11 years ago
7 hours ago

Around the turn of the century, Valencia were among the best sides in Europe - Los Che reached back-to-back Champions League Finals in 2000 and 2001, before going on to win La Liga in 2002 and 2004, and the UEFA Cup (now Europa League) and UEFA Super Cup in 2004. They were good, very good. Since then? It's been a slow decline which eventually turned into something of a collapse.


A succession of star players - including David Silva and Juan Mata - were progressively sold to balance the books, and life under current owner Peter Lim has been, at best, frustrating. After finishing 16th in 2022/23, narrowly avoiding relegation, the club turns to unknown Englishman Rob McGregor to turn things around…


Day Zero


As with every other version of the Football Manager multiverse, my first day at the Mestalla is a reminder of which stars have been sold over the summer - with Yunus Musah's departure to AC Milan the latest in a long line of youngsters I've seen show their talent at Valencia, before being promptly sold.


Fortunately club captain, and Spain international, Jose Gaya remains, whilst a number of the clubs youngsters have taken a step forward thanks to the opportunities presented to them as a result of the club's spendthrift ways - it may be a case of ‘raise ’em then sell ‘em’, but the Valencia academy does a great job raising ‘em, so there’s something to work with at least.


The transfer budget is limited, just over £2m, but with the wage budget already exceeded that sum is quickly diminished, and my resolve is severely tested when Saudi Pro League teams start sniffing around Gaya.


Despite the bumper pay day they offer, I resist; it upsets Gaya in the short term, but I decide our captain is more important with us at this stage - aside from a couple of outgoing loans, this concludes the summer transfer business…


Fortunately there's no restriction on who I can bring in staff wise, so a major overhaul takes place here - by the start of the season my coaching and recruitment teams are among the best in the league, and the medical staff is pretty good too.


On the Field


Despite starting out with a good old fashioned 4-3-3 DM, we quickly end up playing a 4-2-3-1 after some strong preseason results; when we annihilate Osasuna 6-1 on the opening day of the La Liga season, it's pretty much sealed that this will be our go to formation for the season ahead.


Results are pretty good - we play poorly, and lose, at Cadiz and Mallorca, but otherwise pick up eight wins from our first eleven games to setup a nice platform from which to not only secure a top half finished (Board requirement), but maybe even challenge for a European place!


We make a hash of our Copa del Rey first round tie at Deportivo, losing the They Used to be Good Derby on penalties, but our league form persuades the Board to free up some cash before the January transfer window as we continue to push for a European place.


Second Half of the Season


A couple of financially helpful outgoing loans helps boost the transfer kitty further, and some creative deal construction allows us to sign Agustin Giay and Fermin, and bring in Nordi Mukiele on loan, before the window closes. 


On the field Hugo Duro is battling it out with former Valencia striker Maxi Gomez for the golden boot and five wins from our first six games following the restart sees us rise into the top four!!! A 1-0 loss at Villarreal is quickly forgotten as we win six on the bounce, including a 2-1 win over Barcelona at the Mestalla - suddenly we're not just top-four, but snapping at Real Madrid's heels for the top spot.


We can't keep it up, Real barely miss a beat after a slight wobble in February, while we're tiring. Duro has hit a cold streak, and so we're scrapping for every point - fortunately, the cushion we've built up is sizeable, keeping Atletico at arms length in 4th, and leaving us well ahead of 5th placed Real Sociedad; a 2-0 win over Los Txuri-Urdin to start May sees our place in next season Champions League secured!


While we lose at Atleti, draws with Athletic Bilbao and at Real Madrid keep us ticking before we thump already relegated Granada on the last day of the season.


Post Season Wrap Up


Hugo Duro finishes the season as the top Spanish goalscorer, second overall behind Gomez, and third overall in Europe as a whole!


I'm awarded Manager of the Year, after we smash the preseason prediction of finishing 9th to secure 3rd spot with 80 points, just two-points behind Barcelona!


There's also a Board takeover brewing…


Exciting times!

11 years ago
7 hours ago

Summer 2024


Following a successful first season a the Mestalla, preparation begins for a return to the Champions League, whilst also looking to bring on the young talent at my disposal.


Inevitably the Saudi Pro League teams begin to circle however; Mouctar Diakhaby says he wants to leave, so I agree that he can go if an offer of £26m comes in - Al-Nassr oblige and so he's off. Not to be outdone, Al-Ahil come in for Thierry Rendall Correia; he Portuguese full-back wants £400k per week to stay, so I merrily accept the Saudi side's £30m offer and get to investing the money back into the squad.


