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strangerthankindness

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49 "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn"

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    RC Lens; Rayo Vallecano; V-Varen Nagasaki

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  1. Update 12: The (Mostly) All-Lens Campaign One of the strengths of Ligue 1 clubs is their youth set-up, whether in terms of generating good-quality regens or in the multiple stars now scattered around Europe that once got their starts in a French youth system. You could have some rewarding saves trying to bring back HG stars for St. Etienne, Lyon, Lille, OM, and even with some of the "lesser" clubs there. Here's an update on my RC Lens save, where I'm trying to focus on either the players that were with the club in real-life when the game started, or are former HG. We're not turning down free or cheap transfer either, of course. After our Champions League Final heartbreak the season before, we regrouped with some key additions, though not before losing some people too. Our biggest pick-up, both on the field and for our Lens focus, was bringing home Wylan Cyprien, a midfielder who came up from the Lens system in 2008 and made over 100 appearances for the club before joining Nice in 2016. We picked him up from cash-starved Nice for only USD$6.25Mil. 33-year-old Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had just been let go by Arsenal, so we picked him up for free so he "could be close to his family in France," and hope he can slot into the backup forward or starting AML spot. French defender Thomas Basila was on Chelsea's transfer list, so we got him for USD$10.25Mil, and one of the many Zidane offspring, the AMC Theo, joined us for free on an expiring-contract deal from EA Guingamp. It's good we got Basila, as on transfer deadline day Chelsea swooped in for our 2nd best defender, Oumar Solet, who couldn't say no; away he went for a new club record fee, USD$54Mil. Our biggest losses (at least in terms of this save), though, was losing right wingback Jonathan Clauss, a Lens original, who found playing time hard to come by after a 4-month hamstring layoff, and in June left for Standard Liege for a starting role. In January a signing from last year, the former Lens HG Jean-Kevin Duverne, left for Brighton (to 'prove himself in a bigger league," LOL, even though we are in the Champions League), so that was two Lens originals/HG lost. Cedric Bakambu, fresh off his strong campaign, was plucked back to the Chinese League by Jiangsu Suning for a cool USD$17Mil, while our young players Aihen Munoz (Seville, USD$26Mil), Felix Nmecha (Crystal Palace, USD$22Mil), Ekanit Panya (Hamburg, USD$18Mil) and Suphaneat Muenta (Frankfurt, USD$13Mil) also departed, raided away by "bigger" clubs. However, all of those players had been signed for free in the prior 12-24 months, so we couldn't complain, especially with the over-USD$100Mil we were left with. Returning from loan to beef up the team is French leftback Arthur Zagre (signed from Monaco for free last year), who'll replace Munoz, and Batista Mendy (signed for free from Nantes last year), who'll provide CB and DMC rotation. Also returning, after a two-year loan in Spain, is Peruvian winger/AMC Yuriel Celi, who joined us for free in 2020, and is much improved. (He's got Spanish nationality now, too). Finally, we extend Geoffrey Kondogbia's loan from Atletico Madrid (again!), getting this multi-million dollar player for free and for 30% of his salary. In January, to replace Duverne and cover for injuries, we pick up a transfer-listed Malang Sarr from Juventus for only USD$9.5Mil. Our new lineup. Still with the 4-2-3-1 counterattacking gegenpress. Backups who will soon take over the starting roles are Celi for Auba, Ouattara for Kakuta, and Zagre for Haidara. Now, the league.... We sweep through the league again, knocking off PSG twice (!) and somehow winding up undefeated. Cyprien leads the league in assists and average rating, and is a phenomenal partner to either Kondogbia or Cheick Doucoure, who's battled several injuries this year. We rotate well and go about twenty deep, squad-wise, with Ganago (28), Amang (24) and Aubameyang (14) providing the goals, and Cyprien (17), Celi (14), and Ouattara (12) the assists. At 32 years of age, Kakuta is starting to slow down, but he's still good for more than 25 starts. Our prior signings like Enzo Millot, Jean-Daniel Akpa-Akpro, Tibo Persyn, and Jeff Reine-Adelaide do alright in back-up roles, while Theo proves a useful signing, and at least the best of all the new Zidanes, lol. It's the Champions League that we want this year, though, and after getting through the group and a round-of-16 against Juventus, we face arch-enemies PSG in the quarterfinals. We win the first leg at home, 2-1, with PSG getting that valuable away goal. In the second leg a penalty is given to PSG in the 62nd min, and up steps Cristiano Ronaldo for a certain—NO, Farinez saves! Our relief is short-lived, as Ronaldo scores with a header five minutes later, giving PSG the lead and sending us out—as it stands—on away goals. We have nothing to show for the minutes that follow, and as the clock ticks down it looks like we're about to crash out to PSG of all clubs.... And then, in the 90th minute, PSG clear out our last-ditch corner, but Malang Sarr retrieves the ball near the halfway line and sends it back to Yuriel Celi, who spots Ganago, running in as the PSG defense is clearing their lines. Ganago beats the offside trap and the goalie, and slides it into the net for the goal. Cue: pandemonium in the away-fan section, jubilation in the RCL team, and lots of arm-throwing exasperation in the PSG players. We've done it, in the last minute! Two minutes later, time runs out, and we've won 1-1, and 3-2 aggregate, with that goal from Ganago, and send home our most powerful, hated rivals, who have a payroll ten times ours. And I, a grown-ass man with a wife and a kid and a real-life job and everything, almost get choked up, lol. The semifinals aren't nearly as dramatic, as we defeat Liverpool 4-3 over the two legs. A date with Chelsea awaits in the final. While several of my free transfers and cheap pick-ups are by now much better than my Lens originals, I stick to my guns and start as many Lens'ians as possible. Eight out of our eleven were either with Lens when we started, or were HG that I brought back in; I even move Kondogbia to central defense to make room for both Cyprien and Doucoure in midfield. (Noticing his height, strength, heading, and jumping, I had been retraining Kondo as a DC the entire year). It's our usual 4-2-3-1 counter-press, though more cautious than usual, with Ganago up front, Reine-Adelaide on the left, Ouattara as AMC, and Kakuta cutting in from the right. Cyprien and Doucoure patrol the middle, and in the back it's Haidara, Kondo, Ahmedhodzic, and Akpa Akpro (our regular RB Tibo 'the Belgian' Persyn isn't fit to last the whole game), with Farinez in goal. Only Ahmedhodzic, Akpa Akpro, and Ouattara aren't linked to Lens in real life; in the game, we signed Ouattara immediately at 18, so he's just qualified as Lens HG. A defensive game is enlivened by—what else—a Ganago goal in the 42nd minute. Like most of his goals, it's from a through-ball courtesy of Ouattara that splits the defense and allows Ganago to run onto it; he outpaces his defenders and slots it home. Can we hang on? We get more and more defensive, taking off a frankly overmatched Kakuta in the second half for Tibo Persyn, who drops to a defensive winger; and a just-as-overmatched Haidara for Malang Sarr, to shore up the left side. Jeff Reine-Adelaide is just as useless, so Yuriel Celi replaces him to at least give the Chelsea defenders something to worry about. ...And.....We win! That solitary Ganago goal in the 43rd minute proves the difference. Our team of mostly-real-life Lens products have brought the Champions League trophy to Lens, defeating the odds and some of the biggest teams in the world. Very proud of the team here, and the season's been a real eye-opener for me as an FM manager. In the past I would chase as many superstars and wonderkids as possible hoping for success, but this season's proven that you can still win not only the league, but the entire Champions League, with just a strong team of players that have been together for awhile. Again, no one on the team really stands out stats-wise, or even in hidden CA/PA numbers. Only two players have CA's over 150, the rest have now grown into CA's in the 133-147 range. Even Ganago and Amang, our two best goal-scorers, don't have particularly eye-catching total attributes, but they're great for their roles, Ganago especially. (Above are his attributes in 2024). As an Advanced Forward, none of his highlighted attributes are below 14, and in a counter-attacking system his anticipation, acceleration, and pace make him deadly. Somehow the team is consistently out-performing many other higher-paid stars. RC Lens is now a cash machine thanks to its stadium revenue (a 38k stadium always 99% full), its UEFA income, and our ability to buy low and sell high, but I've barely touched our transfer funds. In this season of four trophies (Ligue 1, Coupe de France, UEFA, and the 'Trophee of Champions' one-match season opener), we spent only USD$24Mil in transfers, but earned USD$220Mil in sales. Check out those numbers: We have had USD$387Mil (!) in our transfer budget the entire season, and an available payroll of USD$162Mil, but we've not used it at all. Still, the board is happy, and morale is excellent. Hopefully we can keep the team together, or at least the Lens originals, for another run, and bring in some other Lens orphans. I don't quite know how long I'll continue these updates; I wanted to prove that we could win the league and UEFA with a team of role players and Lens HG, and we've basically achieved that. I'm going to stick with the plan, ignore our millions, and see how far it takes us. Lens Originals Still Left After Four Seasons: 7 - Ganago, Kakuta, Doucoure, Haidara, Kakuta, N'Guessan, Farinez Lens HG Brought Back to Lens: 3 - Kondogbia, Reine-Adelaide, Cyprien Lens Originals/HG Lost This Season: 2 - Clauss, Duverne The takeaways from this season in Ligue 1 are both good and bad: it's great that in Ligue 1, you only have PSG to really worry about, but you can still build a good team that will consistently (at first) place 2nd, and make it to Europe. You can then build on that success to knock PSG off their perch, and find success in Europe. On the other hand, I'm worried that future seasons won't have as many challenges, as the rest of the Ligue 1 clubs still aren't that strong. Thanks for reading.
