noah, who made the big departure. Noah pulled in a bid of £24m from RB Leipzig, representing a 10 fold profit on the £2.4m I paid a year and a half previously. Unfortunately, most of this money went straight back to East Germany. Nmandi Collins - a wonderkid from the start of the game, is now 27 and has not had the kind of career one might expect. I'll be hoping he makes good on that early promise here in Greece. His on the ball skillset is an upgrade on Noah, and he fulfills the high rep brief from the board, so I am satisfied with the switch, even if it isn't necessarily the best value for money.


The other major move came at left back. Luis Santiago was only signed a season ago, for £11m - but has made his departure from Athens already. I was having trouble juggling his playing time with club homegrown Dionysis Basinas, and when a £22m bid came in I had to take advantage. He is replaced by another LaLiga2 pickup, Inigo Garcia. Not an upgrade but it frees up Basinas to cement his place in the team - something I really need to do so as to ensure I meet those pesky homegrown requirements.


Further additions include the acquisition of yet another ancient goalkeeper, Tomas Strakoshka, from Lazio. Key motivation for this is the impending retirement of both keepers currently at the club, his homegrown status in Greece, and his high reputation. At 35, he is no spring chicken and I hoped to get at least a season out of him, however he quickly picked up a 3 month hip injury and I am now left scratching my head over whether I'll have him as an option at all when we hit September. Other than these three, the rest of my business focused on next season's team. This involved signing three young players to stay out on loan, and one last piece of experience in Ben White, who will come in as center and right back cover.

Last word, and a salute, goes to Mbala Nzola. The Angolan powerhouse of a forward was a phenomenon last season, but time catches up with us all and in the end he lost his place to Florin Ardelean. The club icon departs for Mexico, and with 137 Thrylos goals, and the club record for goals in a season (32), under his belt. Farewell big man. 


So, turning my attention back to on the pitch matters, we had the matter of our first KO round in the Europa League to handle. Sporting Lisbon on further inspection had been flying in the Primera this year, so I was expecting a tough battle...


In the first leg we started superbly, taking a 2 goal early lead and running the game on cruise control. Of course in European competition things are never that easy for us, so when they pulled one back just before half time with a deflected own goal I was tearing my hair out once more. In the second half the pattern continued, but of course we were hit with another sucker punch to make it 2-2. Thankfully, Florin Ardelean is out for blood this season, and put us back in the lead just minutes later. From here a few tactical tweaks ensured that we would take a goal advantage with us to Athens. A final parting present was a rash second yellow picked up by Anel Ahmedhodzic, a favourite of many FM players and Sporting's starting center back. This would hopefully make life in the second leg a lot easier.


We managed another superb start in the second leg, with our Romanian man Ardelean thundering a volley past Gollini after just 3 minutes, then getting on the end of a Clement delivery after 8. A complete collapse from Sporting transpires thereafter, Uros Nad finds a third, and Soares secures a fourth from a corner. But just when I feel at ease, these boys just pull me straight back in. The industrious Kelvin Yeboah plays a neat one-two and somehow squirms a shot past Vlachodimos... then on the otherside of halftime Pedro Goncalves beats the offside trap with an easy ball  over the top. What on earth are we doing. So, some more tactical tweaks. More of the ball, less gung-ho please. Not that my players listen. my front three all go for it and we get a lucky fifth, another from Uros Nad, tapping in after the ball is block tackled into his path. I'll be a happy man at this point if I don't see another highlight. Fortunately, this time that is exactly what I get.

Christ I need a drink after all that.

Our next reward is...


Hmm. Another one that could be deceptively tricky. Napoli aren't in great shakes at the moment, sitting 8th in Serie A. They still have some good players in their ranks, so we'll have to be on guard as usual.

Domestically our dominance has continued, and we sit top of the Super League table going into the Championship group. One bit of disappointing news to report is that a 63 match unbeaten run in the league came to an end in January. Most frustrating of all was it came at the hands of Panathinaikos, a consistent thorn in our side this year. Still, 63 matches is no mean feat and we have set ourselves a huge target to aim for before my time with Olympiakos comes to an end.


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Season 11 - March 2031



Greece - Super League

No messing about now. Europa League second knockout round with Napoli - here we go.


Lovely stuff. An early goal from Atte Poyhonen put us in charge and we never really looked like dropping this lead. It's one of few games we have played in Europe all season that we've actually maintained control of. Granted, we were aided by the absence of Victor Osimhen. He isn't exactly the same calibre of striker as his real life counterpart in this save, but is still a formidable presence. Lorenzo Lucca never really gave us much trouble. 