Yann Aurel Bisseck comes in at CB from Inter for £12m (possibly rising to £13.5m), replacing Diakhaby in the squad, while Ivan Fresneda makes his return to Spanish football for £18m (rising to £20.5m). Have I overpaid for the right back? Maybe, but I like the idea of building my Valencia side around home grown talent, so that Spanish passport puts my mind at ease, especially if he reaches his potential.


The midfield also gets a boost, with Israeli wonderkid Anan Khalally joining for £2.2m from Maccabi Haifa, while Carlos Soler makes a spectacular return to Los Che after falling out of favour at PSG. Javi Guerra also becomes our highest paid player after agitating for a contract renewal, but the kid is so good, and versatile, I can't bear to see him part. Soler's arrival means I'm now retraining Guerra to play AMC rather than as a Segundo Volante (ATT) (albeit he did bloody well in that role last season).


EDIT TO ADD - Also added Marcos Leonardo from Benfica, as Duro was my only truly first team quality striker, so a bit more depth (and potential) there!


The only downside is that, despite a vastly improve financial position via sales, a 3rd placed finish, and the new seasons influx of sponsors cash, our wage cap doesn't rise - a long standing FM bug by the sounds of it. It means cutting one or two players out of our La Liga squad to make room, but we're still looking in good shape, and those players that miss out on the league squad still fit into our Champions League plans, where we boast eight HGC players, ad 15 HGN players from our squad of 25. Not bad.


Season 2024/25


A rash of injuries right before the start of the new season has me slightly worried, but a tough opening fixture at Atletico Madrid ends in a 2-2 draw before we thump Betis 4-0 at home; a 1-1 draw at Levante is followed by another dominant home win, this time beating Real Sociedad 4-1 thanks to a Hugo Duro hat trick. We play Celta Vigo at home next in the league.


The new Champions League format sees us drawn against Partizan, Rangers, Liverpool (eek), Leverkusen, Hoffenheim, PSV, Real Madrid (who we also have to play in the Spanish Supercup), and Porto - a tough set of fixtures, but one we might be able to come through if we play to our potential.

11 years ago
7 hours ago

Second Season Syndrome?

Having made a decent start to the 2024/25 season, I was feeling confident heading into our first Champions League game at Partizan - so naturally we stumbled to a 0-0 draw, before losing 4-1 at Bilbao in La Liga. We bounced back with a 5-1 win against Osasuna, before beating Rangers 4-2 in the Champions League, then thumping Espanyol 6-2. Confidence restored, especially after we beat Barcelona in Barcelona, thanks to goals from Carlos Soler and Fermin.


Despite going down 1-0 after just 30-seconds, we go on to thoroughly outplay Liverpool at the Mestalla, but simply cannot seem to beat Allison - we claw one back eventually, only for Darwin Nunez to score a worldy 20-minutes from the end. A 75th minute penalty should have seen us level, but Allison saves it. We had 11 shots on target in total, with an xG of 2.16, but lose 2-1. Football eh.


Results remain mostly good, we beat Real Madrid 3-2 in the Supercopa Semi Final, but play poorly against Barcelona in the Final - somehow we're clinging on when Barca get a 95th minute penalty(!!!) which Lewandowski puts away; we didn't deserve to win, but it still stings to lose so late.


Unfortunately our broken salary cap means no January transfer signings either, as we're already at the limit - despite this the Board decide to take out a £25m loan, and give me £31m to spend on transfers. I can't use it in January, but formulate a plan to use it after the window closes, ready to bring some reinforcements in in the summer, more on that below.


We get dicked by Real Madrid in the Champions League, and lose at home to Porto, but we've done enough to get to the first knockout stage, where we're drawn against....Barcelona. FFS. January was tough, inconsistent; February was a nightmare. We fail to win any of our six games in February, get knocked out of the Copa del Rey on penalties for the second year in a row (this time to Villarreal), Barca put us out of Europe.


We bounce back in March; a formation change to a 4-2-4 (with two IWs) brings the goals back - we beat Espanyol 4-0, thump Barcelona 4-1 at the Mestalla, and while we throw away a 2-0 lead against Girona (who equalised in the 96th minute...) we put together an eight game unbeaten run - which includes a 2-1 win against Real Madrid. Annoyingly we screw up another 2-0 lead at Sevilla, conceding three goals in the second half, including two in the last eight minutes, to lose 3-2. A 5-1 win over Cadiz is enough to see us secure a top-four spot again though, so we're back in the Champions League next year.

