Duruji Kvareli – 2031 Open Thread
February 2031 – Squad Review.
The last time we did a full-blown squad review was in February 2028. At that point, we had yet to win the Erovnuli Liga and were in the midst of our first European campaign, the 2027/28 Europa Conference League.
We were a very, very different squad, at a very different stage of this save. (If you’ve been following along, you will recall that I generally think about the save as having several loosely-defined stages: (1) reaching the Erovnuli Liga, from the depths of the 5th tier; (2) establishing Duruji Kvareli as the dominant force in Georgian football; (3) establishing Duruji Kvareli as a dominant force in Europe; and (4) establish Georgia as a footballing powerhouse, with both Duruji Kvareli (and the rise of other clubs) and the Georgian national team.
I don’t think we’ve quite transitioned from stage 2 to stage 3, but the line between those two has always been rather hazy.
The reality is that we’ve won 3 straight Erovnuli Liga titles and have progressed to the Europa League knockout rounds for the first time after narrowly missing out on the Champions League Group Stage. We have an extremely strong squad, and are continually evolving to reach new heights. Let’s take a look at where the squad sits, on the verge of our First Knockout Round tie with Hertha.
We have a 25-man squad right now, with two confirmed future transfers — one player will arrive in the summer, another will arrive in January 2032. We are still playing PM Haaientand as our primary tactic — the strikerless 3331 detailed in The Dirty Half Dozen.
We have three goalkeepers in the squad. Manuchar Kurashvili is our starter, having signed mid-season in 2028, and is also the starter for the Georgian national team. He’s reliable. Dependable. I’m generally very pleased with him.
Luis Lorente is a dual-national who came through Gagra’s academy, before breaking out at Saburtalo. He was our first-choice keeper in 2027 and the first half of 2028; since Kurashvili’s arrival, though, he has been firmly in the 2nd XI. The reality is that as important as Luis was in helping us climb the ladder in the Erovnuli Liga, that is his level. He isn’t going to take us to the next level. I’ve placed him on the loan and transfer lists; his contract will not be renewed.
The 2nd XI will be anchored this year by a new arrival, Ghanaian U21 Jonathan Akrofi, who arrives for $170k from Liberty. My scouts thought his potential far exceeded that of Kurashvili, although it seems that my coaches aren’t particularly impressed thus far. Time will tell. At the end of the day, the worst-case scenario is that he is an upgrade on Lorente for the 2nd XI.
Vasile State was arguably our biggest signing in 2026, when we arrived in the Erovnuli Liga. He has been our starting libero ever since, contributing 30 goals and 80 assists over a 5-year period. He faces stiff competition, though, in Bojan Gocevski, our 2nd XI’s libero who fills in at centerback as/when needed.
Our starting centerbacks are Petar Vukovic and Vasil Kantaria, both of whom are utterly brilliant. We’ve had Chinese, Saudi and various European clubs sniffing around Vukovic, though. Fortunately, he signed a new contract last year which should help keep him around (or, at the very least, ensure that we make a tidy profit if he moves on).
Luka Khachidze and Mamuka Chachua are the centerbacks in our 2nd XI. At one time, they were starters. They have a role to play, but let’s not kid ourselves. Neither is going to be a force in our European campaigns. We would be remiss if we missed an opportunity to reinforce ourselves here. This is an area for improvement.
The wingbacks in our 1st XI are Leutrim Selmani and Mesud Besic. Both are tremendous for this level, and have a role to play going forward. Clubs have lobbed a few bids for them, but neither has become unsettled at this point. Mamadou Dieng is a $225k signing from Generation Foot, who could arguably play anywhere in our central midfield (or even as a libero, theoretically). But I will deploy him as the right wingback in our 2nd XI; he’ll also be on the bench for the 1st XI.
Our backup left wingback is Vladimir Khakhaleishvili. He was an utter revelation when he arrived in 2024; a surefire starter who helped propel us up the Georgian leagues. He is the club’s all-time league appearances leader, with 209. But Vladimir has been more of a liability in recent years than anything else, which is what led to Selmani’s signing in 2029. I’ve struggled to find a suitable backup willing to join the Duruji Kvareli revolution, though, so he has hung on in the squad. In fact, with Vladimir’s contract due to expire in December 2030, I thought we would be saying goodbye…but he was re-signed for another year. The problem being that when I finally was able to secure a replacement, that replacement would not arrive until the summer of 2031.