  2. Update 11: European Journey. In the midst of our successful Ligue campaign we also focused on Europe, hoping to advance further than last year. Our first test was against Lazio in the Round-of-16; we put up a disappointing 2-1 loss in Rome, with Ganago surprisingly ineffective, but with Cheick Doucoure getting a valuable away goal. I fear we're about to be eliminated again. At home, though, the unlikely Doucoure chimes in again with two goals and we coast to a 3-0 win. The Lens HG product is turning into such a key player for us. In the quarterfinal we face mighty Liverpool. Check out that timeline. We manage to hold on in Anfield with a scoreless draw, where our defenders' ratings were far higher than our attackers, and where Farinez in goal was immense. The next leg was a similarly dour affair, 0-0 through 90 and with a spectacular goal-line clearance by Oumar Solet the only highlight. And then, in the 92nd minute, a free kick by Ouattara seems destined for Bakambu's head near goal, only to be knocked out of the air by Fabinho's hand. VAR confirms it's a penalty; Bakambu steps up and coolly smashes it home on basically the last kick of the game. We've got a dramatic last-minute victory, the only goal in 180 minutes, and a ticket to the semifinals. We face Juventus in the semifinals, and a 1-1 draw in Turin leads to a 2-0 win at home, courtesy a Danilo red card in the 13th minute that leaves Juve with ten men. We dominate that second leg, with an xG of 3.39 vs. 0.87. Again, it's Farinez with the best average rating across the ties, at 7.3, though Gael Kakuta turns back the years in our win, getting a 7.6 rating. Everyone's excited about the club's first UEFA final, where we go against Manchester Utd. Reaching the final is about two years earlier than I had anticipated, but we'll take it. This save is about prioritizing the original Lens or Lens HG players above all, so I'm going to roll the dice and plug as many in as possible, and that includes Jonathan Clauss, who's just back from a 4-month layoff. Ganago leads the line, with Lens HG Jeff Reine-Adelaide on the left, original Lens (and Lens HG) Kakuta in the middle, and Thomas Amang on the right, who at least was our first signing when we began the save. Original member Doucoure and Lens HG Kondogbia anchor the midfield, with original members Haidara and Clauss in the left and right back positions. Lens HG Duverne is one central defender, with Anel A. the other; he's the only one not really part of Lens, though he was signed in the first year. Original member Farinez protects the goal. This is a huge gamble, especially at right back, as Clauss is barely fit and nowhere near the quality of either Persyn or Akpa-Akpro, but let's do it. In the 7th minute, Ganago taps in a shot from Doucoure that the goalkeeper had knocked right to him. We lead, 1-0. Can we do it? Probably not. Two minutes cost us. In the 57th, Fernandes scores, and one minute later, Boga scores. 2-1, Man U. Or can we? Doucoure (again!) smashes one home in the 70th. We're tied, 2-2. And so it ends. Our team of Lens journeymen and kind-of-stars have taken the millionaires of Man Utd into extra time in the final of the Champions League.... And, they score in the 100th minute, breaking our hearts. Aaargh. So close! Our campaign ends. Analytics-wise, we actually performed well, with an xG of 2.63 vs. their 2.11, and with a 60/40 possession edge. "We should be disappointed with the result. We were the better team," indeed. My decision to start Clauss probably backfired, as he receives a 6.4 rating (though I subbed him out for Persyn in the second half anyway), and Kakuta, JRA, and Amang all disappoint as well. Ganago and especially Doucoure are the stars, with Doucoure really adding goal-scoring to his midfield-carrilero arsenal throughout this European campaign. At season's end, the boys are recognized. Farinez wins Champions League GK of the season, while Anel A wins Defender of the Season. We'll be hard pressed to keep them around next year, I'm sure. For the Ligue, we get seven (!) players in the Team of the Season. Ganago, Amang, Doucoure, Kondogbia, Persyn, Duverne, and Farinez. Farinez wins GK of the season, while Amang wins Ligue 1's Best African Player. Morale is still high and dynamics are excellent, even after the loss. Have to admit, I wasn't expecting to reach the UEFA final so soon, but strangely I'm disappointed we didn't manage to win it. So close. But I'm still pretty happy that we managed to win the Ligue, and make it to the Champions League final, with many Lens original players, and with so many "regular" players whose CA's are in the 120-135 range. It's something appealing about playing in Ligue 1. I'm going to do one more year and see if we can make it to the top, and also discover if the game AI will make it harder to stay on top of Ligue 1, or if the other teams will also start improving. We've also still got an extra USD$74Million (!) in extra payroll, and USD$154Mil in transfer funds, if I choose to spend it. Thanks again for reading.
  3. Update 10: The Kings Fall. January 2023 is a fabulous month for Lens, with the victory over PSG (mentioned in the prior update) giving our lead a major boost and with a tie to Rennes the only lost points. Our January transfer window was a quiet one, especially compared to last January (evidently the Chinese Super League has filled up their foreigners' quota). We do send a few youngsters on loan; I'm still holding out hope that Ange N'Guessan, Ishmael Boura, and Bryann Pereira from the RC youth team will blossom into good players with proper experience. I can't tell if transfers are quiet due to the pandemic-era financials coding that went into this version of FM, or if it's because none of my players are, CA/PA-wise, that attractive to bigger teams. I think that one of the secrets to building a competitive team that you can keep intact in Ligue 1 is paradoxically NOT going after superstars or wonderkids; you'll be able to hold onto a wonderkid for 1-2 years, but sooner or later they'll get plucked away by the Barcelona's and Chelsea's (or the European Super League's) of the world. We'll test that as the season progresses, of course. February - April we continue our run, dropping only five points in three months (!), although we benefit schedule-wise with none of the Big 4 (PSG, Lyon, Monaco, Lille) to worry about until April's end. Injury-wise we also luck out, almost, with everyone staying fit thanks to a deeper squad that allows for rest and rotation. (And the fact that Ignatius Ganago never needs a rest, and never misses a game). The sad outlier to that luck is our stalwart right wingback Jonathan Clauss, who suffers a damaged achilles at the end of January and is set to miss four months, and possibly not recover at all. He'll also miss all of our Champions League knock-out games. It's a blow for us, and to my own goal of keeping many of the Original Lens'ers around. That April's-end game comes away against PSG, and is a huge six-pointer. Win and we'll basically open up an unrecoverable lead; if they win, they'll be back in the race. Kimpende opens the scoring with a shot off a loose ball in the box, but we strike back ten minutes later through Tibo the Belgian's rocket from outside it, and three minutes after that Bakambu steals the ball from a dawdling Marquinhos and smashes it home. Bakambu then rather clumsily bundles home a corner kick that bounced off Ouattara in the 56th, and after a Ronaldo goal in the 66th makes it tight we hold on for a fabulous, famous victory at the Parc des Princes. Even better, we do it without Ganago, who's out through suspension. Bakambu and Amang make up for it with ratings of 8.3 and 7.4 respectively. The kings of Paris, it seems, are about to fall. And in May, down they go. We beat Metz on May 7th and with four games still left to play, we clinch the league for the first time since 1998, and just three years after we rejoined the top flight. We've done it with many of the "Original Lens" team playing pivotal roles: Ganago, Kakuta, Doucoure, Haidara, and Farinez were key parts of our success, and Clauss was on track to be as well if we hadn't lost him to that broken leg. We've also returned three Lens youth products to the team: Kondogbia, Duverne, and Reine-Adelaide, each of whom have played major roles. Signings-wise, the veterans Bakumba and Akpa Akpro, and young Tibo Persyn, really stabilized the team, with Bakumba popping up with 24 goals. Our inaugural signings Thomas Amang and Brahima Ouattara have come into their own as well, with Ouattara taking over from Kakuta as the main creative force (21 assists!) and Amang still a flame on the wing, with his 20 goals third best behind Ganago and Bakambu. New arrivals Duverne and Solet formed a strong partnership with Anel A. in the center of defense, while our other new signing Aihen Munoz alternates with Haidara pretty much every other game on the left wing. Stats-wise, we led the league in both goals and average possession, boast a top-5 conversion rate, pass completion, and tackles won ratio, while our fans helped us lead the league in attendance-by-capacity, at 99%. Even better, we were last in the league in transfer spending, and were 9th in salary: USD$36Mil/yr, compared to PSG's USD$365Mil/yr. Lost in the league celebration is the fact that we actually did the double, sweeping through the Coupe de France to win it for the third (!) time in a row. Again, we lucked out, with the "Big 5" all being eliminated beforehand; in fact, we only had to beat two top-division opponents (Reims and Dijon) before facing St. Etienne in the final. Still, we demolished them, as you can see, with some of our best attacking football, and with 14 goals in three games to show for it. Here's to another trophy celebration.... Next up: our Champions League adventures, which we've saved for the last. Here's the final league table, btw....
