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Dan does the Pentagon Challenge


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DEMOLITION

The Apertura is ours. We were sensational. We have followed through with our league form this time.

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Trophy number 26 of my career.

The Clausura would be nice but the priority now is the Champions League for sure. I feel like this is a chance we cannot pass up. We are the best side in it. We just have to be. I've got to get through January without losing anyone substantial and then go again.

We are historically poorer in the Clausura but this time it's kind of by design. For example I'll rest players in league games ahead of crunch CL knockout games. That's the aim now.

 

Career major trophies: 20
Career minor trophies: 6
Champions Leagues: 2 / 5

 

--------------------------------------------

 

Honours list:
TERENGGANU FC (8) 🇲🇾
Liga Super Malaysia (2) - 2023, 2025
Piala Malaysia (2) - 2023, 2024
Piala FA (1) - 2025
AFC Cup (1) - 2025

Piala Sultan Haji Ahmed Shah / Malaysian Super Cup (2) - 2025, 2026

 

GANGWON FC (5) 🇰🇷
K-League (3) - 2028, 2029, 2031
Korean FA Cup (1) - 2031

AFC Champions League (1) - 2031

 

KAIZER CHIEFS (10) 🇿🇦
DsTV Premiership (1) - 2033/34
MTN8 (2) - 2032/33, 2033/34
Telkom Cup (2) - 2032/33, 2033/34
Nedbank Cup (1) - 2033/34

Carling Black Label Cup (2) - 2032/33, 2033/34
CAF Champions League (2) - 2032/33, 2033/34

 

CF MONTERREY (3) 🇲🇽
Liga MX Apertura (1) - 2035/36
Campeon de Campeones (1) - 2035/36
Campeones Cup (1) - 2035/36

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SCOTIABANK CHAMPIONS LEAGUE - 2035/36

While the second half of the season is largely dominated by the Clausura, we have made our intentions clear and the priority is the Champions League, which given the Apertura performance and general dominance from Mexican sides you would have to say we stand a pretty good chance in.

We're looking good for a top 4 finish in the Clausura after a couple of doubts. A fairly slow start but we really picked up again and I think we probably are the best team in this league now.

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The Champions League then. Our knockout run kicked off with a home game against MLS side Columbus. An advantage that goes our way is that their season hasn't actually kicked off and they're playing this off the back of friendlies, which I think can only really suit us to be honest.

But we are thwarted and we're held to an infuriating 0-0 draw at home. Columbus goalkeeper Jorge Castillo has a blinder and we have to do the job in USA. The good news though is that there are away goals and a 0-0 at home means if we avoid defeat away, providing it isn't 0-0, we're through.

No errors are made. We win 0-3 and the dominance of the first leg continues here, and I've no doubts about us once we get in front meaning Columbus would need to win the game on the night. We face Pachuca in the quarter finals -- a team flying high in the Clausura with us. The other quarter finals are Chivas v New England, Cruz Azul v Toronto, and Alajuense v America.

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The quarters for us turn into the most extrardoinary, basketball like games of football you'll see in a knockout like this. You associate these games with generally being quite cagey, teams scared to lose, but clearly these rules don't apply with Pachuca, and consequently, Monterrey.

We get a penalty within a minute which is scored, but we're 3-1 down by the 36th minute and I'm having real doubts here. We've been built on hardly conceding goals so seeing a team scoring at will is really worrying. We get one back just before half time but Pachuca go 4-2 up and I'm really a bit concerned now.

I make some subs and what follows, I dub the miracle of Pachuca.

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Pachuca's approach admirable but we just outclass them in the end, and their high risk style backfires as they gift us an easy winner at the end. So we have a win and 5 away goals - so the remit is simply avoid a two goal loss at home and we're through.

But it becomes apparent early on that this game was no freak. It's 1-1 very early on and Pachuca you really do wonder might actually somehow win this on away goals.

But the way this team responds now is just superb, it's like whatever challenge they're met with they find something else to overawe the opposition. We are rampant and we hit three fairly quick goals to go 4-1 up after half an hour, and amazingly, after just 120 minutes of the tie, we lead it 9-5 on aggregate xD

Pachuca don't lie down but I think even for the nature of this silly game there's no way they can do it. They cannot score 4 goals without reply can they?

They give it a good go to their credit. They manage 2 by the hour and with 15 left, youngster Urbina gets a red card. I'm actually a bit concerned given the rate of goals - but I drop everyone back a little and bore my way through the end of the most ridiculous tie I think I've ever seen.

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News filters in from Mexico City and it's what we all expected, but my god it was close - America really pushed all the way by the Costa Ricans. But the semi final I expected is the one we get. The other semi sees Chivas meet Toronto.

