Duruji Kvareli – 2026 Open Thread
January / February 2026 – New Signings.
The moment has arrived. We’ve reached the top tier, having gone from a “social media fluff story” to “the next big thing” during the last campaign. Expectations have risen, commensurately. Our sole goal this year has to be avoiding public humiliation.
In anticipation of a higher standard of play, we’ve let a variety of players go and signed four players, each of whom will step directly into our 1st XI.
Giorgi Kacharava will take over at right wingback for Zurab Tabatadze. Kacharava’s mental attributes are on a completely different level than what we’ve had thus far and are truly exciting — this is the type of player who can push our tactical execution to the next level.
Jemal Panchulidze is another player who can take us to the next level. He will play as our mezzala, a role which is absolutely vital to our tactics. Davit Gogoberishvili cedes the starting role, dropping to our bench.
Finally, Nukri Gordulava steps in as our new left inverted winger, after we let vice-captain Vazha Shanidze‘s contract expire. Shanidze played way above his level for years, but his production was dropping off as we climbed the pyramid. Gordulava is an obvious upgrade, with potential for growth.
The other exciting thing is that — while our finances remain abysmal — the Board has expanded our scouting range to Eastern Europe. Which means we can start hunting for talented young players abroad, even if we can’t afford to pay a transfer fee.
We start pre-season with easily the strongest squad we’ve had during my tenure, even if it is the youngest. But we’re also facing a much tougher challenge, including more mid-week matches to avoid conflicts during the international breaks. We needed to both strengthen the squad and start establishing depth.
Our backroom staff is improving at a much slower clip, although our coaching staff is shockingly well-regarded, as compared to our opponents.
As we prepare for the first match of the Erovnuli Liga campaign, away to 2025 runners-up Samtredia, the club announces that we’ve sold 119 season tickets, at $77.28 per ticket (single-match tickets are $11.58).
Our pre-season friendlies have been straightforward. Now we simply need to turn on the heat for the real thing.
The day before kickoff against Samtredia, we learn our fate for the Davit Kipiani Cup…another date with Samtredia, only in Kvareli.
We have a tentative start to the match, but strike first through Gordulava — a debut goal from the young winger. Samtredia pull it back, before an Asatiani thunderbolt restores our lead in the 78th. We close out the match, to claim the first scalp of the year. An immense opening day performance. 2-1 over a team that that will play European football this year.
The rest of the month goes extremely well, with yet another record crowd witnessing our draw against Dinamo Batumi, resulting in $5k gate receipts.
The only other transfer news is Zestaponi offering $20.5k for Zurab Gagua, which I negotiated to go through at the end of the year (when his contract is due to expire). This is actually a first sale, which is surprising but — at the same time — isn’t, given: (1) the dire state of most Georgian clubs’ finances; and (2) the prevalence of one-year contracts.
(In case anyone is wondering, Georgia’s European club coefficients are not good. We’re ranked 43rd, sandwiched between Albania and Latvia, meaning we have a long ways to go to improve our qualifier seeding. Given the Erovnuli Liga’s current reputation (which has been improving, slowly, but remains roughly on par with the 3rd tiers in Sweden, Croatia, Denmark, Turkey and Norway), I guess we should not be surprised.)
The month of April teaches us why a deep squad is necessary, and why we need to build a 2nd XI sooner rather than later. We struggled with the front-loaded schedule, but a heavily-rotated still took Samtredia into the 95th minute.
We are on course for an immense campaign. But it is way to early to dream of finishing in the European qualification spots.
May / June 2026.
We hit the summer break having maintained our above-expectations run of form. It isn’t pretty, strictly speaking — 2 wins, 2 draws and 2 losses in our last 6 matches. But we’re sitting 2nd.
Much of our focus has been on tying players down to new contracts, negotiating 2-3 year deals with key players to ensure that we can begin squad building in earnest. You cannot truly plan for the future when everything runs on a 12-month cycle.
