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Dong21

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  1. Taca de Liga Final: Benfica 1-1 Estrela da Amadora (5-6 on penalties) I omitted to include one result from my summary of the month of April earlier. The last fixture of a busy and challenging month was the league cup final against league dominators Benfica. The Lisbon giants beat us two weeks prior in our league encounter, but it was a different outcome when we met in this showpiece final. A rousing pre-match team meeting made no difference for the Vitoria game, I did the same again before this final and the outcome was different. As you can see from the stats above, we certainly rode our luck. Benfica had five times as many shots as us, although their xG was not significantly higher and possession was even. Rules of the Taca de Liga dictate that you must start two eligible U21 players each match. It was a no brainer for me to play Cequeira who has had a good amount of minutes over the last few seasons, but it was not as obvious who would be the second selection. In the end I decided to give attacker Vezo the second start of his career. I planned to take him off for one of my more experienced forwards, relatively quick into the game. What I wasn't expecting, was for him to score the all important goal! Costinha did all the hard work, beating two players to get to the byline and put in a great cross that Vezo tapped in. That said, Vezo had to be in the right place at the right time to score the goal and deserves great credit for doing so. Vezo became the club's youngest goalscorer at just 17 years and 184 days. Taca de Liga Final goalscorer, Mahomed Vezo: Costinha was the best player on the pitch, so it was a shame when he twisted his ankle and was taken off. After the game we were informed he had been ruled out for a month. We hung on, after conceding an equaliser, and were pleased to see the game go to penalties. Although Benfica were likely to have more accomplished penalty takers, I was happy for us to take our chances in the lottery. Both teams missed their first penalties. Then, there was drama as both keepers saved a penalty apiece to keep the scores level. It went into sudden death and my centre back Nunes stepped up and scored his before Turati was the hero of the day, saving his second and meaning Nunes' goal was the winner! We have added a new trophy to our cabinet. Our third competition win in three years. Tricolores triumph!
  2. Love your optimism @warlock! The final five league games include games against Sporting Braga and Sporting Lisbon, so not an easy run in.
  3. Youth Recruitment The youth intake of 2025 can be described as a mixed bag. On the plus side we have a striker who looks like he could have the potential to be better than any player we currently have at the club. He of course needs to be nurtured correctly to reach that potential. On the downside, there were only three players of any quality in the group. My staff's advice was to only sign three of the players. Along with striker Baloyi we have two young Portuguese talents of note; goalkeeper Pinheiro and left back Adao. The pair also have bags of potential. I offered all three pre-contracts right away, to ensure they stay with us after turning sixteen. We lack strikers in our U23s team and with his obvious ability, I decided to put Baloyi straight into this age group whereas Pinheiro and Adao have joined the U18s. Baloyi proved he was ready for this level by scoring a brace in his first match for the U23s. I went against my coaches advice and signed an additional five players from the youth intake. None of them will ever be good enough to make our first team, but my rationale is that my three young talents still need teammates in the U18s team and their purpose is to help their peers succeed. Conscious that our youth intake was small in numbers and knowing we currently lack quality in the youth team, I proactively looked for teenagers that we can add to our ranks. I have pre-agreed deals for the above youngsters, three are 18 years old and two are 17. None are of significant potential, I'd be surprised if they became future first-teamers, but they are better than what we currently have. Again, the thought process is that our prospects with notable potential will thrive with capable team-mates around them. We have recently been informed that Lokosa has been called up for Nigeria's U20 World Cup squad, so appearing in that may benefit him positively. For similar reasons of youth squad depth I triggered one year contract extensions for Nouri (20 years old), Pinto and Serrano (both 21 years old). Again, these are not elite talents but will be handy in the season ahead. New Contract Owner Patrice Evra proactively reached out to me at the start of the month to open talks regarding a new contract. I am deeply invested in this managerial journey and I am enjoying making incremental improvements to make Estrela da Amadora an established side near the top of the Portuguese pyramid. It was therefore an easy "yes" when renewals was suggested. I put pen to paper on a new four year contract - the adventure continues! April 2024 We have completed and survived our mega month of fixtures. It was by no means perfect, but definitely had some positives. I'll start with a big positive. We overcame Real Sociedad 4-2 on aggregate, over two legs, progressing to a Europa League Semi Final clash against inter-city rivals Sporting Lisbon. We were the better side at home, but could not win. Centre-back Kovacevic's