We finish the year with a record of 23 wins, 10 draws, and five defeats, scoring 90 goals (second best in La Liga), while conceding 37. We finish on 79 points, one less than last year.

I am left wondering what might have been had Hugo Duro not suffered two major injuries during the season (torn thigh muscle, broken foot), which dented our offensive output somewhat as Marcos Leonardo struggled for form all year. We had a total of seven major injuries in all, and a stack of moderate ones. 

Fingers crossed fixing our salary cap number will help us acquire some squad depth during summer 2025...

As a nice side note, newgen striker Manuel Arastey becomes Valencia's youngest ever player, before becoming its youngest ever goal scorer too two games later.


Summer 2025

Using the aforementioned £31m, I structure a deal to bring centre back Strahinja Pavlovic from RB Salzburg, and cut a late season deal to bring in Ilaix Moriba from Leipzig as squad depth. Jaume Domenech decides he wants to move on, so I ship him out to Nantes and bring in Stefano Turati as my backup goalkeeper.


I still have in the region of £18m to spend if I want to, and am quite tempted to look for another striker to add depth there; unfortunately we miss out on Turkish wonderkid Semih Kilicsoy - thought we had it in the bag, only for Atleti to stage a late bid and gazump us. The dicks.


This post concludes with the news that not one but TWO Saudi Pro League sides have triggered Jose Gaya's £86m release clause - I don't want to lose my captain, but we seem essentially powerless here, so it's time to start scouting for another LB as well.

11 years ago
7 hours ago

Summer Lovin'


It was perhaps inevitable that the Saudi Pro League would poach one of my stars eventually - and sure enough the interest in Jose Gaya soon turned into a bid. Initially I rebuffed them, Gaya got mad, but I pointed out he has a release clause in his contract. He backed down, content with my response. 24-hours later, not one but two SPL sides have bid the required £86m to trigger the release.


I was sad to see Gaya go; our captain, a club legend who I'd hopped might be a one club man under my watch, setting a new record for appearances perhaps. Alas. Gaya was 30 however, so his peak years were likely coming to an end, and the amount of money involved helped the club bank balance move North of £100m, whilst giving me a nice transfer budget to play with.


Good replacements seemed hard to come by, with Wolves driving a hard bargain for us to secure Rayan Ait-Nouri's services - it was all a bit FM20 having the Frenchman back on my left flank, but hey ho.


Having achieved Champions League football in each of the past two seasons, I didn't want to spend for the sake of it. We scouted many players, but few really stood out as massive upgrades as the preseason rolled on - and then...a chance...a gamble, perhaps yes, but it was him. He was interested in a move to the Mestalla. Could we? Should I?

I bid, a cool million for what might only be six-months of service, or it might be a year if I play my cards right. He could be the man we need to tip us over the edge, to win some silverware and take that next step. What was a hefty transfer budget is poured into the wage budget, and all of Valencia rises to welcome the legend that is Leo Messi to the Mestalla!


At 38, he's still got it, perhaps a little slower, but he makes his presence felt in our final preseason game, a 4-2 win against FC Twente. Now if I can just persuade him to postpone his retirement until the end of the season, rather than at Christmas...


Rocky Road


We start with a 2-0 win against Getafe, but it's a wobbly start to the 2025/26 season - I admit it may partially be my fault, as I try to fit the team around Messi, rather than slot Messi into an already pretty good team. We lose at Barca, tie with Real Sociedad, and while we beat Almeria, a draw at Girona and loss at home to Villarreal don't spell out a great start to the campaign. We also lose at Fenerbahce to begin what will be an immensely frustrating Champions League campaign.


Wins over Cadiz and Alaves get us back on track, Messi bagging a hat trick against the former (inc. an 89th minute penalty to win it, 4-3). We're slowly starting to tick, and pick up some good results domestically. Sadly draws with Bayern (respectable) and Juventus (a missed opportunity, I am left cursing Wojciech Szczesny) leave our Champions League hopes hanging by a thread, with a loss at Barcelona leaving us with an awful lot to do, even, if we do thump Brugge 5-0 in our next game.


Come late December and we're in the top-four, and in a slightly unlikely fight for the title - Celta Vigo remain the surprise package, but with none of Atleti, Barca, or Real able to really string together a series of wins, the five clubs are all within a couple of points of the top spot.