  4. Thank you @karanhsingh! I was inspired by your own work. Unfortunately my version of Kalimuendo wasn't very good; I think that some of his stats are random in the editor, and also it looks like he got a nice bump-up in the new winter database. (I was playing with the original). I could have stuck with him, but since he was just loaned to me it didn't seem worthwhile, and of course Ganago was/is doing so well. When the first season was over, it was time to move on. Here's what he looks like now, for instance, in January 2025, which is where I'm currently at (my updates are a bit behind). A pretty sharp drop-off compared to your snapshot from August 2025 in your thread. It honestly looks like he hasn't grown much since 2020. Even four years down the road, he got more Ligue 1 appearances for me on loan at Lens (4) than he has the rest of his career (3). He was sold to Rennes for about half a million in 2022, but has only made one appearance for their first team. I was definitely happy with Loum too. In my game he's also called into the Senegal team several times. Thanks again for reading!
  5. RC Lens Update 9: Season Three, First Steps We begin Season Three fueled by finishing only three points behind PSG last season; we're ready to break their domination, and are coming for them now. We've also got a boatload of cash: USD$159Mil in fact, and an extra USD$18Mil for payroll. We first welcome in the usual assortment of free transfers, plucked from that life-line for budget FM managers everywhere: the expiring-contract system. We pounced either when their contracts first hit the six-month zone last January, or later on through the season, when our success and rising reputation finally got them to pay attention to us, or even at the beginning of July, when they were cut loose and began to panic. With last year's success, though, come unwelcome suitors knocking at our door, including several clubs hoping to nab our biggest players like Ganago, Ahmedhodvic, and more. Before anything, though, we extend Kondogbia's loan for another year, and again get away with paying just 20% of his salary. We also purchase Farinez outright from Millionarios for just USD$2Mil. Last summer's free signing Alioski was first out the door, thanks to a bid from Norwich; he wanted to return to the EPL, and as his tendency to get thrown out of every other game due to red cards was too distracting, we allowed him to leave for USD$16Mil. Next up, our rotation defender Marlon Torres was off to the sunny climes of La Liga and Alaves for USD$14Mil, accompanied by our just-back-from-loan defender Facunda Medina, who headed to Mallorca for USD$13Mil. Finally, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, at this point 63 years old and losing pace, went over to Belgium's KV Oostende for basically a case of ale and some pomme frites. First to arrive was the speedy, tiny fullback Arthur Zagre from AS Monaco on a free. He's only 20 and may need a bit of seasoning, so we send him off on loan almost immediately to Real Oviedo (who've become our affiliate). Also popping in from AS Monaco on a free is their 19-year-old starlet Enzo Miliot. He looks good but also isn't quite starter material (but thinks he is), so we send him on loan to Germany for valuable minutes. Both Zagre and Enzo are French HG, as well. Third out of the free shopping bin is Spanish fullback Aihen Munoz from Real Sociedad, who's just 24 and a bit more starting-ready. He'll take Alioski's spot on the left and alternate with Haidara. Fourth and free is Thai striker/winger Suphaneat Muenta, who like his compatriot Ekanit Panya has history with me from an FM20 V-Varen Nagasaki save. He's free from Buriram Utd and isn't quite ready to challenge either Ganago or Bakumba, so he's loaned to Porto. My scouts are raving about the young Belgian right-back Tibo Persyn, and he's just been transfer-listed. I scoop him up from Inter Milan for a very low USD$2.3Mil, and slot him into the right fullback slot next to Clauss and Akpa-Akpro. He matches our 'sign young players for the 1st team' mantra, aged only 20. When Marlon Torres and Mapou leave, and with the hounds of the elite still sniffing around Ahmedhodvic, I know I'll need another central defender. RB Salzburg's Oumar Soulet is also looking for a bigger league than Austria's, so he's been listed as well and comes over for USD$13.25Mil. It's a big splurge for us, but he's starting quality, is only 20, and is HG in France. Total transfer spent: USD$15.5Mil (Solet and Tibo) for six players. Total transfer received: USD$45Mil for four players. We haven't even touched what we started with. Plus, somehow we hold onto Ganago and Ahmedhodhic, thanks to new contracts, so have a strong first eleven to begin the year. Ganago as always leads the line in our gegenpress 4-2-3-1, with Bakambu cutting in from the left side, Kakuta or Ouattara or Nmecha providing the assists and flair from the AMC spot, and Reine-Adelaide or Amang providing speed on the right flank. (Amang and Bakambu can also play FW). In a somewhat risky move, we send Ekanit Panya on loan to Boavista, as he's guaranteed 'star player' starting time there, whereas with us he'd be a backup. In midfield Kondogbia and Doucoure patrol the grounds, with Ouattara and Nmecha in for more attacking flair; they're backed up by Akpa-Akpro, Mendy, or Soler, who are all best further back but can play DMC as well. On the left Munoz and Haidara alternate, and on the right Clauss, Persyn, and Akpa-Akpro do the same, while in the center of defense we can choose between Anel, Duverne, Mendy, and Soler. Our first shot at silverware is in the Trophee des Champions, held for unknown reasons in the gorgeous Hohhat City Stadium in beautiful Inner Mongolia (!) New PSG signing Cristiano Ronaldo breaks our hearts in the 93rd minute with a game-winner. Hmm, maybe we're not quite there yet after all..... Our UEFA group could be worse, with Atletico the real heavy. There's always one team that you constantly meet in FM, and it looks like this save it's Porto, as they're in our group just like last year. After the Trophee heartbreak we respond well, and only lose and tie once from then through November. Highlights include a 3-0 dismantling of Monaco in the first game of the season, which hopefully showcases our arrival; an 8-1 destruction of Stade Brest, and a 5-2 win over FC Lorient. Plus, our first game of January is a win (finally) over PSG, with Tibo the Belgian scoring the winner. Overall, Bakambu is on fire whether cutting in from the left or attacking from the front, while Tibo Persyn is adapting very well to life in France. Oumar Soulet and Anel A. are forming a strong partnership, while Ouattara is taking over from Kakuta as the starting AMC. On the European front, we kick things off with what appears to be a dull 0-0 draw with Celtic, until Thomas Amang pops in the winner in the 92nd minute. Whew. It starts off a great campaign that also features us beating Atletico twice, though we do lose at Porto, thanks to a winning goal from....our own loanee, Suphaneat Muenta, lol. Well, at least he's getting games. The entire month of December is taken off due to the World Cup, though I schedule some trips to Italy and Germany for friendlies to keep everyone else fresh. Big surprise at the WC is Spain finishing bottom of a group that Cameroon wins (Go Go Go, Ganago and Amang! Ganago scores four in the tournament, btw), and Argentina finishing bottom of theirs. France crashes out to Denmark in the quarterfinals. Italy beats England on penalties in the final, having overcome surprises Denmark and South Korea in their respective semifinals. By the first half of the season we're not only in first place, but twelve points clear of PSG, who are actually stuck in third, ha ha. Lyon's seven points behind us in second. Can't imagine that Tuchel will last through the season at P$G, especially consider their transfer overlay from the summer, posted below...DeJong, Ronaldo, Umtiti, among others. PSG Next up: the rest of Season 3, and our European adventures continue....
