Duruji Kvareli – 2028 Open Thread
I’d originally planned to do a full squad review in January, once my transfer business was done. But that has to be delayed a few weeks, while I dive back into the market. Let’s take a quick look at where things sit right now, though, and why we have to defer the squad review for a few weeks.
After our European debut, we’re set for glory. My Continental A License has arrived just in time for Christmas, and the Board agrees to let me work towards a Continental Pro License. We’ve also been rewarded with a massive budget:
We will also receive $267k for television rights this year, up from $228k last year.
Per my usual style, however, I intend to use these newfound riches as sparingly as possible to ensure our long-term viability and success. The priority is investing in our facilities. I am a little underwhelmed at the Board’s initial plans to expand capacity to 955 (from 750), and am hoping that they think a little bigger between now and the time construction starts (as I vaguely recall, this initial projection is not necessarily what the final expansion will be). That being said, I am pleased to see that the Board agreed to upgrade our data analysis facilities again, and has also rented “excellent” youth facilities.
By prioritizing investment in our facilities, I have to search for bargains in the transfer market. Even if we could no longer count on raiding the free agent market to build a squad, we cannot just start raiding clubs around Europe (the limits of our scouting, at this juncture). We need to find the right players, at the right price.
There are any number of young prospects I’m interested in, the only problem being that many are not interested in joining the footballing revolution we’ve started here in Kvareli. Alright, fellas. Your loss.
Our first signing was David Gogitidze, after Lokomotivi Tbilisi let his contract run down. He joined on a free, and will play from the bench as one of our 2nd XI’s mezzalas. If you can’t beat them, steal their youth prospects.
The second signing to be confirmed was Petar Vukovic, a Montenegrin U21 who will arrive in February for $90k from Rudar. This was the first time we’ve paid a transfer fee, but I think this kid can step it up. He’ll start in our 2nd XI, possibly growing into a 1st XI role over time.
Our third signing was Kote Tkeshelashvili, a promising midfielder who arrived for $70k from Liga 3 side Shukura, will train as a roaming playmaker, and play in the 2nd XI. I will try to loan him out for the first few months of the season, though, to get some matches under his belt before the Europa Conference League qualifying campaign begins in July.
My plan was to have Tkeshelashvili be our final signing…but while I waiting for him to finalize our contract offer, this message popped up.
Zviad Maghradze, our starting regista, is out for the season. His backup is Mikheil Bregvadze, who: (1) hasn’t been in the 1st XI since Zviad arrived; (2) isn’t good enough to be in the 1st XI; and (3) was going to be release at the end of the 2028 campaign, despite his years of service. My long-term plan was to bring someone in at the end of this season — someone who could spend a year in our 2nd XI before taking over for Zviad. (Our best youth prospect is Lado Kobiashvili, but he isn’t anywhere near ready to be in the squad, much less play in the 2nd XI this year.)
But with Zviad out for the year, our transfer business isn’t done. We need a player capable of stepping into the 1st XI. We’re going to have to dip into the market again.
All of a sudden, the transfer fees I was not willing to pay aren’t looking so bad after all. The full squad review will come once we fill the Zviad-shaped hole in the 1st XI.
February 2028 – Squad Review.
A slight delay, but now that we’ve filled the Zviad-shaped hole in our 1st XI, we can proceed.
Starting at the 30,000-foot level, I think we’re more than ready to renew hostilities with Lokomotivi, and to do ourselves proud in the Europa Conference League. We’re picked to finish 3rd in the Erovnuli Liga, our highest to-date.
We continue to play PM Haaientand as our primary tactic — the strikerless 3331 detailed in The Dirty Half Dozen.
We currently have a 24-man first-team squad, although only 22 of those players will feature this year (as explained below).
Lorente is frustrating. He’s a great shot-stopper at times, but also gave up some absolute howlers last year. We need a better goalkeeper to advance in Europe. He has a ton of potential. The question is whether he will meet it, or if we need to find someone better.
This is likely Tskhadadze’s last year with the club, as he has become the weak point in our 2nd XI. He’s just not good enough.
Our starting back 3 will be comprised of Vasile State at libero, with Luka Khachidze and Mamuka Chachua at centerback. It’s a solid group, and Vasile might be my favorite player in the squad. He’s everything we’d want from a libero at this level. Aggressive in possession, capable of unlocking a defense on the dribble or with a pass.
Giorgi Varduashvili is the libero in our 2nd XI, with new signing Petar Vukovic ($90k from Rudar) and long-term squad member, Giorgi Tebidze, as centerbacks. Vukovic is likely the only one of this trio who will be back next year. He’s brilliant and will have a role to play in this squad for years, if we can keep him. Varduashvili and Tebidze will be replaced by younger, more promising players if at all possible.