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We draw 2-2 in the league game at America before our first leg - I go strong as it's off the back of an international break and it's a quite big game in its own right in the Clausura. We pick up another red card but hold on for a point despite blowing a 2 goal lead initially. Onto the first leg.

It's far more boring but it's what I wanted. We win 2-0 at home and the odds really do favour us now. I think we've really got America's number for the most part now. 2-0 at home when away goals count is a great win and not one that is often blown. Chivas beat Toronto 4-0 at home, so it's almost certainly Chivas in the final.

The away game is a horrible, cagey affair - far more like normality in these ties as far as I'm concerned, but it doesn't make it any less pulsating. America don't really play the most open game themselves and the unavailability of key man Adrianinho for us is quite telling.

The first incident of real note comes in the 80th minute when we pick up our sixth booking of the night, and unfortunately the second for Ulises Franzoia. I use my first planned timewasting sub to bring on another midfielder. I think we'll be OK but we really, really cannot afford to lose this 2-0.

We get to the 90th minute and the next incident of note occurs. It's the same again. This time winger Javier Alvarez is victim and we're reduced to 9 men. The sickening thing is they wipe all suspensions for the final but not red cards, so both of them will miss the final if we see it through, and Franzoia is particularly a big miss.

From the ensuing free kick, America score. I'm absolutely shitting it now. 1-0 down with 9 men. If they score again, they're almost certainly going to turn this around.

But we take the timewasting to another level. I'm amazed they don't book players for it on this. We cling on and the 9 warriors drop to their knees as the final whistle arrives. We are going to Chivas.

 

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We play exactly the kind of aggressive football I like. We're very attacking but we're ultimately masters of spoiling the game. I'm willing to take the suspensions. I genuinely hold the belief that the pros in this style outweigh the cons.

So we're one game away. It's going to be very, very tough. This has been a really fun campaign - genuine battles on the pitch. I'll be sad to leave Monterrey, I've really enjoyed this leg of the journey, and holidaying through it has just meant I've accidentally signed a new three year deal xD so we'll see what happens - I might, we might not win it.

One final unrelated (ish) note - Becerra joined Man City in January for £6.25mil rising to £10mil, though we did get him back on loan for the rest of this campaign.

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5 minutes ago, Whiskey said:

9-7 though xD

It was absolutely ridiculous. We've kept clean sheets in nearly three quarters of our games too despite playing quite an attacking style ourselves.

Will be playing the final soon.

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CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINAL 2036 - CHIVAS v MONTERREY

Number three is on the table. It's yet another one where we got here fairly quickly, but once again I did get myself in charge of one of the big hitters so it was half expected, but even still, we got our act together really quickly and I'm happy with that.

This is a tough final though. Especially given it's an away game and it's not like they even distribute 50/50 allocations - this is as good as a standard away game, and it's entirely done on luck of the draw as well by the looks of things.

Chivas have come through solely MLS opposition in the knockouts, beating Austin, New England and Toronto onto making the final after only winning 1 of their 4 group games. They've finished 3rd in the Clausura, 4 points behind us, and were quarter finalists in the Apertura.

It's not going to be easy but weighing it all up I do think even despite being away, we are favourites.

And in all honesty, it all goes swimmingly. We're missing Alvarez and Franzoia through suspension so Becerra and Galvan step in. We never look phased or flustered, it's a confident, organised performance throughout and in all honesty, we take the trophy with relative comfort.

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It's comfortable. We outclass them and I have number three. We are over half way there.

I now have the Clausura play-offs to play, and then we probably call Mexico a day. I've just signed a new contract though so I feel bad xD

I fancy us to take the Clausura too. I seem to have one season at each team where we just scoop the lot and this has very much that feel. This is easily my best side of the save so far. I did an XI of the best side I've had and I think Monterrey probably take 7 or 8 of the spots.

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Just now, Bluebird Hewitt said:

A curious question.

Will you head back to Asia for unfinished business (think it was the only one you're missing) or will your manager rep be too good and you go to Europe for the final leg?

There's no unfinished business. I won it all over there.

I've not really got any unfinished business at any of them now. My eyes are looking to Argentina.

I hadn't thought of the possibility that my reputation was too high to go back anywhere (like for example could Terengganu actually have me back?) but then again I'm still only 3.5 star - that's not unattainable for a big Asian club.

Asia was the hardest of the lot so far but I did start there.

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Just now, Dan said:

There's no unfinished business. I won it all over there.

I've not really got any unfinished business at any of them now. My eyes are looking to Argentina.

I hadn't thought of the possibility that my reputation was too high to go back anywhere (like for example could Terengganu actually have me back?) but then again I'm still only 3.5 star - that's not unattainable for a big Asian club.

Asia was the hardest of the lot so far but I did start there.

