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All My Instincts, They Return…

Duruji Kvareli – 2033 Open Thread

December 2032/January 2033.

The first news item of note is the Europa League draw, which pits us against Dunajska Streda, a rather favorable draw considering who we could have faced.

The TV rights payments continue to climb — $711k for 2033, up from $599k in 2032.

The biggest news of all? The completion of our new stadium, which has been creatively named the Duruji Kvareli Stadium.

For urCristiano’s sake, Greg. Try to keep up.

Well, that wasn’t going to work, for a million reasons. Not the least of which being how incredibly boring it is. The question being, what to do about it?

As you may recall, my manager — Giorgi Amirani — is named for the mythical Georgian hero who defied the Gods. Well, Amirani had a faithful, loyal companion — a dog by the name of Q’ursha (sometimes spelled Qursha or Kursha, with the latter seemingly the most common, contemporary spelling).

You see where this is going, don’t you? Exactly. No more of this “Duruji Kvareli Stadium” nonsense. Nope. Our new home? Kursha Road.

Kursha Road, the 5,750 capacity, all-seater that we now call home.

January 2033.

For the last few years, Bojan Gocevski has been the libero in our 2nd XI, and the first centerback on the 1st XI’s substitutes bench. He’s a great player, but wasn’t going to take over any time soon for Vasile State. Clubs have bid heavily for him and Gocevski would complain, but no one would ever agree to my number. And Gocevski would always let it go after throwing his toys out of the pram.

That is, until Hull City and Brentford started lobbing bids this month. Hull was the first to meet my demands, agreeing on $11M (inclusive of future fees), plus a 50% sell on. Then, Brentford came in, at $13.75M (inclusive of future fees), plus a 50% sell on. That much money, for a player who wasn’t going to be in our 1st XI? Yes, please.

Gocevski chose Brentford. And we’ve signed Abdoulaye Diallo for $215k to replace him as the libero in our 2nd XI.

Yes, I realize he’s a deep-lying forward. That’s kind of the point.

Because a deep-lying forward is nothing more than an inverted libero, if you think about it.

February 2033.

We kick off the year in Tbilisi, as it seems that our Europa League matches will continue to be played away from Kursha Road for rest of the 2032/33 Europa League campaign. We spank Dunajska Streda 3-nil in the first leg, showing little rust from the winter. The second leg is also straightforward, a comfortable 2-nil win.

We will face Sevilla in the Second Knockout Round, a much tougher test but a favorable draw, all things considered. (As some of you may recall, I have a special place in my heart for Sevilla.)

Life at Kursha Road begins with two matches — the Super Cup against Torpedo Kutaisi, and the Erovnuli Liga curtain-raiser against none other than Lokomotivi.

It may be a new era, but the results are the same. We thump them both — the 2nd XI beating Torpedo Kutaisi 2-nil in what is officially the first match at the new ground. We’re gone from the smallest ground in the top tier (750, standing room only) to the 4th largest.

Season tickets have increased again, rising to 341 (up from 289). Ticket prices are also up marginally, to $26 per match and $172 per season ticket (up from $24 and $163, respectively). No word on the cost of Khinkali and Mtsvadi at the concession stands.

March 2033.

We dominate both legs against Sevilla, but struggle to turn that dominance into goals. We leave ourselves with an uphill battle after stumbling to a scoreless draw in Tbilisi, before losing a brilliant, wide-open match in Spain, 3-2.

It’s a bitter pill to swallow. Sevilla’s wage budget is $2.08M per week, more than 45 times greater than ours, which sits at a mere $45,983 per week. And, yet, we played them off the park.

I’m not going to overreact by splashing big money on transfers we don’t need. But I am going to give some additional thought to moves I’ve considered, but not made.

March/April 2033.

The start to our Erovnuli Liga campaign has been practically flawless. We’ve played 12 matches, with 11 wins and 1 draw. 31 goals for, none conceded.

I’m still frustrated about the Sevilla loss, but the reality is we’re holding our own with “big” clubs now. The next time we play Sevilla, we will beat them.

It is early doors in 2033, but we have every reason to be pleased with how things are going.

May 2033.

A light month, albeit one in which we take care of business. I’m ready for the 2033/34 European campaign to begin.

Speaking of Europe…the English are at it again.

June 2033.

June is typically a quiet month, with a big focus on rankings. So let’s dive right in.

The Erovnuli Liga moves up to 37th on the competition reputations chart, while Duruji Kvareli are up to 24th. However, Georgia loses its 2nd Champions League qualifying spot. (I, for one, blame those ****s at Lokomotivi. Also, Tom Cruise. It’s always his fault. Always.)

Katie says hello, by the way.

In terms of the youth intake preview, it’s another year of quality versus quantity. I suspect there might be 2 or 3 players, tops.

While there were only matches this month, we’ve emphatically asserted our dominance. 4 wins from 4. 18 goals for. None conceded. Including back-to-back wins over Lokomotivi in a 72-hour period.

July 2033.

I didn’t start the campaign with plans to make moves in the summer transfer window, but in the end we made 2 signings.

