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  1. Real kick in the teeth to go out like that, but you're in the process of building a great side. I'm sure next season will be different. It's funny cause I signed Filip Stevanovic as well, but he hasn't delivered on his promise in my game and after a year of virtually no development, I decided to sell him. He must have variable potential.
  2. Yeah, we weren't ready for them this year, but I expect us to reach that level soon. Definitely! We want that second league title badly. 2 doubles in a row would be even sweeter! Exactly, we need to turn those home draws into wins and the minimal losses into draws. Just hope that if we do make CL next season, the group is a little bit easier. As for competition, the Russian league does have some solid teams, but in European terms they aren't top tier, but rather a level or sometimes 2 below. This means we have to change our approach a little in the CL and we struggled with that this season.
  3. League | Until the winter break After 3 losses in a row, we needed to consolidate. First up was a tough away game to Krasnodar. We scraped through and got that important win. From there on we hit last season's form and it became smooth sailing. Only 3 conceded goals in 8 games meant we had regained that defensive stability that had become our trademark. In the end we managed 7 wins and a draw, away to CSKA. Impressive run that brought back into first position. Games 11-18: 7 wins, 1 draw, 0 losses, GD: 17-3 *** Notable player performances Espinola continued to impress. 7 league goals from our roaming playmaker in half a season, crazy numbers. And he wasn't just scoring goals, he was also one of our most creative players and now wanted by Klopp. Pineiro was another player who was really improving rapidly. While the early part of the season was about his assists, he was now adding goals as well. A goal in all of our last 4 games, playing as an inverted winger (S). Our top signing, Mitrovic, hadn't found his form just yet. There were hopeful signs at times, but it was clear he needed more time to settle compared our other new striker, Petkov. *** The standings at the winter break The table was looking much better already. A healthy 6 point lead on Zenit, while CSKA could potentially get back to a 5 point deficit. With nothing else to play for than the league and domestic cup, we'll be fully concentrated. Last year was unexpected, but this year we have a different set of expectations. We want that title and we want to get back to the Champions League ASAP. Interesting to note was that we had already conceded 10 goals compared a total of 11 last season, but at the same time had scored 37 already compared to 43 total last season. I can live with that defensive record, as it's still very good, but I'm very happy about our improvements going forward.
  4. Champions League | The group stage Finally, after 5 years in the game I had reached the biggest stage in world football. And we wouldn't be going up against just any teams. Man City, PSG and Napoli were some of Europe's best. Man City had been losing finalists in 2020, 2021 and lost in the semi's in 2024 PSG had reached the knockout stages every season, except for 1, with a quarter final being their highlight And finally Napoli were last year's semi finalists, having featured in all CL campaigns since 2019/20 as well Advancing from this group would be nothing short of a miracle. *** Fantastic start The first game was at home to PSG. To say we were outplayed would be an understatement. They ran rings around us and we can thank our goalkeeper, Maximenko, for saving us that day. To make things worse for PSG, we got a penalty in the second half. New guy Petkov slotted it home and so we started out with a big bang! CL group stage: Spartak 1-0 PSG (Petkov p) Look at how stacked that PSG team is. Koulibaly, De Jong, Sterling, Mbappe, Neymar and many other great players. What a start! *** Back to reality If we were on cloud 9 after the first game, Man City made sure to kick us back down to earth in the next one. We lost 5-1 in Manchester, having been down 4-0 after 33 minutes already. Even though we got outplayed badly in both games, we used them to learn our major weaknesses and fine tune our more defensive set-up. *** Signs of hope The home game against Napoli was much better. I think we deserved the win, even if it was close, but Napoli got the late goal to deny us. Still, 4 points after 3 games was better than I expected. The tough part was the schedule: we'd have to play Vs PSG and Napoli away from home and had a tough home game against Man City as our final match. CL group stage: Spartak 1-1 Napoli (Kiselev) *** Naci Unuvar, again.. The next game was away to the same Napoli side and once again we played a solid game. Were they the better side? Yes. But was there big quality gap between the 2 teams? No, there wasn't. When Rumen Petkov (who settled in nicely) scored the equaliser in the 73rd minute, we were hoping to get away with that crucial point, but alas..the same guy who denied us in Moscow, did it in Naples as well: Naci Unuvar. A top talent from the Ajax academy. We lost to Napoli 2-1 and were behind them on results between teams. To advance, even if only to the Europa League KO's would take