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About mcleera

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  1. San Marino National Team: World Cup 2034 Group O: 1st (4 Points) Dual Nationals: After qualification, I set about trying to convince players to commit to us for the WC roughly every month from December through May. Cenci and Michelotti are both heavily involved in Italy’s youth setup and both look the part of future Italian full internationals, so they turned me down immediately. Meanwhile, Arzilli had considered switching, but elected to remain with Italy throughout the early months of 2034. He eventually made the Italian 30-man prelim squad, but was cut in the end. I spoke to him afterward, and he will at least entertain the idea going forward. Alessandro Gualandi didn’t give us any consideration, which I find somewhat strange, given the circumstances. He has never received a call-up from the senior Italian team and last appeared for the u21s about 3-4 years ago. On top of this, his contract has a clause that would see him get a significant pay bump (around 17.5%) after 5 international matches. It is hard to believe that wouldn’t be a motivating factor in making a switch. Lastly, there is Michele Rattini. After giving the runaround for months about joining, I finally make one last attempt to pitch him on joining the day preliminary rosters are due for the WC. I offer him a WC spot one more time, which he thinks is great… but he has to talk it over with his people. On the day WC rosters are due. What are you thinking, man? He, of course, comes back a week later FINALLY ready to play for us. A week after rosters were submitted. Aggravating. So I added ZERO dual nationals for this WC (although I at least have Rattini for EIL Division C, which is at least SOMETHING). Hopefully some wins will push our ranking up and we can nab a couple more of these guys. Summary: We got a decent draw for the forthcoming World Cup, with Cameroon and Iran a reasonable pair to contend with. Iran, ranked 34th, has a keeper who plies his trade for Wolfsburg, and a talented young uncapped striker at Union Berlin. However, the rest of the top players in their squad play their football domestically. I think our top outfield players (Righi, Angelini, Balducci, and especially Stefanelli) are simply better than theirs, so three points from this match is the target. Cameroon, on the other hand, is ranked 11th and has quality players all over the pitch. Their keeper is second choice for Bayern, and they have two forwards who are prolific (73 in 84 cap and 25 in 24 caps). I am going to bunker in and try to steal a point here, or at least keep the loss narrow. I can’t see Iran getting more than a point off Cameroon, so that would likely see us through. Ultimately, I would class advancement to the knockout stage a success. We warmed up with 2-0 victories over both Japan and Nigeria and set off for Australia, the culmination of almost exactly a decade of work. Group O kicked off with the match between Iran and Cameroon. Surprisingly, Iran managed to scrape a 1-0 victory from the match, complicating matters a bit for qualifying. I had hoped that Cameroon would get at least a draw, allowing me to beat Iran in the second match and rotate for the final group match with qualification secured. No such luck. In the match against Iran, we took the lead in the 3rd minute, but Iran restored parity 11 minutes later. We were in the ascendancy for most of the match, with Manuel Angelini proving to be the match winner in the 55th minute to give us the points. This brought us to the final match against African champions Cameroon, with any result better than a loss by 2+ goals seeing us through. This, coupled with Cameroon’s attacking threat (and their necessity), got me playing deep on the counter from the opening whistle. It was a pretty drab match for the most part, as we really contained their forwards. They had a man sent off late, which got me in a bit more of an attacking mood for the final 10 minutes, but we didn’t break through. A 0-0 draw sees us top the group and knock 11th ranked Cameroon out of the World Cup. The first knockout round gave us Ukraine. We tried to play attacking in the early going using our 4-1-2-3 DM wide formation. They had more shots and fashioned an early opportunity, which was hit tamely at Thomas Berti. The breakthrough came in the 33rd minute when 16 year-old RB Amici chipped a ball over the top of the Ukrainian defense, which Angelini was able to get on just ahead of the Ukrainian keep Bogomolov to stab it home. From here, I wanted to just hold onto the result, going to the defensive 4-1-2-3 formation. This gave us another chance on the counter in the second half, but Angelini couldn’t keep his nerve, firing wide when in on goal. The Ukrainians had a similarly good opportunity late in the match, but Berti was up to it, parrying the forward’s effort around the post. We held on for a fantastic 1-0 victory. At this point, the draw had opened up a bit. Paraguay had upset Croatia 1-0 in the previous round to set up our Round of 16 clash. A match against the 44th ranked side seems to be more than we could hope for at this stage. For this match I decided to come out swinging with my attacking 4-2-4 formation for the first half. I did this for two reasons. Firstly, my top midfielders Balducci and Stefanelli are exhausted. As such, I need to nurse them through by giving each a half and reducing the number of CMs/DMs to 2 for a significant portion of the game. Secondly, I think the attacking formation might catch them off guard after playing on the counter for the past 2 matches. The latter certainly came to pass early, as Ugolini won a penalty in the 2nd minute, which was converted by Giacquinto, and Angelini doubled our lead 4 minutes later on a long ball from Bonifazi, cooly slotting past the onrushing keeper. We were 2-0 up 5:45 into the match. From here, the first half was a bit end to end, with the pacy Angelini missing another opportunity on a run behind the defense. At halftime, I dropped a gassed Angelini for DM Albani to tighten things up, then swapped Stefanelli for Balducci in the 65th. Paraguay headed home from a corner in the 80th minute to get back to 2-1. We spent the final ten minutes of normal time pinned back in our own end, and in the 89th minute, Paraguay had a free kick. Up over the wall and saved by Berti. The rebound fell to a Paraguayan forward and another save from Berti. However, the second rebound fell to Paraguay and was tapped in. But the assistant has the flag raised from the first rebound! Offside, no goal! We hold on for 4 minutes of added time to claim a 2-1 victory and advance to the quarterfinal. Here we get Switzerland, who beat Portugal 3-0 to advance. Switzerland is a strong side, for sure, but I would much rather get them than the Portuguese. I expect Stefanelli to be in better shape for this match after only playing 25 minutes, and we also get RB Amici back from suspension, who has been incredible in his 4 SMNT caps thus far, including his 8.3 rated MOTM performance against Ukraine. However, we lose Gualandi and Balducci to suspension, which are crushing blows. The Swiss have good players everywhere, especially at the back, as well as a talented young striker. They are certainly more talented, and I think only Stefanelli, Berti, and maybe Righi could crack their XI. As such, we revert to counter-attacking football again. Hopefully we can keep it competitive, because our squad is absolutely cooked right now. The match against Switzerland was in many ways a rerun of the Paraguay match, with us going two up then holding on for dear life. We opened the scoring through a goal from Giacomo Bonifazi, who surged into the box to get a short pass from Angelini and took advantage of the clear-cut chance off the counter. Angelini then doubled our advantage in the 39th minute as he got on a long ball which carried him to the right side of the box, putting his laces through it to rifle past the keeper from a tight angle and become joint top scorer of the tournament on 4 goals. He nearly scored again just before the half, but pushed the effort just wide of the far post. A 2-0 lead at the half to try to hold on to. The second half saw a handful of saves from Berti until forward Fabian Berg got the Swiss on the board from a corner in the 73rd minute. We absorbed the pressure the rest of the way and were able to come away with a 2-1 victory which was a total smash and grab affair. We next get Belgium in the semifinal, and we will once again try to hit the opposition on the break. The semifinal against Belgium was much the same story: knackered squad playing on the counter. For the first 10-15 minutes we were reasonably in the game, but then Belgium sort of grew into the match from there, moving into the attacking third with greater regularity than us. The matche really turned in the 40th minute, when Francesco Gualandi got himself sent off with a straight red for a dangerous challenge. From here, we defended desperately, and the second half saw us all but abandon the pretense of an attacking threat. Time and again Berti was called into action and he was up for the task on each occasion, making several saves to keep the match level. Late on, Belgium forward Redouane Lemaire turned a deflection into the goal, but La Serenissima were once again saved by VAR, with the Belgian forward several yards offside. Somehow, we were able to withstand Belgium’s assault for 50 minutes with 10 men, taking them to extra time. Belgium started the shootout. Berti guessed correctly, diving to his right, but it didn’t matter. Lemaire put the ball wide and we struck first blood in penalties. Angelini stepped up next and went to the keeper’s left. The keeper dove left, getting a hand to the ball, but was unable to keep it out, as the ball squeezed into the side netting. 