The Villarreal Project – S01E02

The First Couple of Weeks 

Time to set about getting the meetings with the board underway, meet the press & then start looking at the playing squad. 

The first day, let alone that first week, can feel like it takes an eternity to complete. The press asks their normal questions, ‘you join without managing a team before’ blah, blah, blah and we move on as fast as you can click through the questions.

With the press out of the way I ask to speak with The President; ‘what can I do for you?’ I tell him that I’d like to implement some philosophies that I think are in keeping with The Villarreal Project: 

  • Develop younger players & bring them through to become first team regulars 
  • Sign younger players who will play a role in the first team squad 
  • Play attacking football 


As we simulated through the first season, I’m left with a squad that finished 6th in La Liga. Not bad considering the kind of money spent by the teams above us. Lucky for me my predecessor only made one signing which was Samir Nasri who became the club’s highest paid player at the club by a substantial £30k per week. 

Nasri In

As I sit behind my virtual desk, my first move was to get Nasri out of our club as soon as possible. Not only do I not rate him, I can see him being a financial burden for the next few years. Luckily for us Lyon wanted him & he left fairly swiftly for a decent £13m transfer fee. Now if you consider that he was on £80k per week and we got him on a free, we actually turned a tidy profit on him in the region of approximately £8m and when we’re looking at a sustainable business model deals like this are our bread and butter.

Nasri Out

After a further assessment of the first team playing squad I can see that some key players are already wanted by a lot of Premier League sides so it is imperative that I start thinking about their replacements as they’ll inevitably be sold in this summer window. Taking into consideration Part 2 & 5 of The Villarreal Project my transfers must not only be sensible, they must also provide an overall better playing squad at the start of the season than what started the season before. 

As I scoured for potential replacements & my scouts offered me recommendations, a diamond in the rough appeared. Danny Welbeck, ‘Wele’, had been released from his Arsenal contract and was available on a free transfer, my mind instantly sparked with thought of the Nasri deal, at worst this transfer could net me some decent profit in a year or twos time.

As the money started rolling in from the sale of players I started jotting down my potential targets: 

  1. A pair of right backs to replace Mario Gaspar who is leaving for Manchester United. 
  2. A solid centre back to replace Ramiro Funes Mori who departs for Southampton but must be someone who would complement Alvaro & Victor Luiz. 
  3. A left back to replace Jaume Costa who is joining Bournemouth. 
  4. A pair of defensive minded midfielders to suit our system. 
  5. Wide players to suit or system and replace Roberto Soriano who joins Arsenal & Nicola Sansone who joins Napoli. 
  6. A striker to replace Carlos Bacca who is on his way back to Milan after a successful loan period. 

Over the next few days the scout reports start flying into my inbox & I start to jot down my top targets. At the top of the list was a certain Luciano Vietto. Vietto is an ex-Villarreal player and was made available by Atletico Madrid for a measly £5.25m – an absolute bargain for this level – a bid was made that was accepted but unfortunately, he wasn’t willing to talk with the club because we weren’t playing Champions League football. I’m sorry to tell you this son, but you probably won’t be getting Champions League football with Madrid!

As we all know with Football Manager, never give up. I reached into the arsenal of tools available to me (now often referred to as The Teach Pursuit) and set about trying to lure Luci back to El Madrigal. If you don’t know about ‘The Teach Pursuit’, it’s made up of a number of factors:  

  • Tell the press that the player is your Top Target 
  • Physically go to a match and watch him play, the more you do this you’ll start to see stories in the press about how he appreciates you taking the time to watch him. 
  • Get an influential player to endorse the move in the media – I often try and use a player of the same nationality. 
  • Make sure you’ve got a scout constantly on him 

This doesn’t always work, but the more and more you pursue a player with these techniques, the more likely you are to influence their decision. Unfortunately for me Luci just wasn’t interested despite being grateful about the attention. It’s okay Luci, we may not do business today, but maybe next time… 

Vietto Top Target

Vietto Talked Up

Vietto Watch

I won’t go into every transfer in and out in this post as it’ll be screenshot after screenshot and there are some people that don’t like to see attributes so I will add a separate post that goes through our transfer activity & what I hope they’ll bring to the club. 

We’ve skated over a lot of transfer-based activity and haven’t really discussed our pre-season intentions. I’ve referenced @Cleon81’s pre-season guide a lot on Twitter & on The 5 Star Potential Podcast so if you haven’t read it, you really should. I’ve set up 10 friendlies against varying levels of opposition including the soon to be famous Pamesa Cup (think Arsenal’s Emirates Cup). The reason I love Cleon’s idea of pre-season is it makes sense to me, have enough games for your players to familiarise themselves with your system and have enough game time to get your players to peak fitness conditions for when the season starts. Simples, right? 

As revealed in the 4-2-2-2 post, I have decided that my secondary system will be loosely based around the 4-3-2-1 system Pellegrini used to get the best out of Juan Roman Riquelme. I’m hoping that this system can help me utilise Manu Trigueros more as he currently doesn’t fit into the 4-2-2-2 – getting him in on the ball in certain games will certainly give us options in the final third. 

Transfer Update & 4-3-1-2 posts to follow shortly, but for now,  

Vamos Villarreal!