a small miracle now. *** The best possible start and then.. Away to PSG couldn't have started any better. Within 2 minutes we were up a goal! 2 minutes later however Mbappe scored to equalise.. Neymar added their second and PSG beat us this time. The shot count was much better than during our lucky win in Moscow however, 22-8. We had shown some good things, but ultimately lacked the quality to lock down their fantastic offence. *** Just need a win Vs Man City, easy peasy right? To advance to the Europa League KO's we needed a win over Man City in Moscow and for Napoli not to win against PSG. The great start we had in Paris went the other way this time with Leroy Sane scoring within their first attack. Surely not another embarrassing loss? Not this time! Petkov scored the 1-1, but just when we started hoping, City struck again. In the end we got a penalty, which was converted by Petkov, who now had scored 5 out of our 7 goals total. It finished 2-2, a very respectable result against one of Europe's top sides. CL group stage: Spartak 2-2 Man City (Petkov x 2) *** CL group stage | The results 6 games: 1 win, 2 draws and 3 losses, GD 7-12 *** CL group stage | Final standings And so we finished 4th in this group of death with 5 points from 6 games and not a single loss in Moscow. We conceded 5 of the 12 goals on a rainy night in Manchester. But despite that result we went out with our heads held high. Most of our players were still 21 or younger and this was only our first season in the Champions League. Usually a team that manages to gather 5 points advances to the Europa League, but we just ran out of luck this time. Must have been the universe balancing out our title win earlier that year. Things will definitely get better though! The final standings
  5. Super Cup After winning the double last season, we were paired up with league runners up, CSKA Moscow, in the Super Cup. This trophy is hardly ever a priority and so it wasn't this time either. We used pre-season to make some tactical changes and this game would simply be the major test case. As expected it ended up being a tight game against Brendan Rodgers' CSKA. It looked like it was going to extra time, when 3 minutes before the end our young Russian CB, Adamov, headed the ball on for Kiselev to finish. We held on those last couple of minutes and added our third trophy in one year time. A nice confidence boost right ahead of the new season. Russian Super Cup: CSKA 0-1 Spartak (Kiselev) *** League | The first 10 rounds Our schedule for the opening games was absolutely ridiculous. First we played the Super Cup Vs CSKA, then our first league match away Vs Lokomotiv (last years #3) and then a home game Vs CSKA again. The first one was done and dusted, but I'd have been more than satisfied with 4 points from the first 2 league games. Anything more would be amazing. What actually happened.. well, within 10 minutes we were 2 goals up against Lokomotiv, with Kiselev and our new boy Petkov scoring our goals. The same Loko that beat us 3-0 in the last league game of the previous season. In the end it finished 1-2 to us as Umyarov missed a penalty midway through the second half. But this was a huge win! *** CSKA dominated The game against CSKA was a display of how far we had come. Whereas the Super Cup game could have gone either way, this was one as one-sided as they come. 20-2 in shots and in the end they were happy to walk off the pitch with just a 2-0 loss. Our South Americans, Espinola and Pineiro took care of the goals. 3 tough games, 3 wins. Couldn't have gone any better! *** 5 more wins in a row The next 5 games were fairly routine, with the highlight being a 7-0 win over UFA. We notched 5 wins to take it to 7 total and scored another 15 goals, while we conceded only 1. *** Tactical experimenting gone wrong Even though the results were there, I'm always looking for things to improve. Although we continued with a 4-3-3 formation, we did make some radical changes. Like moving the HB up to central midfield and turning him into a DLP (D). But it's fair to say the experiments didn't go down well. The first 2 games we dominated and were ultimately unlucky to lose, against Arsenal Tula and a revitalised Dinamo Moscow (led by the guy who replaced me at Dinamo Minsk). But in the game against Zenit it became obvious that this was a failed experiment and we'd be going back to the drawing board to make some smaller changes to the tactical set-up we had used at the start of the season. And so we lost 3 games straight and the title race was once again wide open. *** The first 10 league games: 7 wins, 3 losses Our key players during this period were roaming playmaker Espinola, chipping in with 4 goals and our inverted winger, playing on the right, Pineiro, with an impressive 7 assists. *** The league table after 10 rounds: 4th place, but just one point behind the league leaders *** Champions League group stage draw We earned direct qualification by becoming champs, but we were still seeded 4th, which meant that we could potentially get a very tough group. And so it happened.. We drew: Man City, still led by Guardiola PSG, led by Valverde And Napoli, led by Emery By far the toughest group we could have drawn. Coupled with our inexperience, even third place would be considered a major success.
