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Let me tell you something, my friend. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane. All football supporters have suffered the agony of hope. The "what could have been" moments. The heartbreak. The days when your **** of a striker couldn't hit water if he fell out of a ****ing boat. Barbosa at the Maracana, 1950. Messi in the final of the Copa America, 2016. Baggio in the World Cup final, 1994. Ghana at the 2010 World Cup. Bayern Munich in Barcelona, 1999. John Terry in Moscow, 2008. (Ok, if I'm being honest the last two were pretty frickin' beautiful and count among my favorite football memories. But, I digress...) For many, redemption comes in one form or another, some more glamorous than others. Titles won. Individual glories and accolades. The heartbreak simply another chapter in the broader narrative. For others, the heartbreak defines them. Haunts them. Overshadows all other accomplishments, triumphs and accolades. The moniker of the "nearly men" is applied, and supporters grow old thinking, "what if...?" This is the story of those teams. Uhh...well...another story about those teams... Since its inception in 1955, 22 different teams have won the Champions League (and its predecessor). 17 teams have reached the Final, only to fall short: Atlético Madrid (1974, 2014, 2016) Stade de Reims (1956, 1959) Valencia (2000, 2001) Fiorentina (1957) Eintracht Frankfurt (1960) Partizan (1966) Panathinaikos (1971) Leeds United (1975) Saint-Étienne (1976) Borussia Mönchengladbach (1977) Club Brugge (1978) Malmö FF (1979) Roma (1984) Sampdoria (1992) Bayer Leverkusen (2002) Monaco (2004) Arsenal (2006) Similarly, 8 different nations have brought home the World Cup. Yet, 5 have reached the Final and returned home with empty hands: Netherlands (1974, 1978, 2010) Croatia (2018) Czechoslovakia (1934, 1962) Hungary (1938, 1954) Sweden (1958) This save will chronicle my third documented attempt to bring glory to as many of these sides as possible. And, as we all know, third time pays for all. First of all, credit where credit is due -- the idea for this save originated with @smp20, who proposed it as a challenge during the FM15 cycle. I've since been...err...somewhat obsessed with it. My first FMCU-documented attempt fizzled out early: [FM16] If You're Not First, You're Last. While success was only claimed in Malmo that year, that save laid the foundation for all that has come since. The second attempt was 116 pages of utter madness, spanning 18 months real-time, culminating in 2091 after claiming an obscene number of trophies with Hakan Telleus and his son, Gunnar Vikander. This was easily my favorite save of all time: [FM17] If You're Not First, You're Last (Redux). As with before, there are generally no hard-and-fast rules beyond the concept of the save. On the club side of the shop... This is not a youth-academy-only save, even though I do enjoy developing youth and will usually focus on that. Rather, I will work within club-specific plans without any self-imposed transfer restrictions (e.g., a 2-4 year-plan makes sense with the like of Arsenal, versus a 6-8 year plan with Malmö ). I will leave on high -- thus, once I've won the Champions League, I must move on. Surely I won't be fired...again...will I? After my first club, I will only accept a position with one of the sides listed above, or a club that manages to join this elite (!?) group of "nearly men." Likewise, if a club manages to win the CL under another manager, they are removed from the challenge. The only pure "rule" that I will invoke is the @Dave. rule, instituted during the FM17 version of this save. Quite simply, this rule means that my manager has to prioritize Leeds, by joining them at the first realistic (in-game) opportunity. (The rationale being that I harbor a great dislike for the club...just don't tell anyone that I enjoyed managing them in the '17 version of the save, ok?) On the international scene, the same basic rules will apply -- I will only accept an international management position with an eligible nation. If I win the World Cup, I must move on. Nations can be added to and removed from the eligible list, based on results at the World Cup. With respect to Czechoslovakia, I consider both the Czech Republic and Slovakia eligible. While some of these sides are "easier" than others, I will begin with one of the "smaller" clubs and proceed from there, wherever the winds take me. Per usual, I am holidaying several years into the future, to allow for a unique playing environment. I've loaded the top leagues in Belgium, England, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Serbia, Spain and Sweden, with a large database/pool of potential players. And, as per usual, my saves tend to exist in a "multiverse" of sorts, so familiar faces may pop up (although they may come up in different contexts). Up Next: We need to set the stage, and see what the football world looks like in August 2023. Only after we've done that can we meet our managerial hero...