Another season in Holland done and dusted and I’m still thinking that a late winter transfer window sale had a strange impact on the team which we really struggled to recover from. Brenner’s departure to Manchester United left an unexpected hole in my squad, not because I didn’t have a replacement but more for the fact that we’d gone through the off season and all of the January window without anyone interested in him so I’d let the likes of Maxi Romero and Willem Guebbels go out on loan for experience meaning I was left with no time to recruit anyone else and would have to take new recruit, Eddie Salcedo, off of the Development list and throw him in to the first team.
Cast your mind back to the last blog and I spoke about our shaky performances in Season 1 that I’d put down to our balanced mentality and after a change to Attacking we went on to win the league in our second season losing only one game and that loss happened after we’d already wrapped the league up. So I decided to stick with the same 3-5-2 system with only one small adjustment which was to change the Pressing Forward-A to a Target Man to suit Adolfo Gaich’s attributes a little more.
Our transfer activity is always going to be high, the recruitment model we have plus the brilliant youth prospects that are in the squad saw us rake in £233m in transfers (£195.4m profit) of which we reinvested £147m planning for the future. Notable transfers out included Donyell Malen to Barcelona for his release clause of £50m, Ritsu Dôan to Aston Villa for £30m (more on that later), Bruma to PSG for £52m, Cody Gakpo to Fulham for £9.25m & Max Wittek to Dortmund for £18m. Brenner left in January to join Manchester United in a deal worth £50m.
Part of my recruitment strategy is to improve the first team squad, whilst the other is to make sure we invest in quality youth to profit from their abilities in future seasons. Coming in to the club were promising Belgian, Yari Verschaeren from Anderlecht for £26m, I’d been expecting to lose Mohammed Ihattaren this summer and Yari would walk straight in to his place in the side with Reiner his deputy, but nobody activated his release clause meaning I’d have three quality attacking midfielders at the club.
A triple signing from Santos came in the form of Jackson Porozo, Renyer & Cadu for a combined £20m (more on them later). A double signing of Umaro Embaló & Jota from Benfica that I’d had success with last year during my network save with Dave came in for £10m.
Arguably the highest profile signing of the window was Tahith Chong from Manchester United, he was available for £14m and would really suit the hole that Bruma had left on the left wing and as a Dutch national it felt right to bring him home.
Two more players were hooked on to my South American fishing line, Wallim, a newgen from Flamengo and Santi Simón from River Plate joined the squad and would provide quality competition for first team places.
We started the season in great form winning our first five games without conceding a goal only to pick up an early season loss to TOP Oss which started a two month run of 3 wins, 3 draws and that single loss meaning we had dropped behind Feyenoord who were looking really strong this season.
Our Champions League group wasn’t the easiest either, drawn against Manchester United, Atletico Madrid and Nantes meant we’d have to be on top of our game to progress to the next round. Home wins against United, Madrid & Nantes put us in with a chance to qualify if we got a result in our last group game against Nantes and the result in the other fixture went our way. We put 5 past Nantes which gave us the victory and put us through to the first knockout stage with the top 3 teams all finishing on 12 points.
As we rolled in to 2022 we were 2nd in the league, 8 points behind a strong Feyenoord side that weren’t dropping points but a win against them in the cup gave me hope that our side could still come out victorious if we put the pressure on. A 3-1 victory against Ajax was immediately followed up with a 3-0 loss to them in the KNVB Beker which meant that we would have some much needed space in the calendar to chase Feyenoord.
In the Champions League it was business as usual for us, knocked out in the first knockout round, this time by Chelsea on aggregate, 3-2. I’m still happy that we can make it out of the groups, but it’s a real challenge of mine to take the next step in the European competition.
An unbeaten run in the league in April brought us to the massive 6 pointer. Level on points with Feyenoord and 2 games to go, our championship rivals were our penultimate game of the season, a win here and it’ll be in our own hands. And win we did, Victor Yan scoring the solitary goal that would see us finally take top spot and have a clear shot at retaining the title if our fixture against FC Twente went to plan.
Michael Sadilek opened the scoring after 6 minutes to ease the nerves & Adolfo Gaich made it two just before the half hour mark giving us a comfortable 2-0 lead and with it, our second Eredivisie title.
The Brazilian Connection
Our Brazilian contingent has risen to 10. We raided Santos for Cadu & Renyer (also Porozo but he’s Ecuadorian), Lázaro from Flamengo who looks a real prospect and at the end of the season added left back, Ricardão and goalkeeper Rodrigo Bazilio to really stamp the samba swagger on the squad.
Although our numbers are rising, we lost Brenner to Manchester United when they bid £50m. I was never overly impressed with him and for that money I had to let him go. Another departure was Klebinho which was a real shame for me, he’s been one of my go to signings on Football Manager for the last couple of years but as I’m not playing with full backs I couldn’t keep him happy and he left at the end of his contract.
Disappointingly, Talles Magno hasn’t hit the heights that I’d hope for after I battled to sign him, he just hasn’t really worked out for me and if a bid comes in for him during this window I’ll take my money and run.
Quality of Leadership – Our staff is still the highest quality in the league, some improvements are being made to the youth coaching which I’ll hopefully be able to update you on in the next review. Nick Viergever has signed a 2-year extension to his contract and will remain as the club captain and as I spoke about in the last blog post, Victor Yan has become the new vice-captain at 21 years of age and bolstering his reputation in the club’s hierarchy.
Financial Strategy – Glorious. With nearly £200m in the bank and under our wage budget by £1m p/w the club’s finances are healthy. Shrew investments and player churn coupled with brilliant runs in the Champions League mean we have the money to take risks if we need to, take Yari Verschaeren for instance, we had to pay £70k p/w to bring him to Holland, but I’m certain that we’ll recoup upwards of £70m for him in the next couple of years and if we don’t, we’re not breaking the bank.
Political Strategy – This, in my opinion, is the most interesting part of this update. Last time out I mentioned that we had arranged an affiliate link with Cerezo in Japan to improve our global standing, this decision was taken off the back of Ritsu Dôan selling the most shirts, despite not making many first team appearances. His transfer to Aston Villa couldn’t be helped but I didn’t want to let our link with Japan die so at the end of the season I made moves for three Japanese youngsters, Yoshinori Mishima, Hideyuki Chano & Masaki Kusumoto. These players have been signed in the mould of Ritsu Dôan, I want to see what they can bring to the club commercially and whether it’s another avenue I want to explore with other nations. Whilst I am still searching for a Brazilian affiliate I have arranged for our terms with Genk to be changed, we now have first refusal on their players, a deal that’s cost us £120k p/a.
The Football Complex – A new chapter, our facilities are excellent and it’s time for me to build my Cantera. Yes that’s a Spanish term, but we’re playing The Villarreal Project so it sticks. I have started writing a separate blog for this as I want to describe how our Cantera will work alongside a development plan for the players we have coming through.
Thanks for reading. I’m thoroughly enjoying the save at the moment and with the new elements I’m introducing I can only presume that my immersion will increase. As always, keep an eye on my Twitter @FridayNightFM as I’ll often drop little bits from throughout the season on there and I spend my Thursday nights talking about the save when we record The 5 Star Potential Podcast where a new episode is released every Monday.