First of all, I made a couple of new shirts for the team. Partly to commemorate our Champions League win, partly because I was bored of the old ones and partly just to muck around with the Smart Shirt Designer program. Anyway, I’m not such a big fan of the home shirt but the colours and design are kind of restrictive.
The away top, further in the post, is lovely though. Very happy with it.
They’ll be the last shirts which Feralpi wear with me in charge as I have reached the end of my time in Salò. 13 seasons, over 600 games, 2 promotions, 5 Scudetto titles, cups galore… it’s been fun.
However, it’s now got to the stage that the fun is diminishing. Domestically, we are just much, much better than everyone else. Against most teams I don’t even really bother trying any more and we’ll still run out winners by three or four goals. I’ve been playing a new tactic this season and I’ve no idea if it’s any good or if it’s just because we have far superior players.
So it’s time to move on. This, though, provides a brief history of the club – looking at some key moments or key seasons and the heroes of Salò.
Even were I to leave no other legacy for the club than this beautiful shirt, I think it would be 13 seasons well spent!
Of course, there is somewhat more of a legacy than a couple of shirts. When I joined the club, Feralpi Salò were a minnow of minuscule proportions. Playing in Serie C1, they’d never won a trophy and didn’t look like doing so anytime soon. During the 4 seasons that I’d been in Austria with a different manager, the club had gone precisely nowhere.
Nevertheless, a blank slate is the perfect start in Football Manager and whilst there were financial problems that were restrictive until we reached Serie A, they were not so restrictive as to make the club unmanageable.
Indeed the board, believing that I was having far too easy a time of it trying to gain promotion with a £23k a week total wage budget, decided to build a brand new 10000 seater stadium – named after club legend Omar Leonarduzzi.
Perhaps the board were having a prescient moment. We have won this since we moved:
The stadium has been expanded during that time to its current 20004 capacity – ordinarily this would be too small for a side aiming to compete in the upper echelons of European football but the television in money available in Italy is more than enough to keep us going.
Not to mention the massive profits I’ve made in player sales. With the exception of our first 3 seasons in Serie A, we’ve made a transfer profit every year and £70m total in my time here. This leaves the club with a £100m bank balance and running a comfortable profit each year… presuming continued success on the continent.
That, of course, will largely be down to my successor but he’ll inherit a first team squad full of talent and some incredibly promising youngsters coming through an academy that has developed into one of the best in Italy. My current squad may be the strongest that it’s ever been but there’s very little point in showing you every player. Instead, here are some of my favourites – not just those that are still here but my favourites from throughout the 13 year stint here.
Filippo Adriano Gramaccia
The club’s leading appearance maker, the club’s leading goalscorer, the club’s youngest ever player and the club’s youngest ever goalscorer when scoring with his first touch on his debut. In other words, the club’s finest ever youth product… so far.
Gramaccia was an enormous surprise, coming through the academy in my first youth intake. It was immediately apparent that he was going to be very good and I envisaged developing him nicely for a few seasons and then selling him on when a big club came calling.
Luckily, that never happened and although he’s flattered to deceive at times, he was a driving force during our promotion season and early years in Serie A. In all honesty, my loyalty to him may have cost us a second Champions League title as, in my final game, I kept him on the pitch far too long in the hope he would score a fairytale winner against Real Madrid. He didn’t, we lost a two goal lead and ended up losing on penalties. Ah well.
13 years, 418 appearances, 108 goals, 84 assists, the last goal in my last home game. Legend.
Okoye was an absolutely crucial signing for the club, certainly one of my most important and a massive bargain at just £1.2m from Rosenborg.
I said at the time that I foresaw him becoming a Feralpi captain and that has been the case for the past 7 seasons (I think) and he has been an absolute rock at the back – never averaging less than 7.5 over a season and usually being closer to an 8.0 average.
He initially fitted perfectly with the “big lump” centre halves that I required during the counter attacking phase. He’s a bit of a unit and would dominate the key header and key tackle charts year-in-year-out. He is versatile enough, though, that when we became more expansive and required more mobile and intelligent defenders, Okoye was still first choice.
For some reason, the game still doesn’t rate him that highly My assistant currently rates his current ability at just 3 stars which is a complete joke. Rightly listed as a club legend, I would liken him to Feralpi’s version of Marcel Desailly.
Prest goes down as one of my favourite ever players despite just 18 months in Salò. When I bought him he was a promising AMC at River but there were no real big clubs interested and we managed to sign him for just £8.75m.
A year and a half later, he was the most wanted left-winger in the game and Real Madrid activated his £36m minimum fee release clause. I’d have given almost anything to keep him. He was utterly fantastic. 14 goals and 14 assists in the 33 league games of his debut season is superb, helping us to finish 2nd (you may remember this is the season where we lost the title on the final day).
Real decided to use him at AMC and he’s done very, very well for them. A superb player and important for two reasons. Firstly, he was excellent. Secondly, the money that we made from his sale funded a £60m shopping spree the following season that was the catalyst for 5 consecutive Serie A titles. Thanks Real.
Jan van Duren
Not the best player that I’ve ever managed nor the best player at Feralpi but the free transfer from Ajax in 2019 was a crucial influence in first promotion to and then survival in Serie A. Scoring 12 and laying on 11 in our promotion season, his pace and creativity were vital. He was probably the single most important player that year.
He’s gone on to have a decent career in Greece with PAOK before heading to England with a couple of diddy teams in Hull and Sunderland. Shame. Particularly about Sunderland. Talk about scraping the barrel.
