Serie A. Inter, Milan, Juventus, Napoli… and Feralpi Salò. Until two years ago we were playing in a stadium that had a lower capacity than one stand from any of those four clubs. Many of our players are still Serie C quality. I got promoted with a £20k per week wage budget… for my entire squad. And now we have to survive in a league where the mid-table teams spend £16m a year on wages alone.
Yet there is some hope that we might be able to cut it in the big leagues. For a start, there was a very timely board takeover at the end of last season where a consortium bought the old chairman out and started investing in the club – improving the training facilities and giving me a massively unexpected transfer fund that wouldn’t have the other manager’s laughing at me during Walter Mazzarri’s pre-season slumber party.
With all that money burning an £11m shaped hole in my pocket, we embarked on a massive scouting mission, armed with the priorities that I’d specified in my last update. There has been so much transfer activity over the summer, as you’d expect, that I felt I should write an update purely covering the signings… there’s been a lot of them!
To go with that £11m transfer budget, the board were good enough to increase my wage allowance from £20k to £100k a week. Whilst this represented a 5-fold increase on what I was used to, I still didn’t think that it would be good enough for Serie A, nor did I feel that the maximum individual wages, etc that it enforced were good enough. Therefore, one of the first things I did was to transfer £6m of the wage budget into the wages – doubling my salary limitations.
The board also saw fit to extend my scouting capacity – both in terms of numbers of scouts allowed and how far I could send them on assignments. For the first time we could scout outside Europe which makes sense as clubs in Italy are not allowed to buy non-EU players from outside Italy until they reach Serie A; and even then are limited to 2 a year… unless they mysteriously discover an Italian or Spanish grandmother of course…
No such nefarious opportunities are available in FM, though, so I had to knuckle down and scour the globe, making sure that my money was spent wisely. I think I’ve done rather well… it certainly took long enough.
£3.1m!! A quite ludicrous sum of money which is 47 times my previous record signing!
I managed to find my priority targets for cheaper than I had anticipated and it left a lot of room for bringing in players that I hadn’t originally identified as crucial to staying up but rather “nice to haves”. I faced a few dilemmas over whether to stay loyal to the players who got us here but, on nearly every occasion, the more talented signing won out. Starting with the priorities as identified in the last update, here are the new arrivals in Salò:
Cosmin Codreanu – £1.2m from Ceahlãul – Right wingback
Having let Bandini’s contract expire, we had no right-back to speak of and so it was an absolute priority to bring in the right candidate. Whilst I managed to bring in Vivaldy Mbala on loan from Lyon as cover, Codreanu will be my first choice.
At 22, he’s still got plenty of room to progress but his current attributes were more or less exactly what I was looking for. Solid in defence, he’d make a decent defensive fullback with relatively high values in positioning, strength, anticipation and marking whilst he has good decision making, page, stamina and crossing for providing the attacking threat. What set him apart from the other options I had was his aerial ability – 6 foot with 14 for jumping and 12 for heading, he should be more than adept at defending the back post against incoming wingers – something which his predecessor was painfully incapable of doing.
Kevin Faillá – on loan from Juventus – Right inside forward
I’d initially lined up an incredibly expensive deal for a winger released by Juventus, some of you may have seen a picture of him on my Twitter feed. He would have been on about £18k per week plus bonuses and was worth it, to be fair. Unfortunately, I ended up missing out on him as he went to Benfica for £3k more per week and so I had to fall back on my second choice.
Faillá was always my second choice and I actually arranged a permanent transfer at first. However, I eventually talked myself out of the £3,2m transfer fee and £14k per week wages that we’d agreed; instead taking a chance on cancelling the deal and seeking a loan move instead. Why? I’m not convinced he’s the real deal and that’s too much money for us to potentially throw away. Besides, I think I can find better if given long enough to scout.