That replacement? Denis Garnier, a Bosnian U21 who arrives for $400k from Zeljeznicar. Garnier is an immediate upgrade, with immense potential even if his leadership attribute means that he can’t be trusted to organize a game of Scrabble. It’s a shame to say goodbye to Vladimir, but we need to keep improving the squad.
Igor Calilov will continue on as the regista in our 1st XI, the position he has held since his arrival in 2028. He’s another player that clubs have targeted for transfer, but thus far has been willing to sign new contracts to extend his stay in Georgia. Oumar Toure is our reserve regista, who also sits on the bench for the 1st XI. Lots of potential in young Oumar.
Patryk Jankowski is our starting roaming playmaker. He is probably our “best” player in terms of pure attributes, and has gone from strength to strength since his arrival. Clubs have been chasing Patryk harder than anyone else; we’ve been slapping those bids aside, though, as reflected by his morale. His contract runs through December 2032. I hope that he will sign a new contract; if not, I will have a tough decision to make — sell him in 2031, for a substantial fee, or let him walk on a free in December 2032.
Gela “Gelagoal” Jishkiriani is the roaming playmaker in our 2nd XI. He’s an exception to my standard “no sentiment allowed” approach to squad building. He scored 2 goals on his debut in 2023, and was the first Duruji Kvareli academy-bred player to win a youth cap (in September 2024). He has played as a shadow striker, mezzala and roaming playmaker in our system, being shifted from one role to another to plug gaps. I’d like to keep him in the squad, as evidenced by the new $975/week contract I recently gave him. But he isn’t the impact player he was several years ago, when we were working our way up the Georgian pyramid. This is likely his final contract with the club.
Our starting mezzalas are Kote “Reshi” Tkeshelashvili and Davit Gogitidze, with Omer Farjallah and Yannick Eto’o both in the 2nd XI and available from the bench for the first team. Suffice to say, we have immense depth at mezzala. While the Georgian duo may be at or near their potential, Omer and Yannick appear to have room for growth. Irakli Gulordava is another option at mezzala, and was once a key player in our 1st XI. However, he has fallen down the depth charts over the last 2 years, as our talent pool has expanded. He contract expires in December 2032; it will not be renewed.
Notwithstanding that depth at mezzala, we do have an immense young player arriving in January 2032 — Mamadou Aidara, for $225k from ASC Diaraf. While he would normally be slotted in as a shadow striker in our formation, I’m debating whether that is the “best” use of his obvious ability, in our squad. He could be an ideal “central winger,” terrorizing opponents from deep. A final decision won’t be made until next year, though.
One of my reasons for hesitation regarding where Aidara will be deployed is the delightful “problem” we have up top.
For our first few years in the Erovnuli Liga, Gela Tsivtsivadze was our starting shadow striker. As of one year ago — January 2030 — he was on the verge of becoming our first player to score 100 goals (in all competitions), as he was sitting on 91 goals. But his form had been suffering. Each year, his numbers had been dropping. After a slow start in 2026 (11 goals), he smashed home 36 goals in 2027. Then, 28 in 2028. 17 in 2029, which saw him drop to the 2nd XI. In 2030, playing from the 1st XI bench and with the 2nd XI against (arguably) inferior opposition? 6. 6 goals, in all competitions. Meaning he sits on 97 goals for the club in his career, in all competitions. Sadly, I pulled the trigger and have listed him for loan and transfer. His form has fallen off a cliff.
And while Tsivtsivadze was falling off of the proverbial cliff, the legend of Levan “Goose” Akhobadze continued to grow. Goose was an one of our “top” youth academy prospects in the 2025 intake, although I have to admit I didn’t like him at first. I thought he was a one-trick pony, at best. I even posted (to my shame), a Jay Cutler gif to mock him. After Goose roflstomped the Georgian U19/21 leagues in 2026, though, I had to give him a chance in the senior squad.
Promoted to the 2nd XI for the 2027 campaign, Goose has gone from strength to strength. In 2027, his scored 16 goals in all competitions. 22 in 2028. 26 in 2029, when he was promoted to the 1st XI, mid-season. In 2030, 30 goals.
Already a cult hero in my mind due to his exploits with the U19s/21s, he has more than proven his worth upon promotion to the senior squad. In early 2030, he became a bona fide “club icon” in-game.
At the end of the day, Goose scores goals. It is what he does. It earned him his first cap for Georgia in October 2030, making him our first youth academy player to become a full international.
Do I think Goose can be the primary goalscoring threat for a Champions League winning XI? No. I still have my reservations. But Goose will be our starting shadow striker in 2031. And, as far as I am concerned, Goose has a spot with Duruji Kvareli (even if it is just the 2nd XI) as long as he wants it. He’s one player where sentiment may outweigh reason.