first half goal was balanced out by a Thuram equaliser. Real had better possession and more shots than in the first game, but we had far superior xG the second time around and took our chances to win. We got an important point away against Porto. This was a close game with both teams getting a lot of chances. We had more possession, but a draw seemed a fair result. Young left back Barco got the assist, setting up Karamoko's crucial goal. The Vizela game was one the one match this month we definitely had to win, and that we did. Their goalkeeper helped us by flapping at a cross in from a free kick, leaving McKennie with a simple tap in. After a great first half, we were quite poor in the second and even conceded. The media described it as a Jekyll and Hyde performance. Attacking midfielder Nouri made his debut from the substitute bench vs Vizela. The obvious disappointments were the league losses against Benfica and Vitoria. Benfica are the dominant force in Portuguese football, therefore it is no shame to lose narrowly to a team of that calibre. Benfica scored in the 18th minute and then our forward Brumado was sent off in the 21st minute. I was impressed of the resilience of my team to not fall apart or even concede again, playing with ten men for over 70 minutes. The Vitoria result was more frustrating; we had 65% possession and more chances, but finishing was poor. We even had a morale boosting pre-match team meeting to ease pressure before a match the press were inaccurately calling a 'title decider', however this didn't have the desired impact. Vitoria continue to be a bogey team for us. If we are to meet our aim of becoming 'best of the rest' and finish 4th in the league, we need to start beating our direct rival for this position.
  4. March 2025 March was a perfect month for us. We beat Fenerbache home and away in the Europa League Round of 16 and won three out of three league games. In four of the five games we kept satisfying clean sheets and we scored an average of 2.6 goals per game. The Rio Ave win was our eighth in a row, my best run so far as Estrela manager. The Arouca game looked like it could be a classic frustrating game - domination without a goal - until we were awarded a penalty in the final 20 minutes. I was slightly nervous about a trip to Istanbul but needn't have been as we put in a dominant display. Brumado was superb leading the line - his growth and development recently being evidenced in this display. Costinha and Praet both got a brace of assists. Defender Nunes will be disappointed to have given away a penalty for their first goal. The second leg was a relaxed affair and we were even able to put on teenagers Cerqueira and Rodrigues from the bench for the last 30 minutes. I have had Cerqueira focus on ball control in individual training and I can already see a tangible impact on his dribbling and technique. Against Chaves I gave striker Salcedo a rare start and he rewarded me with a goal. The downside of this match was, after getting on the score sheet early, midfielder White was taken off with a twisted ankle and is now ruled out for four weeks. The VAR team was very busy in our Rio Ave fixture - they were called upon to rule out a goal by Kovacevic, ruled two of Karamoko's goals as legitimate and awarded the penalty which he then scored to complete his hat-trick. Despite our immaculate form, we fell down to third in the league this month as we played less games than our rival Benfica. I appreciated that the league didn't gave us a fixture in between our Fenerbache matches, as it kept the squad fresh, but it has contributed to an extremely congested month of April. I have to take a quick moment to preview the month ahead, below. As well as things have been going, this could all be about to change. We play four of the top six in the league, have tough home and away ties against Real Sociedad and face Benfica again, this time in the Taca de Liga Final.
  5. Just to add my two cents worth, since it’s my career that you’ve used as an example. I do agree that the game is slightly easier than it should be. That said, I don’t think my save is the great example to support your points that you think it is. Firstly, I am not a casual player. I have been playing this game religiously for over 15 years and therefore think I have a pretty good handle on tactics, transfers, squad building and the improvements you need to make off the pitch (e.g. staff and infrastructure) to be successful. I therefore would expect to out-perform expectations generally. Secondly, the big factor that changed the course of my save was that in October of the first season, a sponsor injected £15m into the club and I decided to invest those funds into signing a team of free agents. Now whether a financial investment like that is realistic is a separate discussion, but the point is that after signing the new players I now had arguably the sixth best squad in Portugal and our wage spend matched that. So by the end of the season our performance was on par with expectations (we finished sixth). Finally, the Portuguese league has some really good teams and then the rest are pretty poor. So it’s not that unrealistic that with some really good management and signing better players (with the budget to support that) that a club could become ‘best of the rest’. We came 6th first season, 5th in our second and I am hoping to finish 4th in my current campaign. The long-term aim is to challenge the ‘big three’ at the top of the table, which is a good enough narrative / challenge to keep me interested.