Our starting wingbacks are Vladimir Khakhaleishvili and Lasha Kavartadze. Both players are good enough for the Erovnuli Liga, but we will need to improve here if we are to advance in Europe. Nika Ghvinianidze is a long-term source of frustration — so much potential that it looks like he will never meet. Tornike Bitskinashvili has been a trusted squad player for years, good enough to fill in on either flank, but not good enough to ever reach the 1st XI. My hope is to sign 2 new wingbacks for the 1st XI in the next 1-2 years, allowing Nika and Tornike to move on with Vladimir and Lasha dropping to the 2nd team.
As noted above, we have a Zviad-shaped hole in our midfield, at regista. Zviad Maghradze has been a fixture in the 1st XI since he arrived in 2025, pulling strings and anchoring our midfield. His days were always numbered, though — in the long term, he was going to drop to the 2nd XI. My plans have been accelerated, though, thanks to his broken leg. While he might be back for the end of the campaign, we needed a 1st XI replacement.
We dipped into the market, and have brought in Igor Calilov ($275k from Neftci). Big things are expected of young Igor, but as an established member of the Azeri U21s, I think he can take it. He’ll need to. I didn’t intend to spend that kind of money this year, but felt it was necessary to keep advancing our cause. (The player I initially targeted to replace Zviad is with Lokomotivi’s reserves, having spent the last 2 years out on loan. He isn’t as “ready” for the 1st team as Calilov is, though. I may go back in for him, as his contract expires in December.)
Calilov will be our starting regista — the spot is his to lose, now and for the foreseeable future. Mikheil Bregvadze will play in the 2nd XI until Zviad returns from injury; Mikheil’s contract will not be renewed for 2029.
At roaming playmaker, Patryk Jankowski will feature in the 1st XI. Kote “Reshi” Tkeshelashvili is out on loan for 4 months after arriving for 70k from Shukura (not Shakira, I double-checked), but will return to take up the roaming playmaker position in our 2nd XI, when the fixtures start to pile up with Europa Conference League qualifying. We’re set in this position for the next few years. Lado Kobiashvili is the best player in our youth setup right now — I’m still not convinced that he’ll make the grade, but he’ll spend this year out on loan getting first-team minutes.
Our starting mezzalas are Archil Ghlonti and Irakli Gulordava, both of whom are brilliant. The 2nd XI features Gela “Gelagoal” Jishkariani and Davit Gogitidze in these positions. While we will need to improve this area in order to truly advance in Europe, I feel like we have a lot of depth and consistency here, without a need for immediate reinforcements.
Finally, up top we have the same duo from last year — Gela Tsivtsivadve, who lit up the scoring charts with 35 goals in all competitions, and Levan “Goose” Akhobadze, who had a brilliant debut season with the first team, scoring 16 goals from the bench and with the 2nd XI.
This is another area where I feel like we have quality and depth, for the time being. The coaches think that Goose has substantial room for growth, as well. He’s already a cult hero among the Duruji Kvareli faithful. With any luck, he can continue to grow into the role.
All told, I think we’re good enough to improve on last year’s 2nd-place finish in the league, and to fight valiantly in Europe. We’re deeper and stronger than last year’s side, objectively.
Anything less than the Erovnuli Liga title and a place in the Europa League Group Stage will be a massive disappointment.
We just need to put it together on the pitch.
In all honestly, I was pulling for Lokomotivi to advance in the Europa Conference League. It would improve Georgia’s standing in world football, and also would have kept them busy during the first few weeks of the season. But we’re back on par — they’ll be playing 1 match per week, just like we are, after being eliminated by Kilmarnock in the First Knockout Round.
We’ve sold 148 season tickets this year, up from 136. Ticket prices have also risen to $15 (up from $13) per match, $104 for a season ticket (up from $84.93 last year). Got to pay the price if you want to ride this bandwagon.
A frustrating start to the campaign, with draws against Saburtalo and Dinamo Tbilisi, and another early-season loss to Lokomotivi Tbilisi.
Still don’t know why the Davit Kipiani Cup isn’t showing up in my Competitions Overview screen…
A brilliant month. 6 matches, 6 wins. Including our first win over Lokomotivi, a 4-3 barnburner at the Kvareli Fortress.
We were also able to improve our junior coaching again, although the Board rejected my requests to also improve our youth recruitment and expand our scouting range.
