Duruji Kvareli – 2031 Open Thread
December 2030 / January 2031 – Odds & Ends.
I wake up on the day of the Europa League knockout round draw with a renewed sense of purpose.
The loss to Arsenal on Matchday 6 was humiliating, in one sense. But in another, it was liberating. We faced 2 of the European elite, and held our own.
We also played some team called “Inter,” who were disappointingly poor, I must say…
But all of my optimism is pushed aside by a powerful sense of dread, while watching the untalented hack from Jedward (no, not that one — the other one) pull out the names for the Europa League draw.
We’ve drawn Stefano Pioli’s Dortmund, who sit 3rd in the Bundesliga.
Once the shock passes, I can only laugh. Sure, we’re going to get our heads kicked in by ze Germans, but it’s really a badge of honor. A mark of how far we’ve come that such an epic thrashing is in our future.
I must also laugh at the local council’s ambivalence to our rapid ascent in the broader footballing world — for the third year in a row, they block any expansion of the Tsentraluri.
The Board, perhaps sensing my frustration — and having rejected my repeated requests for an expanded scouting range — give me a Christmas present. We’re going worldwide, baby.
It’s a rollercoaster of emotion at the Akhobadze house this year, folks. (The late-night lights from the Taco Bell really set the scene.)
January 2031 – Georgian Football, Finances.
The grim state of Georgian football finances remains the same. For the 2nd year running, Duruji Kvareli, Dinamo Tbilisi and Dila Gori are the only fully-professional clubs in the top tier.
The only fully-professional side in the Erovnuli Liga 2 is Zana Abasha, who won Liga 3 last year.
Sponsorship income remains modest, with no signs of a TV deal on the horizon.
February 2031 – Transfers.
Another frustrating transfer window, as we’ve been unable to secure any immediate signings.
And it is not for lack of trying.
It simply turns out that, the mere fact that we can scout players doesn’t mean that they’ll be motivated to actually sign a contract to play here in Kvareli. Just like the old gypsy woman said…
The good news, however, is that we’ve secured 4 future transfers that have the ability to take us to another level.
The player I’m most irrationally-excited about? Krisztián Béla, a Hungarian U21 international who will join in May on a free transfer. One look at him was all I needed, to know he was the player for me. Not seeing it yet? Take a closer look… Still not seeing it?
Krisztian will take over as the libero in our 2nd XI. Our tactics revolve around a bat****-crazy attacking libero, and while Krisztian may not be a world-beater, but he is going to be extremely solid for our level. Zaza Goguadze will continue to play from the bench for now, but his contract will not be renewed. I would play him as the ball-winning midfielder in our 2nd XI, but for the arrival of…
…Marko Cipot, an unattached Slovenian U21 international, who will deputize for Hristijan Hristov as a ball-winning midfielder, replacing Giorgi Devadze in our 2nd XI. This will be Devadze’s final year with the club. Since he arrives on a free transfer, Marko will join on his 18th birthday in July.
The reality, of course, is that there are limits to the signings we can make on a free transfer. So, for the first time, we are dipping into our transfer kitty to make 2 big signings, both of whom will join the club in January 2032.
Miroslav Ivkovic ($325k; Iskra) is a Montenegrin U21 international, who will challenge Nukri Gordulava for the starting position at left inverted winger. Davit Chikovani‘s contract will not be renewed.
We’ve saved the best for last, the brilliantly-named Magnús Ólíver Hjaltason (170k; Valur) an Icelandic U21 who — if we’re being honest — is way too good to play his football in Georgia. He will be our highest-paid player when he arrives (at $3.4k/week), having been promised to be one of our most important players. (I hate making promises about playing time on principle, even though I realize he deserves it.)
February 2031 – Europa League, First Knockout Round.
After winning the Erovnuli Liga 4 times in a row, for the first time ever, we are picked to win it this year. Even odds. Because that makes sense. Easy money, folks. Easy money.
But before we can even begin to think about the league campaign, we have to face ze Germans, with the Georgian Super Cup sandwiched between the two legs of the Europa League tie.
