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[FM24] C.F Estrela da Amadora - "I Love This Game!"


Dong21
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Taca De Portugal Final: Santa Clara 0 - 5 Estrela da Amadora

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Our domestic cup final could not have gone better. Karamoko scored in 24 seconds for the second game in a row - now that must be some sort of world record? Somewhat surprisingly, given the scoreline, we had less possession than our opponents. Our strikers are just absolutely clinical though. Both Karamoko and Brumado scored braces to take the game to 4-0 up in less than 40 minutes. Right back Costinha has been unbelievable since signing in January and he set up two of the goals with pin point crosses.

I was in such a good position that at just 60 minutes that I was able to look ahead to the ECL Final, which would be just four days later, and sub off star players Karamoko, Brumado, Dack and Costinha. I also subbed of Sinkgraven for a rest, forgetting he is not registered for the ECL and so should have remained on the pitch. 

Even after the changes we remained in control and substitutes Cruz and Ganago linked up to score a fifth.

At the full time whistle the Estrela faithful were seen setting off flares. I was delighted to lift my first trophy as Estrela manager. The first trophy of any kind in this incarnation of the club.

This win meant that we qualified for the Europa League next season. I clearly need to brush up on my Portuguese Liga rulebook as I thought 5th place got us ECL when in fact it was the cup win that was important for European qualification. 

Europa Conference League Final: Getafe 0 - 1 Estrela da Amadora

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We knew that Getafe would provide a tougher test than Santa Clara. The media stated that Getafe were favourites but as we were feeling full of confidence I decided to stick with the positive attacking mentality. There was a pre-match selection headache; with Mansur and Varela both injured, and Sinkgraven not registered for the ECL, back up defensive midfielder Tavares had to deputise at left back. Despite not starting there all season, the left footer has come off the bench many a time throughout the campaign to see out the game at full back. Due to injuries and a small ECL squad, 15 year old CM Celikkaya, who has just joined the academy, was on the bench for the final. 

We dominated possession, but despite this Getafe had more meaningful chances than us and therefore the better xG. This was a very tight game. In the end, it was a moment of quality that decided the final. A pin point through ball from the maestro Praet, followed by a composed finish by our top goalscorer Karamoko.

Estrela have done the unthinkable! Two years after being promoted from the second division, we are now European champions and cup double winners.

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Patrice was happy to see his club win a European trophy and would have also been delighted to see the prize money come in after steadily investing in the club over the last two seasons.

Across the ECL campaign no side scored more goals than us (48 goals), we kept the most clean sheets (12), won the most tackles (385) and completed the most dribbles (301).

Our run to the final could be considered somewhat fortuitous as we did not face any traditional heavyweights in the knockouts. That said, for a club with no European pedigree, we were underdogs in every tie we faced. It should also be remembered that we beat both Chelsea and Juventus to get to the latter stages. 

The parties in the suburbs of Lisbon went late into the night!

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19 minutes ago, Dong21 said:

The parties in the suburbs of Lisbon went late into the night!

Outstanding! I was pretty sure you'd see off Santa Clara; didn't foresee that scoreline, though. Getafe was always going to be tougher, but a smash-and-grab victory is always a pleasure and more so in a big final.

Top management :applause:

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2023/24 Squad Performance

The season has concluded and it is time to assess the performances of the squad. Next season we will play in the Europa League for the first time, another step up in quality. Additionally, I will be targeting fourth place in the league and that 'best of the rest' title behind the big three of Benfica, Sporting and Porto. Our wage bill is significantly smaller than those three clubs, but it is now the fourth biggest in the league so that is where we should be aiming for. The big three are pretty unassailable. They each produce many talented young players, have extensive scouting networks and youth team squads and all sell players frequently for big fees which keeps them top of the tree.

I have a strong affinity to this group of players. Every one of them, except for Mansur, was signed by me and we have gone on together to win the Taca de Portugal and the Europa Conference League.

The key to long-term success, however, is to never stand still. Standing still is going backwards, when your opponents are making improvement. I will therefore be looking to the transfer window once again to look out for where we can be improved. Thanks, I'm sure, to the ECL prize money Evra has provided a generous £13.75m transfer budget and a £450k wage budget (£122k more than we are currently spending).

Before we talk new signings, let's take a look at how my players got on this season:

Goalkeepers

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First choice goalkeeper Lanzillota had a strong debut season. He only conceded 39 goals in 40 games, with 17 clean sheets. I would be happy to proceed with Lanzillota as my 'keeper for next season, however I will be keeping an eye out for available options and that is because of his injury record. One hopes that a goalkeeper suffering a fractured wrist and a fractured lower arm in the same season is just awful luck, but if it becomes a pattern of injuries then we are in trouble. Lanzillota was named in the ECL Team of the Season after getting the most clean sheets (8) and conceding the least (4) in the competition.

Foderingham was promised the role of first choice goalkeeper when signing, however this was just to get him through the door. He was always going to be our experienced, qualified, number two. He ended up playing many more games than I anticipated due to Lanzillota's injuries. He conceded 1.39 goals per game, in comparison to Lazillota's 0.99, but generally did well. He was involved in some memorable European nights. If he's content, I'd be happy to keep him in reserve. 

The loan spell to Auxerre did not work out for Youfeigane and I recalled him January as he wasn't getting his minutes. A lack of game time has stunted his growth and this summer may be the time to cut him loose if we can find another young 'keeper with potential.

Right Backs

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Costinha has been a revelation since joining from Rio Ave. In just half a season and 27 starts he provided an incredible 15 assists for his teammates. His average match rating of 7.4 is the highest across the squad. His deputy, Cruz, also had a strong season. Cruz featured in most games, starting 20 of them and provided an impressive nine assists. For context, last season my four full backs provided 10 assists in total, between them!

Left Backs

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First choice left back Mansur had an even better season than last time out. He went from providing four assists in a season to 19! The wing back even chipped in with five goals. Unsurprisingly, he was named in the ECL Team of the Season. Mansur's understudy Varela was putting in good performances when he got opportunities, but his season was cruelly cut short by a long-term injury. I hope he does not come back less of the player he once was. Sinkgraven arrived as temporary solution and made a big contribution to our run to two cup finals and a top five finish. The attack-minded player got four assists in a short amount of time.

Centre Backs

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Playing a back three, it is unsurprising that there was a lot of minutes spread out across my pool of centre backs. The two who played the most were Nunes and Jovanovic, both of whom were consistent performers. Kovacevic would have played even more than he did if it wasn't for injury. He provided a couple of goals and assists, which was not the case for the rest of the centre backs. This is clearly something I need to look at with my set pieces coach. Both Nunes and Kovacevic were named in the ECL Team of the Season and Kovacevic was a runner up in the Young Player of the Tournament rankings. Bailly was our best performing centre back, but was fifth in most appearances due to his late arrival and then trip to AFCON. As a result of our plethora of matches and number of injuries, Moore played more frequently than I expected. Always solid, it may though be time for him to move on. Likewise, Hernando who appeared infrequently. Cerqueira got an impressive amount of games, including in Europe, for a 17 year old. Next season I will need to decide whether to send him on loan (experience) or keep him at the club (only player 'Home grown at club').

Centre Midfielders

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No player played more games for us than the imperious Danilovic. Throughout the season several managers of larger clubs watched him from the stands and the worry is that he may be poached this summer. Praet has been sublime since signing in November, I think he's added a touch of class to the midfield that served us well in Europe. One of the biggest achievements this campaign is keeping Dack fit for its entirety.  25 goals or assists is a phenomenal return. I was wondering if England manager Southgate might even take a look at him! His only downside is that he didn’t shine in either of the cup finals, but as long as he's a consistent performer throughout the season, I don't mind. I have just rewarded him with a new three year contract. 

Oakley-Boothe isn't too happy about his playing time, but 44 appearances is not too shabby. He needs to remember that when he joined this club we were favourites for relegation and now we are in Europe. Loanee Kassa served us ably. Every time he played, he did well. I did try and prioritise players we owned over him for minutes though, thinking long term. I currently have no intention to renew his loan or try and make it permanent.  The Portuguese pair of Tavares and Cafú were valuable squad players coming off the bench 67 times between them. 

Strikers

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After a slow start to the season, Karamoko soon found form and was our highest scoring forward with 30 goals. He was narrowly pipped to the accolade of ECL Golden Boot by Derry's Colm, they both scored 10 goals but Colm did it in less minutes. Brumado came second in the League's signing of the season poll. For me, he's been excellent. Brumado works so hard all game, pressing opposition, and still found the time to score 26 goals. Striker Fortune scored less goals in more games this time around, compared with last season. I will take the blame for that though. I likely damaged his confidence by making it clear he was no longer first choice. If the right offer comes in this summer, I will consider it.