May 2028 – Monthly Update & European Review.
Another strong month, where we only dropped points away to Merani. Frustrating, but we end the month 2 points clear at the top, thanks to Lokomotivi losing 2 straight matches.
Work was completed on our upgrades to the training and youth facilities. The problem being that, since we were renting excellent youth facilities a few months ago, we now go to owning poor facilities.
As frustrating as that was, the Board immediately agreed to upgrade our youth facilities again.
We’re also swimming in cash, thanks to distribution of an additional $1.89M in Europa Conference League television revenue, and $176k in the 10-year coefficient table. Vincent Kompany’s Betis went on to win the Europa Conference League, beating Luuk de Jong’s Lille 3-nil in the final. (Note that Giorgi Tsivtsivadze’s 10 goals were almost enough to earn him the Golden Boot, which is insane.)
Other 2027/28 European results are below:
That extra $2.1M in Europa Conference League money that arrived in May? Already spent (even if the funds won’t come out of our budget until next year):
The Erovnuli Liga has jumped another 6 places, to #72 on the competition reputation table, nestled between the Championnat National and Serie C. We also rise to #29 in the nation club coefficients table.
Duruji Kvareli debuts at #453 in the club coefficients table:
We’re rewarded with a match against Estonian side, Nomme Kalju, in the first qualifying round.
I’ve also figured out why the Davit Kipiani Cup is no longer showing up in my competitions overview screen.
The winner earns a spot in the Europa Conference League. Up through the 2027/28 Europa Conference League, the correct team was getting that spot. However, for the 2028/29 Europa Conference League, it has been awarded to Meshakhte. Now, you’ll recall that Duruji Kvareli won the Cup in 2027. Meshakhte? They didn’t even play in the Cup.
While the Cup overview screen correctly tracks the current matches and statistics, it doesn’t show any winners since 2018.
We’ll have to see if this problem continues in the future. I also can’t decide how much this affects my long-term goals for the save.
The Georgian Super Cup is also bugged, with Torpedo Kutaisi playing in it every, single year.
I’d like to just ignore this and continue on. I’m frustrated.
Our youth intake is incredibly disappointing. Again. Not much we can do, other than continue to improve our facilities and, when our reputation is high enough, hire a better HOYD.
Regarding the Super Cup and Davit Kipiani Cup issues noted above, I intend to press on with the save. This issue is annoying, but it may not even be an issue with the Georgia file (a friend playing a Faroese save without the Georgia file active, was repeatedly drawn against a non-league Georgian side in the Europa Conference League over the years).
Bottom line — regardless of whether this is an issue in SI’s data or in the editor file, it can’t be fixed at this point. It should not affect Duruji Kvareli directly, as we will not be relying on the Cup to qualify for Europe, going forward. I am removing the Super Cup from the achievement hunter table, however, because we should have played in it this year as the Cup winners, but did not. If the wrong team qualifying for Europe becomes an ongoing problem, I may also remove the league reputation goals from the achievement hunter table — hard to accomplish that feat, if one of our European entrants is nothing more than cannon fodder.
In this kind of save, I’m always on the lookout for ways to improve our squad. Sentimentality for certain players factors in more than it would in the Nearly Men, but if we can improve the squad, we need to do it.
Having signed one of Lokomotivi’s best players on a free at the end of 2027, I’ve wanted to go back for another player that they’ve been letting stagnate for a while. I tapped him up in the media and personally attended matches…the moment Vasil Kantaria’s contract had less than six months to run, I made an offer. Boom. Vasil Kantaria will join at the end of the season, train as a centerback, and almost certainly be our 1st choice substitute off the bench for the back 3 (replacing Varduashvili in the 2nd XI, whose contract expires in December).
I’ve also been tracking wingbacks for a while now, without much success. So, when Lasha Kavtaradze went down injured against Saburtalo on July 1st, I went straight to a player whose contract I knew was due to expire and was already planning to approach. Previously, he’d wanted to consider his options…now, he was more than happy to sign on the dotted line. Mesud Besic has joined on a two-year deal (with a one-year extension clause). He’s an immediate upgrade at right wingback. He’s also our first “proper” wingback, who can attack and defend, with room to grow. He will slot directly into the 1st XI, with Kavtaradze dropping to the 2nd XI when he gets back from injury in a few weeks’ time. Ghvinianidze will be offered out on loan; his contract expires at the end of the year.