Igor Calilov arrived at the club in 2028 for $275k from Neftci, and immediately took over as our starting defensive midfielder (initially as a regista, later as a roaming playmaker). He dropped to the 2nd XI this year, though, behind Omar Toure. I also had my eye on Qlirim Bajrami (a Kosovan youth international who just won his first senior cap) as a potential libero or roaming playmaker. So, when the offers started to roll in for Calilov and he asked to go, I decided to let him go to PSV for a modest price ($1.9M plus 50% percent of his next sale). Bajrami steps into the 2nd XI.

Manuchar Kurashvili has always been a bit of a prima donna. As some of you may recall, he was signed on a free in the summer of 2028, after his Dinamo Tbilisi contract expired in December 2027. He had refused to sign a new contract with Dinamo Tbilisi, just as he had refused to sign a new contract with the club he came through at, WIT-Georgia. This year, Jonathan Akrofi took over as our starting keeper, so it was only a matter of time before Kurashvili started causing problems and submitted a transfer request. I had decided against selling him last year, to give Akrofi more time to develop, but now’s the time. After considering various options, I decided to bring in another Kosovan U21 international — Qlirim Mehmeti ($250k from Prishtina). Kursashvili is better at the moment, but he’s also 28 — Mehmeti is solid for his age and has bags of potential. (Kurashvili has yet to leave the club, but it is only a matter of time.)

In other news, our most recent youth and training facility upgrades are complete, bringing them to good and superb, respectively:

Which means, of course, that we can request further upgrades. The Board is reluctant at first, but agrees after our Chairman grants them each a lifetime pass to the VIP “champagne room” at his poorly-lit, sparsely-attended nightclub. Which means that we’ll be investing an additional $5M into our training facilities, with $2.1M towards the youth facilities.

On the pitch, our dominant run of form continues with 6 wins from 6 matches. We’ve won 23 of 24 in the Erovnuli Liga, with 75 goals scored and only 3 conceded.

August 2033.

We drew Fenerbahce in the Champions League Playoffs, which wasn’t the kindest possible draw. But we need not have worried, as the lads were more than up for it. We roflstomped Fener in Istanbul, 5-nil — a tremendous display, by any and every measure. While we could have taken our foot off of the gas for the second leg, we kept the pressure on in a 5-1 win.

Our reward? A Champions League draw which pits us against Leonardo Jardim’s Bayern, Mauricio Pochettino’s Napoli and Gareth Southgate’s Betis. Brutal. We’re no easy meat, these days, but this is a tough Group. I’ll be pleased with a 3rd-place finish.

As an aside, we played the second leg against Fener in Tbilisi, where we will also play our Group Stage matches. Kursha Road meets the requirements for the early qualifying rounds, but once you reach the Playoffs (and beyond), the minimum capacity is 8,000.

One final note before we press on to September. This is why I negotiated a 50% sell-on clause with Gocevski.

We sold him for an initial $11.25M, plus additional/future fees. We have now received an additional $11.25M, after he was sold to Fulham for $22.5M. The kicker? Brentford still owe us an additional $1.2M, in two separate payments of $598k. Glorious.

Artist’s interpretation of our Director of Football’s reaction to this additional windfall.

September 2033.

We head to Munich on a 29-match winning streak in all competitions, a 31-match unbeaten streak. 90 minutes later, and the latter streak remains intact. A scoreless draw in Munich. I’ll take that, without hesitation.

The unbeaten streak hits 35 after a hard-fought 1-1 draw against Betis in Tbilisi, although I’m regretting the opportunities we missed.

The Erovnuli Liga title is all but confirmed after we curb-stomp Lokomotivi at the start of the month. We’ve played 30 matches, securing 29 wins and 1 draw. We’ve scored 93 goals, conceding 5. While our commanding position means that the 1st XI can focus on the Champions League, I want to finish strong.

In all fairness, Lokomotivi have had one heck of a year — 24 wins from 30. Take away the 4 times we’ve beaten them (5, if you count the Davit Kipiani Cup…), and they’re a remarkable 24-1-1 with a goal difference of +48.

Our youth intake is disappointing, to say the least. Giorgi Akhobadze is by far the best of the lot. I was momentarily interested until I saw his “unambitious” personality with a determination of 4.

October 2033.

Our rampant domestic form continues, 5 wins from 5 matches, including the Davit Kipiani Cup final. But the big ask was the Napoli match, in Tbilisi.

I’m not going to lie. We needed a result. It was never going to be easy. But Kantaria bundled home a loose ball off a corner from State, and our defense held firm. 1-nil. A massive, massive win in our quest to advance to the Europa League knockout rounds.

But we’re not there yet. We have Bayern in Tbilisi, with challenging trips to Naples and Seville to navigate.

The match away to Betis could be the capstone of an incredible year. After all, we have unfinished business in Andalucia. Our last loss — our only loss of the 2033 campaign thus far — was at the Sanchez Pizjuan in March.

November 2033.