  6. February 2025 February 2025 was a rare month with no cup fixtures and only league games. With seven fixtures against sides below us in the table, we saw this is a great opportunity to build up some momentum. On the whole, the month went really well. Five wins, one draw and one loss meant that we rose up to second place in the table (although we will likely fall to third once Benfica have played their game in hand. The victory over Boavista saw new striker Tagawa score his first goal for the club. The loss to Portimonense was obviously hugely disappointing. They had won their prior game 7-0 so were coming into the game with form, but I didn't expect to be beaten so comfortably. There first goals was a free kick that deflected off our wall and wrong-footed the 'keeper. The scorer of the second was somewhat surprising. We had sold defender Hernando to Gil Vicente in the summer, who then didn't play him at all and instead loaned him in January to Portimonense who were above them in the league (all very odd). Our former player came back to haunt us, smashing in the second after being up for a corner. The loss meant we fell behind them in the table. I had thought that left back Vinagre was particularly poor against Portimonense, giving the ball away often, so dropped him for debutant Barco for the Vizela game. That turned out to be a masterstroke as the Argentinian delivered an assist and two goals in a masterful performance. This win saw us rise to 3rd, helped by Benfica losing to Sporting. The Santa Clara result was frustrating as we dominated without winning. Luckily Benfica beat Portimonense so they switched places and we stayed 4th. After a run of 14 games without scoring, I took Karamoko to one side and had a stern word with him about his form. This bit of coaching worked even better than I'd hoped as he then went on to score five goals in three games (along with a couple of assists), even being selected as the league's Forward of the Month. Keeping his place in the team for the rest of the month after his great performance, left back Barco was selected as both the Young Player of the Month and Player of the Month. I was selected as the Manager of the Month. Other things of note that happened during the month: I confirmed my Europa League squad for the knock out stages. The notable change was that I dropped striker Salcedo to enable the inclusion of new arrival Tagawa It took some back-and-forth, but I managed to persuade owner Evra to both improve youth recruitment and increase our junior coaching budget. The result of these changes was that we are now considered to have excellent academy coaching and exceptional youth recruitment Over a period of three weeks we had the same cycle of news for the third time during my time managing the club; (1) speculation Evra will step away from the club, (2) rumours of a sale denied and (3) Evra comes out to deny there will be a takeover. The only difference this time is that I was asked in a press conference about whether a potential takeover would distract the players, which made it feel a little more likely this time around I have noticed a significant decrease in the amount of injuries in February. Previously it was a handful before every game, this month I can't think of an injury of note. I guess that's the latest patch coming into effect, rather than just good luck
  7. January 2025 Our unprecedented run of goalkeeper unavailability continued before the Feirense game as flu ruled out Turati. We dominated the game but only scored two. The Pacos de Ferreira win was comfortable. We then faced a tough trip across town to face Sporting. This time it was Danilovic ruled out with flu, as the virus continue to rip through my team. It was a poor game in which we had slightly better chances, a draw was fair enough though. We ended the month in a respectable 5th place, with between one and three games in hand on all of our rivals. We secured four points from our final two Europa League group away games. Before the match we lost Kovacevic to flu and Vinagre to a twisted knee. The Legia game was very frustrating; we were 2-0 up and fell back to 2-2, had three times as many chances and scored a late winner that was disallowed. The win in Astana was much more comfortable. Brumado was the star of these final two games with four goals. It goes without saying that there was another injury before the Portimonense game - this time Nunes pulled his hamstring ruling him out a few weeks. Portimonense are a bogey team for us, so I was somewhat worried going into the Taca de Liga Semi Final. Due to the competitions' rules whereby you are required to play two players under 21 years old, we played Cerquiera at centre back and gave a debut to 16 year old winger Daniel Rodrigues at right wing back. Rodrigues had a debut to remember! He set up both of our goals and was named as the fixtures' Man (boy?) of the Match. Below are the final standings from the Europa League group stage. I was delighted that we finished in the top eight, meaning that we automatically qualified for the Round of 16 and didn't have to play in the Knockout Play-Off Round. There are a lot of big names that finished below us, so this demonstrates how far we have come as a club. With Sporting top of the league, ourselves in sixth and Porto in ninth, there is good evidence of the strength of the Portuguese Liga. Hopefully we can all go far and improve the country's UEFA competition coefficient.
  8. Thanks @warlock - hopefully in a few seasons I'll be able to fill the home grown in nation and in club quotas. Hope you're well and had a good Christmas.