Another big move in early July, as we sign Manuchar Kurashvili, a full Georgian international who captained the Georgian U21s after coming through WIT-Georgia’s academy, later signing for Dinamo Tbilisi. He wouldn’t talk to me when his contract expired over the winter, as he didn’t think our ambition matched his. Six months later, he’s apparently discovered that sitting home and playing videogames isn’t as much fun as he expected. He’s ready to get back on the pitch. He will start ahead of Lorente, with Tskhadadze being offered out on loan (his contract also expires at the end of the year). His first match? A cleansheet against Dinamo Tbilisi. Excellent.
And we were rewarded with perhaps my favorite FM draw of all time — San Marino’s Tre Penne.
I don’t expect we’ll be invited back any time soon, as we were not the kindest of houseguests, romping to a 7-nil win that easily could have been much, much worse. The 2nd XI were not much kinder, back home in Georgia, a 6-nil battering.
Our hipster coefficient is through the roof, as we draw Budapest Honved in the Third Qualifying Round.
An altogether brilliant month. 9 matches, 8 wins. 31 goals for, 1 against.
We put in a command performance in the first leg of the Third Qualifying Round, in Budapest, and take a narrow, 1-nil advantage back to Georgia. The match was wide open, but we were ruthless, smashing 6 past the Hungarians, to advance 7-1 on aggregate.
We draw IFK Norrkoping, which is a kindness given that both Inter and Leipzig were in the mix.
We smash the Swedes 4-nil in the first leg, despite wasting a number of chances in the first half. The match sees Zviad Maghradze make his first appearance of the year, coming on in the 57th minute for a tiring Calilov, having fully recovered from his broken leg. We’re poor in the second leg, losing 3-1, but are nevertheless through to the Group Stage.
(Lokomotivi crash out of Europe thanks to a 122nd minute goal from visitors St. Patrick’s Athletic. A brutal fall from grace for our in-country rivals, after elimination from all 3 European competitions during qualifying.)
We ended up in an utterly brilliant Group, with BATE, Rosenborg and Cork City, while avoiding the Europa Conference League’s “Group of Death,” Group H:
Perhaps the biggest news, though, is that early in the month I went back to the Board, obtaining further investment in our data facilities and expansion of our scouting range, such that we can scout (and sign) players from anywhere in the world. Ohhh…yeah.
We’re sitting 7 points clear at the top, although Lokomotivi have a match in hand and won’t be dealing with European fixtures on the run-in. The match on September 17th at the Kvareli Fortress is huge.
We survive a brutal month, unscathed. We dominate Rosenborg on Matchday 1 in the Europa Conference League Group Stage, walking away with a comfortable 2-nil win. (I forgot to take a screenshot…)
BATE and Cork City drew on Matchday 1, so we had a real opportunity to seize control of the Group on Matchday 2. We scalped Cork City at Turners Cross, winning 4-nil in a match they controlled. Control? Seized.
Tired legs, but willing hearts. We’re 3 points clear of Lokomotivi with a match in hand, into the final of the Davit Kipiani Cup.
Our youth intake arrived. It was terrible. Utterly terrible.
Tired legs. But 6 wins from 6 matches, including a dire, painful win over BATE and a 2-nil win over Liga 2 side Mertskhali in the Davit Kipiani Cup, means we’re on the verge of securing our first domestic double.
We sit 8 points clear of Lokomotivi, with 3 matches to play. We’re also within touching distance of a spot in the Europa Conference League knockout rounds.
Another scalp taken away from home, 2-nil in Borisov, makes it 4 wins from 4 in the Group Stage, ensuring our progression as a seeded team into the knockout rounds.
The Board has agreed to improve our data analysis facilities again. We’re still waiting for the last round of youth and training facility upgrades to finish in May 2029, so it’s all we can do at the moment.
2 injury time goals for Samtredia against the 2nd XI prevent us from claiming the title on Matchday 33.
I’ve been giving some thought to the forthcoming transfer window, and assessing the squad.
Nothing too momentous here, merely the decision that Vasil Kantaria will move into the 1st XI upon his arrival in January, with Luka Khachidze dropping to the 2nd XI. There really isn’t much dispute about it.
Our targets for the window will be: (1) a starting left wingback; and (2) a libero for the 2nd XI. Vladimir Khakhaleishvili has been a loyal servant, but his time in the 1st XI is done. His contract runs through 2030, and will not be renewed (assuming he isn’t sold). Giorgi Tebidze is currently slotted to serve as the 2nd XI’s libero, and I appreciate all he has done for us (at one point, he was our best player by a mile)…but he doesn’t have a future at the club. The sooner we can bring someone else in to start learning the role, the better.