Coming in to provide an alternative option who contributes goals, Ganago certainly served his purpose. I have a clause whereby I can sign him for £1.8m but I'm thinking I might wait and see what other options are available to me. Despite his great potential, Ekitike did not get tonnes of playing time. He was brought in to solve a short-term injury crisis, and that he did. But when the first choice forwards returned to fitness, it was only fair they rejoined the team. 

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Season 3 - Summer Signings & Squad Update

It has been another busy summer in Amadora. Eleven players have arrived, with more than that departing. Our net transfer spend during the window is a relatively modest £5.75m, however through a combination of contract renewals and wages for new signings, our wage bill has risen notably. Our aim in the transfer window was to add quality to the squad, as our objective is to go one better than last year and finish 4th this season. In addition to this, we have qualified directly for the Europa League Group Stage. The format has changed this year, meaning we are guaranteed at least eight games in the competition, therefore squad depth is going to be important.

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Below I will summarise the comings and goings across the summer and outline the current composition of the C.F Estrela da Amadora squad.

Goalkeepers

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I was generally very happy with my squad last season. When summarising the squad's performances at the end of the campaign, the one position that I flagged for consideration was goalkeeper. This was because Lanzillota and Foderingham had both had dogged injury records last term and on paper could be improved upon, quality-wise. It was in this position, therefore, that I decided to break the club's transfer record by signing Stefano Turati for £10m (£4m up front, £6m over the next few years, with a further £1m after 50 appearances). My coaches believe he is already a better goalkeeper than Lanzilotta and being nine years younger he has plenty of time to get even better.

I was comfortable going into the season with Turati as my first choice 'keeper and Lanzillota as my reserve, however things changed when Anderlecht bid £8m for Lanzillota. This was an amount I could not refuse for a 31 year old, with injury concerns, who was now my back up. With a gap to fill and money to spend, I revisted my shortlist of goalkeepers from when I recruited Turati. Our scouts rate Hakon Rafn Valdimarsson as extremely close in ability to Turati and he had an active release clause of £1.9m for clubs in Europe. On the plus side, I now have two extremely talented young goalkeepers. On the downside, it is very plausible that one may become unhappy at a lack of game time during the season. I may well have to appoint one my league stopper and one my European man in the nets.

Departures: Prior to the sale of Lanzillota, I had already proactively moved on Foderingham to Derby County for £350k. He had done well last year but at 33 years old and with better options available, it was time to cash in. As also noted previously, third choice 'keeper Youfeigane's development had stalled at the club and so I cut my losses and sold him to Real Valladolid for £45k.

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With last season's shortages of 'keepers caused by injuries fresh in my mind, I wanted to go into the new campaign with three goalkeepers. I trawled through the free agent listings and found young Mikki van Sas who has decent attributes and a good age to grow and develop. van Sas has pedigree as he was released by Man City in the summer. 

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At the close of the window our goalkeeping department is in a much better position than when it opened. 

Right Backs

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I was happy to go into my third season with the same right backs from the prior campaign, and nothing took place during the summer that changed that position. Costinha was my signing of last season and I hope he will play an important role once again. Cruz look like, from my assistant's appraisal of his abilities, that he may have declined however I believe it is the case that Costinha has just improved exponentially making Cruz look less of a player by comparison. He did well as a reserve last season and will be asked to do the same.

Departures: The Brazilian Hevverton, who featured in my first season at the club, departed on a free transfer to Kiel. 

Left Backs

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Like at right back, I was comfortable starting this season with the same left backs as last season; Mansur and Varela. Disaster, however, has struck. 

Departures: Three days after the transfer window closed, Genk bid £1.7m for Varela activating a minimum fee release clause that I had long forgotten about. There was nothing I could do. Varela departed, leaving me with one left back for the upcoming season. If I'd have been aware of the release clause I'd have given him a new contract earlier in the summer. We have no young left backs in the U23s or U19s. There are no free agents of any quality available for an emergency deal. Defensive midfielder Tavares can fill in, and has done so ably before, but due to squad size limitations I was unable to register him for Europe. If Mansur gets injured, we are in big trouble. I may have to play him in the Europa League and Tavares in the league to get by. 

Centre Backs

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I have often thought of myself as the king of free transfer signings. I always keep a close eye on who is coming available and move quickly to secure the best names available. This summer I signed six free agents, all of which fit in our first team comfortably. The first of these to arrive was centre back Zach Awe, who joins from Arsenal's academy. Last season he spent on loan at Blackpool where he played every game for them, which clearly grew his ability in a meaningful way. He is clearly physically impressive for a man of just 20, but he has quality attributes all round. I'm hoping he is a player I can nurture over the years. 

Joining Awe, also from British shores, is fellow defender Scott McKenna. The big appeal when signing McKenna was that he is left footed, something none of my other centre backs offer. McKenna has spent the last three seasons in the Premier League (at Southampton, Sheffield United and Nottingham Forest, respectively) facing the best attackers in the world.

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Departures: Club captain Moore has served us well, but it was time for him to move on. Moore was sold to Partizan for £1m. Likewise, it was time for Hernando to depart. He remains in the Portuguese Liga, joining Gil Vicente for £400k. Young Feratovic goes on loan to Maritimo to continue his development. I considered also sending Cerqueira out on loan, but didn't get suitable offers. He will play in the League Cup here, as we have to play two home-grown U21s, and we will look for a loan for him when he's 18.

On paper my first choice back three is Bailly, Awe and McKenna, but Nunes, Jovanovic and Kovacevic all have strong cases to start as well. Hopefully with all the cup games this season there will be enough minutes to share around.

Centre Midfielders

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The deal for George Hall was agreed back in January and when he finally arrived I was still as pleased to see him join from Birmingham as when the deal was struck. At 19 years old, he is one for the future. 

Relatively similar in age, Harvey White is a signing for right now. Like with Awe we had competition from 15-20 clubs, so I was delighted when White chose us. I'd like to think my track record of giving English players opportunities to shine in Portugal made the difference. White had just spent a season in the English Championship performing well for Bristol City, on loan from Tottenham. The intention is for him to be the first choice midfield partner of Praet.

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I had thought my transfer business was done, but on deadline day I decided to add one more. I see a strong midfield as key to our success and had funds left to spend, so when I spotted a talented young player with a price tag which I felt undervalued him then I had to make the move. We have a lot of games to play and we have quite a few injuries already - more on that in a future updated - therefore I was comfortable adding another midfielder. Norwegian Filip Ronningen Jorgenson arrives from Odd for a £5.75m deal (which could rise to £6.5m). He has a good spread of attributes that mean he looks capable playing in any of our three central positions.

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Nine players competing for three positions is too many. I offered Cafu out for sale but there were no takers - he has since announced that he will leave on a free at the end of the campaign. Tavares is now effectively my second choice left back, so I'm glad that I didn't end up selling him. Both will serve as back up for key man Danilovic in defensive midfield. The other six players will compete for the two central midfield berths.

Departures: Midfielder Gailbraith has been sent on loan to Sheffield Wednesday. He is a player I like but sadly the status of the club has grown since he signed and I have a feeling he might not ever make the grade here. Attacking midfielders Maknoun and Coric were sold to Charleroi (£200k) and Padova (£145k), respectively. Wingers Gong and Capita were sold to Randers FC (£200k) and Sochaux (£245k), respectively.

Strikers

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With Ganago and Ekitke's loans expiring, I knew that I was in the market for some new forwards. Lucky for me, there were some great free agent options to choose from. The first to arrive was young striker Eddie Salcedo from Inter Milan. Salcedo spent last season on loan in Serie B and delivered a good goal return. It appealed to me that Salcedo was happy to be considered a squad player, which will make keeping him satisfied easier. Joining Salcedo was former-Lyon centre forward Tino Kadewere. Of a slightly older profile than some of my other signings, Kadewere has good experience playing in a top European league and in European competition. One negative to note, however, is this is another player we may lose to future AFCONs (during the season).

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My final recruit was an opportunity signing. Serbian outfit Mladost had 18 year old forward Uros Sremcevic transfer listed for just £475k. A bargain, considering his potential. Having already had success signing two Serbs previously, I had no hesitation moving for the young goalscorer. Despite his age, he already has 16 Serbian league goals to his name. 

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Departures: No sooner had Sremcevic arrived, he was on his way to Gil Vicente for the season. They have advised he will be an important player for them this season. If they keep their word, he should get plenty of Portuguese Liga minutes to prove himself in. We also sent another young striker, Varela, on loan to Penafiel for the season.

Once again we start the season with a group of talented strikers. None of them were listed among the favourites for league top goalscorer this time around, but I'm feeling confident we have a good amount of ammunition in the squad. Early in the transfer window Elche bid £7m for Karamoko which I rejected outright. I was worried this would unsettle him, but pleasingly it did not.