Ah sorry. I thought there was one missing (the one with Terrengganu).

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1 minute ago, Bluebird Hewitt said:

Ah sorry. I thought there was one missing (the one with Terrengganu).

Nah we never won the CL with them but in all honesty they were never going to be capable. It was hard enough winning it with Gangwon. I did win their equivalent of the Europa League though - although the caveat is that they don't allow the top 10 leagues of Asia to enter it so that does make it simpler.

I think the one I'm slightly miffed to miss out on is the African Super Cup. Lost a final to a side we're better than.

I also find it quite backwards how I've never managed to have a crack at the World Club Cup. Just pure luck of the timing. Gangwon, Kaizer Chiefs and Monterrey will all be in the 2037 edition but I can't be arsed sticking here for another year just for that.

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I HAVEN'T FORGOTTEN THE PENTAGON

Just a bit of a break but we are back. Been a little busy outside in this weird thing people call 'the real world' (I know, I'm puzzled as you are) and I think as well, part of it is the natural loss of enthusiasm once you've achieved what you set out to do. I mean I suppose I had the Clausura to play for, so we analyse that, but no matter what happens, my decision is made that I'm leaving after it.

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Cruz Azul, Pachuca, Xolos Tijuana and Pumas came through the first round and joined the top four (ourselves, Chivas, Leon and Toluca) in the quarter finals. We are paired with Xolos Tijuana, who've been a little bit of a bogey team actually.

But no such trouble this time. We beat them 0-3 away and that's virtually guaranteed progression, so I change 10 players for the second leg and we win 3-0 again. 6-0 on aggregate and it's onto the semis.

We are given Pachuca.

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Semi finals...

We have a re-run of the absolutely mental CL quarter final, once again starting with an away game at Pachuca. We're behind very early on through a penalty but we equalise through Castillo almost immediately - this is showing no signs of slowing down is it? Well, it happens, and we have to wait until early second half for another goal, and it's Ignacio putting us 1-2 up. Pachuca equalise before Becerra adds a late-ish goal for us to make it 2-3. Sadly though Pachuca equalise with the last kick of the game through a free kick. We draw 3-3. We only have to draw at home to make the final due to the ranking.

We finally have a tighter game with Pachuca. Maybe not to everyone's taste given the usual expectations but it's enough to see us progress. A wonderstrike from midfielder Borja Ruiz in the 8th minute is the only goal of the game, though the game is marred by Adrianinho breaking his ankle not too long after his first ever penalty miss for the club. The game ends 1-0 and we sail through to another final, and who do we meet?

It's Chivas again.

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Final...

There's a slight element of dejavu here because not only is it another big game with Chivas, but it reminds me a little of my first ever play-off game against them where we went into it missing a key player at number 10. History repeats itself, but hopefully not in the result.

The home crowd are baying for our blood. They take the lead, quite unluckily for us really as Jorjao's block loops Carreno and presents wonderkid Quinones with an open goal to tap into. We do manage an equaliser through Becerra in the second half but they go back in front almost immediately as Noriega turns into his own net. The real blow however comes in injury time as they manage a 3rd - for me, that could be curtains. We lose 3-1 to end an 18 game unbeaten run and we have it all to do at home.

But I never write us off. We have proven we're the top dogs and I think we can take them again. It takes 20 seconds and Ruiz is tripped in the box, Becerra converts the penalty and we have what feels like the momentum. Bautista makes it 2-0 in the 20th minute and we've already wiped their lead out. The rest of the game plays out into a predictable series of fouls, cards but not a load of goalmouth action and it ends 2-0, 3-3 on aggregate, and extra time is needed.

Both teams are running an empty at this point. We have a pathetic side out relative to our best but they just have to fight on, and we take it to penalties.

No mistakes are made in the first 7, and we lead 4-3, but Carreno saves Chivas' 4th and we are one Miguel Ignacio spot kick away from the Clausura.

He serves up one of the worst penalties I've ever seen. A pathetic weak effort straight into the keepers hands. Unbelievable.

But thankfully, it's three missed in a row - Chivas blaze their last one over and we've done it. It's yet another trophy in the bag. It's another clean sweep for me.

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That brings this fantastic journey in Mexico to an end. I wave goodbye and I'm thanked for a successful stint at a great club.

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14 hours ago, Dan said:

I HAVEN'T FORGOTTEN THE PENTAGON

Just a bit of a break but we are back. Been a little busy outside in this weird thing people call 'the real world' (I know, I'm puzzled as you are) and I think as well, part of it is the natural loss of enthusiasm once you've achieved what you set out to do. I mean I suppose I had the Clausura to play for, so we analyse that, but no matter what happens, my decision is made that I'm leaving after it.