  6. Finances Before we start the new season. Let's take a look at the finances. As you can see we have a very healthy balance at the moment. Partly because even though we spent a lot last summer, we still ended up selling for more. The other important thing to note is that we sold Raphinha for 50 million to Liverpool. No clauses, no instalments, just 50 million. So that sale alone makes up close to one third of our entire balance. We usually lose a couple of million per month and it goes up to 6 million at times, so it's definitely good to have a financial buffer in place. We therefore won't be spending carelessly this summer. Only top talents and first team material will be considered. *** Summer transfer window After a great first season, it was time to weed out the players who were there just for back-up, or those who had been surpassed in quality by youngsters we had signed the previous summer. One of the guys in the second group was our halfback Umyarov. A very solid player, but he had already reached his maximum ability and we had one youngster at the club (Kovacic) ready to replace him, while another one, one of the biggest Russian talents (Yefimov) was out on loan and would be back in the first team this year. I made this decision a month or so into the season, when I saw how well the youngsters were doing. So Umyarov got sold for 19,5 million with clauses that could potentially get it up to 23,5 million. A fantastic fee for someone who isn't even a Russian international. We sold some other back-up players like Ignatjev, Markitesov and Rudenko for minor fees. *** We were only in it to sign first team players or top talents and the first signing we made was one who would mainly be used as striker, but could also play on the left wing if necessary. Definitely first team material and a bit of a steal! Summer signing #1: Rumen Petkov | signed from Ludogorets for 9 million | ST (primary) and AML Obviously a fantastic player. Ideally I'd like to see his off the ball movement and composure a bit higher, next to that stamina, but even like this he's going to be a great addition to the squad. *** My scouts came in with very positive reports however and he was available for free, so we couldn't pass up on this next opportunity. Summer signing #2: Kemokho Ba | signed from Dakar for free | Could be useful on either wing Obviously not a signing for the first team. For now he'll be loaned out and we'll be tracking his development, as he does have some very serious flaws. *** Our last signing was made during the last 10 days of the transfer window. It wasn't one I had planned for months, but with our new style of play beginning to take shape and the idea to move last year's topscorer, Kiselev, out to the wing, I wanted to add a different type of striker. We did spend a lot on this last deal, by far the highest amount I've ever spent and that for a 30 year old. But he has all the characteristics I'm looking for and we're trying to take that next step. We'll see how it pans out. Summer signing #3: Aleksandar Mitrovic | Signed from Fulham for 27 million | ST We'll be playing with a pressing forward and who better than this guy. Great aggression and work rate, the strength to hold up a ball and he can score in multiple ways. Might need some time to adjust, but that's not an issue with Petkov and Kiselev in the squad. *** Transfer overview This year we did spend a bit more than we received, but with our budget and the CL participation money we'll be more than fine. Mihajlovic and Lukichev were signed before I arrived at the club. They both turned 18 and were finally able to join. Mihajlovic is a right back who might have a future with us, but he won't be ready for a while, while the other kid doesn't have the ability or potential to succeed at Spartak. Season expectations They expect us to qualify for the Champions League, which means a top 2 finish They also expect us to be competitive in this years' Champions League And finally they expect us to reach the Russian Cup final
  7. Cheers fellas! Was an amazing season and hopefully an even better one awaits us! Rep wise things can go fast. I started out on a professional (regional) rep and now I'm even getting invited to talks with clubs like this one.. Obviously though, I respectfully declined.
