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Suspecting Owls In The Bog

2056 Open Thread – Malmö FF

January / February 2056 – Odds & Ends.

I can tell from the look on Zlatan’s face that he’s worried. “Boss, we have a problem.”

“Don’t worry, Zlatan, I’m sure that N*Sync will tour again someday.”

Zlatan just stares at me. “For the last time, Boss, that is not the funny.”

But it is. It truly is.

I can see him getting angrier with each passing second. “You know that the Zlatan does not joke about the N*Sync, Boss. Take it back.”

“Fine, fine… It’s a joke.”

“The Zlatan’s emotions are not your personal playground, Boss. The Zlatan has explained this to the you.”

He has. Repeatedly.

Which is what makes this so much fun.

But we have bigger fish to fry. We’ve drawn Basel in the Europa League knockout rounds, a favorable draw.

Knowing we needed to sign 2 wingbacks to ensure we could field 2 XIs…and that wingback is a vital position in our tactics, we did the only reasonable thing — sign 2 brilliant attacking wingers, with an eye towards retraining them.

(We missed our 2 primary targets, but the less said about that the better. Not that I’m bitter. You’re bitter.)

Reuben Agu ($1.5M, Kanu Pillars) and Giannis “Johnny” Konstantinou ($2.2M, Apollon Limassol) are the new recruits, and I’m pleased with what they bring to the table. In due course, they should be terrorizing Sweden. In a good way.

Thinking towards the future, I pitch the Board on expanding the Malmo Stadion. And they bite. The timeframe is some ways out, but this is an important first step. If we are to truly conquer Europe and establish ourselves as a continental force… Well, suffice to say that we need a stadium befitting a club of our ambitions.

February 2056.

Our 22-man squad is gelling nicely. The 2nd XI are handling the Svenska Cupen Group Stage, while the 1st XI curb-stomped Basel, 5-1, in the first leg of our Europa League tie.

Knowing that the Swiss will need to attack in the 2nd leg, we drop our forwards into the attacking midfield strata, and tear them apart in transition. It is a masterpiece.

Zlatan called it our “oeuvre.” Jesse told him to get his mind out of the gutter.

3-nil on the night, 8-1 on aggregate. We will face Nico Elvedi’s Toulouse in the Second Knockout Round.

February 2056.

Winter in Tuscany is always hard for Claus. The crisp breeze, a daily reminder of his father’s cold heart. The persistent darkness, the caress of the mother he never knew.

If only Claus’ troubles ended there. His agent has been less than honest, taking advantage of Claus’ seasonal depression to steal what meager savings he had accumulated.

Claus had to move into cheaper accommodations as result, but fortunately two of his teammates graciously offered to let him move in with them. It’s a small, one-bedroom apartment, but it is a home.

The apartment was not spacious to begin with. And sleeping 3 to a bed means that there is little personal space. Things were so crowded, Claus’ teammates explained that they had no choice but to put the mirror on the ceiling above the bed.

Thoughtful. And efficient.

September 2056.

The sun sets in the distance, as the Champions League anthem echoes throughout the Malmo Stadion. 

The supporters have been waiting for this moment – the return to the Champions League, the land of milk and honey, the greatest stage in club football.  A stage upon which their managerial trio have stalked and preened over the last 30 years – claiming titles with the unlikeliest of sides, against the odds.

An unmistakable feeling is in the air, so strong that you can taste it.  Hope.  The promise of a new era.

As Nicolaj watches his squad take the opening kickoff, the deafening roar of the crowd carries the weight of that promise.  He has been down this road before.  In Athens.  Belgrade.  Bruges.  Countless cities across the continents.  He knows that – while the squad is not ready to assault Fortress Europe just yet…they aren’t that far away.  The talent is here.  The trust.  The camaraderie.  It is just a matter of time.

And, for the first time since those heady, early days walking the streets of Athens, arm in arm with Selene, Nicolaj can see something else in his future – a home.  In Malmo.  An end to the cycle of wandering that has marked his professional life. 

For Nicolaj now knows one thing for certain – even if Malmo manage to climb the mountain that is the Champions League, this time he will stay.  To build upon the foundations laid thus far in Malmo.  To create a dynasty to rival any that Europe has seen before. 

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Red eyes flash deep within the shadows on the roof of the stadium, unseen by the teeming masses below, whose attention is fixated on pitch.  The red eyes are fixated on one man – Nicolaj Bur. 

Other than his eyes, the creature is indistinguishable from the thousands of Malmo supporters below.  However, a careful observer would note that – oddly – the breeze whipping up from the Pildammsparken does not seem to tousle his hair. Or pull at his clothing.

The sound of rolling thunder crashes in the distance, causing those outside the stadium to glance up in confusion at the cloudless, evening sky.

A woman joins the creature, casting her gaze upon the man now stalking the touchline in the early moments of the match, shouting instructions to the Malmo players, urging them forward.  Even in the deep shadows, the radiance of her white clothing shines like a beacon in the night, the wind whipping her long, dark hair violently.

“What do you think, Bob?  Will Nico be happy to see me after all these years?”

The creature chuckles, before responding in an unmistakable Yorkshire accent.  “By t’ grace of our Lord Revie and His Herald Sergio Ramos, t’ First of ‘is Name, I hope so…  Would be a shame to ruin that pretty face of ‘is…”

“A shame indeed…  It should not come to that, though. You will have to control your… Urges.

The creature nods slowly, his eyes never leaving Bur.

Satisfied, the woman turns, walking away from the ledge, a sense of purpose in her stride as thunder rolls again in the distance.  Closer, this time.

The creature stays behind, watching Bur carefully.  Slowly he turns and leaves to join his companion, throwing his head back to laugh at a joke that only he can hear.

Thus concludes the FM20 version of Seattle Red’s Nearly Men series. While the crush of non-FM obligations has prevented Seattle Red from pursuing glory with Malmo FF, the save concludes the only way it could – with an end to Nicolaj’s wanderlust.

Never fear — Seattle Red is already planning for the release of FM 21 in a month’s time, and will use the next few weeks to further outline his next save(s).

One final note, for those of you who have been following along since the beginning. You may have figured out that the two people watching Nicolaj are Selene and Toothless Bob (who seems to have undergone certain “changes” after disappearing through the doorway in the bowels of the Santiago Bernabeu).  Suffice to say, they have been busy over the decades.  Their story is not over.  Because Seattle Red’s saves exist in a “multiverse” of sorts, you can expect to see them both Selene and Bob return in due course…

If you’ve stumbled upon this post and are finding yourself a bit confused… Don’t worry.  The basic concept behind the Nearly Men save is explained here.  Just need to catch up? Each installment in Nicolaj Bur’s story can be accessed through the Nearly Men Archive.

And if you just can’t get enough…join us for The Ballad of Toothless Bob, a series that explores the world of Nicolaj Bur, away from the pitch. What is Project Arcturus? What lies beyond the twisted redstone door, deep in the bowels of the Santiago Bernabéu?

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