---

Cruz Azul, Pachuca, Xolos Tijuana and Pumas came through the first round and joined the top four (ourselves, Chivas, Leon and Toluca) in the quarter finals. We are paired with Xolos Tijuana, who've been a little bit of a bogey team actually.

But no such trouble this time. We beat them 0-3 away and that's virtually guaranteed progression, so I change 10 players for the second leg and we win 3-0 again. 6-0 on aggregate and it's onto the semis.

We are given Pachuca.

---

Semi finals...

We have a re-run of the absolutely mental CL quarter final, once again starting with an away game at Pachuca. We're behind very early on through a penalty but we equalise through Castillo almost immediately - this is showing no signs of slowing down is it? Well, it happens, and we have to wait until early second half for another goal, and it's Ignacio putting us 1-2 up. Pachuca equalise before Becerra adds a late-ish goal for us to make it 2-3. Sadly though Pachuca equalise with the last kick of the game through a free kick. We draw 3-3. We only have to draw at home to make the final due to the ranking.

We finally have a tighter game with Pachuca. Maybe not to everyone's taste given the usual expectations but it's enough to see us progress. A wonderstrike from midfielder Borja Ruiz in the 8th minute is the only goal of the game, though the game is marred by Adrianinho breaking his ankle not too long after his first ever penalty miss for the club. The game ends 1-0 and we sail through to another final, and who do we meet?

It's Chivas again.

---

Final...

There's a slight element of dejavu here because not only is it another big game with Chivas, but it reminds me a little of my first ever play-off game against them where we went into it missing a key player at number 10. History repeats itself, but hopefully not in the result.

The home crowd are baying for our blood. They take the lead, quite unluckily for us really as Jorjao's block loops Carreno and presents wonderkid Quinones with an open goal to tap into. We do manage an equaliser through Becerra in the second half but they go back in front almost immediately as Noriega turns into his own net. The real blow however comes in injury time as they manage a 3rd - for me, that could be curtains. We lose 3-1 to end an 18 game unbeaten run and we have it all to do at home.

But I never write us off. We have proven we're the top dogs and I think we can take them again. It takes 20 seconds and Ruiz is tripped in the box, Becerra converts the penalty and we have what feels like the momentum. Bautista makes it 2-0 in the 20th minute and we've already wiped their lead out. The rest of the game plays out into a predictable series of fouls, cards but not a load of goalmouth action and it ends 2-0, 3-3 on aggregate, and extra time is needed.

Both teams are running an empty at this point. We have a pathetic side out relative to our best but they just have to fight on, and we take it to penalties.

No mistakes are made in the first 7, and we lead 4-3, but Carreno saves Chivas' 4th and we are one Miguel Ignacio spot kick away from the Clausura.

He serves up one of the worst penalties I've ever seen. A pathetic weak effort straight into the keepers hands. Unbelievable.

But thankfully, it's three missed in a row - Chivas blaze their last one over and we've done it. It's yet another trophy in the bag. It's another clean sweep for me.

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That brings this fantastic journey in Mexico to an end. I wave goodbye and I'm thanked for a successful stint at a great club.

Where to next? Any applications in?

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On 11/06/2022 at 16:18, Dan said:

KAIZER CHIEFS - THE REFLECTION

We depart Africa after a very, very successful stint. We leave with two CAF Champions Leagues, one South African Premiership title, two MTN 8s, two Telkom Cups, one Nedbank Cup and two Carling Black Label cups. We played 124 games, won 96 of them, drew 12, lost 16, scored 283 and let in 89. We were dominant when all is said and done.

It was partially expected. Kaizer Chiefs are a very big club and had a lot of money. I left them with the substantially biggest wage bill in the league. For some context their annual wage bill is £5.23mil a year, the next highest, Swallows, is £3.14mil a year. So the pressure was on to deliver. But we did. We ended up with a big squad, lots of depth and I think despite the money spent, they're left in a position to continue to challenge. I don't leave them a legend like I did Gangwon, but I have made their list of favoured personnel and I think that's probably fair. They have a rich history which isn't something you could say about Gangwon.

As ever, I have aimed for five players who I think deserve a mention for what happened in my time there.

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Luthando Mti - This bloke was just class from day one to the last. I've always had a bit of a thing for an all-round striker, so somebody can play as a striker in a 3-0 win, not score but be man of the match. He could score but he was so key in our build up play. Technically sound, creative, good in the air, just a really good player and somebody I'd quite like to have with me again if the situation was right. He even signed a new contract at Chiefs despite PSV interest due to "respect for you" which makes me feel guilty for leaving them just six months later!

 

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Jacob Amoojee - This was the signing that epitomised the financial power this club had over the rest of the league. We paid Sundowns release clause to bring him in and not only did he weaken them, boy oh boy did he strengthen us. He was an absolute goal machine. He was also not a bad allrounder in my opinion.