  6. RC Lens Update 8: Season Two, Second Half, or overcoming the challenges of the African Cup of Nations and the Chinese Super League. Part of a save's success depends on the leagues you activate along the way, and in January 2022 I decide to activate the Chinese Super League, imagining all kinds of financially rewarding bids for players I'd like to offload. The first part comes true, as I immediately receive bids, but it's for Ganago and Fofana, two players I've built the team around. Ganago is fortunately immune to the appeal of the Chinese yuan, as he dismisses DL Pro's contract offer and accepts ours instead; Seko Fofana, though, gets his salary basically tripled by Jiangsu Suning, and so away goes the anchor of my midfield on the first flight to Shanghai. I can dab most of my tears in the USD$32Mil (!) we receive, though, and know we already have a like-for-like replacement in Kondogbia, and that Cheick Doucoure is ready to become the next anchor of the team. DL Pro soon comes knocking at the door again for my forwards, and just a couple of week later too, with an attractive USD$8Mil offer for Giovanni Sio. He's 32 years old and arrived on a free six months ago, so it's a simple decision: we won't get a better offer, or an easier way to pad the financials. We just have to wait it out until after the African Cup of Nations, as our other strikers Ganago and Amang are there. At the airport dropping Sio off, we have just enough time to say hello to the representatives of Guangzhou Evergrande, who show up with a cool USD$10Mil for my back-up midfielder Mamadou Loum. After we bargain them up to USD$20Mil, we call an airport shuttle and off he goes, too. Suddenly, we've got an extra USD$62Mil in two weeks from three transfers, but also some large gaps in the team. It's not helped when Watford shows up with a desperately low USD$5.75Mil bid for our rising star Fernando Costanza, who's got his heart set on the EPL and won't accept any of our pleas to stay. So away he goes as well, with Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa hitching a ride to Ipswich with him, as he needs more playing time, and now I've got to start a recruitment drive I wasn't planning on. Fortunately, the Chinese Super League giveth as much as it taketh away, and we find sad 30-yr-old former millionaire Cedric Bakambu huddled up on our doorstep, still shaking from the trauma of his USD$9Mil/year salary that Beijing Guoan just terminated January 1st. He'll take USD$2Mil/yr from us, at least, so joins on a free. He's older than our usual targets at 30, but is a big name and a bigger talent, and a strong upgrade over Sio. I hope. We need another midfielder to cover Loum and Fofana's absence, and another RB for Costanza's, so we spot Jean-Daniel Akpa Akpro on Lazio's transfer list, who can help with MC, DMC, and RB. With great teamwork, work rate, and anticipation, he comes in for only USD$1.9Mil. Lastly, we discover another Lens HG left out to dry on Lyon's transfer wire, Jeff Reine-Adelaide. He's pricy at USD$13.75Mil (our biggest splash yet), but that Chinese Super League money helps, and he joins to provide cover across the attacking lines and midfield, and to soon phase out the aging Valbuena. As mentioned, he's a Lens HG as well, and still only 23. So after that flurry that lasts into February, we've rallied with Bakambu, Akpa-Akpro, and JRA in, and Fofana, Loum, Sio, Costanza, and Mapou out. Game-wise, we survive the call-ups of the African Cup of Nations in January, with Ganago, Kakuta, Amang, Doucoure, and Bakambu all missing eight games while representing their countries. (Ganago and Amang's Cameroon defeat Kakuta and Bakambu's DRC in the final, btw, while Doucoure's Mali make the semis). We're able to delay Sio's departure until the end of January, to have one striker at least around until they return, and plug in Panya as a diminutive false-9 for other games. With most of our stars still away, we manage to beat PSG in early February in a miracle, with Valbuena scoring the only goal of the game in the 73rd minute and our defensive line and goalie averaging ratings over 7. Our Champions League adventures dies its inevitable death at the hands of a simply better Man City. We manage to tie at home, courtesy Ganagoal, but bow out meekly at the Etihad. It's pretty much what we deserve, but it's a great taste of Europe for the team, and that Champions League $$$ is certainly welcome. All USD$37Mil of it, compared to zero from last year! Freed from distractions, we're unstoppable in April and May, with April alone boasting two 4-goal and one 5-goal game. Ganago scores 8 goals in the month. We also get one over on our Lille rivals in the Coupe de France, and lift another piece of silverware. We dominate the game, but only manage a 1-0 win. Still, it's celebration time. Season Two ends with us firmly in second, and only three points off of PSG in first. We're tied with them for most goals scored, a testament to our attacking prowess. Meanwhile, Amiens, Auxerre, and Toulouse say farewell to Ligue 1. Player-wise Ganago didn't have the success of last year, or so it looks. But if you remember that he missed eight games at the ACN, and another four through injury, there's a different picture: he and Sio (who was only around until January) top the league in minutes-per-goal, while he also leads in shots-on-target per minute. Appearance numbers are slightly deceiving, with so many key players out for the ACN. Was good to see our youngsters Brahima Ouattara and Ekanit Panya step up, while Thomas Amang continued his good form. (One small note: we sent our fall signing Batista Mendy on loan this year to earn some experience, which is why he's missing). Our Best Eleven of the Year. Brahima Ouattara is earning more and more starts over Kakuta, while Alioski's the only real disappointment; I like the commitment, but his aggression is getting him red-carded more and more often. (Four times, in fact). Even at 37, Valbuena remains a model of consistency and professionalism. And our last game of the year marks the final game for Mathieu Valbuena, who announces his retirement. He was a great signing for us, and put in two amazing years. Morale is still strong. Overall while this season is the same as last—we wind up second, we win the Coupe, and that's it—it still feels far more successful, as if we're slowly getting there. Our European games showed that we belong, and we gave PSG a run for their money. Tying in with the theme of this save, we've still got six Lens Originals—Farinez, Haidara, Clauss, Doucoure, Kakuta, and Ganago—and have brought home three Lens home-growns: Kondogbia, Duverne, and Reine-Adelaide. (For CA/PA watchers, we've also done it all with 2-3 players in the low 140's CA (all improved younger players), and the rest in the 120's/130s.) Let's see if we can build on this for next season. Thanks to our success and our transfers, we also have this in the kitty.....
