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It Is Easier To Accept Who You’ve Become, Than It Is To Recollect Who You Were

Duruji Kvareli / Georgia – 2043 Open Thread

December 2042 / January 2043 – Odds & Ends.

We kick off the off-season with receipt of a massive, $130M tax bill, thanks to our absurd profits over the course of the year.

When play resumes, will face Alexandre Bonnet’s Liverpool in the Champions League First Knockout Round. Not the best draw we could have had, but not the worst either given Alexandre’s men seem to be struggling in the Premier League.

The award season is also upon us, and while we still have not had a single player nominated for the Balon d’Or, Beka Kiknadze claims the European Golden Boy, following in the footsteps of Zurab Ghoghoberidze (2039) and Saba Kapanadze (2041). Three Georgian players in four years? Solid work, that. Let’s make it four in five.

Other awards included Saba Kapanadze winning the Kopa Trophy, and Sekou Thiam claiming both CAF Footballer of the Year and BBC African Footballer of the Year.

Anyamele will enjoy a testimonial in February, as he approaches his 500th appearance for the club in all competitions (he stands on 458).

Television rights remain flat at $5.94M per team for 2043.

January 2043 – Transfers.

My goal coming into the transfer window was to bring in several players who could eventually make an impact and fight for a position in the 1st XI. (Of course, being in the midst of a Champions League campaign, we could only realistically sign/register 3 players to make an immediate impact.)

Let’s kick things off with Aslan Frolov ($3.2M, Lille), a Georgian youth international who will play as a shadow striker/pressing forward. I was really excited about him, but our coaching staff coaches don’t rate his potential anywhere near where our scouts did in the Fall. Only time will tell. Aslan will battle with Shio Kometiani for a spot in the 2nd XI; one of them may go out on loan to ensure adequate minutes.

Up next is Kim Yong-Jae ($3.5M, Ulsan), a player I’m truly excited about. There’s work to be done here, but this kid has all the early signs of a great libero. He will join the 2nd XI; Gia Sukhiashvili has gone to Granada on loan through June 2044.

You know you want that transfer news, you saucy devil, you.

We’ve also brought in two mezzalas for the 2nd XI. First up is James “Dean” Rebelo ($1.7M, SuperSport United), a player I initially considered retraining as a libero.

Joining Rebelo will be our biggest signing of the window, Guido ($27.5M, RB Bragantino), a player that I’ve tracked for ages. Rumors that he is related to Bono appear to be unfounded. Nevertheless, he is our record signing — our first South American player, a massive talent with bags of potential.

To make room for Rebelo and Guido, Mikheil Gabitashvili has gone out on loan. Giorgi Beriashvili has also signed for RB Leipzig ($40M, plus 30 percent of any future transfer).

Finally, Hampus Carlsson is an unattached Swedish U21 international. He will arrive in February after the Champions League registration window closes, and train as a roaming playmaker. Decisions will have to be made, however, as we have a ton of depth at roaming playmaker. Both Qlirim Bajrami and Levan Shekiladze are capable of playing in the 1st XI. We also have Georgian youth prospect Gocha Gaprindashvili, who will be going out on loan. All told, this is a good “problem” to have.

Overall, I’m quite pleased with our transfer business. We’ve added substantial potential and depth to the midfield. My goal for the summer transfer window will be to bring in prospects at centerback and wingback (2 each), and perhaps another shadow striker/pressing forward.

February 2043.

We begin the 2043 campaign away to Alexandre Bonnet’s Liverpool in the Champions League. I’m desperate for a result. A response to our “early” elimination last year at the quarterfinal stage.

We were poor. We looked a step behind (if not more), especially in the first half. We can count ourselves lucky to walk away with only a 2-1 loss.

The domestic campaign began on a better note, with the annual (ritualized?) slaughtering of Torpedo Kutaisi in the Georgian Super Cup and an opening day defeat of Zestaponi. The 2nd XI made it harder than it ever needed to be in the Super Cup, as we were dominant even if we struggled to finish. Then again, we’ve won 15 straight so I can’t really complain.

March 2043.

Back at Kursha Road, Liverpool cannot handle the might of a rejuvenated Duruji Kvareli who no longer look like they just woke up from a nap. We stomp them 4-1, securing passage through to the quarterfinals.