With Tsivtsivadze on his way out the door, though, who is going to be the shadow striker in our 2nd XI? Ibrahim Anyamele, a Nigerian youth international who arrives from Nasarawa United, for $160k. He’s a strong player already; strong enough that, if sentiment were not an issue, I’d put him into the 1st XI immediately. He could arguably start anywhere in our “front” 4, given that his natural position is as a central midfielder. According to our coaches, he has more potential than any other player in the squad. He’ll start for our 2nd XI and play from the bench for the first team. While he could deploy as a mezzala or roaming playmaker, I’ve decided that shadow striker is where he’ll train. Regardless of where I should play him, let’s be clear — if he can meet his potential, he’s going to be an absolute beast.
I’ve probably rambled on enough, at this point.
Bottom line? We’ve built the foundation for the third stage — our assault on fortress Europe. The next step in which has to be qualifying for the Champions League Group Stage, regardless of how the current Europa League campaign ends.
The talent is here. We just need to make it happen.
February 2031 – Off-Season Odds & Ends.
I’ve been focused on squad building (obviously), but that doesn’t mean the off-season was otherwise quiet.
In fact, just the opposite.
Right after the books were closed on the 2030 campaign, the Board stepped forward with news I’ve been waiting to hear for the last 2 years, in-game. Our new stadium is being built — a 5,750 all-seater, due to open in January 2033. A shame that we received such a pittance for the Kvareli Fortress.
The name is rather uninspired, but I have 1-2 ideas and will “have a word” with the Chairman.
Meanwhile, the Europa League draw will see us start the 2031 campaign against Niko Kovac’s Hertha, in the First Knockout Round. A tough draw, but one that we should not be intimidated by.
Georgian TV rights have increased again thanks to the growing reputation of the Erovnuli Liga, rising to $499k, up from $411k last year.
Finally, for the first time in this save, we are favorites to win the Erovnuli Liga title.
The limitations of the Tsentraluri are certainly showing, as we only sell 259 season tickets (up from 237 last year). Ticket prices are flat at $21 per match, with season tickets increasing to $151 (up from $143).
While looking to see Patryk Jankowski would be willing to sign a new contract, I noticed something…he still had a 1-year extension clause. So he’s been extended to 2033. Unlucky, Patryk.
Tsivtsivadze’s career at Duruji Kvareli comes to an end, as he leaves for Al-Ettifaq for $68k and a 40 percent sell-on clause. Within the next 48 hours, I got this message in my inbox. Kick a man while he’s down, will ya? Sheesh.
So close to a perfect month. The problem is that Georgian sides rarely if ever try to play us straight up, these days. So, we annihilate a team, but draw 1-1 or win 1-nil.
I’m considering working on some long-planned tactical tweaks and ideas. We’ll see.
That’s more like it. 5 matches, including matches against our biggest domestic challengers — Merani, Dinamo Batumi and Lokomotivi. 5 wins. 22 goals for. 1 against.
As a result, we sit a ridiculous 10 points clear of Merani, 17 clear of Lokomotivi.
All month we played PM Haaienhamer (a version of my strikerless Nagelsmann tactic) with passing directness reduced to “shorter” and a roaming playmaker at DM (instead of a regista). This is not the tactical tweak I referenced earlier. It has been 1 of our 3 tactics for years; we just haven’t used it. I haven’t decided if we’ll keep using it, or go back to PM Haaientand. We can easily switch between the two, as well.
The other big news this month is that Levan “Goose” Akhobadze’s 87th-minute winner against Lokomotivi was both his 100th goal for the club (our first player to reach this milestone), and the goal which gave him the all-time league goalscoring record for the club, passing the recently-departed Gela Tsivtsivadze:
This is what dominance looks like. 6 matches, 6 wins. 21 goals for, 3 against.
We’re still playing the PM Haaienhamer tweak, with passing directness reduced to “shorter” and a roaming playmaker at DM (instead of a regista). Last year, we scored 74 goals in the Erovnuli Liga, in 36 matches. This year? We’ve scored 60 in 17, conceding 6. And we’re 19 points clear of Lokomotivi at the end of May.
PM Haaientand is more of an underdog tactic, in my view. Now that Georgian teams are almost uniformly sitting deep against us, with defensive/cautious mentalities, changing up our tactics makes sense. We need to be more assertive.
I anticipate that we’ll use both in Europe, depending on the opposition.
May 2031 – European Review.