  8. The final league table and key stats An overview of our accomplishments The final league table Three very telling stats in this picture: Our best player and the man who left us to join Liverpool for 50 million during the winter break, Raphinha, was still in second place when it came to assists. Clearly losing him did have a major impact on our performances and we never truly recovered from it. Maximenko had an incredible 22 clean sheets in 30 league games. He had only conceded 8 goals total until the last round when Lokomotiv scored 3 goals against us. Incredible! And THE key reason why we won the title. Not only Maximenko, but our defence deserved all the praise they were getting. Our golden boy, Kiselev, had scored 9 goals in the first 18 games and only added one more during the last 12 games and that goal was scored from a penalty. He had gone missing completely and with our back-up Ignatjev showing he wasn't cut out for the highest level, one of our priorities during the off-season would be to find a striker who was at least equal to Kiselev, if not better. *** Individual player stats The overall stats from our squad were also interesting: Our right back Isidoro, just 18 years old, was our second most creative player with 9 assists. An inspired signing and worth every penny of the 14,5 million we paid for him. Our most creative player with 10 assists was also just 18 and a kid who had come through our own academy: Ovchinnikov. With plenty of room for development left, I was excited about both their futures, but Ovi was rightfully chosen talent of the year. Talent of the season: Ovchinnikov Our attacking midfielder, Pavic had a very good first season and was chosen player of the season by the fans. His goal scoring record was impressive, but for next season one of our aims is going to be to get his assist totals up. Player of the season: Pavic Other interesting notes to make were that Espinola, Pavic's back-up had created the most chances out of all our players. I believe he'd be a fantastic deep lying playmaker, but his traits don't help. He lacks the skill to be effective up high on the pitch, but has get forward whenever he can and gets into opposition area as traits. And despite my best efforts to make him get rid of those traits, they were still there at the end of the season... Garcia, our striker turned inside forward had a very solid first season at the club. 14 goals and 4 assists was a nice total. I expect even more from him next season. Finally there was Kiselev, who had a tremendous first half of the season and an equally bad second half. Still, 21 goals in 38 appearances was really good for a 19 year old. If he can develop some consistency, he'll become one of Europe's best strikers. Our topscorer: Kiselev *** And here you have the key stats of the entire squad: *** I also received 2 awards as I was chosen Serbian manager of the year and manager of the year in Russia. A nice accomplishment, but I'm not in it for the individual accolades. Clubs like Chelsea, Tottenham and AC Milan also showed interest, but I declined them all. I'm only leaving Spartak once we win the Champions League title and I think that'll take quite some time..
  9. The last 3 rounds, packed with drama First up was Zenit, away. One of Russia's biggest sides, but they were coming off a terrible first half of the season, led by Walter Mazzarri at the time. He was sacked and later joined the Serbian NT, while Zenit brought in Martin O'Neill instead of him. The experienced Northern Irish manager had taken a side that was down and out and had transformed them within 2 months. We were about to face a completely different Zenit from the one we'd beaten 1-0 in the first of the season. Our hopes on the other hand, were dwindling and with this being a do-or-die game and our side lacking experience, I wasn't feeling hopeful. In the end a 0-0 draw was as good as it was going to get for us. We were outplayed and were lucky to get anything from this game. CSKA could now overtake us and with 2 tough games left, things were looking gloomy.. A potentially decisive derby: Zenit 0-0 Spartak *** In the 29th round we faced Krasnodar at home. They got a penalty after just a couple of minutes, but Maximenko, our always reliable goalkeeper