We will face Leonardo Jardim’s Manchester City, after they beat Atletico on away goals.

The Crusaders began Euro qualifying at their most frustratingly-inconsistent, with a comprehensive 4-nil win over Israel in Tbilisi followed by a frustrating 1-1 draw away to Poland. It’s a bump in the road, but we must do better.

April 2043.

We rode our luck in the first leg against City, thanks in no small part to a magnificent performance from Aliko Dolidze in goal. A 2-1 loss was far better than it could have been. We will have work to do back at Kursha Road, but we’re not done for yet.

A nervy, hard-fought tie ensues. Neither side giving ground in midfield. It falls to Guido to break the deadlock in the 80th minute, smashing home from 12 yards to send us through to the semifinals on away goals with a 1-nil win on the night.

We draw Gerardo Seoane’s Real Madrid, a side we have not faced since the epic 6-6 quarterfinal tie in 2040 which saw us eliminated on away goals, denying us the opportunity for a third-straight Champions League title.

Unfortunately, our luck ran out at the Bernabeu. Dolidze played well, but otherwise we were poor. A 4-1 loss is painful, but if anything the scoreline is kind. Madrid appear destined to reach the final on their home ground.

As they say, however, it’s always darkest just before the dawn.

Back at Kursha Road, we set up to chase the tie and pray to the football gods for some luck. In the 2nd minute, disaster for Madrid. Mpontshane is given a straight red for a vicious tackle. Minutes later, we’re given a penalty which Anyamele buries, to pull it back to 4-2 on aggregate. The crowd can feel it. But we are unable to effectively press our advantage, until Bajrami finds the back of the net in the 31st. We up the ante, pushing forward more aggressively, knowing that another will give us the lead on away goals.

But Madrid do not sit atop La Liga for nothing. They defend resolutely, led by none other than Abdoulaye Diallo at the back. In the 80th minute, however, the dam finally breaks as Irakli Kurashvili slots it home. 3-nil on the night, 4-4 on aggregate.

The ghosts of the 2040 disaster echo around us, however. Another late goal from Madrid could undo everything. But we hold firm. The final whistle blows. The Miracle at Kursha Road is complete, the 3-goal deficit from the first leg, overturned.

We will return to the Bernabeu at the end of the month to face our old foe, Marcelo Gallardo’s Tottenham, who vanquished Bayern in the other semifinal, and are looking to defend their title.

Our records against both Gallardo and Tottenham are favorable, but none of that matters. 90 minutes in Madrid will pay for all.

May 2043 – Champions League Final.

The run-in to the fourth Champions League Final in club history — our fourth in six years, no less — is as straightforward as we would want it to be.

The 2nd XI beat Spaeri 2-nil in the middle of the month to mark a major milestone — our 300th Erovnuli Liga match without losing, a streak stretching back more than 8 years.

The reality is that our priority has been the Champions League for years. Nevertheless, I would like to extend this streak to the 10-year mark.

After passing through the last two stages on away goals, I can’t help but feel like we more of an underdog than what is reflected at the bookmakers.

We will play PM Haaienkanon, the “inverted strikerless,” Nagelsmann tactic that we’ve been playing for the last year in-game, and played at the World Cup with Georgia (detailed and downloadable here).

Spurs dictate the tempo of the first minutes, but we strike first. Thiam smashing a volley off of our first corner of the match, Ghoghoberidze stretching to deflect the ball into the back of the net, past the keeper from close range. Harsh for Spurs, but that’s football.

30 minutes gone, and a familiar pattern seems to be settling in. Spurs are controlling possession, with only a shot from 30 yards to show for it. While we are creating chances. Case in point, as Mendez denies Anyamele in the 36th. We look good value to double our advantage, in due course.

Shortly before the half, disaster strikes for Spurs. Kapanadze switches play to Kiknadze, as we have 5 men in the box, covered by only 3 defenders with David Goni (their left winger) tracking back into the box. As Goni looks to provide coverage, racing back towards his own goal, he outjumps Gegia but loops his header over his own keeper, falling cruelly into the back of their own net. 2-nil, to Duruji Kvareli.