  9. January Transfer Window January 2025 turned out to be a relatively busy month in Amadora. Some of it was as a result of unexpected transfer bids for my players, but most was me proactively looking to make adjustments to the profile of my squad. Below I will summarise the arrivals and departures, with an update on my squad composition following the closure of the transfer window. Goalkeepers No changes in this department. I am very happy with my three young goalkeepers. Right Backs Also no change on the right side of our defence. Left Backs Two new arrivals at left back. One arrived on 01 January and the other on 01 February. Following the shock departure of Varela in September we have limped along with just one left back. I was determined to address this in the January window and acted swiftly to secure a pre-arranged deal for Ruben Vinagre for a bargain price of £375k from Sporting Lisbon. My wing backs are some of the key creators in my system, so his attacking prowess appealed to me. He also adds to the number of Portuguese players in the squad. I was happily going into the second half of the season with Mansur and Vinagre as my left backs, when my scouts alerted me to the availability of wonderkid Valentin Barco on transfer deadline day. I had money in the bank and he was interested so I decided to move decisively, spending £5.5m on the Boca Juniors youngster. Barco is effectively Mansur's successor-in-waiting. Mansur has been phenomenal throughout my time at the club, but with him being 31 I needed to start thinking about the future. Despite his age, Barco looks to me to have all the attributes to be a strong starting player already. Centre Backs Departures: Albeit conscious that we were overloaded with talented centre backs, moving any of the cohort on was not high on my priority list with things going well on the pitch. This changed, however, when we received unprompted bids for two of the group. Firstly, now-Premier League side Leeds came in with a £13.75m bid for Eric Bailly. Ever since arriving he has performed well (he had featured 17 times so far this season), but that was a bid too good to turn now. He'll be 31 in two months, he arrived on a free just over a year ago (so it is £13.75m of pure profit) and I am always waiting for a long-term injury to hit him; therefore, it is simply terrific business to sell him for that profit. I was confident I could replace him with a younger talent of similar ability, so accepted the bid. Then, shortly after, we received bids of £9m from five different clubs for Vukasin Jovanovic. He had only made four appearances all season, less than any other of my centre backs, so again the offers were too good to refuse. I accepted them all and Jovanovic selected Championship side Sheffield United as his destination. This sale returned a profit of £7.9m after 18 months at the club. The final departure was more planned. Amir Feratovic had been sent on loan to Maritimo for the season to develop. Aware he only had six months left on his deal, I decided to check in on his progress. I quickly saw that he wouldn't have the potential to trouble our first team, so made the tactical decision to cancel his loan and offer him out for sale so that we didn't lose him for nothing in the summer. Pogon came in with a bid of £235k, which we gladly accepted. I swiftly identified American Owen Otasowie as Bailly's intended replacement. He had a release clause in his Austin FC contract of £3.7m, meaning I signed him for what I deem a bargain. Physically and mentally strong, Otasowie is also comfortable playing as a defensive midfielder. When I visited Lisbon earlier this year the city was swarming with American tourists, so Otasowie and McKinnie will find it easy to feel at home. I decided not to sign another centre back to give the young pair of Awe and Kovacevic more opportunities. I also have the even younger trio of Cerqueira, Espirito and Carlos waiting in the wings for chances. Centre Midfielders Departures: As we were oversubscribed with central midfielders (a nice problem to have, I know), I decided to offer out 20 year old George Hall for loan. Due to squad depth Hall had only started three games and came off the bench 12 times. Predictably there were many bids that came in for him. I selected Sunderland as his destination after seeing they were challenging for the Championship Play-Offs (so he could be part of a team doing well) and I checked that he would be their best defensive midfielder and therefore likely to start games. Since arriving he has started three out of three of their games. This month also saw the departure of Cafú, after just one cup appearance this campaign, who joined Nacional for £120k, slimming it down to eight players competing for three midfield berths. Strikers Performances this season have been good, we are doing well in both the league and cup competitions, but we haven't been quite as prolific as in previous years. Specifically my strikers haven't been as clinical as needed. Many of our games have seen our xG be much higher than the amount of goals we scored. I therefore was on the look out for a striker who could make a difference in the second half of the season. I searched high and low for a striker who my scouts deemed as better than my current crop of forwards, but was also affordable. My search took me to Japan, where I discovered a forward who had scored 20 goals in 32 games for J1 League side Hachioji Tigre. 