1-0 after one round. Belgium’s next kick was taken by Emmers. He tried going left, but Berti was up to the task, diving to his left to deny the Belgian on what was a pretty tame penalty. Next up for us was Stefanelli. He goes to the keeper’s right, and the keeper guesses correctly. The quality of the pen renders it irrelevant. High and hard into the top corner, and San Marino leads 2-0 after two rounds. Chauvin step up for the Belgians next, and he goes straight down the middle, where Berti waits to parry the effort away and bring us to the brink of the World Cup final. Balducci steps up next and the moment seems to get the better of him as he gets his contact all wrong, putting the ball about 20 rows deep over the crossbar. 2-0 it remains after the third round. Up steps Tessier for the Belgians. For the first time, Berti is caught going the wrong way, diving to his left as the Belgian powers it to the right top corner to finally get his team on the board. Up steps striker-turned-AML Alex Ugolini to try to win it for us at the second time of asking. He never looked like missing it. The Belgian keeper guessed correctly, but Ugolini hit it cleanly, arrowing it into the bottom corner, out of reach of the keeper as he dove right. San Marino advances to the final against France on pens 3-1! The funny thing about this is that Ugolini almost missed out on the WC squad, having been the very last man I decided to take. Now he is a San Marino folk hero. We take on France in the final and I just hope we do ourselves justice. We are, as always, completely exhausted, with our top players playing many more minutes than I would like. However, this hasn’t cost us the last few matches, so we will give it a go. We actually got off to a reasonable start in the final, limiting France over the first 15-20 minutes in the attacking third, with the French registering no shots over this period. However, they begun to grow into the game as an attacking threat and scored in the 27th minute through and Armand Onana header to open the scoring. We kept it tight for the remainder of the half, however, to keep it 1-0. Despite keeping it close, we offered almost nothing going forward. I knew we needed to try attacking to get back in the match. This proved largely ineffective, as well, and France doubled their lead in the 54th minute through Slim Ouni. At this point, I went to the 4-2-4 formation to try salvaging something, but we didn’t even get a sight of goal. France didn’t create much after the second, choosing instead to focus on the defensive side of things and close out a comfortable 2-0 victory. The Retrospective Wow! What a tournament we had. Going to the final at the first time of asking is way more than I ever could have expected. We were opportunistic with our chances and effective in our defending especially in the latter stages of the World Cup. We also had a fair bit of luck, from VAR to shots-to-goals ratio. It also helped that the draw opened up for us a bit (Paraguay instead of Croatia in the R16, Switzerland instead of Portugal in the QF). On top of that, we made this run with a pretty pedestrian squad. Here is the best XI, with league CA in parentheses: Angelini (Lower Serie A) Gualandi (Serie B) Conti (Serie C) Stefanelli (Leading Serie A) Balducci (Serie A) Albani (Serie B) Casali (Serie C) Fiorini (Serie C) Righi (Serie A) Amici (Serie C) Berti (Leading Serie A) As you can see, I have almost as many Serie C players as Serie A players. We clearly took this thing as far as it can go. Frankly this was a fluke, and we will need to rely on strong intakes going forward to even approach this in the future. That said, it was a wild ride, and about the most fun I’ve had in FM in awhile. Miscellanea -19 year-old wonderkid Angelini won the Bronze Boot. -In addition to being the youngest player in WC history, the “RB who might help us out” Amici played to a 7.3 rating over his first 7 caps, 5 of which came at the WC. Solid. -We go into Nations League Division C next. Oddly enough our group also includes World Cup semifinalist Norway, which seems like an odd place to find a semifinalist and runner up for a WC. -Lastly, I am petty. Italy went out in the Round of 32, and I danced in the ashes of their World Cup hopes all the way to the final. I hope this inspires a few dual nationals to change (it won't) but I would think going that far would at least give reason for pause. (ahem... looking at you Alessandro Gualandi). World Ranking: 48th (+25 from beginning of year) Completed Goals: Get San Marino into the top 50
  2. San Marino Calcio: 2033-34 Serie A: Winners Italian Cup: First Round (l. to Bologna) Champions League: Semifinal (l. to Juventus) I’m going to keep this one brief, but I do have some big updates on the save at the end of the season. We kept our winning streak in Serie A going into February, having gone 63 matches without a loss in Serie A until Empoli smashed us 4-0. It was pretty inconsequential, since we were 14 and 16 clear of Juve and Atalanta at the halfway point and we coasted to our 7th Serie A triumph in 8 years. A heavily rotated side lost to Bologna in the Italian Cup, as well, but I don’t really prioritize this competition anymore. In CL, we finished 2nd in our group to Dortmund in a group that also included FCP and Maccabi Tel Aviv. We went into the final match of the group stage needing all 3 points against FCP to advance, and we crushed them 5-1. In the first knockout round we drew Barca in a repeat of last year’s first knockout round tie. We got our revenge for that defeat with a 3-2 aggregate victory. This set a date with Spurs in the QF, who we beat 6-3 on aggregate. We were perhaps even more dominant than the scoreline indicated, with us 5-0 up through 140 minutes of action. We then got domestic rivals Juventus in the semifinal of CL. We traded 2-1 victories over the 2 legs. Unfortunately, we missed a chance in ET of the tie to get an away goal that would have surely seen us through, as Stiven Lasso failed to convert. We then ended up on the losing end of the lottery, as Juve knocked us out on spot kicks. Fortunately, they lost 3-2 to Sevilla in the final. My boredom has somewhat increased at Calcio this past year, particularly after qualifying for the World Cup (I just wanted to get to summer). Frankly, I spent most of the season on holiday just to get through it, since the league was pretty much won before New Year’s. On the positive side, my domestic dominance means that Juve has now gone over a decade without winning Serie A. In the San Marino League, the Tre Fiori job became available after they failed to make top 4 for the season. As such, new manager Enzo Sammarco has taken the reins and (hopefully) alleviates some boredom. At present, I plan to take on more of a “general manager” role with Calcio, buying and selling players, keeping facilities up and continuing to funnel money into the San Marino League. Youth Intake Forgot to take a screenshot, but we got a 3* PA RB who might help us out. Maybe some other bit part players, but no real difference makers. Transfers Mendes was brought in for a record Calcio transfer of $73M to shore up RB. He did just that and especially turned up in CL. Regilson is AML who will compete with Ruiz for that spot, along with Alemao. Good candidate for high profit. Proll is a 17 year-old CM who I will try to develop. Rocca and Chema are backup keepers. The big outgoing is obviously Arraial for $100M. This is a perfect move for all parties: he gets a(nother) big club, Berti moves into the first team, and we get a cool $81.5M in transfer profit. The de Haas mandatory buy option triggered. Rolin, Molina, Jansen, Kawaya and Le Bail were all sort of fringe players that I decided to just offload. Lastly, I loaned Angelini for the season and Cenci for half the season to Serie A sides, with the former having a decent spell with relegated Benevento and the latter having a more successful time with Palermo. I will look to get Cenci more involved with the first team next season. Finances/Infrastructure/San Marino League Whelp, I need to be a bit more careful. We invested another $140M in the San Marino League, bringing total outlay to $530M. This, coupled with the Mendes transfer, got us perilously close to FFP trouble. We narrowly avoided sanction (losses were just over $3M), owing almost entirely to me selling transfer clauses. In less stressful news, San Marino had a bit more success in European competition. All of the Euro Cup teams lost in their first ties, as did CL qualifier Tre Penne. However, Tre Penne was able to defeat Kosovar side Trepca 89 3-1 on aggregate, then defeat Northern Irish club Cliftonville 2-1 on aggregate. In the final round of qualifying, they lost to Slovak side Zilina 4-3 AET on aggregate. Still, the San Marino League slid back to 93rd in the competition rankings. Needless to say, I am generally pretty unimpressed by the league’s stewardship of more than half a billion dollars.
  3. Congratulations, @duesouth!! Are you planning on trying to win Nations League and/or the Euros, as well? Also, I think it's time to put an order in for that customized Bronzetti San Marino jersey. Sounds like he was unreal in those pen shootouts.