Edited by Dong21
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18 minutes ago, warlock said:

Not doing much to develop Portuguese football, though :D

Fair comment :lol:

Last season I did pretty well in this regard but when I looked this season I really struggled to find good, Portuguese, options. We have spent a fair bit, but nothing compared to our top five rivals and they have a monopoly on young local talent sadly. I will try and redress the balance, long-term. 

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Updates From Pre-Season 2024/25

  • Following last season' cup double, our club stature has increased; we are now the 7th biggest club in Portugal by reputation and the 67th biggest club in Europe
  • However the league's stature has fallen. Portugal has now fallen to 7th behind the Netherlands, in the European coefficient
  • Arouca beat Casa Pia in the promotion / relegation playoff to stay in the Portuguese Liga 
  • I was once again shortlisted for the league's Manager of the Year award, but lost out to Roger Schmidt of Benfica
  • During the summer I rejected media speculation linking me with the Besitkas, Cagliari, Aston Villa, Brentford and Celtic jobs. In each instance, Evra and the Estrela board were delighted
  • Following the departure of Liam Moore, I appointed Bradley Dack as the club's new Vice Captain
  • We agreed new four year contracts with Karamoko, Danilovic, Nunes and Kovacevic (increasing his release clause from £9m to £14.25m - he wouldn't agree to remove it)
  • Gailbraith, G Varela and Kovacevic all missed pre-season as they participated in EURO 2024 (won by a Haaland-inspired Norway), U19 EUROs and the Olympics, respectively
  • The media predict we will finish fifth behind Benfica, Sporting, Porto and Braga
  • Our board expect we secure Europa Conference League qualification through our league standings and reach the knockout stages of the Europa League 
  • I selected to pay a higher league bonus to incentivise the team to meet my personal target of 4th place in the league 
  • Goalkeeper Turati and midfielder White had the 5th and 6th best odds in the betting for the season ahead's Young Player of the Year
  • We sold 2,863 season tickets, up from 1,285 last year and a far cry from less than 300 in our first season! 

July 2024

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We played six pre-season friendlies, which is less than usual for me. In previous years I have carried out a complete overhaul of the squad, but this was more of an evolution of something that was working so there was less need for experimentation.

Against Toulouse, Lanzillota flapped at a cross and threw it into the path of an incoming forward to concede our first goal. This was likely in my mind when I accepted the transfer bid for him. We went 2-0 down before coming back to win 4-2, demonstrating great character. You may notice in the victory over Portsmouth a hat-trick was scored by Talisca. This is the former Al-Nassr and Benfica winger, who I had on trial and was testing out as an advanced forward. He was clearly a phenomenal player but he wanted huge wages (£60k per week). In the end he chose Club Brugge over us and, although he would have played well, on reflection I am glad he didn't sign as he would have disrupted our wage structure.

We played a weakened side against Brest as we play Benfica in the Super Cup just three days later. Bring on the new season! 

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4 hours ago, Dong21 said:

our top five rivals... they have a monopoly on young local talent

Agreed, you're facing an uphill battle on that front. Apologies if you mentioned it and I've missed it, but have you managed to get the club to invest much in improving the youth facilities?

And good luck with the start of the season :thup:

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23 hours ago, warlock said:

Apologies if you mentioned it and I've missed it, but have you managed to get the club to invest much in improving the youth facilities?

Yes I have been very fortunate that Evra has accepted nearly every request to improve our facilities that I have made. This is what our set up currently looks like:

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These have only been in place a few months though so we haven't seen the output from it just yet. 

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On 12/12/2023 at 23:38, warlock said:

Yeah, might take a while, but hopefully you'll see some benefit sooner rather than later.

I've just gone through the process of registering my Europa League squad and had to leave out some valuable players due to the limitations, so really need the academy to start bearing fruit in the next few seasons. This European campaign I'm going to have to have some 15 and 16 year olds on the bench.

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*Left back Nilton Varela was registered and then six days after this, and after the Portuguese transfer window closed, his release clause was met and he was sold. So I only have 20 registered players rather than 21. If I could turn back time and I was aware of the release clause, I'd have registered David Tavares as back-up left back.

On 13/12/2023 at 16:23, Jogo Bonito said:

Good luck for the new season. The friendlies aren't always a true sign of what lays ahead - but they went well, and I'm expecting you to have another excellent campaign here!

Thanks amigo! 

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39 minutes ago, Dong21 said:

I've just gone through the process of registering my Europa League squad

There's always something, isn't there. Even in the leagues with generous rules for squad size and registration.

Still, perhaps one of those youngsters will shine on the European stage :cool:

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Staff Additions

The last two summers have seen wholesale changes to my staffing team. This season, it has been much quieter. In fact, not a single coaching contract was due to expire in June 2024, as everyone at the club was hired by me on a long-term contract in the prior seasons or in the case of a handful of employees, such as my Assistant Manager, were here on arrival and I've given them a contract extension. Therefore the new recruits this summer are as a result of our stature growing and Evra allowing me to hire additional specialists, rather than replacing exiting staff.

Recruitment Team

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The first hire to discuss is quite the coup. Manuel Pellegrini is a manager of extensive experience and caliber. At the age of 70 he has decided to step back from the spotlight and take up a scouting role, here at Estrela. His ability to spot talent will be invaluable. My only concern is that I may have given the board a ready made successor, if they ever decide to sack me!

Joining Pellegrini in the scouting division is a man who certainly looks like he has an eye for talent. Italian Pietro Pacini adds further depth to a talented pool of scouts. We have also added Recruitment Analyst Pedro Valdemar to our ranks.

Medical Team

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With the Europa League new format there will be more games this season that we've had in the last two campaigns. Fitness and injury recovery and therefore more important than ever. Luckily, I have been permitted to  hire two additional physios.

Both have prestigious past experience. Firstly, Andrea Galli joins us having spent the last 14 years at Inter Milan. His mental attributes are simply top class. Secondly, we have the arrival of Pedro Barreiras who has spent seven years at city neighbours Benfica. 

We have also been permitted to add an U23s physio (Carlos Banza) and an U19s physio (Jurgen Delva).

Coaching Team

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Frustratingly, mid-way through pre-season Porto approached my set pieces coach Ben McKay and there was nothing I could do to stop him leaving. There were hardly any set piece coaches available to choose a successor from (I do wonder if this is linked to this save being carried across from FM23 and set pieces coaches being introduced mid-save). The best option available, and the person I hired, was Simone Nardella. He is not as highly rated as my previous two set piece coaches but he seems capable - at least this one hopefully won't be poached!

Somewhat surprisingly, Toulouse poached my U23s Assistant Manager to be their first team coach, which created a vacancy. I was delighted to be able to bring in a coach of the quality of Richard Thomas as my new U23s Assistant Manager. He will help with my objective of bringing through talent from the Estrela academy. His appointment does come with some added nostalgia, as he was one of my trusted coaching lieutenants during my managerial adventures with Oldham Athletic last year.

I further strengthened our youth coaching with the arrival of two more British coaches. Tom Ramasut joins as our new U23s Coach and Darren Arnott is our latest U19s Coach. To make room for the new arrivals, the board insisted that I released a coach, so Kieron Dyer has left the club.

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August 2024

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The season's curtain raiser was the Super Cup against Benfica. It was a relatively uneventful game. Both teams had equal possession and shots, but they got the winner near the end. New goalkeeping signing Turati got injured in pre-season, an ab strain that would rule him out for four weeks, so Lanzillota played his last game for the club before being sold days later. 

Next we played lower-league Varzim in the Taca de Liga and it was 20 year old 'keeper van Sas making his debut in goal. He let in the first and last goals of the game, but we scored seven times in between. It was a great day for our forwards with three of them scoring braces. To meet the competitions requirements to play two U21 players, we started 17 year old Cequeira and 16 year old Espirito at centre back. Sub Tavares was named man of the match thanks to two assists. Mansur suffered a calf strain in the match, ruling him out for five weeks. This win progressed us to the three team group stage (the format of this competition seems to change every year!). 

With no European qualifying games to contend with this season, we were able to get stuck into the league. Five league games in a row seems like a novelty in modern football. 

The game against Boavista saw us play our third goalkeeper in three games, this time the debut of new signing Valdimarsson who kept a clean sheet. Braga continue to be a thorn in our side. We were awful first half, dominated the second and had a 93rd minute equaliser ruled out for offside. A draw would have been the fair result. We thrashed Estoril to lift spirits. One of the goals scored by Karamoko was a goal of the season contender. It was back to frustration against Portimonense. We had two disallowed goals, xG of 3, 58% possession and yet only drew the game. To make things worse, Brumado suffered a hernia and was ruled out for five weeks, Varela a damaged heel so out for two weeks and, after a strong performance from the bench, Hall picked up a hamstring strain and is out for five weeks too. We ended the month with a win against Moreirense.