25 year old Kyosuke Tagawa was available for just £2m and I beat a lot of competition to his signing. Interestingly, this is Tagawa's second spell in Portugal as he previously spent two seasons at Santa Clara. I am hoping Tagawa will give our season a goal scoring boost. Later in the month I had more funds in the coffers after the sales of Bailly and Jovanovic and no pressing concerns in terms of gaps in the squad, so I started thinking more big picture. I am very conscious that we do not have much Portuguese talent in the squad (especially after the sage advice from @warlock!) so I dedicated some time to scouring the leagues for young Portuguese talent I could acquire. Through this search process, I came across Boavista striker Martim Tavares who is a current Portugal U21 international. Tavares has great attributes for a 21 year old forward and bags of potential. He had scored three in 14 games for Boavista (the bottom side in the league) so far this season. I decided to gamble on his potential and made him our club record signing for £10.5m. Not wanting to stunt his growth by putting him on my bench, I also agreed to loan him back to Boavista for the rest of the season. Hopefully their form can start to improve and he gets chances to score. Departure: Given we now had six good quality centre forwards and Tavares arriving in the summer, it was time to move on Yassin Fortune to a new club. Opportunities had been limited for the Haitain this season, but his 33 goals across two years will not be forgotten by me. He joins Lechia for £1.7m with my best wishes. Academy Recruitment With my new and improved youth facilities, understandably, taking time to bear fruit and with European squad constraints fresh in my mind, I decided to give the academy a boost by targeting some more young Portuguese talent. First to arrive is attack-minded centre midfielder Tiago Freitas, bought from the academy of neighbours Benfica for a fee of £500k that could rise to £1.3m, based on performance. In addition to the signing of Freitas, pre-contract deals were agreed with a pair of teenagers. The first is centre back Diogo Rocha who also will be departing Benfica, the second is striker Joao Infante from the youth ranks of Porto. Both are raw talents, but with age on their side I am hoping to support their development once they join us in the summer. Perhaps Rocha, Freitas and Infante will form the core of my U23s team next season.
  10. November 2024 Going into a long-term managerial career in Portugal, I knew that battling Benfica, Sporting and Porto would be extremely difficult. What I wasn't expecting was how strong Vitoria would be! They did well last season and look to be doing even better this time around. We played them twice in November and lost both times. In both games we matched them for shots and possession, even bettering them in xG, but they were clinical and we were not. Following the first Vitoria game, we completed what is now an annual tradition: A top quality free transfer signing in the winter off-season! I was very surprised to find Weston McKennie available as a free agent. I checked to see if there was a long-term injury as the cause. There was not. He had spent the last two seasons away from Juventus on loan, firstly at Man City and then at Lazio. Albeit he hadn't seemed to have been pulling up trees, but it was still very surprising that he was available. My scouts assessment was that he would be the best player at the club if we signed him and with defensive midfielder Danilovic still out with his long-term injury, I moved quickly and decisively. Now the elephant in the room is clearly his wage. At the point of signing, he is on £30k more than any other player at the club, per week (I say this as later in the month, after a protracted period of contract negotiations, Praet received a new deal at £42k per week - so £20k less than McKinnie). My justification is that (a) he is the best player at the club, (b) we are growing and finances are healthy - we can afford the deal and (c) given his age and his transfer value, we could easily cash in on him and balance the books if needed. He is not registered for the Europa League, so made his debut against Chaves. Our Europa League campaign continued well. Costinha scored an amazing volley in the rout of Lech Poznan. More injuries happened in that game with Mansur going off with a gashed leg (out four weeks), being replaced by Cruz who then also went off, this time with a twisted ankle (out for five weeks)! I'm getting a little fed up with all the injuries now. We were the better side against Betis and squandered the win when we conceded in the 90th minute. Given their stature, its not a bad result, but it is certainly frustrating. Here is the Europa Leauge group stage table at just over the half way stage. We are on the verge of automatic qualification for the next round and Playoffs look near to guaranteed, if not. Our final three group stage matches are against Rangers, Legia and Astana. December 2024 December was a quieter month, with a 17 day gap without fixtures in the middle. We drew against Rio Ave and Porto, but deserved to easily win one and