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[FM 18] If You're Not First, You're Last (Re-Redux) - Redemption for the "Nearly Men" of Europe


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Let me tell you something, my friend.  Hope is a dangerous thing.  Hope can drive a man insane.

Image result for baggio missed penalty in wc-final 1994

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...

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Time continues to skip forward randomly. Details at elev...



By the time August 2023 rolls around, we've got a few nice changes to the football world...at least, for our purposes.

In the Champions League, Pep the Bald's Manchester City became eligible after losing to Liverpool in the 2018/19 final on penalties.  (There are so many things wrong with that sentence...)

And, Diego Simeone's Atletico won it all in 2020/21 (having lost the 2017/18 final to Bayern on penalties).


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Reinaldo Rueda's Chile won the 2018 World Cup, with Torsten Lieberknecht's Germany claiming the title in 2022.  And, we have two new eligible teams in Portugal and Mexico!  Woohoo!


c675f32e97073f2325f7ebdc5c918e4b.png c0cb6ab424e65a5793e24ad2845a9dbb.png


In the domestic leagues...the Manchester clubs have dominated England, with Mourinho's United winning 5 straight titles.  Spain has been predictable, other than Athletic finishing 3rd in 2017/18 and Celta finishing 3rd in 2022/23.  France has been all PSG, while Bayern have dominated Germany.  The old guard have dominated Italy, with Inter and Juve winning 3 titles each.  Olympiacos are the dominant force in Greece.  Club Brugge and Gent have shared the spoils in Belgium.  Malmo are doing Malmo things in Sweden. Serbia have been predictable, but for 2019/20, when Vojvodina and Spartak claimed the top 2 spots.

(Just give a shout if you want any specific screenshots beyond these.)

aedf2f4a61f45587b42efc2ee3fa4905.png eb033197145222f5edfaa9aaa051731a.png 1150b4b0c75b3dcba5482079bbf39b4e.png fdbe2888e069925c310af300e2a11cd4.png 316ed9e203e63d5efa18e38e6d2bf09b.png a6830e90c4db90ffab0a358496bdf6ba.png 38691c20e40b04c263732d8e9a0af3ce.png 5673fd6470d58d8607e952e9cdedd233.png d62a5fd9341aed754b26eb42f01e8966.png 


So, now that the stage is set...  Our hero is in the wings, waiting for his cue.

But before we introduce him, let's take a quick look at the tracker -- updated to reflect the footballing world in August 2023.


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It Was The Best Of Times, It Was The Blurst Of Times...


December 2023 - FK Partizan Beograd

It isn't beautiful, rural France.  It most certainly isn't Oostende.  And it isn't Brondby, not by a long shot.  But after several weeks I've found that Belgrade fits my mood like a glove.

Drake is less enthusiastic, but excited that our forged credentials and backstopped CVs have survived inspection...it's a good thing no one expects us to speak Hungarian, though.  We overlooked that minor "detail."

Yes, we blagged our way into managing Partizan's reserves.  But we haven't fallen flat on our faces.  Quite to the contrary, the lads seem to be taking to our methods like ducks to water.  With a little luck (and Drake's underworld connections...) we think we can climb the ladder here sooner rather than later...and within less than two months, our chance arrives.  Poor performances on the pitch combined with Drake's incitement to mutiny meant that Kecman lost dressing room.  And that the players demanded our appointment thanks to a series of, frankly, unfathomably irresponsible promises we've made to the squad.  We've been given the job on an interim basis...a chance to prove ourselves.  We'd best take it with 2 hands.  Seeing as how the Board have lofty expectations, there will be little margin for error.

My first real, actual step to redemption will be taken here.  Who's laughing now, Amelie?!


Yes, our managerial hero is none other than Jean Bleu, now living under the false identify of one 'Zenon Beled' -- the naive, young French manager whose backstory has been laid out over the last 3 months in the Saving Football: Frauding A Nation thread.