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After five games we sit fourth, which I'm obviously pleased with. It's early days and some of our competitors have played less games than us. Other than the Estoril game, we haven't reached full gear yet so there is plenty more to come when this new team clicks. The big concern for me is the number of injuries, which is noticeably more than the last two seasons. The two new physios clearly haven't made an impact!

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I'll end with the Europa League draw, which has provided us with a number of interesting ties. 

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September 2024

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A perfect month was achieved in September. Three wins in three different competitions. Nine goals scored and zero conceded. 

In the league game against Gil Vicente, goalkeeper Turati finally made his debut after recovering from injury. He played our first Europa League game too, with Valdimarsson playing in the Taca de Liga. Injuries continued to be a big theme for the season, in mid-September; right back Cruz pulled his ankle ligaments (out for three weeks), star midfielder Danilovic injured his hip (ruled out for three months) and Bailly twisted his ankle (four weeks).

Our debut in the Europa League against Cluj was helped when they got an early red card. We dominated the game notching 30 shots (although only a third of those were on target), with an xG of 4.15. Cluj had no shots all game. Due to the domination, we were able to rest key players in the last 30 minutes. 16 year old winger Julio Cesar made his debut at left wing back, from the bench.

October 2024

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Given their quality, I was worried about playing Arsenal. They were far superior on the night and in the end I was pleased to only lose by a margin of two. We showed character and did not allow this defeat to dent confidence, winning the four games that followed. 

Only one league game this month and it was a dominant display. 30 shots again and xG of 4.37. Full backs Costinha and Mansur were in fine form, with an assist apiece. 

The Taca de Portugal fixture against Louletano was an opportunity to play the eleven players who had featured the least so far this season. Reserves Fortune and Tavares grabbed the opportunity with both hands and were the stars of the performance. 

Back in the Europa and back on track with a routine win against Slovan Bratislava. Another win, but another injury. This time midfielder White went off after just 10 minutes with a groin strain that would rule him out for four weeks. He was already filling in at defensive midfield, so centre back Nunes came on to help out in an unfamiliar position.

The month ended on a high as we beat local rivals Sporting in the Taca de Liga group stage. This win gave us six points and meant we qualified for the Semi Finals before Sporting and Gil Vicente even played each other. 17 year old forward Vezo made his debut in the pressing forward role. Again, I sadly have to report on injuries... Goalkeeper Turati went off with a broken hand and will be out for six weeks. Karamoko also went off crocked, but will only miss a week this time. 

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At the end of October we sit in 3rd place, which I am obviously delighted with. There have only been seven league games though, with plenty of cup football instead taking up our time.

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November 2024

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Going into a long-term managerial career in Portugal, I knew that battling Benfica, Sporting and Porto would be extremely difficult. What I wasn't expecting was how strong Vitoria would be! They did well last season and look to be doing even better this time around. We played them twice in November and lost both times. In both games we matched them for shots and possession, even bettering them in xG, but they were clinical and we were not.

Following the first Vitoria game, we completed what is now an annual tradition: A top quality free transfer signing in the winter off-season!

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I was very surprised to find Weston McKennie available as a free agent. I checked to see if there was a long-term injury as the cause. There was not. He had spent the last two seasons away from Juventus on loan, firstly at Man City and then at Lazio. Albeit he hadn't seemed to have been pulling up trees, but it was still very surprising that he was available. My scouts assessment was that he would be the best player at the club if we signed him and with defensive midfielder Danilovic still out with his long-term injury, I moved quickly and decisively. Now the elephant in the room is clearly his wage. At the point of signing, he is on £30k more than any other player at the club, per week (I say this as later in the month, after a protracted period of contract negotiations, Praet received a new deal at £42k per week - so £20k less than McKinnie). My justification is that (a) he is the best player at the club, (b) we are growing and finances are healthy - we can afford the deal and (c) given his age and his transfer value, we could easily cash in on him and balance the books if needed. He is not registered for the Europa League, so made his debut against Chaves.

Our Europa League campaign continued well. Costinha scored an amazing volley in the rout of Lech Poznan. More injuries happened in that game with Mansur going off with a gashed leg (out four weeks), being replaced by Cruz who then also went off, this time with a twisted ankle (out for five weeks)! I'm getting a little fed up with all the injuries now. 

We were the better side against Betis and squandered the win when we conceded in the 90th minute. Given their stature, its not a bad result, but it is certainly frustrating.

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Here is the Europa Leauge group stage table at just over the half way stage. We are on the verge of automatic qualification for the next round and Playoffs look near to guaranteed, if not. Our final three group stage matches are against Rangers, Legia and Astana.

December 2024

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December was a quieter month, with a 17 day gap without fixtures in the middle. 

We drew against Rio Ave and Porto, but deserved to easily win one and easily lose the other! We dominated Rio Ave, whereas Porto dominated us. Against Porto we played with ten men for 65 minutes so I was proud we hung on and got far up enough the pitch to be awarded a penalty in the 86th minute. The draw was important as it stopped Porto leapfrogging us in the table.

In the Europa we secured at least a Playoff spot by beating Rangers thanks to a wonder strike from Brumado.

After 17 days of rest and recovery, I thought that I was going to finally have a full squad to choose from against Benfica. Then, the day before the match, a host of players (including three of my strikers) were ruled out with colds!

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This turned out not to matter however, as we beat the league leaders in their own stadium! :D

They were the dominant side, but we came out of the dressing room at half time with velocity and tore them apart. After the match, Costinha told the press that my rip-roaring half time team talk made the difference.  This win meant that we overtook Benfica in the table and finish 2024 in 3rd place, just two points behind the joint league leaders. See below for a snapshot of the team who won this important fixture. 

Somewhat surprisingly, White was named the league's Young Player of the Month for December. He only played twice and was man of the match vs Rio Ave but was sent off for a horror tackle against Porto! Not sure what the award's selection committee were thinking there...

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Finally, I'll end the month and the year with an admin wrap-up:

  • We have had another 'will he, won't he' ownership saga. Over the course of two weeks in November we received news articles saying that Evra is going and then later that he denied this and was staying. Things have once again settled down, but this does seem to be leading to something
  • Interest in my managerial services have been high! I have now declined formal job interviews at Fenerbache, Wolves, West Ham, Bayer Leverkusen, Lyon and Sevilla. I am committed to Estrela!
  • Assistant Manager Luis Matos has announced that he will retire at the end of the current season. Along with Mansur, he is the only real connection to the group I begun this journey alongside
  • Forward Brumado has been rewarded with a new four year contract 
  • Having struggled by with one left back all season, I pounced when I saw that Sporting had transfer listed left back Ruben Vinagre for just £375k. My scouts rate him better than Mansur, who has been a fine player for me, and we agreed a pre-transfer window deal in early December. He will join the club officially on 03 January 2025
  • Going into the January transfer window, Evra decided to give me another £3m of budget unprompted
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  • 2 weeks later...

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January Transfer Window

January 2025 turned out to be a relatively busy month in Amadora. Some of it was as a result of unexpected transfer bids for my players, but most was me proactively looking to make adjustments to the profile of my squad. Below I will summarise the arrivals and departures, with an update on my squad composition following the closure of the transfer window. 

Goalkeepers

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No changes in this department. I am very happy with my three young goalkeepers.

Right Backs

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Also no change on the right side of our defence.

Left Backs

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Two new arrivals at left back. One arrived on 01 January and the other on 01 February. 

Following the shock departure of Varela in September we have limped along with just one left back. I was determined to address this in the January window and acted swiftly to secure a pre-arranged deal for Ruben Vinagre for a bargain price of £375k from Sporting Lisbon. My wing backs are some of the key creators in my system, so his attacking prowess appealed to me. He also adds to the number of Portuguese players in the squad.

I was happily going into the second half of the season with Mansur and Vinagre as my left backs, when my scouts alerted me to the availability of wonderkid Valentin Barco on transfer deadline day. I had money in the bank and he was interested so I decided to move decisively, spending £5.5m on the Boca Juniors youngster. Barco is effectively Mansur's successor-in-waiting. Mansur has been phenomenal throughout my time at the club, but with him being 31 I needed to start thinking about the future. Despite his age, Barco looks to me to have all the attributes to be a strong starting player already. 

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Centre Backs

 Departures: Albeit conscious that we were overloaded with talented centre backs, moving any of the cohort on was not high on my priority list with things going well on the pitch. This changed, however, when we received unprompted bids for two of the group. Firstly, now-Premier League side Leeds came in with a £13.75m bid for Eric Bailly. Ever since arriving he has performed well (he had featured 17 times so far this season), but that was a bid too good to turn now. He'll be 31 in two months, he arrived on a free just over a year ago (so it is £13.75m of pure profit) and I am always waiting for a long-term injury to hit him; therefore, it is simply terrific business to sell him for that profit. I was confident I could replace him with a younger talent of similar ability, so accepted the bid. Then, shortly after, we received bids of £9m from five different clubs for Vukasin Jovanovic. He had only made four appearances all season, less than any other of my centre backs, so again the offers were too good to refuse. I accepted them all and Jovanovic selected Championship side Sheffield United as his destination. This sale returned a profit of £7.9m after 18 months at the club.

