Duruji Kvareli – 2037 Open Thread
December 2036 / January 2037.
Having been eliminated from the Champions League at the hands of Barcelona and defending champions Tottenham, my goal shifted to making another run in the Europa League. Hence my frustration when we drew Monaco in the Europa League First Knockout Round.
But one should never judge a book by its cover.
Monaco are strong, and were predicted to finish 3rd in Ligue 1. However, they’re sitting 12th in Ligue 1 and are managed by none other than Chelsea Legend Matt Miazga. Suffice to say that my mood has improved.
It didn’t hurt to learn, soon thereafter, that we would receive $3.89M for the 2037 Erovnuli Liga television rights. (We received $1.12M in 2036. In 2026, our first year in the Erovnuli Liga, we received $200k.) Turn up the C&C Music Factory, Michael.
For the first time, we went abroad during the pre-season — all the way to China for a friendly against our affiliate Tianjin, and a few other local clubs. We took the opportunity to square off against Renhe, who played an XI featuring Vasile State and Levan “Goose” Akhobadze. Brilliant to see them again, although I don’t think they enjoyed the friendly too much, as we stomped them 7-nil.
In the Europa League, the Monaco predicted to finish 3rd showed up for our First Knockout Round tie. At Kursha Road, we controlled the match and secured a 1-nil win. The return leg was a much tighter affair, although we struck first. Monaco scored right at the half, and then in the 76th minute to kick-off squeaky bum time. We held firm, though, and progress on away goals.
There were no “easy” draws for the Second Knockout Round. We will face Daniele De Rossi’s Roma, in a rematch of last year’s First Knockout Round tie, which we won 8-1 (agg). There’s no question that the Romans will be looking for revenge.
We may struggle against other European opponents, but for some reason we’ve got Roma’s number. The first leg at Kursha Road is a study in contrast — one side incisive in possession, the other dithering and ponderous, at best. I am somewhat frustrated to walk away with only a 2-nil win. In the second leg, Roma again dominate possession but this time are more aggressive going forward. To no avail. A 20th-minute goal from Anyamele seals the tie, 1-nil on the night, 3-nil on aggregate.
We will face Pal Dardai’s Watford in the quarterfinals.
The first leg at Vicarage Road goes about as well as it could have, an even match overall where we withstood a late comeback attempt by the hosts to claim a vital 1-nil win. Mainly I’m pleased because we have had a bad habit of conceding late in Europe, when under heavy pressure — avoiding that is a welcome change. Back at Kursha Road, we are ascendant. A comfortable 1-nil win (2-nil, aggregate) sees us through to the semifinals to face Mauricio Pochettino’s Napoli, who we last faced in the fall of 2033.
It takes some arm-twisting, but the Board agree to further expansion at Kursha Road. The initial plans are modest — hopefully we see a larger capacity when formal plans are announced at the end of the season.
In the final match of the month, we host Napoli in Kvareli. Last year, we gave up a 92nd minute equalizer against Sociedad, ceding the advantage in the tie.
We’re away to Dinamo Batumi over the weekend, and the 2nd XI draw 2-2. Sure, we remain unbeaten in 79 league matches. But our Erovnuli Liga record 74-match win streak has been broken. Nerves, or a blip? A glitch in the Matrix?
An even match ensues with the Italians, neither side able to break through. It ends scoreless. All to play for in the 2nd leg.
Heading into the 2nd leg against Napoli, I knew that I wanted to tweak our tactics, every so slightly.
We’ve been playing a version of PM Haaienhamer, my Nagelsmann-inspired 5122/235 strikerless tactic detailed in Those Who Do Not Move, Do Not Notice Their Chains. The “revisions” from PM Haaienhamer being: (1) utilization of a roaming playmaker, instead of a regista; and (2) reducing passing directness to “shorter,” which has the knock-on effect of reducing our tempo to “standard.”
From there, I then: (1) reduced our mentality to attacking; while (2) raising our passing directness to “slightly more direct,” which has the knock-on effect of raising our tempo to “higher.”
(These tweaks were not random. They are the mentality, passing directness and tempo from PM Haaienbek, my original Nagelsmann-inspired strikerless tactic, detailed in Live Every Week Like It’s Shark Week.)
In the end, we were left with the following, as a mix of PM Haaienhamer and PM Haaienbek:
How did it work? I’m glad you asked.
Pochettino’s Napoli approached the match in 4231 with a positive mentality. After 45 minutes, we were up 5-nil. We tore them to pieces.
The match finished 6-nil. It wasn’t just an away win, in a European semifinal, against the team sitting 3rd in Serie A. It was a proper beating.
We’ll face Derek McInnes’ Liverpool in the final, at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan in Sevilla. We’ll continue to deploy this version of my Naglesmann tactics, which I’m calling PM Haaienmes (“grapefruit shark-knife”), to distinguish it from its predecessors.