Sadly I cannot convince Messi to postpone his retirement however - despite forming a strong partnership with Hugo Duro, the Argentine maestro bids football farewell after helping us beat Granada 5-3 at the Mestalla. He scored 7 goals in 17 games, and picked up multiple assists. I miss that little guy already.


"Lousy Smarch Weather"


Hugo Duro appears to be in a sulk following the winter break, I guess he misses his old Messi too, but fortunately academy starlet Manuel Arastey is on hand to pick up the slack as we finally break Mallorca's resistance. Carlos Soler adds a second three-minutes later to secure a 2-0 win ahead of tough games against Barcelona (a 3-0 loss...) and Real Madrid in the Supercopa Semi Final. I am quietly confident, following a 4-2 win against Real earlier in the season, but we're under pressure for much of the game. We manage to go into the break at 2-2, but they pull away in the second half to beat us comfortably 4-2.


Confidence restored against Getafe with a 3-0 win, before we set a club record 13-0 win against minnows Figueres in the Cope del Rey Third Round. This kicks off a 16-game unbeaten run in all competitions, which is still active at the time of writing. A draw at Brighton effectively puts us out of the Champions League, though we smash Sparta Praha in our final group game. A slew of injuries (at one point we had seven players out, four or five of whom could be considered first choice...) combined with a little unrest among some of the fringe/squad players about their game time pushed me into the transfer market before the window closes, adding striker Pedro from Flamengo, and Rico Lewis from Man City.


We end up in a bizarre run of Cup games thanks to repeated postponements of our game at Rayo Vallecano. Still, you can only play what's in front of you, and the Copa del Rey is kind to us - we beat second tier Lugo in the next round, then FC Andorra (who knocked Atleti out), and then beat Racing Santander 4-0 in the first leg of the Semi Final. Kind draws no doubt.


Amid the crazy Cup draws, and gutsy performances we've risen to the top of La Liga - a 2-1 win at Atleti (I think the first time I have beaten them in this save) is followed by a convincing 3-0 win over Girona at the Mestalla to push us 5-points clear, although Real have two-games in hand and trail us by six-points...and we go to the Bernabeu in two weeks time!


Oh, and we smashed Racing in the second leg of the Cup Semi Final to give ourselves another chance at some silverware - Real or Celta await us in the Final.

11 years ago
7 hours ago

Farewell to the Mestalla

With the wind in our sails, my Valencia side welcomed Real Betis to the Mestalla, looking to maintain our lead at the top of La Liga. Andre Almeida's 38th minute goal helps us secure the 3-points ahead of our trip to the Bernabeu the following week, with the league table looking like this:

We are frustratingly bad at Real, but only lose by a single goal (this will be important later...); so our lead at the top is now down to 3-points, and Real has that game in hand....which they duly squander, unable to beat Osasuna three-days later. We cling on to 1st place, but a draw at home with Sevilla really puts the pressure on heading into the final straight. We secure three successive 2-1 wins, at Osasuna, at Ray Vallecano (thanks to a Marcos Leonardo wonder strike), and at home to Las Palmas; but we have to travel to 4th placed Celta next. Having stumbled through the last few games (including an extra time loss in the Copa del Rey Final against Real Madrid), a formation change follows in an attempt to spice things up a bit, and thankfully it works! We switch to a 4-3-3DM (from 4-2-3-1) and a brace from Hugo Duro, combined with a brace from Pedro sees us run out 4-2 winners, with one very heavy sigh of relief from me.

A thumping 5-1 win over Rayo Vallecano at the Mestalla puts us in a strong position with two games to play - away at low/mid-table Granada, before a home tie with relegation threatened Mallorca to finish the campaign. At this point we are still 2-points ahead of Real Madrid.

When Fran Perez puts us ahead at Granada after just six minutes, I am feeling smug. When we fail to score again, and miss an 89th minute penalty, I admit to feeling the nerves, especially when six minutes of injury time are added. In true FM style, Granada score their only shot on target in the 94th minute to steal a draw.

What does this mean for the title? Well, thanks to our resounding 4-2 win over Real earlier in the season, we hold the tie breaker! We're level on points, so a win against Mallorca would guarantee us the title!!!

Deep breath now everyone...


In what can only be described as a performance for the ages, my Valencia side not only secures the La Liga title (for the first time in 22-years) in our final game at the Mestalla, but we do it in style, thrashing Mallorca 9-1! Hugo Duro scores four times to win the Golden Boot, and an unbelievable tense run in leaves me somewhat exhausted.

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