Bend but don’t break. That has been our mantra during the first half of the Champions League Group Stage, and it held true on Matchday 4 in Naples. A hard-fought 1-1 draw with the hosts means that the Group is tight heading into the final two matches. Anyone could go through.

That awkward moment when you realize that you are Tuco are in sync, mentally.

We smash Dinamo Batumi in our final Erovnuli Liga match at Kursha Road, meaning that we can secure an unbeaten season at home…if we can get a result on Champions Leage Matchday 5 against Bayern. We’re unbeaten in 44 matches in all competitions, since losing to Sevilla in March. Ze Germans current sit atop the Bundesliga, 7 points clear of Dortmund.

Napoli beat Betis 2-nil in the early match, meaning we have a chance to steal a march on the fight for 3rd place. A hard-fought match ensues, with neither side giving quarter. Ze Germans strike first, but Anyamele levels in the 67th. Both sides miss chances to win the match, which ends level. A 1-1 draw, which miraculously sees us surge to top of the Group, while also confirming an unbeaten campaign at home across all competitions.

The spirit of the Kvareli Fortress lives on.

Goose demonstrating what has come to be known as the Kursha Road Shuffle.

Which means that everything will be on the line on Matchday 6. We hold the tiebreaker with Napoli, meaning that we will win the Group outright if we beat Betis. Draw, and we will go through. Lose, and we could finish 4th because Bayern hold the tiebreaker with us.

We will head to Andalucia full of confidence.

90 minutes left in the campaign, lads. All to play for.

December 2033.

The early stages are all Betis, as the home side look to secure progression to the Champions League knockout rounds. Napoli have taken an early lead in Bavaria, meaning that as things stand, Napoli win the Group, we finish 2nd and Bayern are out.

Late in the 1st half, Bayern draw level. Betis have spurned at least 2 solid chances, and are controlling the match. Meaning we sit atop the table. For the moment.

On the hour mark, Omar Toure smashes a half-volley into the back of the net at the end of an incisive counterattack. Moments later, the scoreboard is updated — Bayern also scored in the 59th, to take the lead in Munich. We sit atop the table, on merit.

Akrofi does his best David De Gea impression in the 69th minute, a brilliant kick-save to deny Hernandez.

Bayern find a third in the 86th, and we continue to hold firm. The final whistle blows.

A 1-nil win. An amazing night in my favorite city in the world.

We’ve won not just the match. We’ve won our Champions League Group, and will be seeded for the knockout rounds. A massive, massive result. The capstone to an incredible year.

December 2033 – Season Review.

Sometimes, I find it hard to summarize a campaign in these “review” posts. Do I crack a joke about this year being more “massive” than the floodlights at the Etihad? Do I dive into squad analysis? What hasn’t been covered?

Duruji Kvareli, Overall Records as of December 2033.

The thing that stands out to me, more than anything, are the statistics. In the league, we scored 118 goals (one less than our record 119 from 2031), conceding only 5. Five. That’s…absurd. Our only loss in the entire campaign, in all competitions, was the 3-2 reverse against Sevilla in the Europa League 2nd Knockout Round.

We may not be dominant force in Europe, but there’s no question that our focus has to be on conquering Europe at this point. Lokomotivi had a banner run in the league, finishing on 89 points (29-2-5). To put that in perspective, before we reached the Erovnuli Liga, no club had ever amassed 89 points. Lokomotivi even won the 2023 title with 62 points.

Yet, we finished 17 points clear of our biggest domestic rivals. We played them 5 times, including in the Davit Kipiani Cup, outscoring them 13-1 over the course of those five matches.

Keep in mind that, when we promoted to the Erovnuli Liga, Lokomotivi were the dominant force in Georgia. The first 2-3 years, we could barely get a result against them. But then, the tide turned. We’ve beaten them in 9 straight matches, dating back to June 2032.

Duruji Kvareli, Overall Best XI as of December 2033.

The focus on Europe derives from the simple fact that it will hard to “beat” this campaign, in Georgia. We’ll score more goals. Maybe we’ll concede fewer, although that is hard to imagine. Maybe we’ll win all 36 matches in a single season. We’ll surely drop points.

I also can’t see another club catching us, but hope that Lokomotivi can turn a corner in Europe. That our progression will continue raising the coefficients in such a way that others are primed for success. The problem being that Georgia lost a Champions League qualifying place earlier this year — a step backwards. We’ll face 4 rounds of qualifying next year, to reach the Group Stage — we should navigate that easily, but the other 3 Georgian teams who reach Europe will all be in the Europa Conference League, when we need them fighting for spots in the Champions and Europa Leagues.

Looking forward, we’re going to have a tough draw. There is no one I’m “hoping” to face, although there are several I’d much rather avoid. (Group Stage Results: Groups A-D | Groups E-H).

Goals for 2033:  Not embarrass ourselves in the 2033/34 Champions League knockout rounds. Reach the 2034/35 Champions League Group stage; make a run in the knockout rounds of a 2034/35 European competition. Take over the Georgian national team at the next available opportunity.

Squad | Erovnuli Liga | Transfers

Finances | Income | Expenditure

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.

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