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As you may recall, Jean was appointed at FC Ouest Tourangeau in July 2017, but ended up managing the Clarivaux Prison 'A' side after an petty attempt at revenge led him into (allegedly) running a prostitution ring involving the Tourangeau GU14 squad.   The burdens of prison were intolerable, leading Bleu to escape and flee to Belgium where he lived for a time under the assumed name, Claude-Jean Damme-Vanne, and managed Oostende's GU8 'C' team, known as the Snow Kittens.  It was only when his fellow inmate John "Le Rouge" Drake won parole and joined him in Belgium, that the next chapter could begin.  Although...seeing as how Jean was still technically on the run from the law in France, he could not simply return to management.  Nor could "Claude-Jean" truly hope to climb the managerial ladder, given his struggles in motivating the Snow Kittens.  No, both Jean and Claude-Jean had to be left behind.  With Drake's help, 'Zenon Beled' came into being.  A fully-credentialed Hungarian manager with an impressive (fraudulent) CV -- the only true piece of his resume being time learning the ways of Telleus at the Swede's illustrious academy -- but lacking actual on-pitch managerial experience.  Joining him on the journey was his right-hand man, 'Szalonna Bugyi' -- Drake -- a man who knows how to get things, with an impressive (fraudulent) CV of his own.  Together, they present themselves as the Hungarian Clough-Taylor...although neither speaks a word of Hungarian.

The summary can only take you so far...and I'm certain we'll be seeing a few of these people again... Jean/Zenon's full story (up to October 2023, at least), is laid out in 21 installments, dated: July 27, 2017; August 15, 2017; August 21, 2017; September 12, 2017; October 23, 2017; October 28, 2017; December 4, 2017; February 12, 2018;  March 27, 2018; April 2, 2018; December 3, 2018; April 2, 2019; April 11, 2019; May 17, 2019; May 25, 2019; August 2, 2019; October 9, 2019; July 14, 2023; August 28, 2023; September 18, 2023; October 6, 2023.

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1 hour ago, smp20 said:

Yessssss :)

1 hour ago, BoxToBox said:


1 hour ago, Deisler26 said:

It's happening!!

1 hour ago, Benjoe said:

This is the most excited I've been since I last was this excited.

1 hour ago, Rikulec said:

Oh ****.

43 minutes ago, kidthekid said:


35 minutes ago, oriole01 said:

Related image

All aboard the Fraud Train...


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2 hours ago, deltablue said:

I look forward to Mexico ;)

Unfinished business with Mexico, no doubt. They'll be good fun this time around.

2 hours ago, Sir_Liam said:

I've not read this forum for a while, so what a pleasant surprise it was to see this at the top of the page when I came on. :)

Hey! Glad to have to back and see you again!  Pressure is on...

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11 hours ago, Constantine said:

Count me in. 

Also, as a crimin... Alleged criminal, mind me, Jean would feel like fish in the water at Partizan. :D Board is, sadly, full of them. 

10 hours ago, withnail316 said:

Excellent...good luck!

8 hours ago, Minuy600 said:

You fool.


...I love you for this, :D


I'm ready for games to get started...good session should be in tomorrow...

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Our first senior match kicks off in a few hours.  I'm nervous.  Exhausted.

Unfortunately, the latter had nothing to do with the match.

Since we've only been in Belgrade for a short time, Drake wanted to immerse ourselves in the local culture. 

He rented A Serbian Film two nights ago, having been told by one of the reserve forwards that it was an Adam Sandler-esque classic, a Serbian Happy Gilmore, if you will.

The ****.  I haven't slept since.

The lads thought it was funny. 

A show of authority was required.  An early test of our leadership.

The player was released, effective immediately.  Not a word was spoken about it to the team.

The message was simple. Do not cross us. Toe the line, lads.  Because we're crazier than any of you, and have nothing to lose.

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The nerves have been banished.  There's quite a lot to say for having your first match be against a side in 13th place, who have 2 players sent off.

4-nil.  I'd like to say it was the hipster tactics we've begun to implement with the senior side...but the truth of the matter is that our opponents were laughably bad.  Whatever.  We'll take it.  

I'm pretty sure I saw a Hungarian flag in the crowd late in the match, lit by several dozen flares as the home support sang, danced and fought.

We've 2 more matches before the winter break -- against Radnik and Borac, who sit 15th and 16th, respectively.

We could not have asked for an easier start to life in Belgrade.


1e13058d25184ce977cfa087573098e6.jpg c95906bbf5f8eefe2ca5c791e96bbb88.png 


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Tactically, I've decided to go back to @Guimy's utterly brilliant Three Carat Diamond tactic which I used at Zulte in another save (and love): 


Frankly, @Guimy says it all in his post, linked above.  The only changes I've made are ones described in my Zulte thread: (1) changing the "get stuck in" team instruction to "stay on your feet";  (2) adding a counterattacking version as my backup tactic; and (3) adding an overload version to push for a goal late.  The base tactic is just the right kind of bonkers and was an absolute treat, faithful to Telleus (strikerless), even if we're missing a libero.  We'll get there eventually...