  4. Congratulations on the Europa League win, mate! Brilliant work to get that over the line.
  5. 2033 San Marino National Team World Cup Qualifying: 2nd (18 points; Qualified in 3rd place of Second Place Table) Summary The World Cup qualifying group looked to be fairly difficult, but manageable, with us drawn into a group with the Netherlands, Denmark, Albania and Kazakhstan. Of that group, I sort of thought we would be middle of the pack, behind the Dutch and Danes, but ahead of Albania and Kazakhstan. The draw fixture list, however, was pretty front-loaded, with the first four matchdays being an open date, home to the Netherlands, and then a home and away to the Danes. We were going to mark out pretty early whether qualification was realistic. I targeted 16 points as our number, which could potentially keep us in the frame for qualifying (12 against Albania and Kazakhstan, 3 against the Danes, and scrape another point in the other match against the Danes or against the Netherlands). The home fixture against the Dutch was a pretty tepid affair early on, as we played deep and tried to hit them on the break. The first opportunity came when makeshift AMR Francesco Gualandi got on the ball, skipped past a defender, and chipped forward to surging Roberto Stefanelli in the box, who buried the opportunity past the keeper in the 36th minute. 1-0 to San Marino! We then doubled our advantage six minutes later through CB Federico Fiorini, who was able to pounce on a rebound off the post after Francesco Gualandi’s volley off a wide free kick. We defended well for most of the match until Ayoub Mazlum got them one back in the 88th minute, but saw out the result against the defending World and European Champions. Despite gifting them 61% of the ball, we fashioned the better chances. A fair result, and one that gets us off to a flyer in qualifying. Our second and third matches were away, then home, to Denmark. Not much to say about the first one. Both teams tried playing on the counter, which meant very few clear opportunities either way, while we were outshot 18-6. They scored early in the second half with an effort from the top of the box to scrape a 1-0 victory. The reverse match was similarly defensive, with us squeezing out a 1-0 victory, courtesy of a Gualandi headed assist for an Angelini tap-in. Based on the nature of the matches, I think both sides would be happy splitting the six points from the matches. Critically for us, it meant that our points target was revised upward to 18, now that we sat on 6 points from 3 matches, and those three matches were among the four most difficult. I figured this would be enough to qualify, so we are in great position at this point. The fourth and fifth matches were home to Albania and away to Kazakhstan. Albania is actually a sneaky good squad, particularly in attacking areas, making them a potential banana skin for us to drop points. I decided to keep us on the counter, since it seemed to be working, and we pretty well dominated the match, going 3-0 up just before the half courtesy of Angelini, Steffanelli and Balducci. From here we eased to a 3-0 victory. We followed this up by doing what a team of our quality ought to be doing to the likes of Kazakhstan, winning the match 4-1 with a rotated side. Our sixth match saw us get the Netherlands away. Gabriele Albani had a chance to put us up early, but failed to capitalize. From here the Dutch really dominated, finally breaking through in the 65th minute and claiming a 1-0 victory. In truth, it could have been worse for us, if not for the heroics of Thomas Berti in goal. The final two matchdays saw us get Albania and Kazakhstan again. Meanwhile, Denmark and the Netherlands played in the first of two matchdays in what would be Denmark’ final group stage match. As it stood, the Danes and Dutch sat on 15 points while we were on 12. Both SM and the Dutch, however, had a game in hand. All we needed was for the Dutch to prevent Denmark from winning, and two wins would effectively guarantee us passage. So naturally, the Netherlands go out, concede in third minute, concede again in the 71st, and lose 2-0. At the same time, we are 1-0 down to Albania at the half, but a second half Stefanelli hat-trick gives us a 3-1 win. A critical 93rd minute penalty from the midfielder helps to both seal the points and improve the GD going into the final group stage matches. At this point, Denmark, the Netherlands and San Marino have all split against one another, so GD is crucial. Standings: Denmark in the clubhouse with 18 points (+11 GD), Netherlands 15 points (+13 GD), and San Marino 15 points (+8 GD). I also checked the disciplinary record to see where we were at, in case it came down to it, and knew we needed to either have a better GD or score more goals than Denmark to go through. We needed to hang-up a big scoreline, but Kazakhstan is the best opponent to have in this situation. Meanwhile, the Dutch got Albania in a match where a win would put them through. Knowing we likely needed to win by at least 4 goals, the boys got the party started early, with Angelini heading us into the lead in the 4th minute and Cascone taking advantage of a keeper error off a corner to tap into an empty net in the 12th minute. Angelini then scored a decent effort on the counter in the 32nd minute to get us within one goal of guaranteeing we go through. Unfortunately, the Kazakhs got one back off a poorly defended corner 8 minutes later, and we went into the half 3-1 up, two goals from overtaking Denmark. In the meantime, the Dutch had finally broken the deadlock with Albania late in the first half to go in 1-0 up. As expected, it seemed that we would need to catch the Danes. Much like the first half, the second got off to a flyer, as well, with 16 year old LB Mateo Casali scoring his first ever international goal in the 48th minute to give us a 4-1 lead, bringing us level on GD and GF with Denmark. The decisive blow was landed in the 67th minute, as Francesco Gualandi was wrestled to the ground by the Kazakh CB Amangeldy. Angelini struck it hard down the middle while the keeper dove to his right. A 5-1 advantage for us, and relative security knowing it would take two goals from the opposition to knock us out. 3 minutes later, Amangeldy again concedes a penalty, which is converted this time by RB Michele Giaquinto. At this point, we were only behind the Netherlands on GD by one, and I briefly entertained the idea that we could pip them to top spot. However, 77th and 86th minute goals for the Dutch snuffed those hopes out and we finished second on 18 points. This was good for third in the second-placed teams table. SAN MARINO IS GOING TO WORLD CUP 2034!!! Dual Nationals -CB Rattini is still on the fence for some reason, even though it is pretty apparent he is not going to play for Italy (he might not even be a Serie A player). Young CB Mateo Selva is in a similar position, only having Serie B potential and no youth appearances for Italy. Somewhat surprisingly, Serie A Player of the Year Arzilli almost committed to play for us, before backing out after talking it over with his people. I assume that the prospect of World Cup football will get all three of them committed. -ST Marco Cenci and AMR Francesco Michelotti are both fixtures for Italy’s U21s. Now that I have secured a WC appearance, I am trying to slow-play their inclusion in the Calcio first team for the rest of the season to reduce the chances that they are called up for Italy. -ST Alessandro Gualandi is the other “high value” dual national in the pool. He is going to be 25 by the time the WC rolls around and he hasn’t had any involvement with the Italian setup in years. I think there is a reasonable chance we can bring him in for this WC as well. Miscellaneous -Considering that the Dutch had won the World Cup, European Championships, and Confederations Cup in the last 4 years, the 2-1 win over them is undoubtedly the biggest result in SMNT history (and will likely remain so until we reach a WC final). Considering how strong they are, finishing level with them on points is a massive achievement. -Federico Conti has had a miserable time since a move to Coruna in Spain’s second tier in August of 2032. He played poorly for several months before a spinal injury sidelined him for almost 10 months. He made two appearances and scored his first goal in September of 2033 before he was again injured, this time with a broken foot. Considering how important he was for the national team, particularly earlier in his career, I hope the 30 year-old can get himself healthy enough to make the WC squad. -Alberto Righi, now playing in the Netherlands with Ajax, suffered an injury that will keep him out for 4 months. Hopefully no further setbacks before the WC, but he will be missing valuable playing time ahead of the tournament. Considering that he will be 30 by the time this World Cup starts, it may be the only time he has a chance to play in the tournament. Completed Goals: Qualify for the World Cup.
  6. San Marino Calcio 2032-33 League: Champions (AND INVINCIBLES!) Italian Cup: Quarterfinal (l. to Juve) Champions League: First Knockout Round (l. to Barca) Italian Super Cup: Winner Season Summary In the first half, we pretty easily got through our CL group, coming in second to Atleti. We also managed to roll through the first half of the season unbeaten, with quality rotation pieces allowing us to keep the side fresh and keep our run going until the new year. I decided to really forego the Coppa Italia, trying to go the Serie A season undefeated. We end up losing to Juve with a heavily rotated side, which was expected. Slightly more annoyingly, we lost to Barca on away goals, drawing 3-3 away (conceding late on) and drawing 0-0 at home. On the positive side, this allowed us to focus on the league, and we pretty well cruised to an undefeated season. We never trailed in the second half of any match throughout the season, and only faced a deficit 3 times throughout the domestic campaign. We finished with 106 points to set a new Serie A record. We also won the Italian Super Cup 5-0 over Inter. The team of the season in Serie A was mostly Calcio players, with Nicola Arzilli and Stiven Lasso the best players. Ultimately Arzilli was names POTY, scoring 24 and adding 10 assists. Another productive season at Calcio. Transfers In terms of incomings, I brought in Sorrentino and Alemao as cover at RB and AML, respectively. Both are young and should turn into top players (especially Alemao). Dude is a fairly pacy Brazil CB with professional personality who is only 18. He should develop into an elite defender in the future. I would also be lying if I said that the potential headlines weren’t a motivating factor in the acquisition XD. Lastly, we brought in Julio David from Brazil. He is another midfielder that I expect to be worth $100M+ before too long. I then dumped $225M into the San Marino League. Overall, I’m very happy with the business, spending only $65M (effectively) on four new players, with one of those four (David) on the verge of being world class, and two others (Alemao and Dude) potentially 2-4 years from being world class. I am fairly happy with the outgoings. Antonio had fallen down the pecking order, so a fee rising to $54M is good business, and basically funded the 4 incomings. Samir had kind of a weird trajectory, finding himself on the fringes 4 years after winning Serie A player of the year. He had been largely ineffective last year and Ruiz was clearly first choice, so moving him along for $35M is good, especially after I had lined up the wonderkid Alemao. The other big deal was a loan-to-buy for Albert de Haas at $68.5M. He had been frustrated by a lack of playing time during his time here, and Lasso was obviously not going to be supplanted. A tidy $50M profit on him is a big win. Youth Watch Casali is a Sammarinese LB who looks like he might be pretty good for club. In any case, he will be the top LB in the pool, so he fills a need. A handful of others might be bit part players, as well. Club Infrastructure/Finance We finished June with $155M in the bank. The early exits, particularly in CL, cost us quite a bit in light of our heavy investment into San Marino. The de Haas sale certainly helps, however. I plan on trying to build the money back up through a couple more sales. I actually think going out early adds a bit to the intrigue of the save, since I will now need to fund my cash infusions into San Marino through transfer market wheeling and dealing. Future Plans -I want to move on one CM and one CD. For CMs, I would ideally sell Mariscal. While he is a quality player, I want to get David weekly starts, which means either he or Sulaj needs to go. However, I would probably only sell them for $150M each. At CB I would like to sell at least one player, and likely two, to make room for Diego and Dude in the rotation. Fleig seems an obvious choice here, as does Castillo. With any luck, we can move them on to build our finances again. -Giuliani had a cruciate injury, which will keep him out of action until sometime early next season. Given the emergence of Arzilli, it may be time to move the 28 year-old Italian on, especially if I can get a deal for $100M+. -The $225M investment in the San Marino League brings total investment to $390M. The league remains 90th in Europe. I expect to see a bit more return than I have been getting so far. I hope to have $1B invested in the league by the end of the 2036-37 season, which will hopefully mean some useful youth players from the league for the 2038 World Cup. This means an annual input of $152.5M over the next 4 years, which should be doable, so long as I can maintain domestic dominance and European competitiveness, which will both keep the value of my players high and give me a bit of prize money. -Brief SMNT update: We have 6 points through 3 matches. The first win was against the defending world and European Champion Netherlands, while we split a pair against Denmark. These figure to be the toughest matches in the group, so if I can sweep the matches against the bottom 2 teams, we will finish with 18 points, even if we lose to the Dutch. This would almost certainly be enough to qualify for the WC. This is undoubtedly the closest I have felt to qualifying for the finals. Completed Goals: Have a youth product score 20+ goals in Serie A, have a youth product win POTY in Serie A, go undefeated in Serie A.