  7. Great work, karanhsingh. Glad to see that "Ganagooooaaaaal" is still with RCL and banging them in even when you took over in 2025. I started up a save with RCL beginning in the present instead of the future, and he's been immense for me as well. Won Top Scorer in Ligue 1 and also the European Golden Shoe in the first season, though TBF he played every game, as I didn't have any decent backup for him. Is still going strong for me in 2024, where my save is now, and is a star for Cameroon. Varane still has no interest in returning yet, though. Am hoping to get RCL to the Champions League and the top of Ligue 1 in my save, trying to use as many current RCL Lens players or returning Lens HG as possible, and all without any regens, and am updating it in the French football thread that RonaldoBeckham started in another forum. RCL is such a fun team to manage, with their youth academy and their finances guaranteeing a competitive base for many years. Looking forward to your updates, thanks
  8. RC Lens Update 7: Season Two, First Half, and some unclear UEFA book-keeping Here's RC Lens main line-up for the first half of Season 2021-22. It's actually similar to last season, only with Alioski in for Sylla at left-back, Duverne in for Torres, and Kondogbia in for Fofana. Fofana and Loum will rotate with Kondo and Doucoure in midfield. Valbuena, Kakuta, Amang, and Giovanni Sio can all rotate across the attacking wings, with the first two also plugging into AMC along with youngsters Nmecha, Brahima Ouattara, and Ekanit Panya. Sio and Amang also offer back-up to Ganago up front. In the backline, Haidara rotates with Alioski; Torres and Yanga-Mbiwa with Ahmedhodzic and Duverne, and Fernando Costanza backs up Clauss. We'll need everyone, especially with the African Cup of Nations in January coming up. Our Champions League group could be worse. Real Madrid will probably top the group, but Porto and Lazio could possibly be beaten. Porto looks the most vulnerable, but then they go and beat Madrid in the opening game. August: Our first month of fixtures is a good one, with Lyon the only top team to worry about, and one we dispatch surprisingly easily. In a bad omen, Ganago is injured before the season starts and misses the first three games, but Amang and Sio are good deputies, and new arrival Kondogbia roars in from midfield to contribute five goals in three games. September/October: In the league we alternate wins and ties, along with the inevitable loss to moneybags P$G. We tie against northern rivals Lille, still smarting from their heavy defeats to us last year. The Champions League shows us how far we have to go, with our first three games consisting of two losses and a tie, leaving us bottom of the group with half to play. November/December. The winter months find us firing on all fronts, with a seven-game win streak in the league and two straight Champions League wins helping our record, until we flame out against Real Madrid. Some of the highlights in the league this first half include a 5-goal Giovanni Sio explosion against Reims, and an Ignatius Ganago hat trick against Bordeaux. Plus, our breaking-of-Marseille-hearts continues from last year, with Cheick Doucoure of all people piling in a 91st-minute winner in Marseille. Our Champions League adventures include some dramatic endings to be proud of. In Porto, we go behind to a late 88th minute goal, but in the 94th minute Giovanni Sio pops up to blast in an equalizer to gain us a valuable point, and (just as importantly) take two points away from Porto. In the return fixture, we go ahead in the 81st minute, but are pegged back a few minutes later for what appears to be another tie. However, Ganago scores in the 87th to hand us a valuable three points. (Doubling our entire points tally, lol). In late November, we host Lazio, and a thrilling back-and-forth 2-2 tie is finally broken in the 88th minute by Ganago, who times a counter-attack perfectly and slots home for another three points. Judging by the average ratings of the other players across the games, we barely deserve any of this. After starting our European adventures with two losses, then two wins and a tie, our UEFA group stage concludes with a 3-1 dismantling by Real Madrid. Somehow, though, we wind up second in the group, seemingly due to some clerical error? We're tied with 7 points with Porto and Lazio, and have a worse goal differential than each of them; thanks the gods of small computer processing whims, we're still ranked second, and move on. I must be missing something, but I'm not missing EUROPEAN ELIMINATION ROUNDS, ha ha. League-wise, we end the first half of the season comfortably in second place, with a goal-differential second only to P$G. Giovanni Sio is the new league leader in goals (helped by that 5-goal explosion against Reims), while Thomas Amang is second in average rating, and 72-year-old Mathieu Valbuena is second in assists. Appearance-wise, it's new signing and Lens HG Jean-Kevin Duverne who leads the appearance chart, and boasts a good rating of 7.13. Veteran Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa is relegated to a back-up role, and may be looking for a new home soon thanks to the form of Duverne, Ahmedhodzic, and Marlon Torres. Old-timers Kakuta and Valbuena are surprisingly still holding strong, though challenged nicely by Felix Nmecha and even Ekanit Panya, while injuries have slowed down speedy winger Thomas Amang, at least in terms of appearances. Injuries have hampered Fofana, Doucoure, and Loum in midfield, but have given young Ivorian Brahima Ouattara some chances to impress. Brazilian fullback Fernando Costanza seems to have taken the right side from incumbent Jonathan Clauss. On the left, Ezgjan Alioski appears more than Haidara, though Alioski's red-card-every-other-game is disconcerting. Next up: some unnecessary transfer surprises, or what activating the Chinese Super League can do, for better and worse. Also, our reward for getting out of our group: a date with Manchester City. At least our mood is still strong, with everyone 'very happy.'
  9. RC Lens Update 6: Before the prep for Season 2 begins, we can take time to share the rewards and stats from our successful Season 1. We scored the 2nd most goals in the league behind (of course) PSG, which shows our commitment to attacking football is paying off. Our end-of-season attacking efficiency chart puts us firmly in the "Aggressive, Clinical" category, while our defensive chart puts us under "Quiet, Impenetrable" (though a bit too close to the "Busy, Impenetrable" line). Igatius Ganago scoops up not only the Ligue 1 Top Goalscorer Award, but the European Golden Shoe for top scorer in all of Europe. Even better, Ganago breaks the PSG monopoly on Ligue 1 Team of the season by being the only non-PSG player in the team, lol. Thomas Amang is voted Ligue 1 Newcomer of the Year, and also Best African Player. Turning our attention to Season 2, we get a nice bit of budget news once we qualify for Europe. A suitcase full of USD$24.39Mil in cash is dropped off at Lens HQ, and we've also now got USD$9Mil in extra payroll. It's not PSG money, but more than enough, especially if you've been planning on working the free transfer and expiring-contract wire anyway. Speaking of which, last winter we targeted a few expiring-contract possibilties, and now that we have the money (and we can finally promise European football) we pounce. We need to expand the team's depth, and find players to take over from del Valle (who's 32 and declining rapidly), and Valbuena, who's 36 and similarly on the downside of his career. Having qualified for Europe, we also need to expand our Lens HG quota, as only Doucoure and Kakuta currently qualify. Our other youth like N'Guessan, Boura, Pereira, and Enow need another year of seasoning. Vision remains the same: entertaining, high-tempo pressing soccer, develop players from the youth system, and sign players under 23 for the first team. First steps are loans. We extend Farinez's loan for another year; he's the best player on the team, and costs little, so it's an easy decision. We buy Kakuta from Amiens for USD$4Mil; again a no-brainer, as he's still the heart of our attacking moves, and, more importantly, he's a Lens HG product. Sylla returns to Toulouse, though, and Kalimuendo to PSG. On the free transfer front, we target another striker—Ganago can't do it all again, especially with European games to now consider—a left-back to replace Sylla, and more depth in midfield and defense. Versatility as always is a plus. First signed is Giovanni Sio on a free from Sion; he's Ivorian-French, French HG, and can play not only FW, but AML. Great workrate of 16. Next up is the Nigerian/German Felix Nmecha from Manchester City, on an expiring-contract free. Only 20, he fits the 'sign young players' vision, and can hopefully grow more here. First touch and vision of 16 each. Third free signing is Baptiste Mendy, plucked from fellow Ligue 1 comrades Nantes. He's just 21 and can play in central defense or defensive midfield, so again matches both the 'sign young players' mission and my search for versatility. Fourth on the free front, it's Ezgjan Alioski from Leeds, an ideal-looking wingback stats-wise. All workrate, stamina, and good crossing/dribbling, he's also got high aggression and bravery, which my analytics team tell me is missing from my current players. (They also tell me "there's not much depth outside the first team," lol; way to earn that baguette money, guys). He'll provide competition and back-up to Haidara. With Jean-Louis Leca retiring, we need a backup goalie, and Bingourou Kamara is transfer-listed at Strasbourg for only USD$1.2Mil. He's happy to accept a back-up role, is just 24, and also HG in France. Now it's time to look for Lens HG products, as currently only Doucoure and Kakuta qualify, and we need four for Europe. We can't afford stars like Raphael Varane or even Thorgan Hazard, either now or ever, but Geoffrey Kondogbia pops up on my radar as being available for loan from Atletico Madrid. We could never afford his salary if he transferred anyway, so we get him on loan and only pay 20% of his salary. He's a box-to-box powerhouse, is Lens HG, and a good team player, so I'm very happy here. Another Lens HG that is available is defender Jean-Kevin Duverne, who came up through the Lens system before being sold in just 2019. Aged 23, so another 'young player for the first team,' he can play in the center or on the right, doesn't need a large salary, and doesn't request to be a Star Player, lol. He's our biggest transfer splurge at all of USD$5.25Mil, lol. A good pre-season campaign, transfer-wise. We've got 5-6 new players that are starter-level, two of which are Lens HG, for all of USD$7Mil. We lost del Valle, who's off to Nurnberg for more playing time for about USD$3Mil, and the loanee left-back Sylla, who returns to Toulouse, while stalwart defender Zakaria Diallo has retired. We also earned about USD$9Mil from selling off 5-6 remnants of the youth team that are still worth something. Hopefully we've beefed up the team for the new season, and the demands of Europe. Even better, we still have a Lens Original core of Farinez, Haidaira, Clauss, Doucoure, Fofana, Kakuta, and Ganago, and added Lens HG Kondogbia and Duverne. We still have USD$14Mil in the transfer budget, and USD$6Mil free in payroll. In comparison to our spending, here's what PSG has been up to this summer.....A mere USD$324Mil spent..... Next up, the season begins, and we discover our European competition. Thanks again for reading.