 

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Thando Buthelezi - He's the left field pick here but he was out on loan at Amazulu and transfer listed when I got there. In my system I play with a narrow 3 and I like a mezzala on one side of it, so he's almost like a half midfielder half winger. I saw his potential on the left side of my three and he was excellent, particularly brilliant in the first CL final too although sadly injured for the second. A great system player and somebody I felt got the absolute max from his talent.

 

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Aphelele Kannemeyer - Signed him in my first summer. Just so reliable. Hardly ever had a bad game and pretty much the glue that held the team together. He's out of contract now too so I might be bring him along with me...

 

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Abulele Whelan - As stated, the big game player. A box of tricks. Often infuriating, but often really fun as well. Had moments where he looked like Ronaldinho. Crucially though always seemed to deliver when the pressure was on, and got the winning penalty in Tunisia. Flawed, but very enjoyable.

 

Slightly less competition, but my alltime Kaizer Chiefs XI;

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We have a new job. My Spanish lessons have come in handy. Stay tuned...

MONTERREY - THE REFLECTION

We depart Mexico after another fairly short, but sweet stint at a club. This was a little trickier than Kaizer Chiefs albeit it's yet another where I've taken the trophy at the earliest possible opportunity, and unlike in Africa, we already had a league title before I left, though this was likelier given you essentially get twice as many cracks at it.

What I thought of Mexico is that it's a good, fun system. Flawed, but it is fun. I do think it's slightly silly how you play 17 games to just basically eliminate only 6 out of the 18 teams and the fact you can finish 12th over that period, yet win the league is wild in my eyes, but this is North America for you. It does lead to plenty of big games though and that does make the league appealing. The flaw I think in Mexico is that it's just a bit too frequent. You have Apertura play-offs, Clausura play-offs, and then the Champions League, which are largely contested by the same teams due to the Mexican dominance, so it does feel like you'll play too many games against the same sides.

Monterrey was another big success though. What I inherited was a bit of a bloated squad with too many ageing players on big wages, but we gradually trimmed it whilst promoting a few players from what I have to say is just about the best academy I've been on at FM. They had five players ready immediately to step into my first team squad and since I've been there have produced another three players who I think could go onto be genuinely brilliant. I'm tracking a lot of these players out of interest but I really am intrigued to see where they'll end up - outside possibility that I reunite with somebody once I get to Europe. I really do believe a couple of them would be good enough to play for a CL winner one day.

That's got me thinking I'm yet to actually work with a player at two different clubs.

Anyhow. My five players of note this time...

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Oscar Carreno - Could be talking rubbish but I think it's the first time I've included a goalkeeper on this. For good reason as I've found a lot of them horribly unreliable. Carreno was straight into this category in the first season too. He was terrible. I was baffled how yet again somebody with such steady attributes was so poor. I criticised his form and he bit back at me. He kicked off because he wanted to move to Saudi Arabia. I didn't allow it, stuck with him and somehow, it clicked. His form improved, he decided he respected me, and the entire thing went from strength to strength. He's the turnaround story of this save and in the 2035/36 season put in probably the best season any goalkeeper has done for me to date.

 

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Juan Paz - Bought him from Cruz Azul during their financial meltdown (it's quite remarkable that a club that spent £130mil in three years on transfers has been reduced to this). He came in as a versatile defender, primarily a left back. Only 19 years old and he was so good at centre half that he was one of the first names on the team sheet. He was so consistently good that I couldn't ignore him on this. Another who really exceeded expectation.

 

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Borja Ruiz - I honestly think he might be, other than Del Mastro, the most key signing I've made on this entire save to date. This was a squad that had a lot of talent but was so lacking in that nasty bastard in midfield and he combined both that with a bit of quality on the ball too. He became absolute key immediately and is a good example of how despite me being a heavy believer in investing in younger players, there is value to be had in buying some more experience too. It's mystifying to me that he was playing for a side as bad as Puebla.

 

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Guillermo Castillo - Needed a winger, had very little money, got this kid on loan from Club America and he smashed it. I was amazed they then went through with selling him to us. He was a really good goalscorer from out wide, and a bit of a throwback - particularly for me who had spent a while playing a narrow system. He played too well to ignore.

 

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Luis Manuel Becerra - My final one has to be him. I said how I brought a few players through but I was delighted when I found Monterrey had that typically quick, good dribbling and good finishing striker in their academy. I promoted him and he was probably my best striker by 18. As you can see he's already got his big move and came back on loan here after making it. He's scored many a big goal for me already and I have a feeling my path may cross his again one day in Europe.