Another year where English sides were at the pinnacle in Europe. I’m very much ready for that time in a save where some of the traditional powers start to stumble.
If it feels like things are moving a tad slower right now, it isn’t you. I’ve simply been playing all of our domestic matches at the moment instead of using IR.
As noted above, we’re playing a revised version of PM Haaienhamer, the original version of which is detailed in Those Who Do Not Move, Do Not Notice Their Chains. (The original PM Haaienhamer was a tweaked, hyper-aggressive version of my original Nagelsmann setup, PM Haaienbek, which is detailed in Live Every Week Like It’s Shark Week.)
Suffice to say that I’m enjoying the revised version greatly. The results speak for themselves. Again, as noted above, the revised version is the base PM Haaienhamer, but with: (1) passing directness reduced to “shorter,” which reduces our tempo to “standard;” and (2) a roaming playmaker at DM instead of a regista:
Before we look at those results, though, let’s pause for a moment and look at what else went on in June.
As discussed in the squad review about, Mamuka Chachua was destined to move on. So when Al-Faisaly made an offer (and, more bizarrely, agreed to my demands), he moved on — a club record $750k, plus 50 percent of next sale. Al-Fayha then made an offer for Gela “Gelagoal” Jishkiriani, a player who has struggled of late, but I’ve kept him around for sentimental reasons. When they agreed to a $750k fee, plus $140k after 50 matches and a 50 percent of next sale clause, I couldn’t reject it.
2 players from our 2nd XI, who didn’t have a future with the club. Both of them moved on for (relatively) substantial sums. I can’t really complain. I’ve promoted 2 youth academy prospects to take their place in the 2nd XI — centerback Giorgi Rotiashvili and speed merchant Lasha “Gooch” Geguchadze.
Both came through in the 2030 youth intake, which was promising. The 2031 intake looks less promising, as a whole. I’m hoping it is another instance of quality over quantity.
June was a quiet month, but we continued to perform — 3 wins from 3 matches. July will also be quiet, as our coefficients mean that we do not have to slog through the early qualifying rounds. August will be the big month, as we push for a spot in the Champions League Group Stage.
The months of July and August confirm our domestic dominance. We’re rampant, with the 2nd XI carrying most of the burden in August while the 1st XI focused on Europe. We sit 22 points clear of Lokomotivi, with 9 matches to play (although they do have a game in hand).
In the Champions League Third Qualifying Round, we faced Universitatea Craiova. The first leg was a wide-open affair, finishing 2-2 after the hosts woke up and came at us, having fallen behind. The second leg back in Tbilisi, our second home — but only for another 16 months — was much more straightforward, as we buried the Romanians, 5-nil.
Zilina was up next, the final obstacle between Duruji Kvareli and a money-spinning trip to the Group Stage. We need not have worried. We utterly destroyed the Slovakians in the first leg, an emphatic 7-nil win that was punctuated by Levan “Goose” Akhobadze re-enacting the Karate Kid in the 86th minute, to claim his 2nd.
The second leg back in Tbilisi was a low-key affair, as we deployed the 2nd XI…who promptly smashed the Slovakians, 3-nil, a scoreline that easily could have been much, much worse.
Which means that, for the first time, Duruji Kvareli are off to the Champions League Group Stage. We secure a solid $16.9M in prize money, an amount which exceeds our entire turnover in 2030. We immediately invest the funds in improvements to our youth and training facilities.
We entered the draw as a third seed, and will face Massimiliano Allegri’s Milan, Marcelino’s Barcelona and Olympiacos.
It’s a tough Group, but not as bad as it could have been. I’d like to think we can finish 3rd, and advance to the Europa League knockout rounds. That would be a perfectly good outcome, at this stage.
The fact that we’re so far ahead in the Erovnuli Liga means that our 1st XI can focus on Europe. As much as I’d like an undefeated, “invincible” season on the domestic front, passage through to the knockout rounds is more important in advancing the save.
As expected, we claim the Erovnuli Liga title this month, miles ahead of Lokomotivi. I’ve been hesitant to say it up until now, but it is clear that stage 2 of the save (supremacy in Georgia) is complete.
Fitting that, as Stage 2 ends, we debut in the Champions League Group Stage, kicking off Stage 3 (European supremacy) in style away to Milan. We could not scalp Allegri’s men, but we did ourselves proud in a 2-1 loss that could have gone on our way with a little luck.
The 2031 youth intake has arrived and — as expected — on first glance, it was an issue of quality versus quantity.