easily lose the other! We dominated Rio Ave, whereas Porto dominated us. Against Porto we played with ten men for 65 minutes so I was proud we hung on and got far up enough the pitch to be awarded a penalty in the 86th minute. The draw was important as it stopped Porto leapfrogging us in the table. In the Europa we secured at least a Playoff spot by beating Rangers thanks to a wonder strike from Brumado. After 17 days of rest and recovery, I thought that I was going to finally have a full squad to choose from against Benfica. Then, the day before the match, a host of players (including three of my strikers) were ruled out with colds! This turned out not to matter however, as we beat the league leaders in their own stadium! They were the dominant side, but we came out of the dressing room at half time with velocity and tore them apart. After the match, Costinha told the press that my rip-roaring half time team talk made the difference. This win meant that we overtook Benfica in the table and finish 2024 in 3rd place, just two points behind the joint league leaders. See below for a snapshot of the team who won this important fixture. Somewhat surprisingly, White was named the league's Young Player of the Month for December. He only played twice and was man of the match vs Rio Ave but was sent off for a horror tackle against Porto! Not sure what the award's selection committee were thinking there... Finally, I'll end the month and the year with an admin wrap-up: We have had another 'will he, won't he' ownership saga. Over the course of two weeks in November we received news articles saying that Evra is going and then later that he denied this and was staying. Things have once again settled down, but this does seem to be leading to something Interest in my managerial services have been high! I have now declined formal job interviews at Fenerbache, Wolves, West Ham, Bayer Leverkusen, Lyon and Sevilla. I am committed to Estrela! Assistant Manager Luis Matos has announced that he will retire at the end of the current season. Along with Mansur, he is the only real connection to the group I begun this journey alongside Forward Brumado has been rewarded with a new four year contract Having struggled by with one left back all season, I pounced when I saw that Sporting had transfer listed left back Ruben Vinagre for just £375k. My scouts rate him better than Mansur, who has been a fine player for me, and we agreed a pre-transfer window deal in early December. He will join the club officially on 03 January 2025 Going into the January transfer window, Evra decided to give me another £3m of budget unprompted
  11. September 2024 A perfect month was achieved in September. Three wins in three different competitions. Nine goals scored and zero conceded. In the league game against Gil Vicente, goalkeeper Turati finally made his debut after recovering from injury. He played our first Europa League game too, with Valdimarsson playing in the Taca de Liga. Injuries continued to be a big theme for the season, in mid-September; right back Cruz pulled his ankle ligaments (out for three weeks), star midfielder Danilovic injured his hip (ruled out for three months) and Bailly twisted his ankle (four weeks). Our debut in the Europa League against Cluj was helped when they got an early red card. We dominated the game notching 30 shots (although only a third of those were on target), with an xG of 4.15. Cluj had no shots all game. Due to the domination, we were able to rest key players in the last 30 minutes. 16 year old winger Julio Cesar made his debut at left wing back, from the bench. October 2024 Given their quality, I was worried about playing Arsenal. They were far superior on the night and in the end I was pleased to only lose by a margin of two. We showed character and did not allow this defeat to dent confidence, winning the four games that followed. Only one league game this month and it was a dominant display. 30 shots again and xG of 4.37. Full backs Costinha and Mansur were in fine form, with an assist apiece. The Taca de Portugal fixture against Louletano was an opportunity to play the eleven players who had featured the least so far this season. Reserves Fortune and Tavares grabbed the opportunity with both hands and were the stars of the performance. Back in the Europa and back on track with a routine win against Slovan Bratislava. Another win, but another injury. This time midfielder White went off after just 10 minutes with a groin strain that would rule him out for four weeks. He was already filling in at defensive midfield, so centre back Nunes came on to help out in an unfamiliar position. The month ended on a high as we beat local rivals Sporting in the Taca de Liga group stage. This win gave us six points and meant we qualified for the Semi Finals before Sporting and Gil Vicente even played each other. 17 year old forward Vezo made his debut in the pressing forward role. Again, I sadly have to report on injuries... Goalkeeper Turati went off with a broken hand and will be out for six weeks. Karamoko also went off crocked, but will only miss a week this time. At the end of October we sit in 3rd place, which I am obviously delighted with. There have only been seven league games though, with plenty of cup football instead taking up our time.