  10. RC Lens Update 5: Season 1 Second Half February is the month of love for RC Lens, as we win four out of five games, only concede two goals in those five games, and boast about a 3-goals-a-game average. Amang nabs four of the goals in the month. We also squeak by Guingamp on penalties in the Couple de France quarterfinals. The addition of Ahmedhovic solidifies our defense and helps our play-out-of-the-back philosophy, while Amang is truly coming into his own on the wing, consistently outperforming both Valbuena and del Valle. In March we continued our streak, with three straight league wins and a comprehensive cup semi-final win against Lorient. Highlight was another last-minute counter-attacking goal against OM; whereas our win at home was a 95th-minute winner by Kakuta, our win there was a 92nd-min winner by Ganoga, courtesy a long punt upfield by Kakuta that leaves Ganagoal alone against the keeper. In four games we score 3, 3, 4, and 2 goals, so our attack is on fire. Checking in with team morale: excellent..... April begins with a visit from titans PSG, and somehow...we win (Mbappe being out injured helps). We're then swiftly brought down to earth by a crushing 3-1 loss to FC Nantes. Fortunately, another good thing about Ligue 1 is that the route to cup silverware is uncomplicated; for first-division teams, win just five games in the cup and you're in the final. Our route was a fortunate one, with PSG eliminated early on by Lorient, and other league powerhouses OM, Lyon, and Lille taken out by others. We took down Lorient themselves in the semis, and in late April we faced Monaco at the Stade de France in the final. Starting roster: Our man Ganagoal steps up with both goals, and even after a late Monaco goal we hang on for the victory. Lens takes home its first silverware in years. Party time! With 12 wins out of 14 and only 1 loss by the end of April, and a cup victory under our belts, can we push on and actually challenge for the title.....? And....no. We cannot. We stagger through May like lost drunkards at 5am, suffering two draws and two defeats as the season meekly staggers to a close. Even though we're playing just once a week, the team is utterly exhausted by its earlier endeavors, and a series of minor injuries—Doucoure misses three weeks with a muscle pull, Kakuta goes down as well, everyone's in the red zone, etc etc—tests our non-existent depth. Our only striker, the usually reliable Ganago, goes the first three games of the month without a goal; I finally pull the old "You're not scoring much, but I have faith in you" office chat, and the next game—the last of the season—he scores. But it's a stretch that reminds me that I may have taken this team as far as it can go without more reinforcements. Nonetheless, our winning stretch from February to April gave us a strong cushion from the pack, and we somehow finish in second despite our May collapse, just one point about a surging Lyon. We're still 23 points behind runaway victors PSG, of course. My goal of reaching the European spots was actually over-achieved; I possibly would have preferred going against Europa League opposition, but we'll take the Champions League, of course, and its $$$ even more. Ganago topped the goal-scoring charts, while Valbuena comes in second in assists behind Neymar. Overall it was a great season, and very enjoyable and rewarding to reach 2nd place with a team with nine Lens originals featuring prominently. Six out of the top seven in minutes played are originals (Ganago, Farinez, Fofana, Kakuta, Doucoure, and Clauss), while Diallo, Sylla, and Haidara make the top 14, and would have appeared more if not for injuries. (Plus, Sylla and Haidara play the same position, and rotated). It was also interesting to see us reach 2nd with players whose average CA is about 122-130, and shows that success in Ligue 1 can be achieved that way, rather than chasing wonderkids or big stars. I'm hoping to retain that for the seasons to come, sticking with these Lens originals or with former Lens HG. (I'll need to beef up my Lens HG roster anyway, with European quotas to now worry about). My goal is to win the Champions League with former Lens stars or players who began the game with the team, but that's a long way off. Next up: Season 1 Awards and wrap-up, and we turn our attention to Season 2.
  11. RC Lens Update 4: Season 1, 1st Half. If you've got no European games to worry about, the first half of Ligue 1 will fly by for your team, especially with games for the Coupe de France not even starting until January. (The Coupe de Ligue was eliminated in 2020). For Lens, the rest of September and October go by in a very acceptable Win-1, Tie-1 ratio. A late-October 2-1 win courtesy of a 94th-minute run-from-the-halfway-line-and-goal by Gael Kakuta over OM is the highlight. Unfortunately we only win once in November (ignore the two friendly wins I scheduled during the international break to keep players fresh), with a 2-1 loss at home to Reims the low point. We bow out meekly against PSG 2-0, bounce back with a 1-0 win against Nantes, but collapse 2-0 against Monaco to begin December. My 41212 formation against the Monaco's and PSG's may be too unadventurous, I think; if we're going to lose, we may as well give them something to worry about first. Morale, though, is still high, probably because I've only got about 19 players in my first team, and they're all getting time. The rest of December proves to be a month of joy at RC Lens, though, as we win 3 out of our 4 games, including a 5-2 demolishing of FC Metz at home that features a Ganago hat-trick, and a 3-1 destruction of Strasbourg away, with Amang's speed on the wing really coming to fruition with a goal and two assists. Our offense is starting to click, but most importantly we're winning the games we need to, and only losing the ones we expect to. As the new year begins, we say farewell to back-up defender Aleksandar Radnovanovic, who's heading back home to Serbia (FK Partizan) after complaining of lack of games, and the oft-injured FB Cheick Traore, who departs for Portugal in hopes of restarting his career after a broken leg. Loic Bady finally recovers from a hamstring to feature in a couple of games, enough to get a bid from West Ham to turn his head, and away he goes for a nice bit of cash. We welcome in Brahima Ouattara on a free, to provide some periodic teenage flair in midfield and help spell the old-man trio of Del Valle/Kakuta/Valbuena, and we use the Bady money to grab Anel Ahmedhodzic, who quickly slots in to central defense in place of Bady and the declining 34-year-old Zakaria Diallo. As always, we troll the expiring-contracts wire for possible bargains to sign for the summer, more of which later. A couple of good Coupe de France wins against lower-league teams helps us through the start of January, but a loss to St. Etienne cuts back the momentum. We look forward to the start of the next half of the season by traveling to our rivals Lille, who'll no doubt be wanting vengeance for our 4-1 slaughtering of them in August... ... but instead we pull off possibly the result of the season by destroying them in their own home, 5 to 2. We dominate possession 60-40 and boast an xG of 2.82, with average ratings for our wingers Valbuena and del Valle at 8.3 and 8.0, while Ganago gets his usual goal and over-7 rating. Morale heads sky high after the result, as does the support from the board and the fans. By the midway point of the season we find ourselves in 5th place, with 33 points: 9 wins, 6 draws, 4 losses. PSG is running away with it all with 51 points and no losses, while Lyon and Monaco are comfortably 2nd and 3rd at 41 points, and OM brings up 4th with 36. Metz is just below us with 31 points in 6th (the European cut-off), and Lille at 7th with 28. If we continue our form, we can hold onto a European spot. We're also battling Father Time, with key players Valbuena 36 and slowing down (though his natural fitness of 17 is helping), and del Valle 32 but slowing down even further thanks to his natural fitness of 12.