  7. 2032 San Marino National Team: Second Half European Nations League Division B: 3rd of 3 (4 points, relegated) The Nations League draw was a tough one, where we get Germany and Sweden. In the first match, I tried to attack the Swedes and was rewarded with a 3-0 deficit early in the second half. Balducci pulled us one back, but we still went down to a deserved defeat. The second match was against Germany away, where I decided to play on the counter. The strategy was fairly successful, and we managed a 2-2 draw. The unfortunate part was that we threw the lead away twice, including the equalizing goal in the 90th minute. The statistical profile of this one was odd. Even though I adopted a defensive mentality, we still saw nearly half the possession. On top of that, we manage 4 shots to there 17, but we had three CCC among the four and none of their 17 were particularly dngerous. A draw is a decent result, but if we had won, it would have been a fair reflection of our chances. The reverse against Sweden saw us grind out a 1-0 win, courtesy of a Steffanelli strike in the 76th minute. This kept us alive heading into the final match of group 4 against Germany. At this point, Sweden was in the clubhouse on 6 points, while Germany was sat on 4 points, ahead of us on goal difference. So a draw would put Sweden through, while a winner put the victorious team through. I also knew anything short of victory would see us relegated (It’s a bit odd to me that the only outcomes for us were promotion as group winner and relegation). The match got off to a poor start, with the Germans taking a lead off a corner in the 9th minute. From there, we grew into the match and created a bit going forward, but couldn’t fashion anything clear cut. We pinned them back for much of the match, but the German defenses held for the remainder of the game, seeing out a 1-0 victory. Despite our relegation, I do take a few positives. Firstly, we get to play in Division C in the Euro qualification year, which dramatically increases the likelihood we get to Euro 2036. Secondly, I found out that playing on the counter can be pretty successful against top opposition, managing a win over Sweden, as well as a draw and a narrow loss to Germany. This will be very important in the upcoming World Cup qualification campaign. I also had two friendlies in there. We have no business losing to New Zealand, so that was disappointing. We were level at 1-1 with Russia on 60 minutes until they blitzed us for four goals. I had heavily rotated, not wanting to risk injury with the final Nations League matches only a month later, so I’m not too bothered TBH. Forthcoming Changes I think I have really come to the point where the talent increase is exponential in terms of results. As the manager of the SMNT, I have adopted a direct, open, attacking style. This has generally worked throughout my tenure. I think the reason for this is pretty obvious: the difference between a 200th ranked side and a 100th ranked side is the addition of about 3 Serie A players and about 3 Serie B players. The difference between a 100th ranked side and a top 10 side is going from about 3 Serie A players to 11-ish Serie A players, with one or two of those being truly elite talents. In other words, just getting a couple good players and a few halfway decent players really tipped scales, in terms of raw talent, against the Belaruses and Georgias of UEFA. Consequently, I will be playing more defensively, since counter-attacking seems to be somewhat effective. Dual nationals -The 21 year-old CB Rattini is starting to have the conversation about switching to San Marino each time we have call-ups. At this point, it looks like his ceiling is a middle of the road Serie A player. In other words, the sweet spot where he would be a big upgrade for us but probably will not play for Italy. -Based on what I am seeing, Arzilli (23 y/o), Gualandi (23 y/o) and Cenci (18 y/o) are nowhere near ready to play for Italy. Arzilli has 3.5* PA and Gualandi has 4* PA. Considering Nicolo Giuliani, who has won every accolade from European Golden Shoe to Serie A POTY to Serie A top goalscorer, can barely even get a call-up (6 caps, 1 goal), I doubt that they will. Cenci is a slightly different case because of his youth and potential. I hope I can qualify for the WC and poach him before he has a chance to play for Italy. -Lastly, there is RM/AMR Francesco Michelotti, who just turned 20. He is a regular for the Italy U23s, scoring 7 in 13 appearances, and has been dominant in an even time split with Lasso. Given my lack of wing options, I am desperate to get him into our setup. This one will be a race against the clock: will he be capped by Italy in the next 18 months, or will I be able to qualify for the WC and poach him. Considering that he looks to be a player with world class potential, whether or not I get him could mean the difference of as much as a decade in terms on the NT progression. Other stuff -Francesco Gualandi is on 44 goals now, but he is being primarily deployed as an AML now. I think the drop down to Division C will give him lots of opportunities to pad that total in two year’s time, even if he isn’t deployed as a striker all the time. I would expect him to reach 50 this upcoming year in World Cup qualifying. -Gualandi is getting heavy interest from A-League sides. Both Berardi and Conti played for nearly a decade in Australia, so I guess we have a bit of a Sammarinese-to-Australia pipeline?
  8. 2032 San Marino National Team: First Half European Championship Playoff: Qualified Euro 2032: 4th in group (1 point) Well, the qualification went pretty well. We were strong against Cyprus, putting the game away late. The Sweden match was a goal bonanza, with us going a goal down early, scoring three on the bounce, then conceding two late in the first half to go in at 3-3. It was eventually settled by a penalty from 35 year-old Filippo Berardi early in the second half. Given that he had attempted to retire after last season, it was a big moment for arguably the best player in SMNT history, and an amazing way to mark him tying Elia Benedettini’s 123 cap record. This got us to a second consecutive European Championship, and we got rewarded with a horror draw: 6th ranked England, 7th ranked Netherlands, and Czech Republic. I saw some big scores against me and maybe a point against the Czechs. The opening match against the Netherlands was one-way traffic, with them scoring early in the second half, then adding to more in the first 30 minutes of the second half. We did het a consolation goal through Gualandi. England rolled through us even more convincingly in the second match, winning 4-0, with minimal fuss. We barely even threatened, to be honest. We went into the final match needing a victory to have an outside shot at qualifying for the knockout rounds. The match against the Czechs saw us again concede first. However, Berardi netted a spectacular free kick to level on 29 minutes. He then doubled his tally in the 66th minute from the spot, giving us a 2-1 lead. I decided to maintain the attacking style after going up, since we had really dominated the opening 20 minutes of the second half. The next ten minutes saw our intensity fizzle a bit, and by the 75th minute, I attempted to hunker down and defend the lead. Bad plan. A mere 90 second later, the Czechs equalize. Knowing I need all three points, I decide to open it up again. The Czechs then hit us on the counter in the 83rd minute to take a 3-2 lead. Despite this, there was another twist to the tale. In the 91st minute, Gualandi latched onto a long ball over the top and cooly slotted past the keeper to level things at 3-3. We attempted to push for a winner, but just had too little time. In any case, history repeats itself, with Gualandi netting a stoppage time equalizer in the final group match to get us a point, just as he had done at Euro 2028 against Wales. As it turns out, the Czechs went through on 2 points to the knockout rounds. That means that we would have gone through had we held on. We were 15 minutes from the knockout stages. Ouch… In any case, a brutal draw made it pretty difficult to exceed our total of one point from Euro 2028, and I think we did well to come as close as we did to getting a win and advancing. Despite conceding 10 goals, Berti played to a 7.2 rating, making a ton of saves throughout the tournament. Additionally, Berardi and Gualandi both scored two goals, and Berardi got an assist. Safe to say these were the three standout performers for us at Euro 2032. In the case of Berardi, I am tempted to retire him from the SMNT. While he is still the most dangerous player in the pool from set pieces, his legs are completely shot. Additionally, I think the Euro campaign was about as close to a fairytale ending as he is likely to get: scoring the winning goal to send us to Euro 2032, then assisting a goal in the first match, and scoring a brace in potentially his final match. Assuming he doesn’t play again, he will finish his San Marino career with 128 caps and 37 goals. Bits and Bobs -As you can see from the schedule, we get another brutal draw, with Sweden and Germany as our group mates in Nations League Division B. -Federico Conti is the first Sammarinese newgen to make it to 100 caps, now on 102 after the Euros. -Francesco Gualandi now has 43 goals. I think he will reach 50 at some point, but the youngster Angelini is coming on strong, with 17 year-old forward already pushing to usurp Gualandi’s spot in the XI. As it stands, the youngster already has 5 goals in 13 appearances, and one would expect that goals-to-games ratio to get stronger as he improves. Fortunately, the lack of wingers means that Gualandi is the best AML in the pool, so I should be able to easily get both in the side, even if I only play with one CF. -The Dutch won Euro 2032, backing up their WC triumph in 2030. The Italians were knocked out in the SF on penalties by Portugal. -Somewhat surprisingly, Francesco Gualandi played to a 7.67 average rating, good enough for third best of the tournament. Unfortunately, he was not named in the team of the tournament. World Ranking: 85 (+8) New Achievements: Have a newgen reach 100 caps
  9. Overpriced transfers. I find a player in the SM League team's youth squad and pay millions for them. If anybody does this, make sure to go after youth players, because the difference in wage demands is significant (~$50k vs. $300k or more). Over the course of 10 or 15 transfers per season, this will make a difference of millions in wage budget/transfer budget. That is pretty frustrating to dump all the money into recruitment and not get any benefit. I have been really lucky on the youth intake front throughout this challenge. I hadn't really thought about how reputation boosts for the San Marino League might lead to better intakes at Calcio. I will need to keep an eye on that moving forward. The problem of what to with mediocre Sammarinese youth seems to be a central problem in this challenge. For myself, I feel like I have a good, young core for the NT, with a keeper, CM and ST that have a chance to be elite quality players, all 21 or younger (although I am terrible at assessing the quality of young players into the future). On top of this, I have a CM and CB who are first-team Serie A types, and another CM and two ST who are kind of "Serie B+" quality (bouncing between top Serie B sides and relegation threatened Serie A sides). However, the mediocre youth players at FB, CB and on the wings seem to really kill our chances of pushing onward with this challenge. This all to say that it seems like you are doing quite well despite the poor intakes. I have 5 legitimate Serie A players and 3 who are just short of that, and I can barely scrape a point at the European Championships, so it feels like WC qualification or Euro SF is a long way off for me.