A more long-term view is necessary. I’ve identified several targets for the summer, chief among them: (1) a firebrand, attacking libero, to give us depth; (2) a steely-eyed ball winner, to join the 1st XI; and (3) a deep-lying targetman/shadowganche to support Zhishkariani (and perhaps take over, at the right time).
Our new Director of Football is all over it, insisting that we have the data to identify targets. (I’m pretty sure he’s just loading up FIFA Mobile in the back office. We don’t pay him enough to be able to afford Football Manager — he bought FM23 on a sale right before 24 dropped, and has been playing it ever since.)
June 2026 – European Review.
The World Cup is getting ready to kick off, so let’s launch into our annual quickfire review of the active leagues.
In the Champions League, Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid beat Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United, 1-nil, leading to Ole being promptly sacked — the third year in a row that an English side has lost in the final, leading to their manager being sacked immediately (Liverpool sacked Jurgen Klopp 2 years ago, while Chelsea sacked Roger Schmidt last year).
Jorge Jesus’ Roma beat Julien Stephan’s Lyon, 4-1, in the Europa League.
In the Europa Conference League, Marcelo Gallardo’s Athletic beat Matias Almeyda’s Napoli, 3-1. (As you may recall, Almeyda’s men lost the final last year to AZ, by the same scoreline.)
In the active leagues, Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid reclaimed the La Liga title; Cuca’s Chelsea won the Premier League; Julian Stefan’s Lyon knocked PS-****ing-G off their ****ing perch in Ligue 1; another tight race in Italy, as Stefano Pioli’s AC Milan claimed the Serie A title despite finishing level with Andrea Pirlo’s Juventus; and, Hansi Flick’s Bayern did Bayern things in Germany.
Our early recruitment efforts are not going well, hence the need for this meeting.
Our Director of Football insists on using his “computer” to assess our targets, but I’m pretty sure he’s just browsing r/soccer and recommending players who scored — in his words — “****ing bangers, mate.”
“Tamaz, seriously. You can leave it to me. I know who I want to target, I’m sending the scouts. You’ve heard the phrase, ‘the Eagle has landed,’ right? Well, the Goose has… Spoken. So, make it happen.”
“Boss, no. I’ve got the world at my fingertips. Access to the entire collected knowledge of mankind, at the touch of a button. I put on my virtual reality goggles, Boss, and I can see these players. No need to send a scout.”
“At this club, we live in reality. Reality, Tamaz. That’s what we deal with. I need eyes on these players. Not this highlight reel, fantasy world nonsense. If you had your choice, we’d all go live in the Matrix.”
“Boss, no one chose to live in the Matrix.”
“The machines rose up and placed humans in the Matrix so they could use them as a biological power source.”
“Well… Whose side are you on, Boss? Us or the machines? I can’t believe I have to even ask you to choose.”
[The silence drags on to an uncomfortable length.]
We’re going to need a new Director of Football.
Our new Head of Youth Development — Tamaz’ brother in name, if not by blood — does not appear to be one to overpromise. We may have one decent wingback in the next class.
Our domestic transfer targets? None will negotiate at this juncture, as they wait for their current clubs (all of whom are competing with us in the Erovnuli Liga) to make decisions about the future.
Our foreign targets? They hang up, convinced that it is a prank call.
July 2026 – World Cup Overview.
Vagner Mancini’s Brazil won the title in the North American-hosted World Cup, with a 3-nil win over Felice Mazzu’s Belgium.
Some interesting results here, including South Korea’s elimination of Italy in the quarterfinals, and giant-killers Colombia eliminating both France and Spain.
Transfer deadline day was spent in a haze, as our targets declined our advances or accepted contracts elsewhere.
Tamaz is curled into the fetal position in the corner, mumbling about Keanu Reeves coming to save us.
But I don’t think Keanu is coming. We will need to do this the old fashioned way.
August / September 2026.