This is one thing I’ve greatly enjoyed the far — the slow, steady evolution of the squad from the Regional Leagues up until this point. We’ve progressed quickly, but it has not been fueled by waves of new recruits at each step coming in to take over the 1st XI. Rather, we’ve slowly but surely evolved the squad as we’ve moved up the pyramid. Evolution, not revolution.
My goal is to continue that evolution, even though my usual tendency is to cull squads ruthlessly. Indiscriminately, some might even say.
This is in part driven by pragmatism — the guardrails imposed by the reputations of both the Erovnuli Liga and Duruji Kvareli. We can’t recruit a boatload of wonderkids. And even if we could, they’d step off the plane (boat?), take one look around and start begging for a transfer to the Hungarian 2nd tier (which we are still ranked behind).
But it is also a function of my enjoyment of this save thus far, as we’ve grown from a tiny team in the 5th tier to one who gallivanting about the Europa Conference League, looking good value to claim our first Erovnuli Liga title.
It’s the journey, not the destination.
Away to Zestaponi for the title? Ride the pony, more like.
We claim the Erovnuli Liga title with a 2-nil win over Zestaponi on Matchday 35. Our reward is a place in the Champions League next year, along with a $4.21M transfer budget. Again, we’re not going to splurge. Our priority is to invest in facilities, and plan with a 5-10 year arc in mind.
We took the confidence from winning the league to Norway, curb-stomping Rosenborg in Trondheim, 4-nil. Much to the delight of our single traveling supporter, Levan “Goose” Akhobadze came on late to finish the match off and let loose with 2 late goals, his 20th and 21st of the campaign. Not bad for a kid who I had serious doubts about, when he promoted out of the academy.
With respect to our single traveling supporter, I have to figure he either had the time of his life or got the **** kicked out of him.
The 2nd XI defeat Dinamo Batumi on the final matchday at the Tsentraluri, before the 1st XI beat Cork City 3-1 in Tbilisi to close out 2028 with 6 wins in the Europa Conference League Group Stage.
December 2028 – Season Review.
After last year’s disappointing end to the season, this feels good. Our first Erovnuli Liga title. Our first domestic double. Our first passage through to the knockout rounds of European competition. We tick off 3 different achievements, as well (highlighted below).
We’ve also built a squad that is going from strength to strength, especially when you consider the squad we had upon our arrival in the Erovnuli Liga for the 2026 campaign. Vasile State and Gela Tsivtsivadze were both new signings that January, and are our only remaining starters from the XI that kicked of the 2026 campaign.
Vasile remains an integral part of the side, contributing 5 goals and 20 assists as our starting libero. He’s been utterly brilliant, and everything I could ask for with a libero on attack duty at this level.
Tsivtsivadze remains our starting shadow striker, but is a candidate for possible replacement via the transfer market. Levan “Goose” Akhobadze had a big year, and also seems to be catching up to Tsivtsivadze, while still having room to grow. I don’t think Goose is a true 1st XI candidate, for the forthcoming assault on Europe, but I do see him as a long-term squad player. The point being that we will likely need to upgrade our 1st XI’s shadow striker, because Tsivtsivadze appears to be at or near his ceiling, in terms of potential.
I also feel obligated to highlight Igor Celilov‘s contribution — 12 goals and 7 assists in all competitions, from regista. That’s an absurd number of goals for a regista, 3rd on the team, behind Tsitsivadze (28) and Goose (22). I’d ideally like to see more assists from him, but our tactic sees virtually every player in the XI creating chances.
(Note: I’m noticing that the Davit Kipiani Cup statistics are not included in the individual screenshots above. I’m assuming this is a function of whatever bug we’re dealing with, with the Cup itself. That being said, the squad overview and individual player history screens show the correct totals, inclusive of the Cup (for example, this is Goose’s player history for 2028).
Our priorities, however, are a starting left wingback and backup libero. Dinamo already swooped in to take my first-choice wingback candidate. Bastards. But I’m not worried. We have a massive transfer kitty.
We can do things in the transfer market that other Georgian clubs can only dream of. Watch this space.
Goals for 2029: Defend our Erovnuli Liga title, to confirm our domestic dominance. Reach the knockout rounds of a European competition for the 2029/30 campaign.
God leaned over to the Devil, drew him close and declared, “those who will drink three glasses of chacha may be on my side. After that, they are yours.”
If you’ve stumbled upon this post and are finding yourself a bit confused, the basic concept behind the Fourth Glass save is explained here. Just need to catch up? Each installment in Giorgi Amirani’s attempt to take over the football world, starting from the Georgian Regional Leagues, can be accessed through the Fourth Glass Archive.