Having said that, I do like Faillá. He’s got great pace and crossing ability whilst his finishing, first touch and movement are decent for his age. He’s touted as the “next Angel di Maria” but I can’t see him reaching that level with relatively low anticipation, composure, creativity, decisions and teamwork – there’s just too many attributes for him to catch up.
Having said that, a loan move should be a good deal for us just now as I may already have the long term option coming through…
Vladimir Dyusekeev – Free transfer (released by Bayern) – Right inside forward
He’s purely based on pace just now with a few handy natural attributes such as flair and off the ball but my scouts think he’ll become a “leading Serie A” winger and he’s impressed in his few games thus far, including this rather lovely hat-trick:
He needs training and game time but movement and pace go a long way in FM so he’s got a solid start.
Daniel Okoye – £1.2m from Rosenborg – Centre back
Narrowly defeating Codreanu to become our record signing, I was initially on the lookout for a 3rd centre half to provide back up to Kaba and Omic. Instead, our former centre back partnership will be battling it out to play alongside the giant Nigerian newcomer.
With the deep defensive line that we employ in our counter attacking system, I was quite happy to sacrifice pace for the excellent attributes that Daniel has in heading, jumping, marking, tackling and positioning plus solid anticipation, concentration and teamwork. At 20, he’s still got plenty of scope for improvement too and I see him as a future Feralpi captain.
And on to the rest…
With the crucial pieces of business done, it was now down to a detailed analysis of the literally hundreds of players that I had scouted and how much they could conceivably improve the squad I already had at my disposal. I had a fair idea that the starting box-to-box roles and left inside-forward were settled but that left a lot of scope for strengthening other areas and adding depth to the squad. Starting with…
Erick Chavarria – Free transfer (released from R Madrid) – Goalkeeper
I feel a little sorry for Felice Bonetti as he has done well up to this point and certainly had the potential to be a good Serie A ‘keeper. Despite plenty of game time, I feel that our poor training facilities have stunted his growth and there really is no comparing him with Chavarria, labelled the next Pepe Reina.
Not as tall as the 6’8” Italian, he does, however, have fantastic physical attributes in balance and jumping which, combined with his 14 for aerial ability, should mean that he does just fine under any aerial bombardment. Meanwhile his regular ‘keeper attributes are very good with positioning, an absolute must for me, is excellent for a 21 year-old.
With another full star of development to come, I had no qualms in making him our biggest earner – a ‘keeper is vital for a team fighting relegation.
Luís Martins – £150k from Benfica – Left back
Mattia Desole has been our starting left back since Serie C and the Venezuelan international has developed into a decent player but I’m not quite convinced that he’s Serie A quality. He should do a decent job, though, and I couldn’t find a suitable replacement that didn’t want potentially bankruptcy-inducing wages.
Martins was something of a compromise. An experienced player who is okay at just about everything without really being very good at anything. Relatively pacey and with a decent cross on him, he lends himself well to our offensive wingback roles. A solid back-up but little more.
With a full 3 stars potential yet to fulfil, according to my coaches, Kopecky is the first in what will hopefully be a number of long term signings. Capable of stepping up in an emergency, he’s very much one for the future.
Tom Dolk – £500k from Djurgården – Deep-lying playmaker
Scandinavia is a fantastic source of relatively cheap, quality newgens and I would highly recommend any FM manager of a top tier team that is struggling in the bottom half to take a tour of clubs like AIK, Djurgården, Malmö, Brondby, Rosenborg, Molde, Brommapojkarna, Lillestrøm and Viking. You might just turn up a gem.
Dolk isn’t a world-beater, indeed my coaches really don’t think much of him but for the role I want him to fulfil I think he’s just about the best player I could have got this summer.
He’s got better defensive ability than Piacenza, my previous deep-lying playmaker, but isn’t as creative as the Italian; meaning that I can be comfortable playing him in the more difficult games and allowing Piacenza to move into the box-to-box role where his creativity is likely to be of more use.