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You have to be a bit of a liar to tell a story the right way.


FK Partizan Beograd -- December 2023

We started out so well.  2 convincing wins.  6 points.  Positivity abounded.

And then we faced Borac.  Dirty, dirty Borac... Hateful place.  Spiteful place.  Dirty, dirty Borac.  A defeat.  By a single goal.  In a match we utterly dominated.

In the locker room I reassured the lads.  Unlucky.  Totally undeserved.

But doubts were creeping in.  I'd blindly copied a Telleusian tactic, assuming that it would work for me like it had my illustrious teachers.  But I'd made the cardinal mistake of not adopting the tactic to my own squad.

Drake demanded that we put three up top.  "These Serbian teams can't handle it, don't know who to mark."  But, I don't want to cheat, do I?  No, I do not.

"You've got to stick to your principles," I tell him.  

"You're not going to off yourself like that 'arry bloke who done shot the midget, are you?"

"No, Drake.  I'm not."

"Good, good... Great flick, that."



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So, I had a slight change of heart about my tactics, after seeing how many centerbacks I had at my disposal (and the quality of the young players who wanted to join the Partyzan Revolution).  

Meaning...I've decided to go in a different direction.  Long story short, I took the tactics I employed in the GOB/Zlatan save (first deployed by The Hakan Telleus at Brugge in the FM 17 version of this save, back in May 2017).

However, I've tweaked it again...instead of a back 4 with a libero, I've decided to deploy 3 CBs with 2 wingbacks.  The idea being, push the wingbacks up higher, but have the 3 central defensive players in one strata to push the 2 flanking CBs wider (thus providing more cover for the wingbacks).  This is essentially the defensive/midfield setup I successfully deployed in my Stalin save with Zulte/Holland...but now it is strikerless.  

The winter break is nearly done, so I can take it out for a spin in the Super Liga...it'd be a shame to get sacked in my first job on this save...

d379371462532e06d3e2f61a3e36fcf2.png 73ff047cba5c225ac1468e84a7e8beb3.png 

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You have to be a bit of a liar to tell a story the right way.


FK Partizan Beograd -- March 2024

The wolves began to circle after we lost away to C*** Star.  We were in the match until we gave away a penalty, and gave up the 2nd chasing the game in our new tactical setup.

In the locker room.  In the press.  All over social media.  The grumblings began.  But then a magical thing happened, at home to league-leading Voždovac, we came alive.

We buried them.  Utterly and completely.  And we repeated the trick against 4th-place Radnički.  And, with results elsewhere going our way, we began to believe again.

Sure, some of the players still don't trust me.  Especially the more experienced players...they think we're full of ****.  The youth players on the other hand...they're lapping it up.  If we can keep this streak up...anything is possible.




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I love this.  


Jean/Zenon is like David Moyes.  If Moyes were French, managing in Serbia under a fake Hungarian name... 

The only upside is it keeps getting slightly better...a little less red, with each win. 


Turn things around?!  We've won 4 on the bounce and are level with those C*** Star c***ts!?  What more do they want from us?!

As long as we keep winning, I think we'll be ok...everything is going to be ok, isn't it, Drake...?


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6 minutes ago, noikeee said:

Ugh, I ****ing hate the managerial support bug. Basically until you gain a little of reputation, it feels like you're always on the brink of the sack - feels overblown. 

At least it make some narrative sense here, with a "Hungarian" managerial duo who don't speak Hungarian and have no demonstrable managerial history to speak of...

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You have to be a bit of a liar to tell a story the right way.


FK Partizan Beograd -- April 2024

We're on a roll and sit atop the table heading into the final stage, with C*** Star having dropped points.  Drake and I don't want to get ahead of ourselves, but we know that a league title would go a long way towards validating ourselves -- in the eyes of the players, the supporters, the Board...err...everyone.

It's a legitimacy that we crave.  That we dreamt about in the intra-prison league in France.  We can taste it.  But if we've learned anything from obsessively playing Red Dead Redemption 3 these past few weeks, anything can happen in these final matches.



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A massive win over our rivals and fellow title contenders.  The perfect way to kick off the final stage of the Super Liga.  If we can maintain our focus, our composure, the title will be ours.  