The halftime whistle blows and we’re sailing. Up 2, with Lady Luck riding shotgun once again.

An hour gone, and Spurs still have yet to get a meaningful look at goal. Guido will replace Gegia, with Kurashvili replacing Anyamele.

Moments after Spurs waste a chance in front of goal, hitting straight at Dolidze, we go back the other way, Thiam positioned high, turning his man and launching a 50-yard run, only to be denied at the last by Mendez.

Still we press forward, looking for a third. In the 73rd minute, Spurs look to break on a counter from a long throw in. Dolidze has not had much to do tonight, but he stays big to deny Lee. Tick tock, Marcelo.

Galaktion replaces Kiknadze in the 76th; Kiknadze has had a brilliant night, but he’s tiring. Minutes later, Galaktion whips in a free kick, that is desperately clawed away by Mendez, falling loose but Cervantes clears. Time is running out for Spurs.

Heavy pressure, which we handle well until the 89th minute when we fail to clear our lines. A speculative cross from deep finds Uzel unmarked on the back post, who slides it home, finally the breakthrough Spurs were looking for…

Only for VAR to reverse the goal for offsides. There will be 3 minutes of time added-on. Surely, Spurs are done for…the final whistle blows. Surely, one of our better nights of the European campaign.

Duruji Kvareli are Champions of Europe for the third time in six years.

It is arguably the “weakest” squad we’ve taken to a final. Nevertheless, Aliko Dolidze, Saba Kapanadze and Sekou Thiam are named in the tournament’s Best XI, while Dolidze and Kapanadze are named the best keeper and defender of the tournament. The best is yet to come.

June 2043.

Before we dive into the international fixtures and club-related updates, let’s pause for a moment and see what happened around Europe this year.

By this time, usually things are starting to shake up a bit, with 2-3 major clubs struggling and others rising in their place… Ugh…for some reason, it just isn’t happening yet.

Chelsea, Madrid and Bayern, oh my…

Fortunately, we have the Crusaders to cleanse the palate, with two Euro qualifying matches. A youthful 2nd XI beat Andorra 5-nil in Tbilisi, followed by a trip to Armenia, where the 1st XI secured a comfortable 3-nil win.

Palate? Cleansed.

Only for the bitter taste of disappointment to land when the Erovnuli Liga reputation remains stagnant at 8th. Our exploits are not enough. Other teams have to start carrying their own weight. For their part, Lokomotivi reached the Second Knockout Round in the 2042/43 Europa League. But it isn’t enough.

In less depressing news, Duruji Kvareli continue to be the top-ranked club in Europe – the third year in a row.

But we aren’t resting on our laurels. Two signings arrive to add depth and potential to our backline — Adam Szentpeteri ($4.8M, Ferencvaros) and Patrik Lukas ($11.25M, Sparta Praha). Both have potential, but Lukas in particular looks like he will be a beast. He will initially play from the bench for 1st XI (and start for the 2nd); I anticipate that he will take over for 33 year-old Vasil Kantaria in due course. Szentpeteri will initially play off the bench for our 2nd XI, with Lasha Nozadze going out on loan.

Our youth intake preview is also moderately positive, in that we might have a Norwegian attacking midfielder coming through. But that is it.

July 2043.

After the inbound transfer activity in June, it was inevitable that players would be heading in the other direction. The transfer outlay seems huge — $52M, easily the most we’ve spent in a single transfer window.

However, our net spend for the year is well into the black, with $113M in the door to-date. I wasn’t particularly excited to see Shekiladze and Kometiani leave, but neither was going to play a role in the squad we’re building.

I must admit that I was left with some transfer angst when, after months of working to unsettle him, Aziz Haytoumi put in a transfer request only for Nancy to refuse to lower their demands beneath $100M. Surely, we can afford him. I just don’t like paying anywhere near that much on principle, and was already wary of the $60M we’d put on the table.

The other big news of the transfer window was the declaration by our Chairman that he intends to retire by the end of the year. He’s been utterly vanilla since taking over in 2025, in that he has never made any demands regarding club culture and playing style. It will be interesting to see who steps in at this juncture.

August 2043.