Dolk’s pace is also very handy in covering the wide areas that can be vacated by my marauding wingbacks whilst his “dictates tempo” PPM is well suited a counter-attacking style – allowing him to get it forward quickly when the moment dictates and keeping it simple when required.
He’s also versatile enough, with his excellent passing and off the ball, to play a more advanced role whilst his set piece ability was the clincher. An extra 5 goals could be crucial to a club in our position and corners could be particularly fruitful for us with giants like Okoye lumbering up from the back to meet corners from Dolk or, similarly…
Domenico Cosentino – Bosman from Lecce – Versatile midfielder
I’m really happy with picking up Cosentino from the lower leagues although he was originally part of my grand scheme to get promoted from Serie B this season! I still think he’s got potential to be Serie A quality and is another who will provide great versatility and depth.
My only other signing was the free transfer of former-Lazio midfielder Hernanes who joined as a player/coach, although primarily for the latter position.
And that is the squad which will see me take on the might of Serie A.
Despite strengthening the squad significantly, and increasing the squad to a burgeoning 30!, I’m actually well under the original wage budget that the board gave me – spending just £84k per week, coincidentally exactly the sum that Juventus are paying Claudio Marchisio… less than half what they’re paying Kwadwo Asamoah…
To go with the £114k leeway in wage bill, I’ve also still got over £2m left in the transfer budget but, most pleasingly given our previous struggles, a bank balance that is £5.3m in the black and making profit every month.
Our gate receipts have rocketed from around £100k a month to almost half a million. With a proportionate increase in match day income and merchandising, we’d be in a solid financial position even were it not for the fantastic sponsorship deals that the new chairman negotiated and the TV money. With that TV money paid in instalments rather than a pre-season lump sum, we’re making circa £500k per month.
So you could argue that I should have simply splashed my entire budget on whatever I could get this summer to keep us up, safe in the knowledge that the bank balance will keep ticking up… well my failure to do so isn’t simply based on Scottish tight-fistedness.
Firstly, I want to keep a lump of money available for the January transfer window. It may become apparent in the intervening months that a player I thought was good enough really isn’t going to cut it at this level. We may get an injury to a key player. Either way, I want to have a little put aside in case I need to provide some winter impetus to an ailing squad.
Secondly, I want to have a nest egg put aside in case the worst should happen and we go down. At current projection, we’ll have £14m in the bank by the end of the season, capable of losing over £1m a month in what I hope would be a single Serie B season before we come back up – and capable of coming back stronger.
Lastly, at some point in the latter stages of this season, we’ll have a general idea of our fate and where we’ll be playing next season. Leaving wiggle room in my wage budget will allow me to offer potential Bosman transfers an attractive deal. And by that time we’ll hopefully be able to attract a higher quality of player. “Doing a Redknapp” and throwing cash at whatever player I can get just now will mean that I’m stuck with that standard of player until his contract expires and at an inflated wage… not something I want to do.
So how has my newly assembled squad done so far:
Not bad, not bad at all.
I was worried after the opening game when we lost out to Paganese, the Serie B playoff winners from last year. But since then we’ve really improved. Although we’ve struggled for goals, we’ve got the third best defence in the league (albeit from just 7 games). Getting our first win was going to be crucial to prevent an early irreversible slump in form and, fittingly, it was two players that have been with Feralpi Salò since the start of my reign who came off the bench to grab an 86th minute winner for our first Serie A victory:
We were desperately unlucky not to beat Torino at home and “only” lost 1-0 at Milan before thumping at Atalanta side who are predicted to grab a European spot this year.
Like I said, not bad at all.
But then I look at my fixture list and next up we have Roma, Fiorentina, Catania, Palermo, Chievo and Juventus… bloody hell.
Only one thing for it though… hit continue and hope for the best!
As always, thank you for reading, I hope you continue to enjoy these updates even if there isn’t as much statistical or tactical analysis. If anyone has downloaded the save game to play as Lazio or tried my tactic from the last update, please let me know how you got on! As always I welcome any comments.