 

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CHAPTER FIVE - WHERE IT ALL BEGAN FOR ONE OF THE GREATEST OF ALL

We move. I have landed in South America. This is somewhere I've always wanted to have a proper save and I now have the perfect reason to do so. I've been scouting for jobs in Argentina a while. That became the preference for two reasons over Brazil. First of all is a borderline OCD thing where I just cannot get on with the Brazilian abbreviated names. Teams called "SAN" and "CRU" - it just looks daft. Now I did fix this but an update to the game has wiped it and it can't be fixed until I start a new game, so I'm stuck with it. The other in Brazil is their schedule is mental. They play their normal league season AND state championships. It's just so many games and that's before you even get stuck into trying to win the Libertadores.

What alarmed me about Argentina though was how few jobs ever seemed to come up. I was worrying that I'd be forced into this pit of abbreviated misery. However at last, something arose. I looked, wasn't too keen, but I did a bit of further digging and I decided, arrogantly thinking I'd get virtually any job here (I would though now), that this job was a risk I was going to take.

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Argentinos Juniors' job came up.

Finances? Shambolic. League position? 16th. Libertadores performance? Absolute disgrace.

But I did delve into things a bit more and I decided that this, while a risk, and probably below the best I could get, was the perfect blend of being a challenge, but not impossible.

On those three points. The finances are crap but having looked through the league, Velez are the only team of the 20 to not have a negative bank balance, which is frankly an absurdity for a league that produces so many top players. Argentinos' finances are bad but they aren't alone in that.

The league I can't make any defence for. It's abject. 16th and this is a league where 4 of the 20 go down, so they only just stayed up. But their media prediction last season was 7th. This is a side that has badly underperformed and needs a turnaround. They also finished 3rd the year before, which is an insane drop off.

I can't really address the Libertadores performance. Just embarrassing all round. But the fact they were in it shows it's attainable.

This is going to be harder than Monterrey and it's going to be harder than Kaizer Chiefs. But I am up for the fight. I get the job and chapter five commences.

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This is a club that aren't massive by any stretch, but they are steeped in tradition and above all they seem to be associated with bringing through some of the greats. I mean you only have to look at some of the names on here; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argentinos_Juniors#Notable_players Maradona, Cambiasso, Riquelme the real eye catchers.

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But what of today? They've had a shocking season and it's time to put things right. There is no way they should be as bad as that. But I don't have loads of wiggle room. I inherit a squad which has some talent in it but is pretty badly constructed in terms of positions - loads of attacking midfielders (like Monterrey) and hardly any defensive midfielders (like Monterrey) but the difference here is I can't really fix it, so I'm going to have to work with what I'm given until we pull in some money. The obvious route to doing this is to cash in on a couple of the quality youngsters, which is a shame, but a necessary evil. The good news is that they do have a good crop of them (like Monterrey) and there are a couple I could probably get by without.

So we dive into the madness of South America. This is going to be a battle but one I'm up for.

 

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FIRST IMPRESSIONS

What I inherit at this club is another weirdly constructed squad. There are similarities to Monterrey in that they have obvious talents and enough to build a reasonable side with, but obvious flaws as well and most concerning of all is that we have no room what so ever to bring anybody in. We're given a transfer budget of £0 and a wage budget of £130k a week, for some context, we're currently spending £170k a week.

My preferred method will be to cash in on a couple of the younger players, which is a shame but a necessary evil. Given a lot of them play in the same position it's a blessing, and luckily Arsenal hand me £2.7mil and 40% of the profit on the next move for one of them, which is a good start. But the bleak reality is all this ends up doing is knocking our overspend on wages from £40k a week to about £28k a week. This is going to be a real battle.

I do have some ageing players who are out of contract in a year but I also don't want to carry a team of kids. There's a very fine balance here.

I like some of the defenders in the squad but we don't have many of them, and the lack of defensive midfielder of any form is a problem. I decide to play a style similar to Monterrey - 4-2-3-1, high tempo, high pressing and aggression, and we fly from there.

We make an absolutely flying start, but we're also demonstrating a real proneness to a howler.

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After winning at Newell's I was almost getting a feeling that this was genuinely unrewardingly easy, but it was also clear that we had a very kind opening few games and the Racing Club defeat crashed us back down to earth. The real shocker though was the Defensa y Justicia defeat - probably the single most embarrassing scoreline I've had in the entire save. They were 17th in the division going into that. A disgrace.

Something incredibly annoying happened though. So following the sale of Acosta to Arsenal, I had two left wingers / attacking midfielders who I played to use a lot this season, one called Sole, one called Pilutik. I didn't really need all three. Sole ends up getting a 4 month injury which is gutting, so Pilutik comes straight in for him. He also then gets a 4 month injury. So we've gone from 3 talented young attacking midfielders to 0 in the space of a week.