saved it! 20 minutes later it was our turn and our halfback Umyarov, not a man known for scoring goals, slotted it home for a 1-0 lead. Krasnodar kept pressing and were quite frankly the better side. My team wasn't even close to the level we showed before the winter break. Outside of the defensive efforts, it was night and day. In the end we were lucky to take the 3 points here and so the dream lived on for now. The 29th round of 30: Spartak 1-0 Krasnodar *** The last game would be against local rivals: Lokomotiv. The #3 of the Russian league. We had already played a midweek game Vs Arsenal, the cup final. And even if that was a fantastic win (7-0), it did mean we'd go into the decisive league game a bit fatigued. Nevertheless, this was our final chance to win that title. No time to think about tired legs! We started out on the back foot and never really recovered. Loko had our number and we continued our terrible league form. In the end we lost 3-0 and it was fully deserved. The final game of the season: Lokomotiv 3-0 Spartak *** We had only won 1 out of our last 5 games, drawing 3 of them. Questions were to be asked of this side. Was it a matter of not being able to handle pressure? Even though I tried to take away most, if not all of it. Was it inexperience? Obviously we were never favourites for the title and had over performed by just being here. Still, it didn't sit well with me. Our goals had literally dried up, just 2 in 5 games, a set piece goal and a penalty. Our Golden Boy Kiselev had gone missing the last 20 or so games, outside of the cup final in which he scored 4. The last 5 league games, just 1 win.. We were going to take a long, hard look at the side during the off-season and try to further improve it. Tactically we were going to change things up as well. Sarri-ball would be our new aim. *** Title lost..? But was the title lost? The last table you saw was the one after 27 rounds where we were tied with CSKA Moscow. Their last 3 games would be Vs Krylja (H), Zenit (A) and Arsenal (H). Considerably easier than our schedule. As expected, they won their first game easily 3-1 and went top of the table, 3 points ahead of us with just 2 games left.. *** The next game, against Zenit, was realistically our last bit of hope. Since we weren't playing that day, I actually attended the game. CSKA went up 0-1, Zenit equalised, CSKA went up again, Zenit struck again and 6 minutes before the end of the game Zenit hit them off a corner to win it 3-2. I was cheering in the stands! We were still in this! Title race: Zenit 3-2 CSKA *** And because we had taken a point from our encounter with Zenit, just a few days earlier, we went into the last round with a 1 point lead on CSKA. Obviously we lost that final game 3-0 to Lokomotiv, so looking at it in hindsight: in order for us to be champs after all CSKA would have to draw or lose their last game against Arsenal. The same Arsenal we had beaten 7-0 earlier that week in the cup final.. Yep, we needed a miracle! *** What was expected to be a routine win turned into a nerve wrecking thriller. Arsenal went up 0-1, which was a huge surprise. However CSKA pulled back a goal right before HT through a penalty. What happened right after half time however was shocking. Arsenal scored not once, but twice within 7 minutes to take a 1-3 lead. Surely the title was ours despite our by then obvious loss to Lokomotiv? Not quite! CSKA scored their second goal within 2 minutes and added a third about 15 minutes (including injury time) before the end of the season. We weren't even watching our match any more, but instead keeping tabs on their result... A new update from CSKA's stadium never arrived and so we somehow won the title, despite winning only 1 of our last 5 games! The game that decided the title race: CSKA 3-3 Arsenal Tula *** Our team of youngsters had done it! A double winning season in my first year at Spartak. Sure, we'd spent a lot of money, but these were just a bunch of kids accompanied by 3 Russian internationals playing for Champions League qualification. We never expected to win it in our first season already, but the closer we came, the more we wanted it. In the end we would have been shattered losing the title in this fashion.. Spartak do the double!