May 2037 – Europa League Final.
The build-up to Sevilla is intense. Our first continental cup final. The culmination of years of effort.
15 years after this adventure began, our facilities are world-class. Our squad is immense, a far cry from where we began.
Liverpool are favored at the Sanchez Pizjuan, as they should be. But I am hopeful that we can take them down. We will start the match in PM Haaienmes, the recent tactical evolution that strikes a balance between PM Haaienbek and PM Haaienhamer.
Liverpool will kick off in a 4231, wearing all black, while we are in our home claret and white.
Liverpool control the opening 20 minutes, but have nothing to show for it. Possession, with meaningless chances.
In the 24th minute, Liverpool break from a corner, forcing Akrofi into a big save.
Bajrami goes close in the 28th, curling a shot just wide of the far post, the keeper well-beaten.
We reach the half scoreless, Liverpool the better side but with nothing to show for it. The center cannot hold. Something has to give.
Liverpool strike first in the 53rd, a failed clearance allowing Mert Yildrim to curl a ball to Kang Dong-Hoon behind our lines, and he smashes home from 10 yards out.
We push forward, the balance of play shifting in our favor. Dieng curls just over the bar in the 65th. So close we can taste it, but Liverpool will not lay down without a fight, and nearly snatch a 2nd in the 66th.
Minutes later, VAR awards Liverpool a penalty for…nothing. A bump in the box on a corner. Highway robbery.
Our fate hangs in the hands of Jonathan Akrofi, the Ghanaian David De Gea…who denies Roger Diallo. Still 1-nil. We’re not done for yet.
We continue to raise the aggression, pushing forward in an attempt to equalize. In the 81st minute, Liverpool’s captain, Carlos Henrique, stabs home a loose ball from 8 yards. There was nothing Akrofi could do. 2-nil.
Aidara heads off the post in the 84th minute from a tight angle, and Liverpool clear. So close.
The inevitable happens as we chase the game. We are exposed at the back. And Carlos Henrique snags another. 3-nil.
The final whistle blows. We were not good enough today, but we can hold our heads high.
We will avenge this loss. Liverpool will pay. As will every other English side, as their proxy.
That much is clear.
Several days after the Europa League final, we host Dila Gori at Kursha Road. The 2nd XI sleepwalk their way to a 2-nil win. I’m still bitter.
The European campaign is over. We can’t change that now. But we’re inching closer to the Promised Land with each passing year.
We can’t sit around wondering “what if,” though. We have work to do.
The 2037/38 Champions League qualifying rounds begin in a matter of weeks.
May 2037 – European Review.
The only thing that makes me happy during our annual look around Europe is that we had 2 players named in the Europa League XI. Of course, they were named alongside 8 players from English squads, 7 from Liverpool.
I’ll bottle up my rage for the moment, so that you can see what has gone on around the continent.
Our exploits in the Europa League pay dividends. The Erovnuli Liga’s reputation rises to 16th in the competitions rankings. Duruji Kvareli rises 3 spots, to 17th. And, Georgia gain a Champions League place.
Let’s keep our foot on the gas, lads.
I wish I was surprised to see this, but our youth intake preview has arrived. It is (predictably) awful.
Champions League qualifying begins anew, as PM Haaienmes continues to scythe through Georgia like a hot knife through butter.
First up? Slovenian champions, Olimpija Ljubljana. They wouldn’t sell me a player on the cheap a few years back, so it was payback time. What?! Nursing a grudge for years can be healthy. At least, that’s one thing I learned by watching Dexter. The other things I learned? Oh, we don’t need to talk about that.
The first leg at Kursha Road goes as expected — a 4-nil annihilation, where we barely broke a sweat. The second leg was equally one-sided, although we only put 2 past our hosts.
A busy month, but a good one. We did concede our first goal since the Europa League final against Liverpool, which angered me greatly. But it was nevertheless a good month where each and every one of our opponents simply battened down the hatches and prayed for the storm to pass.
In the Playoffs, RB Salzburg stacked 10 men behind the ball with some success, for nearly 180 minutes. The first leg in Kvareli ended as a scoreless draw, but they barely got the ball out of their own half. The second leg was more of the same, but Omer Farjallah put the Austrians to bed with a 65th minute goal.
We remain a third seed for the Group Stage draw, but — quite frankly — our Group looks more like a Europa League Group than a Champions League Group:
That’s right. Instead of Barcelona/Chelsea, City/Madrid, Liverpool/Dortmund, PSG/Tottenham, or Bayern/Atletico as the 1st and 2nd seeds, we drew Moussa Sissoko’s Dinamo and Pepijn Lijners’ Hoffenheim, with Celtic as the 4th seed.
This is as favorable a draw as we could have hoped for. We should be in mix to win the Group outright, and have no excuse for not reaching the knockout rounds.