The other real anomaly is the absurd form of striker Nicolas Alonso. Arrived on a free this summer before I did from Independiente, scoring 17 goals in 34 games for them. He's a good all-round striker but I didn't expect form like this. His finishing was extraordinary.

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We came very close to ending Boca's winning run but caved in right at the death despite being reduced to 10 men. We progress to the cup semi finals and the winner of that competition gets a place in the Libertadores (I think Argentina takes 7 spots). My aim is to quality for that. We've done really well I think to say we've been missing players, can't sign anybody and have a fairly mixed squad on the whole. I've sold 4 players now and sadly we're still not able to bring in anybody, but I think one more sale of note and we'll be able to - but we're going to be operating with a quite small squad and it'd be hopeless once we hit continental football.

Sole is attracting interest from Arsenal.

My three picks so far are these;

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Finally the league table. We're doing great, albeit it's a very tight table and we were 7th a couple of games ago so it's far from over.

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Enjoying this though after a slightly chaotic start. We're scoring loads and play some really nice stuff. But we're far from the finished article and I feel it's going to take longer than usual to become it. But that's OK with me.

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  • 2 weeks later...

ONE WEIRD SCHEDULE

Could use that to describe many things at the minute. One of them is that my hours on this have come down a little of late but we'll always have time for this world tour, just cracking through it slightly slower than usual.

The other is the weirdness of the Argentine schedule. I've realised a couple of things but it's made things a little interesting.

Their league runs from August to May, the same as the European schedule. The Libertadores runs from March to November. The Argentine cup runs from April to November - so it turned out they actually won a game in it last season.

Speaking of the cup. We won it. My first crack a trophy and it's a success. Lucky that a lot of the big teams fell, but we did what we had to.

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We didn't have a bad run of draws (albeit Racing are no mugs) but we still had to do it. The real good news? This has qualified us for the 2037 Copa Libertadores! So in the second half of the season we're going to be playing in the group stage.

That doesn't render my league season dead rubber like I initially thought however, as I'm now playing to qualify for the 2038 Libertadores. See the cup as a second bite at the cherry, and one we actually took advantage of.

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Still got the clanger in us but you have to say for a side predicted to finish midtable, this is going really well - for the obvious flaws within the squad.

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The January window is another episode of our paralysis. We're still unable to really do anything until a bit more money comes in. Then it does - in the form of Jose Manuel Sole who joins Porto for a similar fee to what we got to Acosta, albeit we get the loan back for the year so he'll be here for the 2037 Libertadores. This finally frees us up to... bring in a left back on loan who it turned out was on loan here last season before I got here. I really do know how to capture the imagination. But it's finally a little strengthening. We win a tight game at Independiente.

The second half of the season, I've played the majority but it's been good. We've been largely the same as before - we'll probably finish 3rd but that's a really good season. We can't keep the goals out and I've actually now resorted to training up one of my few centre halves as a ball-winning midfielder such is our desperation for any kind of defensive cover in midfield. The reason we concede so many is simply that I play quite an open, attacking game and I usually demand a lot from that position, and we haven't really got anybody capable of it.

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We'll qualify for the Libertadores, although it's a good job because we've been knocked out of the 2037 cup at the first round. It's exceptionally unlucky in a 64 team round to run into Boca Juniors. We were 3-0 down, amazingly took it to penalties but lost 9-8 xD

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Copa Libertadores

We are placed into a group with Fortaleza (Brazil), America de Cali (Colombia) and Cerro Porteno (Paraguay). Still learning so I can't really tell you how tricky this is, but feels to me like we've bagged probably the weakest Brazilian side in it and then harder sides from weaker nations. Basically, I think we'll progress, but it's a quite nicely balanced group in a way.

First assignment is a trip to Colombia. We're 2 down early on but we produce a brilliant comeback and win 2-4. We're forced to do the same by Cerro Porteno who take a surprise lead in the second half but Pilutik steals 3 points in the 89th minute. We now have a double header with Fortaleza and I feel avoiding defeat at home in the first game is probably going to be enough to see us through. Sadly though we fail and they beat us 1-2.

This puts pressure on things a bit for me. While we're 2nd, this hasn't really been easy - we've been given a minimum of a scare in each game and we have to go away twice. There's no guarantees here.

But we pull it off and win in Fortaleza. It's not pretty but it's everything I want to see - gritty and resilient. I want flowing sides but I also cannot stomach teams who buckle under the pressure and we didn't. We seal the deal with a win in Paraguay too for a hat-trick of away wins.

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I'm assuming a group winner faces a runner up in the next round so we'll be gunning for it in that Cali game too given Fortaleza are likely to beat Porteno.

I think it's too soon for us to win this competition, but given the summer is coming and we finally will be able to shape the squad somewhat, you really can't totally write us out of it. Though I do think what's happened against Boca sums up we're still a way off the real elite of South America, and I think the top Brazilians edge even Boca.