  10. San Marino Calcio 2031-32 League: Champions Italian Cup: Champions Champions League: Runner-up (l. to Tottenham) Club World Cup: Champions European Super Cup: Winner Italian Super Cup: Winner Season Summary Serie A: We clinched the league with a game to spare, but we did our very best to bottle it, taking only 8 points in our final 6 league matches. Fortunately, we had a sizable cushion and games in hand to eventually crawl over the finish line for our 3rd consecutive title and 5th in 6 years. Having done the double over Juve eased the stress considerably. Coppa Italia: A pretty straightforward run through the cup, our only challenge was Atalanta in the quarterfinal, where we required an 80th minute winner from Lasso after they scored a 76th minute equalizer. We never trailed in the cup, led every match at the half, and won all but the Atalanta match by multiple goals. Easy enough. Italian Super Cup: We played Empoli (apparently, the Super Cup spot goes to the Coppa runner up, not the league runner up, if one team does the double). An easy 6-0 victory, with Arzilli and de Haas both registering a hat trick. However, the highlight of the match was Jean Ruiz contributing 5(!) assists. European Super Cup: We went 1-0 down to Inter in the 4th minute, then dominated the match, eventually running out 3-1 winners. Club World Cup: We beat a Pachuca team that had bunkered in for the semifinal 3-0. We then beat River 5-1 in the final. In both cases, the scorelines were an accurate reflection of our dominance. Happy to take home another trophy. Champions League: We were drawn in a group with PSV, OM, and Liverpool and got through on 12 points, sweeping PSV and OM, and losing to Liverpool twice by a combined scoreline of 8-1. In the first knockout round we drew Real Madrid, setting up a rematch of the previous year’s final. We won the first leg at home 2-0 and grabbed an early away goal in the second leg, eventually seeing out a 4-2 aggregate win. We then squeezed out a 2-1 win over Bayern in the quarterfinal that should probably have been 4 or 5 to 1 if the finishing were better. The semifinal draw gave us Liverpool again. The first leg was a tale of two halves. The first half saw the Reds dominate, eventually going into the half 2-0 up. I laid into the team at half time and got the desired response immediately: Ilir Sulaj got us on the board within 20 seconds, which was followed up by a quickfire brace from Giuliani. We took a 3-2 lead within 2 minutes and 30 seconds! In fairness to us, although the goals came quickly, we continued to dominate the second half and the overall match statistics suggest that we were the slightly better team over the 90. The three away goals set us up nicely. In the second leg, Liverpool scored early to level things on aggregate, which was then canceled out by a Lasso strike in the 45th minute. No more goals, and we go through 4-3 on aggregate. The final gave us a matchup against Spurs, who had knocked out PSG on away goals in the semifinal. Incidentally, Spurs had won the 2030 edition of CL, creating an enticing matchup between the last two winners of the competition. The match was about as exciting as a 0-0 match can be, with both sides making an attempt to push forward and both keepers made to work to keep a clean sheet, especially Tottenham’s keeper Guillon. The critical moment for us was a chance for Nicolo Giuliani in the 90th minute, when he was played through on goal but just couldn’t finish, with Guillon making another fantastic save. In extra time, they finally found the breakthrough in the 117th minute to take a 1-0 lead. However we immediately responded through a de Haas tap in on 118 minutes to level it and hopefully go to penalties. It was not to be, though, as Spurs scored what would prove to be the winning goal on 119 minutes thanks to a deflection that found its way to the feet of world class Dutch forward Ayoub Mazlum, who made no mistakes in applying the finish. I am obviously very disappointed to lose in this manner, especially given that I had 3 clear cut chances to their 0. In fairness, though, they seemed to have the better of the “good” chances from my perspective, and they were the stronger side in the extra period. Penalties would have been a fair result, but I can’t have too many complaints. The season was another successful one. Another Serie A triumph and another Coppa Italia victory (and to think, two seasons ago I was just hoping to get to a Coppa Italia semifinal). We also won the two “super cups,” which come with a bit of cash, so that’s nice. The Club World Cup is worth winning, I think, but it is also fair to say that I should be winning it, considering that 10 of the previous 11 winners of the competition were European champions. I am, however, most proud that we backed up our CL win last year with another run to the final, proving that the previous year wasn’t a fluke. I was pretty gutted to lose it, but we had gone on a run of more than 2 years without being eliminated from a competition (coincidentally, the last elimination we suffered was in February 2030, in the first knockout round of CL to Spurs). During that span, we had a fair share of riding our luck and smash-and-grab victories, so at some point the good fortune must expire. We go again next year. Transfers I didn’t have much in the way of outgoings. Martinez was unsettled and Amick wasn’t likely to get a game. On these two players, I made a profit of $21M. I also made about $5M in loan fees, which is nice little boost to cash flow. Lastly, I sold high potential Sammarinese youngster Bonifazi. I have tried everything I can to try developing him and nothing works: mentoring, training with the first team, loans for first team football. This is just a Hail Mary at this point and I hope Man City can get something out of him. The incomings are sort of messed up because of the San Marino League transfers. Diego is the “big money” signing of this season, but the pacy young Brazilian CB seems like he will be a quality player for what I am trying to do. Molina is just a total profit buy. He is young and has decent enough potential. I figure I can loan him and/or use him as a rotation piece over the next couple seasons and potentially sell him for a huge profit on the $3.2M outlay. I bought the 16 year-old Bazzucchi as a potential replacement to Ardura as my reserve LB. Already an Italian U-20 international, he represents good value for money and could potentially be sold on at a large profit. The best value, however, is German CB Sebastian Fleig. He left Stuttgart on a free and served as a rotation piece for us, also deputizing as a reserve DM when Menella was injured, earning his full international debut in November. His versatility is an asset, so he can either be sold for around $50M, or he can hang around the squad and get some appearances. Youth Watch Nobody outstanding in this year’s intake. I have been absurdly lucky with youth intakes during my tenure, so I can’t complain if I have a few so-so classes. In any case, Valentini may develop into a rotation CM, but it is doubtful he will be better than Balducci and Stefanelli, falling more in the Albani category of quality. A few of these wingers and full backs may be in the SMNT because of a lack of options. Club Finances/Infrastructure We increased the size of the stadium, maxing out the expansion for the current ground with over 40000 spectators now. We have massively increased sponsorship revenue as previous deals expired, allowing our balance to stay basically the same at $244M. Not bad, considering we were pretty light on outgoings, having spent over $100M more than I took in. Future Plans/Miscellanea -I think it is time to put Berti between the sticks. He played as well as Arraial in his ten club matches and he played well for the SMNT as well. Should develop, and I would be happy to get a fee around the $65M valuation on the Brazilian shot-stopper. -I am letting Alberto Righi go on a free. He came up with us from Serie C, making 217 league appearances for the club. He had been a rotation piece for several years, but found himself more on the fringes of late, despite consistently playing to a 7.2 rating. He has a special place for me in this challenge because he was the first player I brought through the academy that was clearly Serie A quality, sticking with us in the lower Italian leagues despite interest from European giants, most notably Manchester United. I’m pleased we repaid that loyalty with 11 winner’s medals, turning the Sammarinese youngster into a European champion. -Ilir Sulaj is getting interest from all the European big boys. I am willing to sell him (like anybody else), but the number is huge. I’m thinking around $130M just to get me considering it. Mariscal is getting less interest, but a similar number would be required. -Nicolo Giuliani now has the record for most league appearances with 301. He also has 154 Serie A goals for his career. Having just turned 27, he is another one I would consider selling, but probably only if a bid north of $100M came in. -I dumped $135M into the San Marino League this term, bringing the total investment in the league to $165M. I expect to keep pumping $100M+ into the league annually, and perhaps even more if my “buy low, sell high” keeps giving me the current results and I keep winning significant prize money. I presume that getting $500M in the league will yield real results down the road. As it stands, San Marino is 40th in the nation coefficient table, and the league moved up from 93rd to 90th in reputation. Significantly, I invested $10M each in La Fiorita, Domagnano, Tre Penne and Folgore early in the winter window. Ultimately, these were the four clubs that took the European slots, with La Fiorita securing CL. I presume this additional investment will give them a bit of a war chest with which to navigate at least the early rounds of European competition. Finally, a question for the community How are you all going about this challenge to achieve the long-term goals of winning CL with a Sammarinese squad and, ultimately, to win a World Cup/European Championship? I had, rather naively, believed I could win all of this with just the Calcio academy, only coming to the realization within the last one or two seasons that this would take a whole lot of luck, because you need to both consistently get quality players (which I have been fortunate to do) AND they need to play a variety of positions (where I have been somewhat unlucky, having a glut of CMs and STs, but few wingers and defenders). As such, I have taken the approach of investing huge sums of money into the SM League, using Calcio as a patron of sorts. I know a few people have taken control of both Calcio and an SM League squad. I am just curious to know how others are trying to accomplish this challenge.