  12. RC Lens video clip! Fortune falls in our favor, as we finally take down a big club—Olympique Marseille—in late October, thanks to this dramatic 94th-minute run from beyond the halfway line by Gael Kakuta, who fights off a tackle at the edge of the box and coolly slots it home, to the delirium of the home fans. It caps off a come-from-behind, two-to-one win. More to come, but I just wanted to test if I could share a video or not. (Also, it's the first time I think I've ever seen a run from beyond the halfway line actually end in a goal, lol). OM_Kakuta_run3.mov
  13. RC Lens Update 3: Season 1. I've got my players all in by early August, so now it's a matter of scheduling a lot of friendlies against weaker opposition to get everyone up to speed and fit, and to work on a formation and a consistent line-up. As the goal of this save is to try to retain much of the original Lens core (and to hopefully bring back past Lens home-grown players), I'm curious to see how we'll do with a team of players whose stats don't leap off the screen; most of my team's key stats for their individual roles are in the 12-15 range, with hardly anyone boasting anything in the 16-20 range except new arrival Mathieu Valbuena. I'll also be avoiding using any regens until at least the fifth season, when the "sign young players for the future" vision becomes difficult without using them, lol. If I sign any, or have prospects from the youth set-up, I'll send them on loan. We'll be going with a Balanced 4-2-3-1 Wide formation, in a Gegenpress or Vertical Tiki-Taka counter-attacking style. (This formation and style also appears to be what we'll go up against a lot in Ligue 1). Against more talented opposition, we'll switch to a Cautious style, with one of the midfielders dropping down as a DMC. Against lesser opposition, I'll switch to Positive, and try to get forward even faster, but I don't want to get ahead of myself yet. Either way, we'll be up and at 'em, using an aggressive man-marking system that will bring us plenty of fouls, ha ha. And for games against the PSG's and OL's of the league, I'll break out a paranoid 4-1-2-1-2 formation, where we drop deeper, pack the middle, and hope for the best. Our two fullbacks in the 4231 will basically operate as attacking wingbacks, or Complete WB-Support. (Can't really trust them as CWB-A yet, as I don't know how good we are.) Haidara and Clauss, along with their backups Sylla and Costanza, have the stats for this, with good crossing, dribbling, and technique. (Again, they're not all-stars though.) They'll overlap in the wings, hopefully pushing the wingers (used as playmakers or inside forwards) in a bit and creating an overload. In the center of defense we'll have the young Marlon Torres paired up with ancient veteran Zakaria Diallo, with Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa alternating among the two depending on form, suspension, injuries, etc. By the winter we'll have signed Aned Ahmedhovic, who'll slot into the rapidly declining Diallo's spot. Anchoring the goal is Wuiker Farinez, with Jean-Louis Leca coming in periodically so he stays somewhat happy. The inside midfielders will basically operate as the shields, providing power rather than flair, stopping the opposition but hopefully still getting up and down the field and moving the ball onto the attackers in front. Seko Fofana operates as the box-to-box dynamo, unless against more powerful opposition, in which case he'll stay back a bit as a Deep-Lying Playmaker-Defend or a Ball-Winning MF. His usual partner is Cheick Doucoure, staged as either the clean-up-man Carrilero or, dropping down to DMC in cases, a traditional defensive midfielder. (Asst. Mgr Alou Diarra suggests his best role is Central Midfielder-Support, so we'll try that too.) Rotating with them is Mamadou Loum and even young Brahima Ouattara, if we need more flair and less heel-biting. Kakuta can also spend time there if needed. On the front lines Valbuena, Kakuta, and Thomas Amang alternate, with usually Valbuena on the left as either an Inside Forward, Advanced Playmaker, or Inverted Winger; Kakuta in the middle (where his lack of speed can be hidden from the wings) as an Adv-Play-Support (if it's Attack, he doesn't come back to help out as much in the middle of the park), and Amang burning down the right with his pace and fitness. Amang proves deadly as a Winger-Support thanks to his workrate, speed, and teamwork; he pops up in the box constantly with either runs with the ball himself or to head in a cross from the left wingers. Rotation options are Ayron del Valle and Thai youngster Ekanit Panya, while Clauss can also be brought up from wingback to lock down any late leads in the AMR position. I learn that even when I need creativity, though, I need to split up the shorties Valbuena and Panya, as their small statures are taken advantage of by other teams. Up front it's Ignatius "Ganagoal," and...that's it. PSG loanee Arnaud Kalimuendo comes on for relief at times, as does del Valle and even Amang, but really, it's just Ganago. All day, every day, he'll start 42 out of our 44 games, and be used as a sub in the other two. I think that he's the first outfield player that I've ever used, in multiple years of playing this game, in every single match of a season. Though I signed several players in pre-season, my Lens originals of Ganago, Kakuta, Fofana, Doucoure, Haidara, Diallo, Clauss, and Farinez provide the Lens core, with each appearing in more than 3/4ths of the games. (On-loan-from-Toulouse backup left-back Issiaga Sylla is another, plus central defender Alexandr Radnovanovic, who'll be a back-up as well before leaving in January). With 8 of the starting 11, and 10 of the most-used 15, retained from the original Lens line-up throughout Season 1, I'm pretty happy, as I'm trying to hold onto some level of realism in this save. Our first game is against fellow relegation candidates Angers SCO, so a good test of where our level is. Ganago sets the tone for the season by opening the scoring in the 6th minute with a sharp turn and shot in the box, while Kakuta puts us two ahead with a well-taken penalty in the 37th. (One of his few good ones: I'll learn the hard way that we don't actually have any great penalty takers in the team.) A Valbuena own-goal in the 83rd makes things tight, but Clauss winds up in the opposition's box in the 87th minute and smashes home a rebound to seal a 3-1 away win for us. I'd share the highlights, but am on a Mac and can't seem to get this 'export highlights package' option to work, aaargh. It's a strong win, with our xG at 1.74 vs. Anger's 0.73. Our second game is where I realize that this may work for us. It's our home debut and it's against eternal Northern rivals Lille, who are expected to do much better than us in the league. Del Valle comes in on the right for Amang, while in midfield Loum takes over for Doucoure, and in the center of defense Yanga-Mbiwa gets paired with Alexandr Radovanovic, another Lens original holdover. Ganago starts things off in the 6th minute (again!) with a header and scores again in the 63rd from an excellent finish, bringing his tally to 3 goals in the first two games, while Del Valle opens his account in the 36th, and Fofana wraps it up in the 94th, as we run out 4-1 winners. Take that, Lille. 3rd game is away against the much-better Lyon. We switch to my paranoid 4-1-2-1-2 narrow, cautious formation, used against top opposition, packing the middle, forcing opponents to beat us from outside, and generally clogging the midfield with ankle snappers. Del Valle and Ganago lead the line, with Kakuta hovering behind them, while Fofana, Doucoure, and Loum enforce the middle. Somehow we battle our way to a 2-2 draw, with a dramatic ending that features Ganago getting his second goal of the game in the 86th minute for what we think is the winner, only for Moussa Dembele to tie it up in the 91st. Ganago gets an 8.1 rating to go with last game's 8.2, while the two goals bring his total to 5 in 3 games. His battle with Dembele will last through the season, as both run neck-and-neck for top league scorer. Next up: the rest of Season 1's highs and lows. Thanks for reading.
  14. RC Lens Update 2: Season 1, Players In. Here we'll look at some of the players brought in that helped Lens, and that could probably help any mid/low-table team in Ligue 1. As mentioned above, you've got a small transfer budget (about USD$3Mil) but no real room in the salary cap to begin, which means your transfer targets will be of the "free," "cheap," or "serviceable" variety. In these first windows of a game, I try to target players with good determination, teamwork, and work rate, whose personalities seem resolute or at least fairly professional; this helps when you find yourself down in a game, or in a losing streak. Most of all, versatility is the key; having defenders who can play across the back, or attackers who can cover several positions, is useful in case of injuries. I'm going with a 4-2-3-1 Wide counterattacking formation, so will need wingers too. Lens has several older, Ligue 2-level vets whose contracts are expiring at the end of the year, and it looks like many of them have no interest in re-signing, so rather than have them run down their contracts I put them on the chopping block. Out go Yannick Cahuzac, Florian Sotoca, Steven Fortes, Tony Mauricio, and Jonathan Gradit, while bids for 23-year-old right-back Clement Michelin and emerging forward Simon Banza prove too financially rewarding to turn down. This leaves me with a few holes, but some salary freedom and a bit of extra room in the pocketbook... After sales, in USD$. I'll adjust the budgets to expand the salary range, as I won't really need that much transfer budget with my mainly free or expiring-contract targets. I'd like to mainly target young French players or French-speaking African players, and try to bring back as many Lens HG as possible, but at this stage beggars can't be choosers, so it's hello to anyone who can help. French veterans, a couple of South Americans, and young West Africans in Europe make up the most of the signings, along with one wild card. No one's a wonderkid or will jump off the page with their stats, but for a just-promoted team in a decent league, they'll do the job. Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa (Free!). This central defender has gone through several iterations in FM, from a one-time wonderkid many versions ago to an injury-prone basketcase to now, a serviceable veteran who's great as a DC but can play right back in a pinch. His salary demands won't break the bank, so he's the first player that I can welcome to the team. Mathieu Valbuena. Back from his Olympiakos sojourn, Valbuena's happy to see out his salad days back in France, and a bid of about USD$775k brings him home. His great mental stats will hopefully provide some good mentorship for the younger players, and his ability to play AML, AMC, and AMR offers cover across the attacking line. (Even better: he only wants a one-year contract, and will retire at the end of the season). Thomas Amang. Just 22 years old, this Cameroonian "pacy hitman" is plucked from Tarragona in Spain's 2nd Division for only USD$825k to join his countryman Ganago; like Valbuena, he can play both wings and as a pressing forward, and his speed and physicality can hopefully cover Valbuena's shortcomings there. Another good young signing for the board, done cheaply and with a great salary. Amang in 2023, two and a half years and 35 goals later. Not bad! Brahima Ouattara. I've often seen this player in the past couple of FM's, and his stats seem randomly generated according to the editor, but in this game I got lucky, as he looks good, so I grab him for free from ASEC Abidjan in the Ivory Coast, and wait until he turns 18 in January to join. He won't help much in the first year except as a backup in MC/AMC, but will soon blossom into, as the game says, "a very handy prospect." He also fulfills the Lens' board hopes of young signings and developing players through the youth system. Brahima in 2023. Now an HG Lens product, and worth USD$56Mil. Mamadou Loum. Right before the season starts Doucoure goes down for about three weeks with an ankle injury, so I scour the transfer list for cover and pick up this Senegalese MC/DMC who's been told to get lost by Porto. At USD$1.7M he's my biggest purchase, but I do need the back-up in midfield, and his teamwork (16) as well as stamina, work rate, and across-the-board numbers look good. He's also just 23, so again fulfills the board's Sign-Players-Under-23 requirement. Marlon Torres. Having an affiliate in Colombia's Millionarios helps with scouting in that country, and someone suggests this slab of Colombian granite, who comes over from America de Cali to provide some strength in the center of the defense. Only 24, he's cheap (USD$900k), and doesn't need a big salary. Ayron del Valle. With Kakuta, Valbuena, and Amang interchanging across the attacking lines, I still feel like one more backup is in order for FW as well, so I head to Latin America again for this 31-year-old Columbian from Wuilker Farinez' original team, Millionarios (our affiliate, as noted above). His contract is about to expire so he's very cheap at USD$250k, and also offers flexibility at FW, AML, and AMR. Fernando Costanza. Finally, this young 23-year-old Brazilian right wing-back has been left club-less after being cut by Botafogo in July, so is happy to accept my lowball salary offer to come to France and serve as a back-up for Jonathan Clauss. Even better, he has an Italian passport, so doesn't count against the Non-EU quota, and, like many of the signings, hits the "Sign Players 23 or Under" board desires. Ekanit Panya. A bit of a cheat here from prior game knowledge: I spent most of my FM20 game in a J-League save with V-Varen Nagasaki, where I signed a couple of Thai players, including this young playmaking MC/AMC/AML, who played very well for me for several years. Snapped him up again for RC Lens as I was curious how he'd do in a European league; his stats are eye-catching, he can play across the attacking line, and he arrives at a good fee and salary. Only 20, he can possibly grow into something substantial. Will serve as a back-up and hopefully get some games in too. All total, 9 players for about USD$4.5Mil, while about 8-10 players left to clear salary and to bring in around USD$7.5Mil. In the winter window my scouts discover a youngster playing in Sweden that they can't stop raving about, so I later break my personal record on him ($USD4Mil); of course, a few weeks IRL later I finally revisit this forum, and discover he's everyone's favorite hipster pick. It's Anel Ahmedhovic, of course. I won't even bother posting his image here, as he's all over this board, lol. He will replace the aging Zakaria Diallo anyway. Another winter window find: Yuriel Celi. Another one for the future is this youngster taken from Peru that my scouts found in a youth world cup qualifier or somewhere. He's not much now but will hopefully grow into something, and even better he's out of contract in January, and arrives on a free. My plan is to send him on loan in Spain for two years, so he can gain EU nationality. Next up: how we set up, and how Season 1 goes.