The other big news of the month is that we’ve signed our second international affiliate, Colombian side Rionegro Aguilas. With any luck, we’ll get a handful of regens/newgens through our Academy over time.
Meanwhile, domestically we sit 22 points clear of Lokomotivi, who are locked in a two-way battle with Dila Gori for the Erovnuli Liga’s new Champions League spot. Dila Gori may have an edge, though, as Lokomotivi reached the Europa Conference League Group Stage, and will be fighting on two fronts.
I had a feeling this was going to be a good year in the Champions League, and at the moment the lads are proving me right.
A narrow, 1-nil win over a hyper-defensive Hoffenheim on Matchday 1 set the stage. We then dropped 2 points away to 10-man Celtic, in a 1-1 draw that flattered the home side. In Croatia, we faced an aggressive Dinamo in an entertaining, open-ended match, eventually walking away with a 2-nil win.
Domestically, we claimed the Davit Kipiani Cup while extending our unbeaten streak in the Erovnuli Liga to 102 matches, dating back to March 2035.
The 2037 youth intake turned out to be as poor as expected. The two best players (to my eye) are Luka Tvaradze and Revaz Abzianidze, neither of whom will likely ever be good enough to reach the first-team squad.
We take Dinamo apart on Matchday 4, a 2-nil win ensuring their elimination from Europe. At one point, they were the Eastern European giants we longed to be. Now, we’re the two biggest Eastern European clubs in the modern game. We’ve eclipsed them indirectly, in the coefficient rankings. And now we’ve taken them down, head-to-head.
November 2037 – Georgian Football Federation Headquarters, Tbilisi. Interior.
A crowd of reporters mingles amiably, chatting amongst themselves while enjoying the meager snacks that have been laid out. The press conference called by the Federation was due to start 10 minutes ago. Justin Bieber’s latest single, Dance Like You Mean It, blares from an 80’s-era boombox sitting in the corner.
Rumors have spread throughout the city. After the resignation of the national team manager, Davit Shubitidze, at the conclusion of yet another unsuccessful World Cup qualifying campaign, many expect that his replacement will be announced today. But nothing is certain with the Federation. Yesterday, they called a press conference to discuss planets.
Accordingly, the reporters aren’t sure what to expect. Worst case scenario, they figure, it’s an afternoon of free salty snacks and double-entendres about Uranus.
The Federation’s press secretary gathers everyone’s attention when she stops the Bieber, mid-chorus, putting on a new tape. As the first notes to the unmistakable introduction to Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger begin, the assembled reporters perk up at the newfound professionalism on display. This feels different, somehow. Perhaps the afternoon will not be wasted, after all.
As the first chorus hits, Zurab Dzagania, the President of the Federation, emerges from behind a curtain, gyrating and thrusting his hips. A one-man Conga line of what he perceives to be pure sensuality. He gamely attempts to mimic Survivor on air guitar, but his technique is lacking. The mark of an amateur.
Sensing the awkwardness in the room (not to mention the waves of emotional trauma that witnessing Dzagania’s dancing is bound to induce), the press secretary cuts off the boombox, ignoring Dzagania’s murderous glare.
As Dzagania steps to the microphone, Zlatan Ibrahimovic steps from behind the curtain. Audible gasps are heard throughout the room.
The football correspondent for Georgia Today scribbles furiously on a notepad, leaning in towards towards another member of the assembled press, for once forgetting to sneer at the hipster “blogger” from Kvareli seating next to him. “Why…why is Zlatan here? Of all people?!”
The blogger chuckles warmly. He doesn’t have a clue. “I dunno, Giorgi. Zlatan… He’s just awesome like that.”
The correspondent’s mind won’t stop turning, as he considers the possibilities. “Best. Press. Conference. Ever.”
The blogger chuckles again. The press conference hasn’t even begun. But he knows why everyone has gathered here today, thanks to a well-placed source at the club he supports. The club from his hometown. The club which has turned the footballing world on its head.
“Buckle up, Giorgi. It’s about to get… Tasty.”
Giorgi looks over at the blogger, realizing that this isn’t going to be just another diatribe about whatever fancy has caught the Dzagania’s attention. He begins to suspect that there’s something he’s missing. Something is afoot. Something that is, somehow, connected to Ibrahimovic. Could he be…?! No. Ibrahimovic is just the manager of the Lyon U19s.
The correspondent stops taking notes. This isn’t a story about Ibrahimovic. No. Something more is happening.
The words pour from Dzagania’s mouth. An endless stream of platitudes, punctuated by impromptu karate to emphasize certain points, seemingly at random. All overseen by the serious look on Ibrahimovic’s face.
An echo begins to ring in the correspondent’s ears, as Dzagania’s voice rises, an urgency taking hold, the sweat cascading down his face as his karate kicks reach ever higher, much to the approval of Ibrahimovic.