  11. 2031 San Marino National Team: European Championship Qualifying Euro Qualification: 3rd (11 points) I have had no new commitments from dual nationals. I hope to qualify for the next WC and get them into the fold. Big shouts to @duesouth for that helpful hint. The qualification campaign was undermined by injuries, as I lost Conti, F. Gualandi, Steffanelli and Balducci for multiple matches each. Losing the four best players in the pool is always going to hurt. Despite this, we managed to take 9 points from our first five matches, which set us up with a chance in our final 3 matches to perhaps sneak a place. Then I got to deal with heaps of frustration. Against FYR Macedonia I dominated, only to throw away a 2-0 lead, complete with a 94th minute penalty for them to equalize. In the final international break, I lost Gualandi, the SMNT all-time goals leader. Ugh. However, the Italy match saw 16 year-old forward Manuel Angelini seize on an early mistake, pouncing on a poor first touch from an Italian CB and rifling past the keeper in the 12th minute. I decided no to be as naïve as previous matches against top sides. I decided we were going to set up not to concede, hoping to frustrate the European Champions/World Cup runner-up. More critically, we would keep our qualification hopes alive with a win. The minutes ticked by and I started to believe. The Italians couldn’t fashion much, but in the 90th minute, they found an equalizer off a wide free kick. The match finished 1-1 and our qualification dreams were dashed. Gutting. The cherry on top of all this was the Norway match, where we created the better of the chances and just couldn’t finish. Just one of those stretches, and for the first time as NT manager, I feel we have stagnated a bit. Based on the way we bossed Norway in both matches and the FYR Macedonia match that we ultimately drew, it is not unfair to say that in another campaign we could have had 16-18 points and gone through. I am obviously pleased to have gotten a draw against the best national team in the world, but conceding late on and having pretty frustrating results otherwise has dampened my enthusiasm a little bit. Fortunately, our International League performance has given us another crack at it. Bits and Bobs -Francesco Gualandi is on 40 goals now. I would be surprised if he doesn’t reach 50. -Despite his declining skills and impending retirement, Filippo Berardi is on 123 caps and still appearing regularly. I presume he will at least play through the playoff, and I hope I can get him to 125 before he rides off into the sunset. -I’m going to continue pouring huge sums of money into the San Marino League. We need improvement in Sammarinese youth in advance of WC 2034. -Here is Angelini. He has PA higher than both A. Gualandi and Arzilli. He already has 4 goals in 7 appearances (5 starts). I have every reason to believe he will spearhead the attack alongside Gualandi in the near future. World Ranking: 93 (+7)
  12. 2030-31 San Marino Calcio League: Champions Coppa Italia: Winners! Champions League: Winners! Italian Super Cup: Winners! Transfers Season Summary Serie A: Another Serie A triumph takes us to 4 titles in 5 years. The season started slowly, as we only took 16 points from our opening 10 matches. This was made even more frustrating by the fact that we generally bossed the matches, only for us to drop points. Fortunately, we turned things around after an early November loss to surprise package Atalanta, winning our remaining 8 matches to close the year. At the halfway point, Atalanta led the way with 46 points, somehow winning 15 and losing only 3 despite a goal difference of only +12. I assumed this was not sustainable, and so it proved. We played fairly well in the second half of the season, totaling another 39 points over the next 17 matches to clinch the title with 2 games to spare. I played youngsters in these final matches to focus more on other competitions, putting another point on the board. This season is a testament to how strong the squad has become, as we won the league quite easily, even while failing to cash in on our dominance in a bunch of matches throughout the season. Coppa Italia: It finally happened! Those that have followed along here and on the FM19 challenge board may know of my struggles in the Coppa Italia, having NEVER advanced past the quarterfinal of this competition during my tenure, often owing to really tough draws. This time around, we got another tough draw in Napoli, but managed to sneak a 1-0 win to advance. Fortunately, the draw really opened up for us at this point, with Inter, Torino and Empoli making the semis. We got Torino and were unlucky to only draw the match. We corrected this quickly, scoring 3 first half goals to take a commanding 4-1 lead in the tie. At this point, I shut up shop and eased to a 4-1 victory after a Torino sending off early in the second half. Our luck continued as Empoli surprised Inter with a 1-0 aggregate victory. We took full advantage of the opportunity, coming from a goal down to beat Empoli in the final. It was made all the sweeter by academy product and long-serving center back Vagnetti smashing home the winning goal in the 69th minute. My man is now a legend in Calcio lore. Champions League: The group stage was much like the first half of the Serie A season: a failure to make our advantage count as much as it should despite an objectively successful campaign. In any case, we won the group and were rewarded with PSG. PSG had won CL 4 times and finished as runner-up once in the preceding 6 seasons. I thought we would fall at the first hurdle, but we came through relatively easily, 5-4 on aggregate. A pair of straightforward 1-0 victories against Dortmund followed, and we found ourselves in the semifinal against Sevilla, while the other semi was a Barca-Real Madrid matchup. Lucky draw for us. We took the first match of the series in dominant fashion 3-0. I figured job done, especially when I added a fourth in the 20th minute of the second leg, giving us the critical away goal advantage. Sevilla responded in short order with 2 goals, but then had a man sent off late in the first half. A 4-2 advantage with an extra man is job done, right? Nope, as the shorthanded club put two more on the board to level at 4-4 in the 79th minute. We withstood the barrage over the final 10 minutes, ultimately having a man sent off in stoppage time but coming through on away goals. Disaster averted. The final saw us take on Real Madrid at the Bernebeu, and I am truly just happy to have come this far and fully expected to leave as the runner up. Jean Ruiz had different plans, heading us into the lead 65 seconds into the match. He then added a second to finish a counterattack. We were 2-0 up in 12 minutes. From here, I decided to try holding on to what I had, playing on the counter the rest of the way. Madrid got one back in the 32nd minute, but didn’t fashion any other significant chances the remainder of the match. In fact, we had the better of the action late on, and could have added 1 or 2 more. A shocking victory for us, even more shocking because we went toe to toe with Madrid and thoroughly deserved the victory. Italian Super Cup: I don’t count this as a “real” cup victory, but the $2.5M prize is well worth winning. Smashed Juve 4-0 to win it for the 3rd time. Youth Intake Finally got a good forward who is not a dual national. Some decent players otherwise who could make an impact on the SMNT at some point, as well. Club Infrastructure/Finances Financially, the club is in an increasingly strong position. This is largely owing to my transfer dealings over the last three seasons, where I have made a net profit of $90M. I also made $127M in prize money this season. In addition to this, we had another stadium expansion approved, which will be completed in October of 2031. This will bring our capacity upward of 40,000. We also invested in our training facilities again to bring them back up to state of the art. As of July 1, we have $253M in the bank. Here is a list of squad values and the transfer fees I paid, just to give an idea of the profit margins: What Next?: I have pretty much accomplished everything I can realistically do at San Marino Calcio at this point. In order to win anything with only Sammarinese players, I will need a MUCH larger pool of talent producers than just the Calcio academy. Consequently, the main thing to do this summer is invest heavily in the San Marino League with the $160M budget I have been handed. I will probably stay for the foreseeable future because the health of the San Marino League is dependent on repeated injections of cash from my Serie A squad. I think I will send $10M to the Europe-qualified sides in San Marino, and $5M to all others. Now that San Marino is 41st in the coefficient rankings, this mean 1 CL spot and 3 EC spots. This means an outlay of $85M, which still gives me about $80M to bring new players in, if needed (assuming no outgoings). Bits and Bobs -The CL final was also my 600th match as a manager, so that was a great way to mark the occasion. -Filippo Berardi attempted to retire after leaving Adelaide United. However, I convinced him to stick around and will be bringing him to Calcio as a result. This should keep him in the frame for Euro 2032 as well. On the other hand, Elia Benedettini retired at the end of the season as San Marino’s most capped plater, with 123 appearances. -The San Marino League is up to 93rd from 106th in the European competition rankings. For context, this is between Serie C (72nd) and Serie D (123rd). -We are up to 20th in the European club rankings. -Christian Pulisic has 197 caps for the US!!! (I'm an American, so the idea of Pulisic getting nearly 200 caps fills me with untold joy). Newly Completed Goals: Win the Coppa Italia, Win the Champions League.