  10. The second half of the season I maybe underestimated the importance of a good winter break. I scheduled in 3 friendlies before our first cup game, but with a 23 player squad and a 2 month break before it, not enough players were 100% fit when we kicked off again and it showed.. Even though we got 3 points at home to relegation candidates Yenisey, the level of football was poor and we needed a set piece goal from our new signing, Allemand (forced to play because our 2 left backs were both out for a while) to scrape a 1-0 win. In the second game we weren't as lucky. Who knows whether we'd have scored a goal if we hadn't gotten a penalty. But Krylja and we shared the spoils that day. *** After a solid win over Rubin, it was time to face our biggest league rivals, CSKA. The game had been moved to the second half of the season, meaning we'd have to play them twice in the last 9 league games. The first meeting was away from home and once again a penalty was decisive. Garcia missed and CSKA scored a minute later on the other end. And so they took 3 vital points in a game that didn't really deserve a winner. The derby: CSKA 1-0 Spartak After CSKA we bounced back with 2 wins against Orenburg and Arsenal Tula and now the home game Vs that same CSKA awaited us. While Lokomotiv had dropped out of the race, CSKA were trailing behind us with just 1 point difference between the two sides. This was going to be a massive game! In preparation I did everything I could to put the pressure on CSKA, while putting my boys at ease and it worked. While it was another close game between the sides, we took our chances and ran away with the win. 3-0 in the end with young playmaker Ovchinnikov scoring a rare goal to top off a fantastic performance. We were 4 points clear now with just 5 games to go! The second derby in a few weeks time: Spartak 3-0 CSKA The title race, 4 points between us and just 5 games to go *** The next game was away to Khimki. A must win game and the only 'easy' game we had left as we'd be facing 4 of the other top 6 ranked sides in our last 4 games: Akhmat, Zenit, Krasnodar and Lokomotiv. Things started out badly with a 0-0 draw against Khimki and didn't go any better in the next game at home to Akhmat, 1-1. We created plenty of chances, but with the pressure on and Golden Boy Kiselev going missing for most of the second half of the season and our most creative player Raphinha gone, we couldn't get a goal to save our lives. Within 2 games we'd have lost our entire lead and CSKA were meanwhile hitting top form.. After 27 rounds we were tied for first *** The next game would be away to Zenit. Lose there and say goodbye to the title..
  11. Our own Golden Boy After the first half of the season had ended, we received news that our player: Alexey Kiselev, was chosen as Golden Boy of 2023. A big honour for the player and club and a sign that we were on the right path. Not all those goals were scored at Spartak however, as he spent last season on loan at Malmo from Inter. *** Cup road to the final Our first official game coming out of the winter break was a quarter final against Krasnodar. One of the better teams in Russia. Even though the cup was not a priority, winning silverware is never a bad thing, so we'd at least give it our best shot. In a tight affair, Krasnodar were on their way to the semi's when we finally broke their defence with a set piece goal in the 87th minute. After that it stayed tight and the game went to penalties. We ended being the lucky side that advanced. The semi final wasn't much better from our side, but once again we scraped though. This time with our new signing Pineiro getting his first goal for the club. Road to the final *** The cup final We felt 'fortunate' that we would be facing Arsenal Tula in the final instead of Lokomotiv Moscow, but we were in no way underestimating our opposition. The final however turned into an exhibition. Even if Arsenal had 60% possession after the first half, they were down 4-0 by that point. Our Golden Boy, Kiselev put in a performance for the history books, scoring no less than 4 times! In the end we got to a monster score of 7-0! Our first trophy with the club, won in spectacular fashion. *** Euro Cup II As group winners we joined in the second knockout-stage of Europe's new tournament. Our opposition in those 1/8 finals would be AZ from the Netherlands. The exciting part about the draw however, was that we could potentially face my former side Dinamo Minsk in the quarters and my favourite team, Red Star, in the semi's. How incredible would that be?! I must admit, after our domestic domination and the fact that we had only conceded 4 goals in 18 league games, I wasn't expecting what happened in Alkmaar. AZ didn't just dominate, they tore us apart. Yes, we did score the 0-1 within a minute, but after 30 we were down 3-1 and it could have been even worse.. During HT we reshuffled and we were once again lucky to get the early goal to get to back 3-2. After that it was literally squeaky bum time. We got outplayed that night and only God knows how it ended 3-2. To say we did better in Moscow is no surprise, cause it couldn't have gone much worse. This