Keanu Reeves’ failure to appear and assist us in the stretch run has left Tamaz despondent. His contract runs at the end of December, but I’ve already made plans to disconnect his cell phone and computer on short notice — let him think he’s continuing to “work,” while jabbering to himself.
We sit a remarkable 2nd at the end of September, with 7 matches to play — one point clear of Saburtalo in 3rd, 11 points clear of Lokomotivi in 4th, and 16 points clear of Dinamo Batumi in 5th.
Of course, 4th place may not be enough to reach Europe. Dinamo Tbilisi will face Torpedo in the Davit Kipiani Cup final — if Torpedo win, they’ll claim the last Europa Conference League spot.
The day before the Telavi match, Panchulidze shows up with a new haircut — it defies description, but has elements of a perm, undercut and mullet, all in one. As if Jack Grealish time-traveled back to 1988 and mated with Rudi Voller.
It is — objectively, speaking — the worst use of scissors since my step-dad’s failed vasectomy.
Right on cue, our youth academy graduates are paraded before the coaching staff for evaluation. When the likes of Vladimer “Kaka” Kakabadze, Aleksandre Kukhianidze, and Giorgi Sekhniashvili are the cream of the crop… The less said, the better.
We’ve got bigger fish to fry. On matchday 32, we smash Shukura away to secure a top-3 finish. We’ll be in Europe next year, lads.
We celebrate by announcing the signing of one of Dinamo Tbilisi’s most promising young talents, Lasha Kurdadze, on a free contract at the end of the season. Dinamo have neglected him, whereas we plan to put him straight into the 1st XI — as our libero, in place of Vazha Ivanishvili.
December 2026 – Season Review.
We end the campaign in good form, and are in contention for the title until the last day. Truth be told, stranger things have happened. But this year was not our year.
Nevertheless, the official club holiday party at Giglo’s was epic. A top three finish, with European football on the horizon… Duruji Kvareli are going places. I had even been named to Kvareli’s annual “Hot 100” list of most eligible bachelors in their 30s, so I had that going for me when I walked into the party, in a new suit.
That’s right, “Mr. 72” was looking pretty sharp. A new set of clothes, a new attitude, and a newfound celebrity status as the club have maximized their “hipster” quotient.
How do we know this? Well, we’ve been stocking replica jerseys in the “club shop” for years (the “club shop” being a rather grandiose term for the trunk of my 1997 Honda Civic). But not even Luka and the Kursha Road Brigade have bought them. No one has. This year? We sold 121 jerseys, and even shipped a handful of them abroad.
But I digress. Giglo’s was the hottest ticket in town. In my new suit, I cut a dashing figure. Thankfully, the music was loud enough that I didn’t have to try to talk to the single women in attendance — they just came right up to me. That’s what being a successful football manager is all about, isn’t it?
I did reconnect with a woman that I swear I’ve met before…although, I can’t be certain. Again, I must be clear — as used in this context, “met” might be a rather grandiose term for “staring at her on the bus one day.”
Regardless, I couldn’t remember where I knew her from. I told her that I recognized her — she just laughed, as if I’d made a truly witty comment. (I hadn’t. It wasn’t.)
Not that it mattered. She seemed to know everything about me. I guess this is my life now, as a successful football manager.
I won’t say anymore — I am nothing if not a gentleman, after all — but suffice to say that neither one of us will be able to walk without a limp tomorrow. If you know what I mean.
I have to admit, as enchanting as Gvantsa was — just her name alone, it rolls of your tongue, like honey from the comb — I must admit was distracted. We’ve got a big year ahead.
Not only do we have to contend with the fixture congestion of a Europa Conference League qualifying campaign. We will be a known quantity. To the extent anyone in the Erovnuli Liga was inclined to dismiss us as inconsequential, those days have long since passed.
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 Duruji Subsequent ThreadSave is explained here. Just need to catch up? Each installment in Levan “Goose” Akhobadze’s attempt to take over the football world, starting from the Georgian Regional Leagues, can be accessed through the Duruji Subsequent ThreadSave Archive.