The final departure was more planned. Amir Feratovic had been sent on loan to Maritimo for the season to develop. Aware he only had six months left on his deal, I decided to check in on his progress. I quickly saw that he wouldn't have the potential to trouble our first team, so made the tactical decision to cancel his loan and offer him out for sale so that we didn't lose him for nothing in the summer. Pogon came in with a bid of £235k, which we gladly accepted.

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I swiftly identified American Owen Otasowie as Bailly's intended replacement. He had a release clause in his Austin FC contract of £3.7m, meaning I signed him for what I deem a bargain. Physically and mentally strong, Otasowie is also comfortable playing as a defensive midfielder. When I visited Lisbon earlier this year the city was swarming with American tourists, so Otasowie and McKinnie will find it easy to feel at home. 

I decided not to sign another centre back to give the young pair of Awe and Kovacevic more opportunities. I also have the even younger trio of Cerqueira, Espirito and Carlos waiting in the wings for chances.

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Centre Midfielders

Departures: As we were oversubscribed with central midfielders (a nice problem to have, I know), I decided to offer out 20 year old George Hall for loan. Due to squad depth Hall had only started three games and came off the bench 12 times. Predictably there were many bids that came in for him. I selected Sunderland as his destination after seeing they were challenging for the Championship Play-Offs (so he could be part of a team doing well) and I checked that he would be their best defensive midfielder and therefore likely to start games. Since arriving he has started three out of three of their games. This month also saw the departure of Cafú, after just one cup appearance this campaign, who joined Nacional for £120k, slimming it down to eight players competing for three midfield berths. 

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Strikers

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Performances this season have been good, we are doing well in both the league and cup competitions, but we haven't been quite as prolific as in previous years. Specifically my strikers haven't been as clinical as needed. Many of our games have seen our xG be much higher than the amount of goals we scored. I therefore was on the look out for a striker who could make a difference in the second half of the season.

I searched high and low for a striker who my scouts deemed as better than my current crop of forwards, but was also affordable. My search took me to Japan, where I discovered a forward who had scored 20 goals in 32 games for J1 League side Hachioji Tigre. 25 year old Kyosuke Tagawa was available for just £2m and I beat a lot of competition to his signing. Interestingly, this is Tagawa's second spell in Portugal as he previously spent two seasons at Santa Clara. I am hoping Tagawa will give our season a goal scoring boost. 

Later in the month I had more funds in the coffers after the sales of Bailly and Jovanovic and no pressing concerns in terms of gaps in the squad, so I started thinking more big picture. I am very conscious that we do not have much Portuguese talent in the squad (especially after the sage advice from @warlock!) so I dedicated some time to scouring the leagues for young Portuguese talent I could acquire. Through this search process, I came across Boavista striker Martim Tavares who is a current Portugal U21 international. Tavares has great attributes for a 21 year old forward and bags of potential. He had scored three in 14 games for Boavista (the bottom side in the league) so far this season. I decided to gamble on his potential and made him our club record signing for £10.5m. Not wanting to stunt his growth by putting him on my bench, I also agreed to loan him back to Boavista for the rest of the season. Hopefully their form can start to improve and he gets chances to score.

Departure: Given we now had six good quality centre forwards and Tavares arriving in the summer, it was time to move on Yassin Fortune to a new club. Opportunities had been limited for the Haitain this season, but his 33 goals across two years will not be forgotten by me. He joins Lechia for £1.7m with my best wishes. 

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Academy Recruitment

With my new and improved youth facilities, understandably, taking time to bear fruit and with European squad constraints fresh in my mind, I decided to give the academy a boost by targeting some more young Portuguese talent.

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First to arrive is attack-minded centre midfielder Tiago Freitas, bought from the academy of neighbours Benfica for a fee of £500k that could rise to £1.3m, based on performance. 

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In addition to the signing of Freitas, pre-contract deals were agreed with a pair of teenagers. The first is centre back Diogo Rocha who also will be departing Benfica, the second is striker Joao Infante from the youth ranks of Porto. Both are raw talents, but with age on their side I am hoping to support their development once they join us in the summer. Perhaps Rocha, Freitas and Infante will form the core of my U23s team next season. 

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January 2025

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Our unprecedented run of goalkeeper unavailability continued before the Feirense game as flu ruled out Turati. We dominated the game but only scored two. The Pacos de Ferreira win was comfortable. We then faced a tough trip across town to face Sporting. This time it was Danilovic ruled out with flu, as the virus continue to rip through my team. It was a poor game in which we had slightly better chances, a draw was fair enough though. We ended the month in a respectable 5th place, with between one and three games in hand on all of our rivals.

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We secured four points from our final two Europa League group away games. Before the match we lost Kovacevic to flu and Vinagre to a twisted knee. The Legia game was very frustrating; we were 2-0 up and fell back to 2-2, had three times as many chances and scored a late winner that was disallowed. The win in Astana was much more comfortable. Brumado was the star of these final two games with four goals. 

It goes without saying that there was another injury before the Portimonense game - this time Nunes pulled his hamstring ruling him out a few weeks. Portimonense are a bogey team for us, so I was somewhat worried going into the Taca de Liga Semi Final. Due to the competitions' rules whereby you are required to play two players under 21 years old, we played Cerquiera at centre back and gave a debut to 16 year old winger Daniel Rodrigues at right wing back. Rodrigues had a debut to remember! He set up both of our goals and was named as the fixtures' Man (boy?) of the Match.

Below are the final standings from the Europa League group stage. I was delighted that we finished in the top eight, meaning that we automatically qualified for the Round of 16 and didn't have to play in the Knockout Play-Off Round. There are a lot of big names that finished below us, so this demonstrates how far we have come as a club. With Sporting top of the league, ourselves in sixth and Porto in ninth, there is good evidence of the strength of the Portuguese Liga. Hopefully we can all go far and improve the country's UEFA competition coefficient. 

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February 2025

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February 2025 was a rare month with no cup fixtures and only league games. With seven fixtures against sides below us in the table, we saw this is a great opportunity to build up some momentum. On the whole, the month went really well. Five wins, one draw and one loss meant that we rose up to second place in the table (although we will likely fall to third once Benfica have played their game in hand. 

The victory over Boavista saw new striker Tagawa score his first goal for the club. The loss to Portimonense was obviously hugely disappointing. They had won their prior game 7-0 so were coming into the game with form, but I didn't expect to be beaten so comfortably. There first goals was a free kick that deflected off our wall and wrong-footed the 'keeper. The scorer of the second was somewhat surprising. We had sold defender Hernando to Gil Vicente in the summer, who then didn't play him at all and instead loaned him in January to Portimonense who were above them in the league (all very odd). Our former player came back to haunt us, smashing in the second after being up for a corner. The loss meant we fell behind them in the table.

I had thought that left back Vinagre was particularly poor against Portimonense, giving the ball away often, so dropped him for debutant Barco for the Vizela game. That turned out to be a masterstroke as the Argentinian delivered an assist and two goals in a masterful performance. This win saw us rise to 3rd, helped by Benfica losing to Sporting. The Santa Clara result was frustrating as we dominated without winning. Luckily Benfica beat Portimonense so they switched places and we stayed 4th.

After a run of 14 games without scoring, I took Karamoko to one side and had a stern word with him about his form. This bit of coaching worked even better than I'd hoped as he then went on to score five goals in three games (along with a couple of assists), even being selected as the league's Forward of the Month.

Keeping his place in the team for the rest of the month after his great performance, left back Barco was selected as both the Young Player of the Month and Player of the Month. I was selected as the Manager of the Month.

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Other things of note that happened during the month:

  • I confirmed my Europa League squad for the knock out stages. The notable change was that I dropped striker Salcedo to enable the inclusion of new arrival Tagawa
  • It took some back-and-forth, but I managed to persuade owner Evra to both improve youth recruitment and increase our junior coaching budget. The result of these changes was that we are now considered to have excellent academy coaching and exceptional youth recruitment
  • Over a period of three weeks we had the same cycle of news for the third time during my time managing the club; (1) speculation Evra will step away from the club, (2) rumours of a sale denied and (3) Evra comes out to deny there will be a takeover. The only difference this time is that I was asked in a press conference about whether a potential takeover would distract the players, which made it feel a little more likely this time around
  • I have noticed a significant decrease in the amount of injuries in February. Previously it was a handful before every game, this month I can't think of an injury of note. I guess that's the latest patch coming into effect, rather than just good luck 
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March 2025

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March was a perfect month for us. We beat Fenerbache home and away in the Europa League Round of 16 and won three out of three league games. In four of the five games we kept satisfying clean sheets and we scored an average of 2.6 goals per game. The Rio Ave win was our eighth in a row, my best run so far as Estrela manager. 