time it was a more balanced match, but just like in Alkmaar, we took our chances. Young prodigy Talalay scored our first goal and once again we hit them at a crucial point during the game, this time with a corner goal in injury time of the first half. AZ definitely deserved more, even in Moscow, but in the end we were the lucky side to go through. In the quarters we didn't run into Dinamo Minsk sadly.. instead we got to play Hoffenheim, who were 6th in the Bundesliga at that point and had destroyed Dinamo over 2 legs. Whereas we were able to recover from the early shock against AZ, against Hoffenheim we simply didn't stand a chance. They were better, faster, killed us on set pieces and deservedly advanced to the semi's. The aggregate score was an embarrassing 6-1. This game was the second big match, after the AZ away game, that made me doubt our tactics in Europe. Maybe it was a question of inexperience, or the blow of losing our best player Raphinha, but either way we would be going back to the drawing board during the off-season. Our disappointing Euro Cup II knockout run *** And so we failed to reach one of my 2 personal goals, set for this season. I couldn't help but feel very disappointed. If we were to qualify for the Champions League, we'd need to be much better, as most teams there would be on a higher level than AZ and Hoffenheim. Two sides that had dominated us. In other Euro Cup news, Red Star amazingly advanced to the semi's, knocking out Celtic to set up an encounter with Hoffenheim. The Germans were relentless however and advanced with a 6-3 aggregate score to set up a final against Atalanta. The Italians were the ones to win the Euro Cup II however with a convincing 3-1 win in the final. *** Now the league campaign remains, do we have the nerve and skill to keep hold of first place? We definitely lack the experience and with our best player gone, it won't be easy. Stay tuned..
  12. Fantastic first season and I like the detailed posts and especially the quotes! Your league run reminds me of my second full season in Minsk when we held onto first for most of the season, but ultimately collapsed. I think my mistake was that I didn't do enough to take away the pressure from the team. But I look forward to your European run and congrats on winning the cup!
  13. Winter transfer window To start out with the bad news, no matter what we tried, Raphinha was set on leaving the club and there was always a chance of it escalating and ruining the entire team atmosphere. The offers we were getting were ridiculous though as I wasn't going to sell this guy for less than 50 million. More wouldn't have been realistic with him being 27 already. Arsenal and Tottenham kept putting in offers ranging from 25 to 35 million, but Liverpool did not mess around. They accepted my negotiation for 50 million and so we lost our best player. Raphinha's profile and impressive stats so far this season *** We had more than enough funds to replace him (around 110 million budget, I know, amazing!), but when we tried to sign Gelson Martins, who fit the profile and was on his way out at PSG, he asked for 180k per week and an 8 million signing bonus. Too much for us, even if we have the money. You don't want to create such a discrepancy within the squad and so we opted out. Instead I went for 2 youngsters who my scouts had identified as top targets. The first one was a dribbling wizard from Uruguay, to accompany our other winger (inside forward), Garcia. We'll have to turn him into a right winger, as I want him to be able to cut in, but surely that won't be a problem. Winter signing #1: Pineiro from Defensor Sporting for 10 million, inside forward, playing on the right A real gem. His finishing needs work and I'd like to improve his mentals as well, but he's definitely going to be a player for the fans to enjoy with 18 dribbling, 17 technique, 15 flair and good physicals. *** The second signing was one I was thinking about last summer already. A Serbian youngster who according to my scouts had massive potential, but somehow hadn't yet realised it. For this price however and with the lack of serious competition for our youngster Pineiro, I had to go for it. Winter signing #: Stevanovic from Partizan for 2,1 million, another inside forward, playing on the right A good player no doubt, capable of shooting with both feet and with very good technical skills. But still far from the top class player my scouts, and now coaches, think he could be. Will be a nice project to see if we can improve his mentality, get him some appropriate traits and fulfil that potential. And so we lost our best player, but managed to get 2 young and exciting replacements for just 1/4th of the price. The question remains just how much of an impact the loss of Raphinha will have on our results. The man was without doubt our catalyst. *** We made two other defensive signings. Both were signed as back-ups for now for a total of 9,5 million euros. Allemand could become a wing back with a lot of training, although he looks like future top CB, while Adamov will move up to first back-up to our current RCB, Kutepov.
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