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Good times though. We've done really well in tough circumstances. But we do need to pad this squad out.

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  • 2 weeks later...

2037 SEALED OFF

A new season, but the oddity of the fact it kicks off with a Copa Libertadores knockout. Get used to this if you want to succeed I suppose.

We are given the worst possible tie. We are paired with Brazil's Atletico Mineiro. They've won it the last two seasons and have the benefit as I've previously stated of the fact they're in their element in their season, while we're in pre-season. I carefully design pre-season around this tie but with the transfer activity, and believe me this has gotten interesting, I think we're going to be left for dead.

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Said transfer activity. Well, I've bemoaned throughout my time here the dire financial state of the club. The fact I just seem to be selling players off to claw us back to any kind of position where we might be able to sign anybody at all. Youth players and reserves coming in to take up squad places. You do wonder how we've managed to bag a 2nd placed finish in these conditions. Boca have absolutely cakewalked the league but 2nd place really is a great effort given everything.

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The real fun begins in the summer. We've cleared our debts and are given a little room to make some moves - in come a proper ball winning midfielder in Sergio Espina from Alianza Lima, centre half Nicolas Contreras on a free (he's a serious coup) and experienced left back Ignacio Galvan.

But there is interest in other younger talent at the club and the most notable is that of player of the season Patricio Alfonso. He's a 19 year old, Uruguayan centre half who was bought for just £300k a couple of years ago before I arrived, but he's a class defender, he was terrific last season so I'm not surprised he's pulling interest. The first bid comes in from Lyon and it's of £2mil. I'm not having it.

Things then start to go a bit mental, we have a bidding war and I'm genuinely amazed by what I'm seeing. I expected to get probably £5/6mil for him but we've somehow managed to get St Pauli to go as high as £9mil. Then Hoffenheim are in and they go over that, then Mainz do the same, then Wolfsburg do it again. He eventually joins Mainz for an astonishing £20mil xD the paupers are now the princes. It's totally transformative and it's now where I believe we can bag this Libertadores at this club. We're awash with money in a league full of debt. What's great is Contreras, who I signed beforehand, is probably as good as Alfonso - maybe not as high potentially but he'll do the job, so I've barely even weakened my side in the process. The catch of the deal is we'll receive the money over three years, but it's enough for us to do some real work this summer.

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It's not the full ticket by any means and sadly, the timing of the Alfonso deal means that nobody signed after Galvan there is registered to play against Atletico Mineiro, but we're building a better team now. Though we're hit with a hammer blow as Manchester United activate Blas Gimenez Pilutik's £6.25mil release clause and we lose our best attacking player. It's even more money to play with but he is a big loss. We go into Mineiro in transition and weakened, and sadly, they do prove to be too much. But we do not disgrace ourselves. We steal a last second 1-1 draw in Belo Horizonte but are beaten 1-2 in Buenos Aires and it's curtains, my first exit from a continental competition since 2030. It's a shame but I think genuinely tough circumstances and the worst possible draw have made the difference.

I didn't even mention that a week prior to the Mineiro tie, they offered me an interview. But I'm loyal, maybe a bit much for my own good, I think if I was doing a speed run or this I'd have taken it hoping that I can win the CL with them this season, but I prefer building and I feel there's potential in this club now, so I stay put.

The league campaign is about ensuring we get into 2039's edition. I think having seen what I have done, we look an absolute certainty. We are great. We're not even at our maximum yet in my opinion and we're still kicking arse.

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Could we do it? I think it's gonna go right to the wire to be honest but we are in a terrific position, and have already won at Boca, which is up there with my biggest result of the save yet I think.

I do think when the Libertadores kicks in we're going to be a bit more tested by having more midweek games, but we've been great, we play really nice football, score loads of goals and have a great atmosphere about the place - all the players buy in and I think we're good enough to give most teams on the continent a game. We have more reinforcements coming in January too, most notably I'm doing something for the first time in the entire save and I'm signing one of my old players. We've been a bit weak in midfield and youngster Gutierrez has been the weak link. When Monterrey transfer listed Ulises Franzoia I thought there's just no way I can't make this happen. He's not a great age now but he's a class player, perfect for our style and he's even Argentine. I reunite with him in a £2.4mil move. The really fun one though is the acquisition of this man for just £1.2mil - for me, he's the best player I've worked with and I think he'll be genuinely world class. He's a game changer;

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In the Libertadores we have a very tricky group. We have Palmeiras of Brazil, Nacional of Urugyan and then a play-off winner (who frankly are going to be whipping boys) but the first two are really, really tough and while I think we're good ourselves, I don't think it's implausible we finish 3rd. But I think we should be OK.

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