Magliano arrived the day before van Duren, also on a free – this time from Sampdoria. He ended up staying a little longer than the Dutchman with Inter signing him for £7.5m after 5 seasons.
Magliano was a brilliant box-to-box midfielder, scoring 10 in our promotion season, and was our most creative midfielder for a long time. Formed a superb partnership with Angelo Piacenza before we outgrew the two of them and the likes of Flórez and Yildiz arrived.
The original Feralpi goalscorer, Lisi was out top scorer in my debut season with 19 and then again in the season we got promoted from Serie C1 with a massive 12. That tells you all you need to know about our early struggles but he was a constant menace from the left flank. He was Fans’ Player of the Year 3 seasons on the bounce from 2016 to 2018.
It was a massive gamble to sell him after one season in Serie B but he brought in £350k and young van Duren replaced him adequately. Still, double figures for goals and assists in 3 consecutive seasons deserves a mention.
Marco De Angelis
Another favourite who isn’t my best player by a long way. We signed De Angelis on a free transfer from Vicenza in 2022 and I initially planned to use him from the flanks, getting on the end of crosses to the back post where he’d use his 6’5” frame to overpower a fullback. That worked to an extent but never really consistently enough for him to nail down a place in the first team.
After 3 seasons I was considering moving him on and then I decided to use his natural goal-scoring ability as a deep-striker from the AMC position in my strikerless 4-1-2-3-0. This replaced the hitherto creative AMC I was using and was a more natural location for getting on the end of crosses from both flanks.
He never looked back. 99 goals in the last 4 seasons, including a 35-goal haul in 2026/27, finally justified my faith in him although, similar to Okoye, the game doesn’t rate him that highly – just 3 stars, hence the paltry 9 caps.
This season, he’s been an even more important cog in the machine. As I switched to a formation with strikers, De Angelis played a crucial role as the targetman in a striking partnership with Ukranian goal machine Tretyak. His physicality and ability to hold the ball up before bringing others into the game was vital. He scored 25 this season and laid on another 14. Unfortunately, he missed a pen in the Champions League final shootout but I’ll forgive him.
So those are just some of my favourite players. In the end, we had a team that utterly dominated Italian football.
104 points, 104 goals scored and just 14 conceded. We also set the record for biggest win in Serie A with an 8-0 defeat of Grosseto. The games we lost were incredibly frustrating as we rested players ahead of Champions League games and lost to Paganese and Udinese; our draws coming against Roma and Mantova.
It’s an odd looking table with Fiorentina, Sampdoria and Palermo just beating Parma to survival whilst Inter and Milan just scrambled into mid-table obscurity around Easter. Juventus’ points total would have been enough to win it during 5 of the Serie A campaigns to date but when we’ve broken the league’s record points total and ended up 41 points ahead of 3rd place, there’s really nothing they could have done.
Unfortunately, that domination didn’t transfer into the Coppa Italia where, for the second year in a row, Napoli beat our reserves in the quarter final.
With the ‘other cups’ going our way and a quadruple secured, it was just down to whether we could retain our Champions League crown. As alluded to earlier, that ended in heartbreak as we eventually lost the final to Real Madrid on penalties.
I got a bit complacent in the groups and was a little worried we might finish 2nd after losing to Porto at home but that proved to be something of an exception as we controlled the other games including a 10-0 victory over APOEL.
Perhaps my attacking tactic was a little too gung-ho for the latter stages of the Champions League but having beaten the excellent PSG and Barcelona I wasn’t going to meddle with something that wasn’t broken. Indeed it worked as were 2-0 up at half time, Real had only managed a single shot and we were well on our way to back-t0-back wins.
Maybe I screwed up the half-time teamtalk, maybe Blanc just got it right for Real. Either way, they came right back into the game, got the two goals back and then scored all of their penalties as De Angelis and Schembari missed for me.
An anti-climax of a last game for sure but I can’t be disappointed as managing Feralpi has been incredible fun. There’s really no comparison between the club as it was and what there is now. It’s like a completely different game. Seems a little strange remembering how much I had to micro-mange the finances when I now spend £6m on a gamble (which paid off with 15 assists I might add).
I should also mention one particularly important event – the board takeover. I was worried that I would end up with a tycoon that would throw money at me and make it all too easy. Thankfully, that didn’t happen.
Instead, days after sealing promotion to Serie A, local businessman Michael Caruso took over and backed me with some reasonable funding and investment in the club’s infrastructure. His first move was to improve the club’s sponsorship deals, then invest in the training and youth facilities – something which he has continued to do throughout my time at the club.
So yeah, it’s been brilliant fun. I’m going to keep the save as I can foresee me coming back to this should my next save go horrendously wrong (not beyond the realms of possibility) or even if I just fancy a play around with a truly exceptional team.
Having saved and then resigned to see what would happen, 26 staff left Feralpi with me. I’m pretty sure that’s everyone!! Favourite to replace me was Frank De Boer, current Dortmund manager although Chivu (Bayern), Garde (PSG) and D’Avino (Atalanta) were also linked. Incidentally, Christian Chivu also replaced “me” at Rapid Wien earlier in this save.
I’m slightly tempted to holiday the save for a while and see what happens to my team. Maybe another time.
For now, it’s farewell to Salò. It’s been emotional.
So where now? There will be more details in an opening post next week some time but here’s not so much a clue as a mural telling you exactly where I’m going:
And for the very last time… Forza Feralpi!!!