  12. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I spotted him as an available option
  13. August 2024 The season's curtain raiser was the Super Cup against Benfica. It was a relatively uneventful game. Both teams had equal possession and shots, but they got the winner near the end. New goalkeeping signing Turati got injured in pre-season, an ab strain that would rule him out for four weeks, so Lanzillota played his last game for the club before being sold days later. Next we played lower-league Varzim in the Taca de Liga and it was 20 year old 'keeper van Sas making his debut in goal. He let in the first and last goals of the game, but we scored seven times in between. It was a great day for our forwards with three of them scoring braces. To meet the competitions requirements to play two U21 players, we started 17 year old Cequeira and 16 year old Espirito at centre back. Sub Tavares was named man of the match thanks to two assists. Mansur suffered a calf strain in the match, ruling him out for five weeks. This win progressed us to the three team group stage (the format of this competition seems to change every year!). With no European qualifying games to contend with this season, we were able to get stuck into the league. Five league games in a row seems like a novelty in modern football. The game against Boavista saw us play our third goalkeeper in three games, this time the debut of new signing Valdimarsson who kept a clean sheet. Braga continue to be a thorn in our side. We were awful first half, dominated the second and had a 93rd minute equaliser ruled out for offside. A draw would have been the fair result. We thrashed Estoril to lift spirits. One of the goals scored by Karamoko was a goal of the season contender. It was back to frustration against Portimonense. We had two disallowed goals, xG of 3, 58% possession and yet only drew the game. To make things worse, Brumado suffered a hernia and was ruled out for five weeks, Varela a damaged heel so out for two weeks and, after a strong performance from the bench, Hall picked up a hamstring strain and is out for five weeks too. We ended the month with a win against Moreirense. After five games we sit fourth, which I'm obviously pleased with. It's early days and some of our competitors have played less games than us. Other than the Estoril game, we haven't reached full gear yet so there is plenty more to come when this new team clicks. The big concern for me is the number of injuries, which is noticeably more than the last two seasons. The two new physios clearly haven't made an impact! I'll end with the Europa League draw, which has provided us with a number of interesting ties.
  14. Staff Additions The last two summers have seen wholesale changes to my staffing team. This season, it has been much quieter. In fact, not a single coaching contract was due to expire in June 2024, as everyone at the club was hired by me on a long-term contract in the prior seasons or in the case of a handful of employees, such as my Assistant Manager, were here on arrival and I've given them a contract extension. Therefore the new recruits this summer are as a result of our stature growing and Evra allowing me to hire additional specialists, rather than replacing exiting staff. Recruitment Team The first hire to discuss is quite the coup. Manuel Pellegrini is a manager of extensive experience and caliber. At the age of 70 he has decided to step back from the spotlight and take up a scouting role, here at Estrela. His ability to spot talent will be invaluable. My only concern is that I may have given the board a ready made successor, if they ever decide to sack me! Joining Pellegrini in the scouting division is a man who certainly looks like he has an eye for talent. Italian Pietro Pacini adds further depth to a talented pool of scouts. We have also added Recruitment Analyst Pedro Valdemar to our ranks. Medical Team With the Europa League new format there will be more games this season that we've had in the last two campaigns. Fitness and injury recovery and therefore more important than ever. Luckily, I have been permitted to hire two additional physios. Both have prestigious past experience. Firstly, Andrea Galli joins us having spent the last 14 years at Inter Milan. His mental attributes are simply top class. Secondly, we have the arrival of Pedro Barreiras who has spent seven years at city neighbours Benfica. We have also been permitted to add an U23s physio (Carlos Banza) and an U19s physio (Jurgen Delva). Coaching Team Frustratingly, mid-way through pre-season Porto approached my set pieces coach Ben McKay and there was nothing I could do to stop him leaving. There were hardly any set piece coaches available to choose a successor from (I do wonder if this is linked to this save being carried across from FM23 and set pieces coaches being introduced mid-save). The best option available, and the person I hired, was Simone Nardella. He is not as highly rated as my previous two set piece coaches but he seems capable - at least this one hopefully won't be poached! Somewhat surprisingly, Toulouse poached my U23s Assistant Manager to be their first team coach, which created a vacancy. I was delighted to be able to bring in a coach of the quality of Richard Thomas as my new U23s Assistant Manager. He will help with my objective of bringing through talent from the Estrela academy. His appointment does come with some added nostalgia, as he was one of my trusted coaching lieutenants during my managerial adventures with Oldham Athletic last year. I further strengthened our youth coaching with the arrival of two more British coaches. Tom Ramasut joins as our new U23s Coach and Darren Arnott is our latest U19s Coach. To make room for the new arrivals, the board insisted that I released a coach, so Kieron Dyer has left the club.
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