On to leg number two, and the cauldron of the Stadio Diego Maradona...


This was more what I was expecting. We needed that three goal lead, because without it I'm not sure how we'd make it out of this one. Napoli returned with some *****, spurred on by the recovery of Osimhen. The Nigerian shut down our early goal with a fabulous one-two burst into the box and finish. Thankfully set piece practice paid off here, Brahim Clement restoring our lead and a four goal cushion. In the second half Chucky Lozano came on and gave us some trouble, but that was fortunately the last hurrah the Neopolitans had in store.

So, we hit the Europa League quarter finals...


Now that's a hard one to call. The Scottish Premiership is not loaded in to this save so I have little knowledge of Rangers, other than this season they were surprise group winners ahead of Brighton and Villareal, then topped that off in the last round by knocking out Club Brugge (who in turn had knocked them out of the Champions League qualifiers... go figure). Rangers put out my CSKA Sofia side from a Europa League qualifier once before so I have some amount of personal vendetta in this one. They, as most teams do at this point, boast a team of 30+ year olds and very little depth.

As usual, we get to see the rest of our path to the final as well...


There was no easy draw here but Benfica or PSV should be interesting proposition. Benfica won this tournament a few seasons prior, and PSV have some great young players who could cause us trouble. On the whole, there are few teams I fear in the draw (if we can turn up). With a bit of luck, this might be our year.

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Season 11 - May 2031



Greece - Super League

Europa League Quarter Final First Leg - Rangers (A)


Well this was about as straightforward a game as you'll see in European competition. Florin Ardelean put us ahead after 16 minutes and Rangers more or less folded from there on out. The age of their squad was particularly noticeable, as the game wore on we went from strength to strength. On to leg 2.

Europa League Quarter Final Second Leg - Rangers (H)


If the first leg represented a gradual eroding of Glaswegian hope, then the second was more akin to a bludgeoning. Four first half goals put this tie to bed with 45 minutes still to play. Imagine then my misery as Brahim Clement, on a yellow, makes a needless foul and gets himself suspended for the first leg of the semi final. I had the face of a man served a pint of ****.

At least though we were through, my furthest foray into European competition since the Conference League run with Jablonec. I wholly expected to see Benfica in the semi final after they won 4-1 in the first leg. Instead, I was surprised to find PSV had turned that tie around with a 5-1 (AET) home leg win of their own.

Europa League Semi Final First Leg - PSV (H)


This was more what I expected from European competition. We got off to an uncharacteristic slow start here, not performing to our usual level in the first half. In the end we just needed to hold our nerve, and perhaps utilise some experience. Kiril Despodov is into single digits now for remaining games at the club, but his introduction turned the tide of this game in our favour. As has so often been the case this year, Florin Ardelean gets the opener. We move the ball fabulously well across the PSV backline, and find the Romanian hitman with a lovely slide rule pass between full back and center back. My players then do exactly what they should, and hammer home our advantage. Jonathon Giannetti (deputising for the suspended Clement) pops up at the back post following more terrific work down the left hand side.

With that we take a two goal lead with us to Eindhoven, and a shot at a place in the final.

Europa League Semi Final Second Leg - PSV (A)


Sweet baby Jesus. This was not the return leg I wanted to see, but at least we've made it out alive. Clearly this team have found a new level of confidence and we played terrifically in the first half, taking the lead just before half time with another Ardelean goal. I was rubbing my eyes in disbelief then when we found ourselves 2-1 down just after the break. Andi Zeqiri was on a one man mission to reign us in and he very nearly managed it (although I have some serious questions on our goalkeeping with both goals). Diego Plada has made some excellent contributions for a squad player at the tail end of this season, but maybe none quite as important as his equaliser on 60 minutes. This one came from a lofted through ball from deep courtesy of Atte Poyhonen, which drops in front of Plada perfectly for a clean slot past the keeper. But again they peg us back, after Zeqiri pounces on some hesitancy from Nmandi Collins. With the Dutch side needing just one more goal, it seems as though they are spent and we dig in to find a third of our own - this time Uros Nad with the crucial contribution.

Thank goodness for that! Now time to take a big sip of water before I look at who my final opponents. Oh boy would I like to have a chance in this....





Ajax just couldn't hold a lead could they. :(

Leicester knocked me out last season in rather disparaging fashion, so this has a bit of extra spice to it. Unfortunately they have gone from strength to strength since then, and will represent considerable opposition to my hopes of a European trophy. This is a big one, so I better have something special in store.


And just to return to domestic matters, the league and cup double has been wrapped up with some ease. We are at Dinamo Zagreb levels of dominance here.

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