At a glance from Dzagania, the press secretary puts another tape in the boombox, pressing play.
The music is unmistakable. The correspondent cannot help but rise from his seat, swaying in time with the beat as John Parr’s sultry voice begins to croon the opening lyrics to St. Elmo’s Fire.
The curtain parts as the chorus hits, to reveal none other than Giorgi Amirani, the man who in 16 years has taken Duruji Kvareli from the backwaters of Georgian football to the heights of Europe.
The man now tasked with leading the Georgian national team towards a new horizon, underneath the blazing sky. Where the eagle’s flying, higher and higher.
For nearly 16 years in-game, the focus in this save has been exclusively on Duruji Kvareli. Taking the club to the Erovnuli Liga. Achieving domestic dominance. And working towards establishing Duruji Kvareli as a force in Europe.
But there has always been a second element to this save. Arguably, a much more challenging element.
Taking over the Georgian national team, and bringing the Crusaders to glory.
The first time the position opened up, in 2029, the Georgian Football Federation determined that Amirani was not the man for the job. This time, they did not hesitate.
After finishing 3rd in our World Cup qualifying group, Georgia are ranked 77th in the world, alongside the likes of Kenya, Jamaica and Israel.
Truth be told, Shubitidze did well. Georgia had a rough end to the qualifying campaign, but managed to reach the 2036 Euros. They have also done well in the Nations League, finishing 2nd in their Group during the 2036/37 Nations League B.
Our mission is to take the next step. To take Georgia as far as we possibly can.
This means that our focus will necessarily need to split in two. Conquering Europe with Duruji Kvareli, while also building up the national team. There are a number of familiar faces in the squad, including current Duruji Kvareli players Vasil Kantaria and Irakli Kurashvili.
Amirani will also be reunited with Levan “Goose” Akhobadze, a Duruji Kvareli legend. Other former Duruji Kvareli players include Manuchar Kurashvili, Luis Lorente, Erekle Jibuti, Giorgi Rotiashvili, Murman Akhalaia, Besik Chichinadze, Davit Abulashvili and Davit Gogitidze.
To take this squad to the next level, we will need reinforcements. To date, my recruitment efforts at Duruji Kvareli have been focused on securing the brightest possible talent, with little concern for a player’s nationality. Now, we need to make sure that we sign and nurture the best young talent in Georgia.
Retraining players will be necessary, since we will be playing my Nagelsmann-inspired PM Haaienmes, PM Haaienhamer and PM Haaientand, which are collectively detailed in Those Who Do Not Move, Do Not Notice Their Chains and The Dirty Half-Dozen.
One final note, before we push on. Although I’m not writing a narrative in this save, I couldn’t resist. The Zlatan has not been willing to join the revolution at Duruji Kvareli, but he has agreed to take over as my Assistant Manager with the Georgian national team.
It has been a long time coming. 16 years, in-game. But I couldn’t be more excited to enter this new phase of the save.
The lads are brilliant on Matchday 5 against Hoffenheim, annihilating ze Germans 4-nil on the counter, to ensure that we progress to the Champions League knockout rounds.
We close out the 2037 campaign at Kursha Road, hosting Celtic. We are ruthless, putting 4 past the Scotsmen. Precisely the performance we wanted to cap off a brilliant year. 5 wins from 6 in the Group Stage, seeded for the knockout rounds to come.
December 2037 – Season Review.
Just when I thought our focus was going to be exclusively on the final push to claim a Champions League title…
I hadn’t expected the Georgia position to open up at this juncture. It has been out of my mind. But once it did, there wasn’t any doubt. The time is more than right to take over.
The question now is how I blend the 2 positions, to most directly address the objectives in front of me. During the Georgian winter break, I plan to assess the domestic talent, to determine who needs to be brought on board at Duruji Kvareli for the purposes of development and re-training, to play our tactics. (I have yet to see what players came though at other Georgian clubs this year.)
I can walk and chew gum at the same time. Of course, typically when I’m managing a national side, I can reasonably expect a pool of talented prospects to nurture. The pool in Georgia has not been very deep, thus far.
One final comment — you’ll note that I will be using a new tracker going forward. Some of the fields we’ve been tracking simply aren’t interesting at this point. Is anyone truly concerned about which league Duruji Kvareli is playing in, or what position we’re predicted to finish in? Likewise, there is little point in continuing to track our facilities, now that they’ve been maxed out. I’ll continue to reference what is happening with our facilities, of course, but we need to make room for the information we’ll be tracking with the national team.
Goals for 2038: Make a run in the 2037/38 Champions League knockout rounds. Reach the 2038/39 Champions League knockout rounds. Identify promising Georgian youth prospects to sign and develop. Not embarrass ourselves in the 2038 National League.
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.