After the match with our U19s, it is clear that there are only three worth looking at: (1) Davit Abulashvili, who will train as a mezzala, because he isn’t fast enough to play up top; (2) Murman Akhalaia, who will retrain as a centerback, because there is no room in our midfield for a hard-tackling, Georgian-Roy-Keane destroyer with that flair; and (3) Besik Chichinadze, who will retrain as a left wingback.
All 3 look like players who could eventually reach the first-team squad, depending on the accuracy of the coaches’ assessment of their potential.
A frustrating month, as we dominate domestically but cannot gain purchase in Europe. We smash Olympiacos, but cannot crack their resolute defense and have to settle for a scoreless draw. Barcelona toy with us for more than 80 minutes, but we manage to give them a scare before ultimately falling 3-1, in front of a record 15,128-strong crowd in Tbilisi.
We’ve run the table in Georgia. Now, can we complete an “invincibles” season? Can we claim third in the Champions League Group Stage?
The Camp Nou is stunned to silence in the 52nd minute, as Goose drops the ball to State, turns and burst through the line to receive a perfectly-weighted through ball back…and smashes it home.
A priceless moment.
Demonstration of everything we can be.
Validation of all the praise we’ve received over the last few years.
Unfortunately…the other 89 minutes and 47 seconds were awful.
Actually, that’s not fair. There was a moment where Anyamele smashed one off the post in the 75th, against the run of play. And Kantaria headed one off the crossbar in the 84th, from a corner.
So only 89 minutes and 37 seconds were awful. And, man, were they awful.
I’d rather not talk about it anymore.
After the debacle at the Camp Nou, we took out our frustrations on a hapless Zestaponi and Merani in the Erovnuli Liga, while Ibrahim Anyamele took out his anger on Mauritius, and the squad geared up for the next big test.
Massimiliano Allegri’s Milan, the two-time defending Serie A champions, at our home-away-from-home in Tbilisi. We put in a tremendous performance, with Vukovic scoring late to earn a 1-1 draw. It was nothing less than we deserved.
An “invincible” season in domestic competitions was secured on the final Erovnuli Liga matchday with an emphatic 6-1 win over Dinamo Batumi.
But the biggest question came down to a trip to Athens. Win or draw, and we’re through to the Europa League knockout rounds, as third in the the Group. Lose, and Olympiacos go through. When we faced Olympiacos in Tbilisi, we forgot our shooting boots. This time around, we made sure they were packed, and smashed our hosts 5-1, with a textbook display of ruthless finishing. Again, it was nothing less than what we deserved.
December 2031 – Season Review.
At the start of the year, our goals were simple. Domestic dominance. Reach the Champions League Group Stage, and qualify for the Europa League knockout rounds. We met those targets.
We completed an “invincibles” season domestically, with an absurd 102 points and +105 goal difference in the Erovnuli Liga.
Dinamo Tbilisi finished 3rd, 46 points off the pace. To put things in perspective, Dinamo Tbilisi were only 25 points clear of relegated Dinamo Batumi.
Financially, we are set for years to come. The windfall from reaching the Group Stage (nearly $22M, when you include the prize money from 1 win and 2 draws during the Group Stage) will only fuel our domestic dominance.
The trick now is to take things to the next level. We’ve renewed contracts of the key players who European clubs were trying to poach — this won’t preclude offers from coming in, but should ensure that if/when a player leaves, we receive a higher transfer fee. We’re also working to improve the squad — our reputation should get a nice bump from this campaign, which will help with recruitment efforts.
I’m also determined to take over the Georgian national team. I wasn’t particularly “ready” in my head for the position, when the FA decided to give the job to someone else in 2029. But I’m “ready” now. Whatever that means. This is out of my control, but I’m hoping it happens sooner rather than later.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t touch on Levan “Goose” Akhobadze for a moment. More than a meme, the guy is an absolute legend at this point. Literally. He is the first player to become a club legend, in-game. And with good reason: he led the team in 3031, in both goals and assists — 28 and 16, respectively. State was the supporters’ Player of the Year, but we all know who the GOAT is.
In the squad review at the start of the year, we highlighted one player who will arrive in January — Mamadou Aidara. I’m excited for him to put on the Duruji Kvareli kit for the first time. Back when we were playing PM Haaientand, my initial plan was to use him as a mezzala. Now that we’re playing with PM Haaienhamer, a formation that uses 2 shadow strikers, Aidara will be deployed as a shadow striker in our 2nd XI.
Goals for 2032: Make a run in the 2031/32 Europa League knockout rounds. Reach the 2032/33 Champions League knockout rounds. Take over the Georgian national team, at the first opportunity.
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.