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‘Cause I Gotta Have Faith

FK Partizan / Netherlands – 2033/34 Open Thread

June 2033.

I’ve been accused of many things. Hoarding youth prospects is one of them.

The transfer window has just opened in Serbia and we’ve secured 4 signings — 2 are in the door already, 2 are secured for future transfer windows.

Branko Platisa ($300k, Metalac) looks like a solid goalkeeper, who I’ve identified to eventually step into the 2nd XI (if/when he develops, and either Begaj or Gueye moves on).

Davor Svilar ($675k from Cu**aricki) could develop into a handy carrilero. Stealing him away from De Gea was both petty and pleasing, in equal measure.

Isaac Ngatchou ($90k, Botofogo (Cameroon)) is an absolute steal, even if his concentration is beneath what I’d usually go for. He’ll arrive in July 2034 and be trained as a shadowganche.

Zoubir “Zoob” Aouameur ($475k, ES Setif) looks like a dream mezzala. If he was 6’0″ (or taller), I’d retrain him as a libero…but even I’m not crazy enough to play him there, at his height with a jumping reach of 3.

I’m also chasing Adrian Harrison, an 18 year-old Gibraltarian fullback that I stumbled across while looking at one of his teammates at Frosinone. Yes, I realize how ridiculous that sounds. But…well, just have a look at him and try to contain yourself.

Frosinone have been relegated, which kicks in an $18.25M relegation release clause. I’ve been doing everything I can to destabilize him, and so far the Italians won’t accept a penny beneath that figure…I’m hoping that I’ll be able to negotiate them downwards once they’re officially in Serie B. I don’t like spending that much on players, as a general rule…even if there is something inherently amazing in having a Gibraltarian player who is that good.

Things got a little out of hand at the Itchy Kitty, the night we put Harrison’s YouTube highlights on the big screen.

August 2033.

The morning headlines are not acceptable. We’re a laughing stock.

Through no fault of our own.

Zlatan, for once, appears to be the voice of reason. “Boss, is way of world now. Corporate sponsors. Corporate rights. Corporate feelings. Corporate everything.”

“Corporations are not people, Zlatan.”

“Remember in that documentary where the Schwarzenegger comes back to the past? The sequel, where Fresh Prince is fighting angry robot?”

I just sigh. We’ve had this debate before. I know how this ends. I’m not going to take the bait.

“That’s not what we’re talking about, Zlatan. Besides, I don’t care about killer robots. It’s the Congolese midfielder we’ve signed as a replacement for Terziev. We can’t… This… This is absurd. He’s a human being. A person. Not…whatever this is.”

“Corporo-humanoids are very hip right now, Boss. The Zlatan knows, I’ve seen this movie, yes? With the Alicia Vikander? Very erotic. Much sexy time. But we no have sexy time with the Doctor, no?! Unless…what if–“

I need to nip this in the bud. “Zlatan. Listen to me. I’m telling you three times, no.”

For a moment, Zlatan looks like he’s going to argue. But then he looks down and nods, scuffing his feet into the ground.

“Zlatan, stop acting like I **** in your cornflakes. It’s just a name.”

“Is no just name, Boss. The Zlatan? No just name. The Zlatan is lion. Without name, the Zlatan would just be Zlatan. And you would make the Zlatan cry.”

That might be the most coherent argument Zlatan has made in weeks.

“Fine. I’ll call him by his corporo…whatever, name.”

“Is his legal name, Boss, Doctor Congo. Kind of like the Dr. Pepper flavor, but made by Jelly Belly peoples and tasting like licorice jelly beans. The Doctor Congo is spokesman for brand, and official corporate Ambassador to the Serbia. The Zlatan saw corporate goons designing goal celebration this morning time, eating beans…very erotic. Sensual. We can be sued for defamation and trademark infringement if we do not allow this.”

For neither the first nor last time today, I sigh deeply. It’s clear that Stana’s father is in on this, so there’s no point complaining. It’s a brave new world.

And one thing has been made clear to me by the forced sale of Terziev over my objections. We’re here to win football matches. But the club is here so that Stana’s father can make money. We need to reach a position of financial stability, so that I can persuade him not to sell off players that I’d prefer to keep.

Until then, it is a Doctor Congo world.

Yes, you’ve read that correctly. The Board sold Florim Terziev (over my objections) to Lionel Messi’s Tottenham for $23M. We’ve done brilliantly with our finances over the last 1.5 seasons, but not well enough for the Board to ignore a massive offer like this. I’m a little gutted, to say the least. Nastasijevic will step into the 1st XI to replace him.

To replace Terziev, I’ve decided to bring in a Congolese player I’ve been eyeing for a while — Aldrich Maputu, who has announced a personal corporate sponsorship that requires his name be legally changed to Doctor Congo.

This personal corporate sponsorship follows a disturbing trend first charted with the immortal Wienerwald in the FM 18 version of the Nearly Men (who was sponsored by a German fast-food schnitzel shop), which takes us one step further down the road towards a bleak, Idiocracy-esque future. (And, yes, his name is a play on “DR Congo,” thanks to an amusing autocorrect in a WhatsApp chat.)

(All kidding aside, my daughter is Congolese. One of my worst all-time FM moments was taking over DR Congo during the FM 17 version of the Nearly Men in February 2087, ready to take a strong side to the World Cup…only to get sacked 9 months later when were FM’d and eliminated from CAF World Cup Qualifying before the Group Stage… Yeah. Exactly. It was awful. I deserved to get sacked, if not worse. I would love nothing more than for more African nations to become eligible in this save; DR Congo would be amazing.)