Some years, the Erovnuli Liga is a hard-fought battle. Another plucky side fights to keep things close in the table, even if we’re miles ahead on the pitch.

2043 is not one of those years.

Mere days after claiming the third UEFA Super Cup title in club history with a 2-1 (aet) win over Gladbach, the 2nd XI claim a 2-nil win away to Samtredia which clinches the title in mid-August. With 10 matches to play.

We will face Jon Dahl Tomasson’s Schalke, Thiago Silva’s Roma and Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League Group Stage.

September 2043.

Euro qualifying resumes with trips to Slovakia and Israel. The Crusaders make short work of the Slovakians in a 5-nil drubbing, before heading to Tel Aviv for a comfortable 2-nil win. We’re 2 points clear of Poland with 4 matches to play.

The Champions League Group Stage subsequently kicked off, beginning with a 2-nil win over Roma that flattered our guests. We traveled to Schalke next. To say that ze Germans were up for it would be an understatement, as a wildly-open 3-3 draw ensued.

After the match, my scouts recommended that we sign their star striker, Ero, at any cost. He’s on $500k per week.

The 2043 youth intake arrived at the end of the month, a day I’ve been anticipating since word filtered through in June that we might have a brilliant young Norwegian attacking midfielder coming through. I must confess, I am disappointed.

In my view, the best thing about Sander Ulvik Fleten is his soul patch. And that’s giving him a lot of credit. Irakli Lomidze is the only other player worth mentioning.

Trust me. I feel your pain, bro-dawg. I went searching for an appropriate Taylor Swift gif.

The important developments took place away from the pitch, though. As noted above, our Chairman’s retirement is imminent, approximately 10 weeks away. The question I’ve had is who would step in to replace him.

At the moment, it looks like we may have a tycoon sniffing around.

He wants to invest in new players and facilities? Our facilities are already world-class. And, we have a transfer kitty that on a scale of 1-to-the-floodlights-at-the-Etihad, rate at least a 9. So I’m not sure what this would bring us.

Here’s my thought. If this goes through, the only facility upgrade we “need” is a stadium. As things stand, we’re 10 years into the life of Kursha Road and hit what seems to be our expansion capacity (14,800) years ago. I can’t see a tycoon arriving with the premise of pumping money into the club and instead simply saying, “as you were, lads.” So, if this happens, I might use the editor to: (1) raise the expansion capacity at Kursha Road; or (2) allow for the more immediate construction of a new stadium. This would be consistent with a tycoon takeover, as it is both realistic and the only “upgrade” available (albeit one barred by the game’s internal mechanics). Of course, if I do this, I would say so.

October 2043.

With takeover rumors swirling, the Crusaders take the pitch in two critical qualifiers for Euro 2044, both in Tbilisi. The first match is against second-place Poland, and it is dire. Violent. Both sides are reduced to 10 men in the first half, and we snatch a late winner to claim a 1-nil win and all-but book our tickets for Euro 2044 next summer. Armenia present far less of a challenge, and we run away with a 4-nil win.

On the pitch, Duruji Kvareli also have a solid month. We are dominant domestically, with an eye towards securing passage through to the Champions League knockout rounds.

But the big news is all generated away from the pitch, as a three-way takeover battle ensues between two local consortiums and an English tycoon, the latter insisting that he will appoint a new manager if he gains control of the club. One of the local consortiums promptly falls by the wayside, before complications arise with the other two bids.

A stalemate ensues. And the rumors die down. For a day or two. At which point the rumors start to swirl anew. Another mysterious foreign tycoon, looking to take over.

The investor turns out to be none other than South African grapefruit magnate Pontshi Ngema, who is rumored to be willing to buy the club for $2.57 billion, even if he does not plan to add to our $940 million transfer budget.

We’re on the clock, though, with our Chairman’s imminent retirement.

Within days, the deal is closed. We’ve been sold.

Dollar, dollar bills, y’all.

As expected, Ngema’s generosity does not lead to an increase in our transfer budget. And let’s be honest. It isn’t necessary based on our business to-date in the transfer market.

Ngema is keeping his cards close to his chest when it comes to the club vision, say that negotiations will commence in “due course.”