  15. Thank you for creating this thread, @Ronaldo Beckham. Always been partial to playing Ligue 1 in FM and really enjoyed some immersive OM saves in FM18 and FM19. Lots of attack-minded teams means the games are often fun to watch, and the constant influx of new young talent (and unstable team finances) means that different teams are constantly popping up in the European positions. Knocking PSG off their f**kin' perch takes some doing, but beyond that you can take most teams up into 2nd or the European spots at least. And for the obsessive CA/PA watchers, you can do it with teams filled not with superstars and wonderkids, but just good players. You can take teams made up of players with CA's in the 125/140 range to the top, which is far more rewarding. The other interesting thing about Ligue 1 is that there's actually not that many games, as there's now only one national cup to worry about (the Coupe de Ligue was abolished in 2020). If you've got no European games to tire players out in the 1st season, you can get away with little rotation. (That's a word of warning to obsessive player-grabbers though; it's hard to keep everyone happy with fewer games). Finally got around to checking out the game this year and started off with RC Lens. Why Lens? One of the game's typical sleeping (or comatose) giants, they've spent the past several years in Ligue 2 before gaining promotion last season, and are blessed with both a well-established youth system and a passionate fan base that almost always sells out their 38k stadium, thus generating a good income that most clubs (especially the newly promoted ones) can't match. You'll have a decent suitcase of cash for your opening transfers, though no wiggle room in the salaries. Their board is pretty laid back, whose only requirements are to sign young players, develop your own players, play attractive football, and not get relegated. On more aesthetic grounds, I personally like their kits this year, especially the snappy away jersey: a clean white with red and yellow stripes right down the middle. Gael Kakuta modeling the white strip. Another reason: a solid base. IRL they're one of Ligue 1's surprise packages, and are currently 5th, playing an attacking, high-press 3-4-1-2 system implemented by former Lens B coach Franck Haise, who's in his first year ever coaching in the top league. Their team boasts several players who you can build off in FM as well. I'm in Season 4 of my save, and here are several players that have anchored the team through most of the years: Cameroonian forward Ignatius Ganago (Ganagoooaaal), who started off strongly IRL before an injury derailed him, but in the game has led the team (and the league) in scoring multiple times. Rarely injured, never fatigued, in the first season he started in 42 out of our 44 games (and subbed in the other two), and rewarded me by not only leading the league in scoring, but winning Europe's Golden Boot as well. Only 21 years old at the start of the game. Speaking of forwards, the PSG loanee Arnaud Kalimuendo is doing well IRL, but he's not as great in the game. (Though he appears to have gotten a boost in the winter update). Same with youth teamer Simon Banza, who'd be better off on loan at first. Ganagoooaaaal in 2023. Worth a cool $USD 48Mil after three great seasons. Proverbial "mercurial playmaker" Gael Kakuta, former Chelsea wonderkid who seems to have been around forever but is only 29 (yet looks like your grumpy 49-year-old uncle at a bbq). Flair, passing, composure, vision: he's seen it all, but better yet can play across the attacking line. He's on loan to RCL at the start of the game, but willingly joins permanently at the end of the season. Midfield engine #1: box-to-box dynamo Seko Fofana. "There's always gas in the tank when he has the ball," as one announcer said. Good strength and speed married to workrate, teamwork, and stamina, and can pop up in or outside the box with some goals as well. Midfield engine #2: Lens youth product Cheick Doucoure. Only 20. Good marking, tackling, work rate, merged with good first touch and vision, and capable of anchoring the middle for years. On the tail end of his career is Yannick Cahuzac; I wound up selling him to lower the wage bill and raise funds for younger, better players, but he could do a job for you if needed. Doucoure in 2023. Worth $43Mil USD! Attacking wingback on the right: Jonathan Clauss. Clauss, a 29-year-old veteran who spent his career in the lower leagues, has been a revelation IRL, even topping the Ligue 1 charts as the most effective player going forward in terms of assists and goals. In the game he'll provide the same, and is a good example of how a player's seemingly limited CA/PA has little bearing on their actual effectiveness. Backing him up could be youth teamer Bryann Pereira, depending on your luck with his randomly generated personality and mental stats. Pereira could do with being sent on loan for at least two seasons, though. Another FB is Cheick Traore, but he's got a broken leg that keeps him out for the first half, and he never really recovered for me afterwards. Attacking wingback on the left. Massadio Haidara. Similar to Clauss in terms of going forward, this former Newcastle player has an entirely unassuming CA if you're into that sort of thing, but an average rating of 7.18 across two years proves otherwise. Also at Lens on loan from Toulouse during the first season is Issiaga Sylla, another attack-minded wingback who provides steady support, though by the 2nd season you'll want to break in the youth teamer Ismael Boura, again depending on your luck with his randomly generated mental stats. Boura from the winter update. Very promising! Goalkeeper: Venezuelan Wuilker Farinez, who's on loan from Millionarios during the first season but can be bought permanently for cheap afterwards. One of the best young goalkeepers in the game, though IRL he's kept off the field by the veteran Corsican Jean-Louis Leca, who in-game is nothing spectacular, but nothing terrible either. Farinez in 2023. Worth USD$41Mil. After the first season on loan you can purchase for USD$2Mil from his club. Defenders Loic Bady and Facundo Medina have had a lot of real-life success this season at Lens, but as they are 20-21 years old some of their mental stats seem random in the game, meaning that your Medina may be different than my Medina. (My Medina came with a Determination of 6, for instance, which meant he was useless to me, lol). However, they may do well for you, as they appear to be set at good PA's. In my save Bady broke his leg in the preseason, then asked to leave once he was healed and Monaco was sniffing around, and Medina got homesick and asked/demanded to be sold; both were gone by the 2nd season. That was my bad luck, though. There's also veteran Zakaria Diallo, who's steady but deteriorates due to age through the first season; center-back is definitely a position to improve. All that said, there's also some old legs and high salaries on the team, so you'll want to move a few on if you want to add anyone. Next post will be about just that, and about some options on who to bring in. Thanks for reading.
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