The Arouca game looked like it could be a classic frustrating game - domination without a goal - until we were awarded a penalty in the final 20 minutes.

I was slightly nervous about a trip to Istanbul but needn't have been as we put in a dominant display. Brumado was superb leading the line - his growth and development recently being evidenced in this display. Costinha and Praet both got a brace of assists. Defender Nunes will be disappointed to have given away a penalty for their first goal. The second leg was a relaxed affair and we were even able to put on teenagers Cerqueira and Rodrigues from the bench for the last 30 minutes. I have had Cerqueira focus on ball control in individual training and I can already see a tangible impact on his dribbling and technique.

Against Chaves I gave striker Salcedo a rare start and he rewarded me with a goal. The downside of this match was, after getting on the score sheet early, midfielder White was taken off with a twisted ankle and is now ruled out for four weeks. The VAR team was very busy in our Rio Ave fixture - they were called upon to rule out a goal by Kovacevic, ruled two of Karamoko's goals as legitimate and awarded the penalty which he then scored to complete his hat-trick. 

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Despite our immaculate form, we fell down to third in the league this month as we played less games than our rival Benfica. I appreciated that the league didn't gave us a fixture in between our Fenerbache matches, as it kept the squad fresh, but it has contributed to an extremely congested month of April. 

I have to take a quick moment to preview the month ahead, below. As well as things have been going, this could all be about to change. We play four of the top six in the league, have tough home and away ties against Real Sociedad and face Benfica again, this time in the Taca de Liga Final.

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Youth Recruitment

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The youth intake of 2025 can be described as a mixed bag. On the plus side we have a striker who looks like he could have the potential to be better than any player we currently have at the club. He of course needs to be nurtured correctly to reach that potential. On the downside, there were only three players of any quality in the group. My staff's advice was to only sign three of the players. Along with striker Baloyi we have two young Portuguese talents of note; goalkeeper Pinheiro and left back Adao. The pair also have bags of potential. I offered all three pre-contracts right away, to ensure they stay with us after turning sixteen. We lack strikers in our U23s team and with his obvious ability, I decided to put Baloyi straight into this age group whereas Pinheiro and Adao have joined the U18s. Baloyi proved he was ready for this level by scoring a brace in his first match for the U23s.

I went against my coaches advice and signed an additional five players from the youth intake. None of them will ever be good enough to make our first team, but my rationale is that my three young talents still need teammates in the U18s team and their purpose is to help their peers succeed.

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Conscious that our youth intake was small in numbers and knowing we currently lack quality in the youth team, I proactively looked for teenagers that we can add to our ranks. I have pre-agreed deals for the above youngsters, three are 18 years old and two are 17. None are of significant potential, I'd be surprised if they became future first-teamers, but they are better than what we currently have. Again, the thought process is that our prospects with notable potential will thrive with capable team-mates around them. We have recently been informed that Lokosa has been called up for Nigeria's U20 World Cup squad, so appearing in that may benefit him positively.

For similar reasons of youth squad depth I triggered one year contract extensions for Nouri (20 years old), Pinto and Serrano (both 21 years old). Again, these are not elite talents but will be handy in the season ahead.

New Contract

Owner Patrice Evra proactively reached out to me at the start of the month to open talks regarding a new contract. I am deeply invested in this managerial journey and I am enjoying making incremental improvements to make Estrela da Amadora an established side near the top of the Portuguese pyramid. It was therefore an easy "yes" when renewals was suggested. I put pen to paper on a new four year contract - the adventure continues! 

April 2024

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We have completed and survived our mega month of fixtures. It was by no means perfect, but definitely had some positives. 

I'll start with a big positive. We overcame Real Sociedad 4-2 on aggregate, over two legs, progressing to a Europa League Semi Final clash against inter-city rivals Sporting Lisbon. We were the better side at home, but could not win. Centre-back Kovacevic's first half goal was balanced out by a Thuram equaliser. Real had better possession and more shots than in the first game, but we had far superior xG the second time around and took our chances to win.

We got an important point away against Porto. This was a close game with both teams getting a lot of chances. We had more possession, but a draw seemed a fair result. Young left back Barco got the assist, setting up Karamoko's crucial goal. The Vizela game was one the one match this month we definitely had to win, and that we did. Their goalkeeper helped us by flapping at a cross in from a free kick, leaving McKennie with a simple tap in. After a great first half, we were quite poor in the second and even conceded. The media described it as a Jekyll and Hyde performance. Attacking midfielder Nouri made his debut from the substitute bench vs Vizela.

The obvious disappointments were the league losses against Benfica and Vitoria. Benfica are the dominant force in Portuguese football, therefore it is no shame to lose narrowly to a team of that calibre. Benfica scored in the 18th minute and then our forward Brumado was sent off in the 21st minute. I was impressed of the resilience of my team to not fall apart or even concede again, playing with ten men for over 70 minutes. The Vitoria result was more frustrating; we had 65% possession and more chances, but finishing was poor. We even had a morale boosting pre-match team meeting to ease pressure before a match the press were inaccurately calling a 'title decider', however this didn't have the desired impact. Vitoria continue to be a bogey team for us. If we are to meet our aim of becoming 'best of the rest' and finish 4th in the league, we need to start beating our direct rival for this position.

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Edited by Dong21
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37 minutes ago, Dong21 said:

If we are to meet our aim of becoming 'best of the rest' and finish 4th in the league

Two games in hand... win those (and hang on for the remaining fixtures) and the job's a good 'un :lol:.

(Can you tell I have 20 motivation? :cool:)

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Taca de Liga Final: Benfica 1-1 Estrela da Amadora (5-6 on penalties)

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I omitted to include one result from my summary of the month of April earlier. The last fixture of a busy and challenging month was the league cup final against league dominators Benfica. The Lisbon giants beat us two weeks prior in our league encounter, but it was a different outcome when we met in this showpiece final. A rousing pre-match team meeting made no difference for the Vitoria game, I did the same again before this final and the outcome was different. 

As you can see from the stats above, we certainly rode our luck. Benfica had five times as many shots as us, although their xG was not significantly higher and possession was even. 

Rules of the Taca de Liga dictate that you must start two eligible U21 players each match. It was a no brainer for me to play Cequeira who has had a good amount of minutes over the last few seasons, but it was not as obvious who would be the second selection. In the end I decided to give attacker Vezo the second start of his career. I planned to take him off for one of my more experienced forwards, relatively quick into the game. What I wasn't expecting, was for him to score the all important goal! Costinha did all the hard work, beating two players to get to the byline and put in a great cross that Vezo tapped in. That said, Vezo had to be in the right place at the right time to score the goal and deserves great credit for doing so. Vezo became the club's youngest goalscorer at just 17 years and 184 days.

Taca de Liga Final goalscorer, Mahomed Vezo:

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Costinha was the best player on the pitch, so it was a shame when he twisted his ankle and was taken off. After the game we were informed he had been ruled out for a month. 

We hung on, after conceding an equaliser, and were pleased to see the game go to penalties. Although Benfica were likely to have more accomplished penalty takers, I was happy for us to take our chances in the lottery. Both teams missed their first penalties. Then, there was drama as both keepers saved a penalty apiece to keep the scores level. It went into sudden death and my centre back Nunes stepped up and scored his before Turati was the hero of the day, saving his second and meaning Nunes' goal was the winner! 

We have added a new trophy to our cabinet. Our third competition win in three years. Tricolores triumph!

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  • 5 months later...
Posted (edited)

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Finish The Story

For five long months I have not touched FM24, let alone my Estrela da Amadora save. Dust and cobwebs cover the manager's office at the Estádio José Gomes. 

Out of the blue today, however, I have had the urge to pick this back up and finish the story. Well... finish the season at least! 

I appreciate that anyone who was once following this career journey will have long lost interest and forgotten the story so far - so this is purely self-indulgence at this point.

Indeed, it has taken me some time to re-familiarise myself with the team and what we were looking to achieve.

So, where were we?

I left my team in the lurch at the end of April 2025. We sat 5th in the league, with aspirations of finishing 4th but only five games to go and with us three points behind FC Porto who currently occupy our desired position. 

Why is our heart set on 4th? Simply, progress. In our first season in the top flight, and the first of this managerial endeavor, we came 6th. Last season we improved upon this and came 5th. So this season the objective was to be the 'best of the rest' after the big three of Porto, Benfica and Sporting Lisbon and finish in 4th position.  

We are also in uncharted waters in European football as we have made it to the Semi Finals of the Europa League. Further European success, after our shock victory in the Europa Conference League last season, would be an unprecedented achievement from this once unheard of side from the suburbs of Lisbon. We face local neighbours Sporting in a two-legged decider. 