There are whispers, however, of Ngema’s desire to implement a very specific transfer policy…

Let’s step back from the immediacy of the save, for a moment.

I’ve mentioned my recent struggle to find a purpose with this save, having already accomplished the two “big” achievements I identified at the beginning — winning the Champions League with Duruji Kvareli, and winning the World Cup with Georgia.

I’ve even thought about ending this save gracefully, and either: (1) returning to The Nearly Men; or (2) shifting to one of several save ideas I’ve long kicked around. (The second option was always more likely.)

The emergence of a South African tycoon, however, gives me the chance to blend the Fourth Glass with one of those longstanding save ideas. So that is what we’re going to do.

What is the other save idea, you ask?

An homage to my daughter, who is Congolese. The rough sketch: a one-club save, based either in Africa or a European nation with lenient work permit rules. Other than players from our youth academy, I can only sign African players. The goal being to develop those players, and empower/promote African players broadly speaking. On the international side, the goal is more easily defined: win as many World Cups as possible, managing only African nations. (I genuinely cannot explain how much I love international management in Africa.)

A South African tycoon rocking up at Duruji Kvareli presents an obvious opportunity. I would be a fool to let it pass me by.

Obviously, on the club side of the shop, very little will change. Our long-term goal remains the same — make the Erovnuli Liga the biggest league on the Continent. However, we implement an African-only transfer policy.

On the international side of the shop, we pivot. The Crusaders have already won the World Cup. They’ve claimed the biggest prize on offer. After Euro 2044 (or the 2046 World Cup), Giorgi Amirani will move on and take on management of African national sides.

Even though this is happening as I’m writing it, I can already feel the excitement coming back. A renewed sense of purpose.

A new day is dawning in Kvareli. Thank goodness our new owner is a grapefruit kingpin. We’re going to need all the grapefruit we can stomach. And then some.

November 2043.

While the dust settles from Ngema’s takeover of Duruji Kvareli, we hit another milestone in the save.

Matchday 4 of the Champions League Group Stage against Dynamo Kiev marks Ibrahim Anyamele‘s 500th appearance in all competitions for the club. He celebrates in style, bagging a hat-trick in a 4-1 win which seals qualification for the knockout rounds. He follows it up with a brace 4 days later against Samtredia to take his tally to 38 for the campaign, a single-season club record, with 4 matches left to play.

The Crusaders subsequently secured qualification for Euro 2044 with a 4-nil win away to a resolute, defiant Andorra.

The qualification campaign concludes with a 1-nil win over Slovakia in Tbilisi. It was not the emphatic end I had hoped for, but it was nevertheless significant in that we finished the campaign unbeaten, 9 wins from 10 matches, with a +29 goal difference. We will have every reason for optimism heading to Scotland and Wales next summer.

Finally, for the reasons discussed above, I have also used the editor to make a one-time increase to Kursha Road’s expansion capacity, raising it from 14,800 to 29,600. Again, I think this is a “realistic” edit due to: (1) the club’s stature in-game as three-time Champions League winners and the “biggest” club in Europe; (2) the fact that we’ve been selling out the stadium for the past decade; and (3) the fact that we had world class facilities and more than $1.4 billion in the bank before the arrival of an openly-ambitious tycoon (which followed failed bids from 2 local consortiums, not to mention a different foreign tycoon who had vowed to bring in his own manager). I will request an expansion in due course.

November/December 2043.

The final days of the 2043 campaign include a shock 1-nil loss in Rome, before a hard-fought 1-nil win over the Smurfs on Matchday 6 gives us the Group.

A big year lies ahead. The obligation to defend our Champions League title. The Euros also loom large, at which the Crusaders will surely be tested.

December 2043 – Season Review.

I feel like a weight is off of my shoulders. That renewed sense of purpose, noted above, has breathed new life into the save.

This year has been something of a waypoint in the save — a break between all that led up to the 2042 World Cup, and what lies ahead as we pivot towards Africa on the international management side of the shop.

Keep an eye out for a full-blown squad review in early 2044; that feels both long overdue and timely, given the South African takeover in late October. We need to assess where we are, where we’re going, and how we’re going to get there.

Goals for 2044:  Defend our Champions League title. Make a run at Euro 2044.

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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