  13. 2030 San Marino National Team European International League: 1st of 3 (8 points) After a strong, but ultimately unsuccessful, World Cup qualifying campaign, we returned to action in March with a pair of friendlies against Albania and Liechtenstein. Albania is quality opposition, ranked 53rd. Liechtenstein, on the other hand, is the second worst national team in the rankings, checking in at 210th. So one match is a test and the other is a feel-good match for us. The highlight of the Albania match was the most aesthetically unpleasing hat trick I have ever seen, courtesy of Francesco Gualandi. The first goal occurred when the Albanian keeper came off his line and headed just outside the box, landing at Gualandi’s feet. From here, he eased the ball over the keeper from 35 yards out to get his first. The second came off a long ball, from which Gualandi rounded the keeper and cooly finished. The last goal occurred when the keeper was charged down by the forward, with his attempted clearance deflecting off Gualandi into the net. In any case, we went 4-1 up and saw out a 4-3 victory. Meanwhile, the Liechtenstein match was every bit the demolition job I thought it would be, with us dealing a 6-0 beatdown. Gualandi added 2 more goals to his international total, taking him above Conti and within 2 of Berardi. At the rate he is going, the 25 year-old forward could well end up with 50+ international goals. Coincidentally, we happened to draw Albania in International League, along with Northern Ireland. I felt good about the draw, considering that I won a friendly against Albania earlier this year and had beaten Northern Ireland last time we played, in the European Championships Playoff final in 2028. I won the first two matches, which set us up nicely. A draw with Albania in the third match put us through with a game to spare. Unfortunately, we only managed to draw with Northern Ireland at home to finish the group, despite dominating the game. Annoying, but “getting FM’ed” has been a recurring thing for club and country since August, so just one of those patches. In any case, a little draw luck has helped us to get promoted to Division B ahead of when I thought we might get there by at least 2 years. In the midst of this, we also lost to Serbia and destroyed Australia in a pair of friendlies. The other group winners are Slovenia, Sweden and Cyprus. All of us failed to qualify through the traditional route, so this will be the foursome for the playoff. I would make the Swedes huge favorites, but the straight knockout format means everybody has a chance. I would love to draw Cyprus. They dominated us in my first International League, so getting one over on them would feel like some tangible progress. In any case, a couple new SMNT achievements, @duesouth! Bits and Bobs -We achieved a high ranking of 99 in November after beating Australia. -Francesco Gualandi lit it up for the SMNT this year, scoring 12 in 8 matches for a rating of 8.6. He and Berardi are now tied on 34 goals for the all time lead. I would guess Gualandi will get to 50 goals, barring commitments from two of the dual national strikers in the immediate future. -Conti has 89 caps and Righi has 84. Barring injuries, I would expect Conti and Righi to reach 100 caps within two years. The caveat here is that the addition of only one of the dual international forwards would push Conti to the bench, whereas Righi is in a much more secure squad position. World Ranking: 100 (+7) Newly Completed Goals: Get Promoted From Nations League C, Get San Marino into the top 100 of the rankings.
  14. 2029-30 San Marino Calcio League: Champions! Italian Cup: Quarterfinal (l. to Juventus) Champions League: First Knockout Round (l. to Spurs) Summer Transfers In: Christopher Menella ($28M), Arraial ($18.5), Eric Martinez ($18M), Hector Andreu ($5.5M), Matija Krovinovic ($1.1M) Out: Victor Villamizar ($58M), Milos Djokic ($17.5M), Daniel Slobozeanu ($12.5M), Josh Dyche ($9.5M) Arraial was a great signing for us, especially as I let Berti develop. I expect him to be a quality keeper for us, with me getting a huge profit (3x or more) off the investment when I sell him in 3-4 years. Krovinovic is a similar acquisition, with the 17 year-old Croatian midfielder (a young 17, at that) looking like he could be a world class player in the future. Seems like I will make big money off him. True to my word, I kept my commitment to sell Victor Villamizar at the end of the season, with Chelsea coming in with a reasonable bid for the player, which also includes a 20% sell-on on profit. This money was then invested into Menella and Martinez as defensive midfielders. Menella is 21, and has some room for development. He is the better of the two and would also be expected to be a profitable acquisition from Juve. Meanwhile, Martinez is 24 and represents a good rotation option at DM from Atletico Madrid. I am also just glad to have two players that can plug into that position and do a job, since previous years it was Villamizar as first-choice and a bunch of half-capable players when he wasn’t available. Slobozeanu and Dyche were both just cleared out to make room for Sammarinese (or potential Sammarinese) players. Slobozeanu is a quality striker, but I need to get Arzilli and Gualandi in the fold. Meanwhile, I was more than happy to move along the mediocre Dyche to get Steffanelli some matches, especially since Steffanelli is going to be wonderkid and has a perfectionist personality. First Half Summary The first half of the season went incredibly well in the league. We tied the record for first half points in a Serie A season since taking over at Calcio, taking 47 from 19 matches. This allowed us to go into the new year 8 points clear of Juventus and 17 clear of 5th placed Entella. We also had 48 goals and a +31 differential. The next best team was Napoli, with 37 and +17, respectively. Given the large lead we have over Juve at this point, it would be a disappointment to not see this one out. In Champions League, we drew Man City, Sevilla and Galatasaray. Definitely a tougher group than I would have liked. I expected City and Sevilla to be the strongest competition, and I was unsure I would make it through. However, we dominated both matches against Galatasaray and City, taking all 12 points against them and outscoring the opposition 11-0 over these 4 matches. Sevilla was a different story, as I lost 2-1 in a match that was fairly even, then lost 3-0 in the reverse, which was a fair result. Through to the knockouts with a game to spare, and I finished on 12 points. Decent enough. Winter Transfers: In: Albert De Haas ($18.5M), Luis Castillo ($13.25M), David Mariscal ($21M) Out: Cristian Milan ($50M), Nikola Dodic ($30M), Nikola Radisic ($4.6M) De Haas was brought in from Ajax to replace Milan as the AMR. While slightly worse, de Haas saved us a lot of money, and the transfers gave a clear space for Lasso in the XI. Dodic was sold to Milan for a really nice fee. The young Serbian is a good player, and I loved his versatility, but I just couldn’t turn down an offer of that size for a player that was very much on the periphery of my squad. Radisic was the last player out, with the third choice RB moving for a modest fee. The two other incomings are young players. Luis Castillo is a young Ecuadorian CB who looks like he will be immense. The lack of a non-EU slot means he won’t play for us until next season. David Mariscal is an 18 year-old Spanish CM who looks like he could be a world-class player. I was able to get him from Villareal on the cheap because of a release clause, and I expect to turn a massive profit on him. I also sent $22.5 million to the San Marino League at the end of the window. I look forward to seeing if this helps the league in European competition this summer. Second Half Summary: The second half of the season got off to another disappointing start. We started by throwing away a lead against Juventus in the Italian Cup to again fall at the quarterfinal stage. My failures in this competition are nothing short of shocking, as I STILL have not gone past this stage during my time at Calcio. I followed this up by beating Entella (more on them later) and losing again to Juventus in the league, closing our lead to 5 points. Juventus kept their form through early March, but we had similar results over this period. By mid-March, Juve began dropping points unexpectedly, allowing us to re-establish our stranglehold on the title race. Unfortunately, we lost to Spurs in CL 5-3 on aggregate. This is especially gutting because 3 of Spurs’ 5 goals came through two pens and an OG. After getting knocked out of CL, we took 27 out of 33 points over the next 11 matches, which clinched the league for us going away. We ultimately finished on 90, 14 clear of runner-up Juventus. Key Players Nicolo Giuliani (ST)- He slowed down on his goalscoring in the latter part of the year, but has 120 goals for us in Serie A for his career. Stiven Lasso (AMR)- A young Colombian winger, he has generated interest from several large clubs across Europe. Bought for only $1M, he has been an absolute bargain. David Mariscal (CM)- The Spanish CM was still only 18 at the end of the campaign. I paid $21M for him, but he seems like he could well end up being one of the very best CMs in the world. Ilir Sulaj (CM)- This guy may well be my favorite signing because of the backstory. Born in Albania, the youngster is a dual Albanian/Italian international. He came through the Fidelis Andria academy, a Serie D side, helping them to promotion as a 16 year-old. I brought him in for $350K after he spent a season on the bench in Serie C, and he has worked his way into the first team and the Italian national team. I love getting these lower league gems. Nenem (LB) Arraial (GK) Youth Watch Marco Cenci is the best player in the intake. Unfortunately, he is yet another dual national striker. Meanwhile Massimo Montanari has indicated that he may accept a SMNT call in the future, although being loaded at CM has made this less of a hit to the national team program. Allessandro Gualandi (ST)- Consistently improving, the 21 year old dual national got a run of games in the second half of the season when Giuliani went through a barren spell. The youngster rewarded me with 6 goals in 11 matches, with improving play in the latter stages of the season. Federico Balducci (CM)- Didn’t really kick on, playing to a 6.8 rating in 27 league appearances. Safe to say he is a graduate at this point, but he has not recaptured the form that got him into the Serie B Team of the Year two seasons ago. One problem I have is that I play with a mezzala and BBM in midfield, whereas Balducci’s best role is DLP. I may alter the BBM role to DLP for him specifically to see if I can get the best out of him next year. Nicola Arzilli (ST)- Meh. Arzilli got first crack as Giuliani’s understudy, but didn’t do much with the opportunity, only netting once in 14 appearances (granted 13 were as a substitute). I’m having a hard time gauging which of the two dual national strikers will be better. I was hoping one would take a clear advantage and freeze the other out. Now I’m worried that I might lose both of them, with the lesser of the two only getting a handful of appearances for Italy. Giacomo Bonifazi (CM)- A poor personality has stalled development, and the mentoring group has helped much more slowly than expected. Listed him for loan, but had no takers. Yet again he did not make a first team appearance and absolutely dominated U20. I need to move him along, either on loan or permanently, since development is just not happening. Roberto Stefanelli (CM)- Steffanelli’s place in the Calcio team as compared to Bonifazi can almost wholly be chalked up to personality. While Bonifazi is casual, Steffanelli is a perfectionist. The two players, born 3 months apart, were basically at the same place developmentally when they came in. Now 3 years on, Steffanelli looks like he could be top Serie A player. He made 14 appearances, including 4 starts, scoring 3 goals and averaging a 7.0 rating. I’ll keep getting him matches, especially if I can get a big fee for one of the players ahead of him in the CM pecking order. Michele Rattini (CB)- He was here for half the season, making no first team appearances. I then loaned him out in January to Serie A rivals Torino to serve as a rotation piece. He made 6 appearances, winning a couple U19 player of the week awards and averaging a 7.2 rating. He has all the physical attributes I look for in a CB. We shall see if I can get him in the first team. Turning 19 at the end of June, he is on U20s duty with Italy. The wait continues for the SMNT, but I am getting more optimistic. Thomas Berti (GK)- Development is going well so far. Played to an average rating of 7.0 for club and country. Still third choice, I may loan him out to a Serie B side for some first team matches. I think he is going to be awesome. Marco Cenci (ST)- Yet another forward with dual nationality, the youngster has developed nicely since his intake in March, thanks to a professional personality. Surely one of these strikers will sign on for us, right? Other stuff -Newly promoted Entella had one of the strangest seasons I have ever seen. They got 30 points through the first half of the season to finish fifth. They then only got 2 in the second half of the season, getting relegated on 32 points. I’ve never seen such a dramatic change within a season. -The San Marino League’s ranking is up to 106th, up from 119th last season and 128th from two seasons ago. Rapidly moving in the right direction. -Despite my investments in the San Marino League, I still finished the season with $150M in the bank. -The Netherlands finally broke through to win the 2030 World Cup. -Neymar was hired as Brazil’s manager after the WC. Hilarious.
