2042/43 Open Thread
Before we hit continue in the save, I just have to come back to something that caught my attention during the World Cup, that I haven’t really looked at yet (much less put on the blog).
$209M for Sebastian Esposito…nice. The other thing that I find interesting is that only 1 of these transfers is to a newly-rising club, Alberto Rivera to Aston Villa from Schalke in June 2039, for $157M. He’s alright, I guess. If you’re into that kind of thing.
Pierre Krucken is right up there, among the “best” I’ve managed, but he’s stayed at Gladbach for his entire career thus far. I can’t believe he’s only 28. What a player.
Jork Lozano is another favorite — but he’s another player who hasn’t left Gladbach (after his $17.5M move from Panathinaikos).
Another player that deserves a shout out, who I only managed as a brilliant young prospect at Partizan, is Davy Maes. I cannot believe he’s only 22.
We do need to update the tracker…and yes, it is beautiful.
The phone has been ringing off the hook since our resignation from the Ivory Coast.
England. Germany. Brazil. No. Nein. Não.
None of those positions stirred anything in us. Neither in our hearts, nor our loins.
But the last phone call? Belgium? Oh, yes. That’ll do. That’ll do quite nicely.
It took little convincing. We are more than ready to see what we can do with this talented group.
Belgium is a side that I always look at and wonder…why aren’t they doing better? The quality of players that they generate…tasty. It isn’t like they’re doing that poorly, either. Third-place at the 2018 World Cup, runners-up in 2038. Winners of the 2020 Euros.
Rather, the Belgians just need a little extra something to get them over the top.
A wealth of talent. And we’ll be working on a revised tactic at both Reims and Belgium, that seeks to get the best out of Davy Maes, a player I brought to Partizan towards the end of my tenure who has since developed into a truly world-class player at the age of 22.
More to follow re the tactic. Watch this space.
Finally, just a taste of the talent we’ll have on offer:
Just can’t catch a break here at FtCS headquarters. Too much to do. Not enough hours in the day.
Nevertheless, we’ve managed to progress through early December 2042, slowly by slowly.
First things first, the Ivory Coast initially looked like they were going to go with Thierry Henry for some reason, but in the end they named Gennaro Gattuso as the manager to take over for Nicolaj Bur. Neither has much of a CV, but…it is what it is.
We also have 3 new signings from the summer to introduce — Faðir Hóra, the Norwegian-Icelandic kid who we landed for $3.2M from BK Hacken, after Landry Soumahoro left for Watford ($34M, plus incentives); Amine Mazhoud ($750k, Club Africain), who was brought in once Oumar Brou threw a fit about leaving for Cercle Brugge (at $25M, plus incentives, who was I to argue); and, Jelle Dierickx ($7.5M, Zulte Waregem) to replace Fermin Kouakou who also left for Cercle Brugge ($14M, plus incentives). All three are playing in the 2nd XI. Solid business, in my view.
On the field, the Belgians have taken care of business in a tough Nations League Group, finishing level on points with Spain but going through to the semifinals by viture of the tiebreaker. Our planned tactical tweak has been a mess so far, but we’ve managed to secure results using PM Haaientand.
Domestically, Reims look good value to defend the Ligue 1 title. We sit atop the table, leading Ligue 1 in goals scored (42), 2nd in goals against (12). We’ve dropped some silly points away to Rennes and Lens, but otherwise are doing everything we need to do.
In Europe, however, we’ve been dropping points needlessly. We controlled both matches against Partizan, and our wastefulness means that we face a tough trip to Felix Uduokhai’s resurgent Real Madrid (enjoying their best season in years) on Matchday 6, to see who will go through to the knockout rounds.
A dark night in Madrid. Unseasonably warm. The crowd, a baying mass of white. They can taste it in the air.
A chance to reclaim the glories of the past, to shake off the slump they’ve been in for years now.
But it isn’t just that. There’s something…wrong…in the air tonight. A bitter taste. Nothing poetic, like the scent of bitter almonds and unrequited love. No, no Gabriel Garcia Marquez here tonight, no matter how surreal the setting may feel.
The taste in the air is more sulfuric. Acrid.
Dark clouds hang heavy over the stadium. Ominous. Thunder rolls in the near distance, but oddly, there is no lightning.
Only flashes of red, deep within the clouds hanging over the stadium.
The final whistle blows. An ugly match. We’re through. That’s all that matters, isn’t it?
For anyone thinking that Madrid were hard done by, finishing 3rd on 10 points…well, just take a look at Julian Nagelsmann’s Gladbach in Group D.
3 wins, 2 draws, 11 points, a +9 goal difference? Not good enough, Julian. Good luck in the Europa League.
We draw Mauricio Pochettino’s Lazio. Probably the best draw we could have had. Not that it really matters at this juncture.
We made it much harder on ourselves than it had to be. But we’re through. A 3-2 home win, followed by a 2-2 draw away. Good enough, I guess.
On the flight back from Rome, I tried to tell Zlatan that The Wallflowers’ “One Headlight” wasn’t dance music. Zlatan wasn’t having any of it.
“Not with that attitude, Boss. Now watch the Zlatan get the funky.”
We’ll face Frank Lampard’s Schalke next, and they will undoubtedly be out for revenge after suffering elimination at our hands last year.
It took extra time in the 2nd leg, but we’ve stomped the Smurfs for the 2nd straight year in the knockout rounds.
Ta ra, Franky-boy.
We face Ognjen Vranjes’ Aston Villa in the semifinals, a side that are on course for their 5th straight Premier League title, after they eliminated Marco Rose’s Monaco. As you may recall, Aston Villa are led by none other than Orlande Kante, our talismanic Ivorian shadow striker.
Raul Valbuena’s Wolves and Baba Toure’s Panathinaikos square off in the other semifinal.
Domestically, we’re flying. With 6 matches to play, we’re 12 points clear of Monaco. Which means that our focus is on the Champions League for the moment.
An epic 1st leg. Although I’m gutted that we gave up the 2nd late. At 4-1, it looked like the tie was over before we left for England.
As things stand, it’s a bit more dicey.
I decide not to play it too safe, but to continue with our aggressive, tweaked tactic.
A 15th minute goal from Zimmer paid back our faith. 5-2 on aggregate. Yahiaoui buried another in the 56th, but it was chalked off by VAR for offsides.
Nerves quickly set in when Rigamonti buried one in the 63rd, to draw Villa level on the night…Sembolo should have done better. Bastard.
Then a stunner from Caldas in the 68th. Double bastard.
Squeaky bum time.
Euphoria when Dobias fired home in the 81st…only for VAR to chalk it off for offsides.
Still, we hold firm. Denying Villa any real look at goal.
In the 94th, Konate breaks through forcing Pereira into an awkward save, spilling the ball for Faðir Hóra. The Norwegian-Icelandic beast buries it. 2-2 on the night. 6-4 on aggregate.
We’re going to Wembley, to face Raul Valbuena’s Wolves, who beat Panathinaikos on penalties.
The final will be live-blogged tomorrow.
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 conceived and co-authored by Seattle Red and Oriole 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?