In other news, Ilija Cuk was sent off to Betis after he demanded more playing time (which he wasn’t going to get). We’ll be using youth academy prospects to fill this 6th CB slot, I just haven’t decided yet between 2 players. More to follow…

We also kept Serbian-Canadian David Greenberg here as our 2nd XI’s carrilero, after he impressed during a year out on loan (with Miljan Aleksivjevic going out on loan this year).

August 2033.

What a debut for Doctor Congo.

An 11th minute goal, subbed off by Zlatan at halftime. This was obviously due to IR and Doctor Congo having no familiarity with playing as a libero…but, in my head, it’s because his goal celebration was too erotic.

#TheDoctorIsIn #TasteTheBean #DoctorWho

August 2033.

Welcome to the Champions League. Tough draw. Our hope is to finish 3rd so that we qualify for the Europa League knockout rounds, but that’s a big ask.

(And, yes, I thought we had only qualified for the Playoffs — I’d obviously missed the news that we would qualify directly for the Group Stage.)

November 2033.

A frustrating few months. We’ve been solid domestically and are at the top of the table, and have held our own in Europe with some decent results (a 2-1 loss at home against Wolfsburg; a 1-0 loss at Real Madrid on a late Mejri goal; a 2-1 loss at home against Wolves, followed by a massive 2-1 win in England).

Sure, I’d love to have more points in Europe…but they’re good results against very strong opposition. And I can’t really complain about the results thus far.

And the Dutch had what felt like a stereotypical Dutch qualification campaign, struggling far more than we ever should have. But the bottom line is that we qualified.

Now, having been on such a good run with Partizan, I’ve done the only natural thing. I’ve decided to tinker with our tactics. More to come on that…

November 2033.

Matchday 5. We’re away to Wolfsburg in on of the 2 early matches.

Suffice to say, I like the tactical tweak, codenamed “PM Hajnaeb.”

A massive win which sees us leapfrog ze Germans into 3rd. And a few hours later, we move into 2nd after Real Madrid stomp Wolves.

We’ll face the Spaniards on Matchday 6, in Belgrade. The only question is which small woodland creatures need to be offered to RNGeebus in the interim…

December 2033.

I’m so frustrated.  We utterly ran them off the pitch in the first half, but didn’t take our chances. 

We finish 3rd in the Group – solid achievement, but we were so close to playing Champions League football after the winter break.

December 2033.

Just a quick update here, as we hit the Serbian winter break. We sit atop the Super Liga table, and have a date with Sergio Conceicao’s Standard in the Europa League.

The new tactics are taking shape…I’m very excited to get them into a more “final” state.

9 points clear of Cu**aricki. I’ll take it.

Finally, the World Cup draw has taken place. We are in Group J, and will face Australia and Costa Rica.

This should be straightforward.

February 2034.

Oh, yes. The tactical revisions have gone smoothly. I’m extremely pleased.

We’re utterly dominant domestically, far more so than under our prior tactics. Even the 2nd XI look imposing, which I haven’t been able to say before given the squad’s age and inexperience.

In the Europa League 1st Knockout Round, we did ourselves proud against Standard (who currently sit atop the Jupiler Pro League).

The first leg was in Belgium, and we had every opportunity to win. However, a lack of ruthlessness in front of goal meant we were left with a creditable draw.

We then all-but curb-stomped the Belgians in Belgrade — again, a lack of ruthlessness is what kept the Belgians in the tie.

We’ll face Nuno Espirito Santo’s Real Sociedad in the Second Knockout Round, a favorable draw on paper.

Bottom line, we’re finally starting to look like the side I want us to become. The tactical change will require some squad revision in the summer, but only after we’re done tweaking/revising the system.

March 2034.

We’re rampant domestically, and two solid performances mean that Real Sociedad have been sent packing from the Europa League. 2-nil at home (although it should have been more), and a scoreless draw away. Taking care of business.

A much bigger test awaits, though, with Georg Margreitter’s Schalke on the horizon.

I do realize that this save has been quiet lately, but rest assured — that’s only because I’m still working on our tactics, which has me playing every game with extensive highlights to tweak/adjust…

April 2034.

The 2-nil scoreline in favor of Ze Germans did not do us justice in the first leg. We deserved better.

(Interestingly enough, Panda (Schalke’s Brazilian midfielder who won (and then scored) the penalty for their second goal) earns $135k/week. Partizan’s total wage bill? A little more than $77k/week. So we all know who the real winner is, right?)

In the end, our lads did us proud in the 2nd leg. A massive 4-nil win back in Belgrade, to send us through to the semifinals just days after our 2nd XI secured the Super Liga title.

Drinks are on the house at the Itchy Kitty tonight.

May 2034.

Unai Emery’s Stuttgart were just a little too much for us. We didn’t embarrass ourselves, but our Europa League journey ends at the semifinal stage.

To be continued

If you’ve stumbled upon this post and are finding yourself a bit confused… Don’t worry.  The basic concept behind the Nearly Men save is explained here.  Just need to catch up? Each installment in Nicolaj Bur’s story can be accessed through the Nearly Men Archive.

And if you just can’t get enough…join us for The Ballad of Toothless Bob, a series that explores the world of Nicolaj Bur, away from the pitch. What is Project Arcturus? What lies beyond the twisted redstone door, deep in the bowels of the Santiago Bernabéu?

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