  15. 2029 San Marino National Team: World Cup 2030 Qualification Campaign World Cup Qualification: 3rd out of 5 (14 points) We were drawn into a group with Spain, Denmark, Hungary and Kosovo. Given the draw, I expect to exceed the previous SMNT records for wins (1) and points (5) in a WC qualification campaign. I am targeting a 3rd place finish right now. Luckily, we will know early on whether we have a legitimate chance to push for the top 2, since we get Denmark on the 3rd and 4th matchday. I’m not expecting anything out of it, but you never know. In any case, I should be better than Hungary and Kosovo. I also hope that this campaign will keep us on the march toward a top 100 ranking. The first two matchdays saw us get Hungary and Spain. The match away to Hungary saw us trade goals in the opening 20 minutes. Despite us really dominating the game in terms of possession, shots, and quality of chances, we were deadlocked for the next 70 minutes. Fortunately, we eventually got reward for our dominance, as Giacomo Bonifazi scored a winner deep into stoppage time with a thunderbolt from just outside the box. A 2-1 win to get a deserved 3 points. For the second match, we welcomed the Spaniards to San Marino. Our defenses we breached in the 35th and 36th minute and we went on to lose 4-0. No surprises sprung here. The second pair of matches brought us a home and away with the Danes. In the home fixture, we took a 1-0 lead through Stefanelli in the first half, only to be pegged back by Denmark early in the second half. The match ultimately finished 1-1, which was a fair result on the night and a fantastic result for our squad. It also had me daring to dream that we could sneak to second in the group if we had another strong showing in the reverse. Unfortunately, my optimism was soon dashed. We were only 1-0 down at the half, but 3 more goals in the first 6 minutes of the second killed this one off, as we lost 5-0. A limp and listless performance, to say the least. At least 3rd looks achievable. Matchdays 5 and 6 in qualifying saw us get Kosovo and have an open date. About a month before the matches, we got a friendly offer from Germany to fill matchday 6. A good opportunity to test ourselves against top opposition. The match away to Kosovo got off to a poor start, as we conceded in 3rd minute via a free header from a free kick. However, we immediately responded with an Alex Ugolini tap in, as Filippo Berardi whipped free kick in to the far post, where Alberto Righi looped a header over the keeper, allowing Ugolini to pounce first on the easy opportunity. Parity only lasted 8 minutes, however, as Balducci gave the ball away cheaply, allowing Kosovo to counter and re-establish their lead. Despite our superiority over the first 45, we remained 2-1 down going into the break. This status was short-lived, however, with Alex Ugolini sweeping home a Gualandi cross to finish a brilliant attacking move. From here, we increasingly dominated possession, continuing to pin Kosovo back in their own half. Then, in the 82nd minute, disaster struck. Alberto Righi slid in on Kosovar forward Berisha in the box. It looked like he won the ball cleanly, but the penalty was given. Berisha stepped up, looking to be the match winner. He decided to go right down the middle, but Thomas Berti was ready for it. Penalty saved! From this point on, we continued to dominate, with Bonifazi narrowly missing off a free kick, and Gualandi forcing an acrobatic save late on. In the 93rd minute, we FINALLY broke through to take a well-deserved lead. The Kosovar keeper Vula came to try to claim the corner, but fumbled away the ball. San Marino veteran Righi was on hand to take the strike on the half-volley into the open net to give us a 3-2 lead deep into stoppage time. The drama was not over, though. Kosovo came down the other end and won a corner, from which they won a header in the box that rattled the crossbar. Bugli cleared and the match was over. Fortunate, and very happy, not to concede the equalizer. A big result, as 2 wins and 7 points sets a record for a San Marino qualifying campaign, despite playing in a smaller group, and I have 2 winnable matches (home to both Hungary and Kosovo) in the last 3 matches. The friendly with Germany was a straightforward affair, with us suffering a reasonable 3-0 defeat, conceding the 3rd late on. Happy with the performance overall. Matchdays 7 and 8 give us Hungary at home, followed by a trip to Spain. Against Hungary, we went 1-0 down from a free kick in the7th minute. Another early goal, something new and exciting. A well-worked set piece allowed us to equalize in the 26th minute through Stefano Righi. In the late stages of the first half, we then took the lead, as Balducci hit an inch-perfect cross for Francesco Gualandi to head home, giving us a 2-1 lead at the break. We doubled our advantage shortly after the break, with Montagnani heading in from 6 yards. The Hungarians pulled one back, but we saw out the 3-2 result. We then played Spain. The game started fantastically, and we went 1-0 up from a Stefanelli strike. The advantage lasted a surprising twenty minutes, but a brace late in the half put Spain 2-1 up. They added another in the 72nd minute to secure the victory. The last two match days give us Kosovo and an open date, which is filled by a friendly with 15th ranked DR Congo. The match against Kosovo was straightforward, as we were pretty dominant, ultimately running out 2-0 winners after a couple early second half goals. We then got our best ever win against the Congolese side, winning the match 2-1. Fantastic result, even in a friendly. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come for the SMNT. We failed to qualify for WC, but had a strong campaign, finishing third in the group. Along the way, we amassed 13 points, sweeping Hungary and Kosovo, and getting a very fair point against Denmark. By far the best showing in SMNT history. The coming year sees us enviously spectate the WC before another round of International League. Excited for this one, since I figure we will be among the strongest teams in Division C, and this is the year for potential Euro qualification. Bits and Bobs -Berti has quickly progressed to SMNT first choice, limiting Benedettini to 123 caps. I may get him to 125, but he is a clear second-choice at this point. The lack of obvious choices on the wing mean that Fillipo Berardi, newest member of the century of caps club (106 caps) will probably be in the fold awhile longer, especially since he can play on either flank. He will likely become the all-time caps leader for San Marino. The next three most capped players are Bacciocchi (84), Conti (81), and Righi (76). -Career Goals leaders: Berardi (28), Conti (25), and Gualandi (22). It looks increasingly likely that Berardi may not even reach retirement as the leading career scorer for the national team, with the younger strikers scoring at an impressive rate of roughly 1 goal per 3 games. -I am beginning to inject investment payments into the San Marino league, which I hope can bring benefits to the SMNT over time by supplying decent squad players. In January of 2029, I sent $290K in transfer fees to La Fiorita. I followed this up in the summer of 2029 with $1M payments to La Fiorita, Folgore, Cosmos, Domagnano and Juvenes Dogana. Given that I have $80M in transfer budget for the club and I probably will not spend much, if any, of it in January, I think as much as $20-$30M more may be funneled into the league, especially with us dominating Serie A through the first half of the season. I am also getting interest in a lot of high value players and have rejected huge offers for some of them (e.g. a rejected offer of $80M for wonderkid Stiven Lasso), which will fill my coffers and allow for further investment. This may also be helpful for a possible future job in the San Marino League, if the board decides to fire me for wasting all their money like that. XD -I also made a change at Calcio with my Head of Youth Development being replaced by someone that I hope can recruit me players from a lot of different positions, particularly wingers and defensive mids. World Ranking: 107 (+14) Here are the best players for the SMNT as of May 2030: And here are the best dual nationals who have yet to commit to us (Vagnetti is in Italy's World Cup squad, so he is as good as gone):
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