Without further ado (it's already been five months!) let's get into the final month of the season and summarise seven matches in eighteen days...

May 2025

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We start the with some disappointment. We were comfortably beaten in the first leg of our Europa League Semi Final. We were the better side in the return leg, with double the xG and three times the shots, but couldn't get the all important goals to level the tie thus ending our European run. It took them until extra time, but Arsenal went on to beat Sporting 2-0 in the Final. It is hard to imagine we wouldn't have fared the same against Arteta's side. Always one to seek positives; I should mention that we achieved a record gate of £150k from our 15,000 capacity crowd - we have come a long way from crowds of under 200! Additionally, striker Baloyi became our youngest ever player, coming off the bench at the age of 15 years and 347 days.

I was delighted to secure four wins out of five in the league, especially with games coming every two days at times. Against Pacos de Ferreira we played a completely changed eleven as the first team were in bad shape after the Sporting loss. Striker Tagawa scored for the first time in 10 games and his strike partner Brumado scored for the first time in 10 hours. Next up was Feirense and our best scoreline of the season. Not only did we score seven, we did not concede a single shot. Brumado was truly reawaken - he got a match rating of 10/10 after three goals and an assist. 18 year old midfielder Tiago Freitas, a January arrival from Benfica, played well in his debut game. 

Ahead of our game against Santa Clara I held a morale boosting team talk in which I told the team they were hitting form just at the right time. It seemed to put fire in the team's bellies as we bagged five and 'keeper Turati even saved a penalty when we were 1-0 up. Due to the congested fixture list and small injuries stacking up, we played a central midfield pairing of Dack and Danilovic which worked surprisingly well. Substitute Kadeware has been somewhat of a forgotten man this season but made an impact scoring a hat-trick from the bench. 

As our end-of-season form was picking up, Vitoria's was dropping off. Our penultimate game of the season against Braga was a game-in-hand. We decided to go attacking, put fate into our own hands and try and leapfrog Vitoria before the even more difficult fixture against Sporting. It looked like it might have been a mistake as we conceded within 90 minutes, but we persevered with our approach and got back level just two minutes later. Tagawa was phenomenal - his May form alone justifying his January purchase. The win pushed us up into 4th and only one point behind Sporting. 

Going into the final game of the season, it was in our hands to be able to finish 3rd if we beat Sporting on the day. That was not to be, however we were delighted to achieve a draw which delivered us our targeted 4th place finish. Once again, we were in front of a sell-out 15,000 crowd. 

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We end the season with our best ever points tally and our highest ever league finish.

Our average attendance of 4,908 is another club record.

In the end, we were only one point away from catching one of the 'big three' and only seven points off a league winning points total. I'm delighted with the progress year-on-year and how we are establishing ourselves among Portuguese football's mainstays.  

Edited by Dong21
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23 minutes ago, Dong21 said:

For five long months I have not touched FM24

Oh my god! It is ALIVE!!!!

Glad to see you back :thup:

Strong end to the season. But....

25 minutes ago, Dong21 said:

we are establishing ourselves among Portuguese football's mainstays

"Establishing"? Sounds like there may be more to come, hmmm? :cool:

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20 minutes ago, warlock said:

Glad to see you back :thup:

Thanks @warlock - the place has had a makeover!

I had a good catch up on your Darlington save at the weekend which probably contributed to me picking the game back up again.

22 minutes ago, warlock said:

"Establishing"? Sounds like there may be more to come, hmmm? :cool:

Aha I'm definitely tempted! I do really love this save and FM25 is still quite far away...

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2024/25 Squad Performance

As is my tradition, to tie up the third season I need to review the performance of the playing squad. 

Let's take a look back at how the players performed:

Goalkeepers

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It is somewhat unique to have two young talented goalkeepers at the club at the same time. Both have great morale as they split the time in the net near equally, and results on the pitch were strong, but as you can see from 'playing time happiness' there is tension bubbling under the surface. A number of minor injuries made it easy to keep swapping 'keepers. Next season we would be hoping for a little more stability. Turati was marginally the better performer, but Valdimarsson could argue he was selected against tougher opposition. Third-choice van Sas was signed for extreme emergencies, and luckily none of those occurred.

Right Backs

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Wing-back Costinha is simply a superb operator and it was no surprise to see him named Fans' Player of the Season. The 5-3-2 formation we operate with relies heavily upon the full backs to deliver creatively and Costinha certainly delivered. His 16 assists were the most of any player at the club.  He was also joint 4th highest goalscorer (tied with four other players). Costinha's deputy, Cruz, made a notable impact as an energetic substitute in many games. My staff rate him as one of the poorer players in the squad, which therefore makes him a potential target for replacement (if I take this further), but he has never really let me down and he is a Portuguese player which we do need a quota of. Food for thought.

Left Backs

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I am blessed to have three high performing left backs at the club. In fact, this should probably also include defensive midfielder Tavares (featured below in the midfielders section) who also filled in at left back on many occasions and performed well. Although there was not just one standout star in this position, like there is at right back, the position did deliver 24 assists split across the four players who played there - evidence that the system is effective, if nothing more. 

Mansur finishes the season as Estrela's record league appearance maker, having now played 75 games. He is the closest thing this young club has to a legend. Given his age and the alternative talent we have in this position, this will likely be the farewell summer of the last remnant of the pre-Evra and pre-Dong21 era. Barco and Vinagre both arrived in January and both have looked really exciting.

Centre Backs

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When I signed McKenna on a free transfer a year ago, I don't thing I anticipated what a key player he would become for me. Scooping up the accolade of club Signing of the Season, McKenna matched Costinha as the players who made the most appearances this campaign. As you can see above, he was also the centre back with the highest average rating and most goals scored (an area we need to improve upon overall). Otherwise, it was an ever-changing cast in terms of the rest of the centre-backs. 18 year old Cerqueria will likely be pleased with his playing time and has developed nicely. As the only home-grown player currently in the squad, the intention would be to keep him and continue playing him.

Unhelpfully, as the season ended Kovacevic approached me and advised he would like to leave the club as we have not qualified for the Champions League.

Centre Midfielders

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Those familiar with my tactics will know that I play a defensive midfielder behind two central midfielders, one of whom is a mezzala and the other who is a box-to-box midfielder. First choice defensive midfielder Danilovic lost three months of his season to injury and club coaches think this has dented his growth. He has continued to be a strong performer for me, so I have no current plans to move him on. Back-up DM McKennie was the benefactor of this injury, playing more times than anticipated. 

In central midfield, three players shared the bulk of the playing time across the two positions. I was pleased with WhitePraet and Jorgensen's seasons. Praet delivered an impressive return of 10 assists and five goals. White got six of each and won the club's Young Player of the Season gong. 

Back-up players Oakley-Boothe and Tavares got very limited playing time as we are so stocked in these positions. With young Portuguese prospects incoming to back-up this area of the squad, I will let both move on. Tavares' contract is coming to an end and I will sell Oakley-Boothe for a reasonable fee. 

Missing from this screenshot is Bradley Dack who I sold before remembering to take screenshots (I'm rusty at this!). Dack started 12 games and came off the bench a further 20 times. He contributed six goals, which included four penalties. Dack was once my star-signing but at 31 it was time to cash in and he was sold to Ajaccio for £3.3m (of which we kept £2.5m after clauses). The reality is also that we are settled on a formation that does not require an attacking centre midfielder.

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Karamoko did not hit the scoring heights of the prior season, but he was once again our highest goalscorer. He has become the club's record league goalscorer and won our side's Goal of the Season award for his strike against Estoril. Karamoko was only one goal between league the top scorer, Benfica's Divock Origi.

It was also an excellent campaign for Brumado who picked up the Man of the Match award more than anyone else (7 times). Considering his limited playing time, I think Kadeware can be pleased with his goal-scoring return. Tagawa did not score many, but the ones he did were important in the run-in. I hope he can pick up more goals with a pre-season under his belt. 

I feel bad for signing Salcedo. It seemed like a great opportunity at the time, but realistically we never really needed him. The accolade of top scorer in the the Taca de Liga (3) is probably not going to satisfy him. Time to move on, for the Italian. Especially as I have two young prospect forwards, Tavares and Sremcevic, returning to the club this summer. Both had disappointing seasons at underachieving sides. Hopefully they are young enough to put that to one side and progress with their development. One positive for Sremcevic is that he won the league's Goal of the Season whilst playing for Gil Vicente. 

2024/25 Season's Best Eleven

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Estrela's All-Time Best Eleven

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 03/07/2024 at 19:00, Jogo Bonito said:

Welcome back!

Thanks! It feels good to be back. After brief trips to Poland and Jersey, I am pleased to share that a fire has been lit and I will be definitely continuing on with this career.
 