Drake is already planning the victory celebrations, using connections he's made at a local gentlemen's club.  I've told him he's counting his chickens before they've hatched...he preferred a less savory euphemism, not that it stopped him from planning.  I think he's going to throw the party, regardless of how the league shapes up...

1d2ac2a88c01dd572901a57c1ca17af8.png cc14c01859bc7cd93e079319f07cfebe.png 

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It hasn't been pretty down the stretch, but thanks to the other contenders dropping points we held our destiny in our own hands.  And, on a day where we could clinch the title, we played the most comprehensive game of our tenure in Belgrade.

We're utterly ruthless.  Unplayable.  With Radnički beaten soundly.


In the aftermath, Drake is beside himself with joy, envisioning the debauchery to come at the celebration in a few days' time...he's confident that this is just the beginning for us.  

366397219ba54b7dfebb5e66ffcf0af8.png 0c12a03e58cdf1f54e128ab0b7e0e81a.png 


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I like visiting people in prison. I can say whatever I want to them, and they can’t do anything about it.


FK Partizan Beograd -- 2023/24 Season Review

The celebrations have yet to end.  We're into the 5th day now...the hangover is going to be hell.  But it will be worth it.

In one fell swoop, we've earned ourselves some genuine credibility -- with the players, the support, and the legions of Serbian football supporters around the globe.  And, quite frankly, that new song "Uncle Daddy's Magic Hat" is quite catchy.

Sure, it could all come tumbling down around our heads tomorrow.  But for now, we will enjoy the moment.  And dance.

In a few days we'll get back to our incoming transfer business...just a few more turns on the dance floor, that's all I need.

Goals for 2024/25: Win the Super Liga; continue to refine the squad and develop youth.  Reach the Group Stage of a European competition.

Squad|League Overview|Finances Overview|Income Detail|Expenditures Detail|Transfers

Super Liga Fixtures (Prelim. Phase)|Super Liga Fixtures (Final Phase)|Kup Srbije Fixtures|Champions League Fixtures|Europa League Fixtures


Champions League Review

A Manchester derby in Amsterdam...Ancelotti's City vanquish Mourinho's United, meaning that City are no longer "nearly men."  Frankly, I'm happy because I don't think I could take managing them...

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Challenge Overview



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Ok, before we press onwards, let's take a quick glance around Europe...

In England, Eddie Howe's West Ham finally broke the Manchester hold on the top 2, even if they couldn't catch City.  Spaletti's Madrid captured the title in La Liga, with a one-loss campaign.  Fonseca's Dortmund repeated in the Bundesliga, claiming the title on goal difference over FC Hollywood...leading to Bayern sacking Luis Enrique.  Unai Emery's Juventus reclaimed their title from Jorge Jesus' Inter, with Inter dropping out of the Champions League places, with Jesus f***king off to Liverpool, of all places.  PSG, boringly triumphant under Peter Bosz.  Gent battled for the title in Belgium.  With Panathinaikos spending a second consecutive year in the 2nd tier, Olympiacos won their 5th title in a row.  Hammarby won the title from Malmo, but di blae seem to be fighting to reclaim their title.

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In the Europa League, Sérgio Conceição's Monaco beat three colors of **** out of Deschamps' Wolfsburg in the final.  

88b47b101998cbd549326dd14f9cb153.png 36223d34fa57d0863ab760dad281509b.png 

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5 hours ago, rodesire said:

@ManUtd1 Man City's completion year should be 2024, not 2023, you fraud :cool:

The most City thing I could have done...

If you have to hate me, hate me, guys... :cool:

I'll get it fixed later, no laptop until this evening.

5 hours ago, rodesire said:

btw, what happened to Panathinaikos?

They were relegated in 2021/22 (if I recall correctly), and did not bounce back in 22/23! That could make for a very interesting save with them, if they continue to struggle.

I'll post some screenshots tonight.

2 hours ago, Sir_Liam said:

Congratulations on the title, and it was also good to see Jovan Nisic, a player I signed on my FM2018 save doing well for you.

Also it looks like your points didn't halve for the final phase as it usually does in Serbia?

Thanks, man! Winning the Super Liga with Partizan was never going to be too much of a challenge, but it's a good start.

Correct - points in Serbia are no longer halved after the preliminary phase. That'll be huge when Partizan get well and truly rolling.

I'm going to get a squad review up after the Euros, so likely tomorrow.

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