Watch this space for fresh updates :D

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Season 4 - Summer Signings & Squad Update

Going into the 2025/26 season transfer window, my objective was to make incremental changes rather than radical. I really like my squad, that's why I'm carrying on after all this time. But I also know that standing still amounts to going backwards, so I would look at where improvements could be made. We will be sticking with the 5-1-2-2 formation that has brought much success therefore only players that fit this tactical approach will be added. One thing I really wanted to do is add Portuguese players or players that were developed in this country.

One thing I was very disappointed about was that there were no free agents of quality available whatsoever. Portuguese or otherwise. In any position. As a self-proclaimed bargain hunter, that did set me back. That said, we did have a £15m budget and players who could be sold to raise more, so I was resolute and pressed onward.

Below I will introduce the players I have added and summarise what the squad now looks like following the close of the summer market.

Goalkeepers

Departure: With two highly and equally talented 23 year old goalkeepers, this position was one I thought I would not need to take any action on. That was very nearly the case, however with 10 hours remaining of the transfer market, Frankfurt activated a £23m minimum release fee clause in Turati's contract that I had long forgotten existed and the Italian swiftly departed the club. The sale made Turati the club's record sale but that was not cause for celebration. With time of the essence I decided to look to the loan market to bring in someone who could ably deputise for Valdimarsson when needed. I would then tackle the problem properly in a later transfer window.

Arrival:

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The man to arrive was Brigton's Bart Verbruggen. The Premier League side only required us to cover 60% of his wages and there was no loan fee involved. Considering the circumstances, I am very pleased with the quality of the 'keeper I was able to recruit at short-notice. Brighton threw in the contract that we have the option to purchase him for £24m if we wish. It feels unlikely, at this stage, that we will action that.

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Right Backs

A saga that ran on throughout the summer was other club's ongoing interest in signing Costinha. Predominantly this was Newcastle and Atletico making bids, with the highest being a package that reached £47m. To Costinha's frustration I stood firm and rejected all bids that came our way. The right wing back is crucial to our plans and was our strongest performer last campaign. Even if I manged to get £50m, I'm not sure I'd have found a replacement I was as happy with.

Arrival:

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With no intention of selling Costinha, I did at least want to upgrade his deputy. I am really fond of Felipe Cruz, but I knew I could improve upon him. I signed Brazilian wing back Yan Couto for £6.25m and I think that is a steal. He is a great all-rounder, athletic and attacking. He is also a good age and, importantly, has Portuguese as a second nationality.

Departure: With only a year left on his contract, I knew I would only get a paltry fee for Cruz so instead I decided to give him a new three year contract (on similar terms to that of his current deal) and then send him on loan to Casa Pia. The plan is to assess his ability and then potentially sell him next summer when his value is hopefully higher.

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Left Backs

Departure: As noted in my end-of-season review, with a heavy heart it is time to say goodbye to long-serving left wing back Mansur. I accepted all bids received to give him the choice of his next destination and he elected to join Real Zaragoza for his next chapter. Given his age, an £800k fee was reasonable. 

Having signed two left wing backs in January, there was no need to go looking for a replacement after Mansur departed.

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Barco and Vinagre will fight it out to be first choice. Both seem evenly matched but Barco has age and potential in his favour.

Centre Backs

This was a position where I thought I could probably add quality and I believe that is what has taken place.

Arrivals:

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First to arrive was the Bulgarian, Valentin Antov. Following Arminia Bielefeld's relegation from the Bundesliga the centre back had an active relegation release clause of £7.25m. Signing a defender from a relegated team that likely shipped a lot of goals may seem like an unwise move, but I am judging him on his merits and he looks a quality player to me. Our scouts rated him better than any other centre back already at the club.

Later on in the transfer window, with cash in the bank following player sales (more on that to come) I spotted an opportunity to add a quality Portuguese player to the mix. Filipe Relvas had left Portimonense three seasons prior for the bright lights of the Premier League. Spurs sent him on loan to Ligue 1 side Reims last season where he performed well and made 30 appearances. Now surplus to requirements, I swooped in and picked him up for a club record fee of £15.5m, rising to £17.5m. Buying a Portuguese player from the Premier League was always going to be expensive and I am comfortable with the value of the deal. 

Departures: I proactively made the decision to offer out club captain Nunes as he had a high value after a good season but, at 29 years old, I could see him declining in the not-too-distant future. With plenty of interest, he elected to join Blackburn for a £15.5m fee that should rise to £18.75m. I also tried to sell American defender Otasowie but did not receive a respectable bid. Instead, I opted to loan him to Angers for the season so his wages are at least taken care of.

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Following Nunes' exit I decided to promote McKenna to club captain. New arrival Antov was selected as the new vice-captain as although he is new he demonstrates strong leadership behaviours. McKenna requested a pay rise and so I agreed a new four year deal with him that remained inexpensive. 

Kovacevic handed in a transfer request at the start of the window but no club came near my £20m valuation. As the new season approached he let me know he had changed his mind and was happy to stay. 

We got many offers to take young Cerqueira on loan but all were rejected as I want to keep him part of the group. In the Taca de Liga you have to start two home-grown players in each fixture and he is therefore crucially needed for that competition.

Centre Midfielders

Departures: The most significant turnover of players came in the centre of the pitch. I sold Dack to Ajaccio for £3.3m and fellow Englishman Oakley-Boothe to West Brom for £2.6m. More significantly, midfield maestro Praet got the 'Nunes treatment' as I offered him out for sale based on his age and potential to decline in ability. Blackburn bought the Belgian for £12m. Blackburn made many bids for my players throughout the summer, including unsuccessful approaches for Awe, McKenna, White and Kadeware. Looking into it, I can see they have new Japanese owners who seem to have deep pockets. Released defensive midfielders Gailbraith and Tavares joined Mlada Bolesav and Famalicao respectively.

George Hall had an unsuccessful loan spell at Sunderland last season. I am hoping I have picked a better club for him this time around. Hall will spend the season playing for Bristol City.

Arrivals:

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Returning to my theme of signing quality Portuguese additions, where possible, I added defensive midfielder Manu Silva to the squad. Danilovic had a lengthy spell out injured last season and doesn't quite look on the same trajectory he once was, so healthy competition seems appropriate. Like the Couto deal, this was also a signing from Manchester City. Manu (as he likes to be known) cost £4.5m, which may rise to £5.25m with add ons.

As a Manchester United fan, I have followed the career of James Garner closely and I am an admirer of his abilities. I have managed him several times over the years across various English lower league saves. When I saw that Everton had transfer listed him for just £1.5m he instantly became my first choice replacement for Praet. He is now our third highest paid player but, given the size of club we have become and aspire to be, I think the spend is justified.

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I believe we now have a well-rounded and high quality pool of defensive and central midfield options. Six players competing for three positions.

Strikers

Those familiar with my posts will know I am fond of my strikers Karamoko and Brumado. I therefore was not desperate to replace them but also knew that there was a good chance that there would be opportunity to upgrade in their position during this transfer window. 

Arrivals:

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Opportunity was taken, twice. First up, I noticed that Wolves has listed for loan their forward Fabio Silva, This deal chimed well with my transfer policy of targeting Portuguese talent and I was intrigued whether I could be the one to get a tune out of a player who has not quite fulfilled his much lauded potential as of yet.  With only a nominal loan fee of £1.2m and a weekly wage that fell within our budget, it seemed like a great value deal to do. Wolves included a clause saying that we could make the deal permanent any time for £135m. It amuses me that they think we have that kind of funds.

There is a well trodden path of South American, particularly Brazilian, forwards entering the European leagues via the Portuguese Liga. Indeed Brumado joined us via that path relatively recently. Bargains can often be found in the Brazilian league in the form of minimum release fees that are only active for foreign clubs. Palmeiras forward Brenner had one such clause, which I swiftly activated upon identifying it. The fee was £14.25m and as you can see from the above his value is over double that.

Departures: After signing him on a free and him only being a bit-part player last season, I was delighted to be able to raise £20m through the sale of Kadeware to Sassulo. Conscious that we now have far too many strikers, I sold Salcedo to Karlsruhe for £2.9m and loaned Japanese striker Tagawa to Genk.

I offered out striker Tavares so he could get valuable game time, however he rejected every club for whom I had accepted bids. He said he wants to stay and play but I fear with four top class strikers to compete with his playing time will be limited and this will hamper his development.

image.png.7f542b97bf2400a5d6b0df7801ac667f.png

The above image makes it look like Karamoko has declined as a player. I don't believe this is the case however, I just think the relative higher ability of the players I have added make it look this way. I'm pleased with the firepower at my disposal heading into the new season. 

Let the fun begin!

Edited by Dong21
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Looks like very smart transfer business to me. Relvas has featured on almost every scouting report I've had during FM24, although I never had the chance to sign him. And, like you, I've long been a fan of Garner.

Squad looks very capable of a good season ahead :thup:

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