After the first leg, I’m left to wonder how we can be both opportunistic and wasteful. We were outplayed in every respect, but opened the scoring in the 20th thanks to Hristov, who slotted home our first shot of the match. Hristov later pounced on a loose ball in the 50th minute, following a corner that Dortmund failed to clear. Unfortunately, the rest of the match saw: (1) Utsmuts miss a penalty in the 29th minute; and (2) ze Germans score 3.
We fall 3-2, leaving us with a mountain to climb in Germany.
Over the intervening weekend, the 2nd XI conspire to lose to Dinamo Tbilisi in the Super Cup, 1-nil.
Two matches, two losses…not the start we were looking for.
Things do not get better. Freidgeimas hits the post 10 minutes into the second leg, but Ghonghadze is the only thing keeping it close. It’s a wide open match in which we are getting chances…unlike the first leg, though, we are not taking them. We concede a penalty (thanks to VAR) in the 34th. Jansen buries it, and with it go our hopes.
The same patterns continue in the 2nd half, but Utsmuts snatches a goal in the 61st minute to give us hope — slotting home from an improbable angle. Both sides hunt for the next goal, but neither can find it.
We are eliminated, 4-3 on aggregate. Ze Germans were clearly the better side, in both matches. But we can be proud of how we played. We did not sit deep, like cowards. We stood toe-to-toe with them, took their best punches and refused to go down, even landing a few of our own.
March / April 2031.
As the campaign kicks off in earnest, the club announces it has sold 311 season tickets this year, up from 264 in 2030. Ticket prices rise, with single-match tickets going for $21.29, and season tickets for $143.
I make the annual pilgrimage to the Board and request an expansion, which they grant without hesitation…only for all us of us to burst out in laughter at the futility of this moment. The question is simply whether the local council will let us proceed, or if they will block it for the 4th year in a row.
I almost feel bad for Chikura, the team we beat in the Second Round of the Davit Kipiani Cup — a side that was in the Erovnuli Liga as recently as 2025, but has now fallen into the 4th tier.
Our Erovnuli Liga form is unremarkable, the only slip-up being the 2nd XI away to Saburtalo. It’s embarrassing, but there’s not much we can do about it.
Krisztian Bela arrives in the middle of the month, the beauty of signing a player who is unattached in a league where there is no registration requirement. His new life as a libero is only just beginning… His first few days are filled with simple, cookie-cutter indoctrination.
We continue to play well in the league, as we prepare for the fixture congestion that will arrive with the Champions League qualifying campaign. year, we struggled to build a lead, as Dinamo Tbilisi matched us, step for step. This year? After winning away early in the campaign, we smashed them 6-nil at the Tsentraluri. It’s a start, even if we haven’t been perfect.
June 2031 – European Review.
Before we launch into another Champions League qualifying campaign, we need to see what has been happening in the active leagues around the continent…
In the Champions League, Mauricia Pochettino’s Manchester United beat Hansi Flick’s Bayern Munich, 1-nil.
Andriy Shevchenko’s Leicester City beat Julian Nagelsmann’s Roma, 1-nil, in the Europa League.
It was an all-Danish affair in the Europa Conference League, as Jess Thorup’s Sassuolo beat Michael Laudrups Villarreal, 4-2.
In the active leagues, Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid won their first La Liga title in 5 years; Pochettino’s Manchester United brought the Premier League title back to the Red side of Manchester; Patrick Vieira’s PS-****ing-G won their fifth straight Ligue 1 title; Stephane Roche’s AC Milan took the Serie A title back from their roommates at Inter; and, Hansi Flick’s Bayern did Bayern things.
The close of the European calendar means that it is time for the spoils of the television money to come rolling in. We collect $7.36 million in television revenue, and another $2.6 million from the coefficient ranking pool.
The club celebrates by offering me new terms, on $2.3k per week. While I now have the means to move out of my apartment overlooking the Kvareli Taco Bell, I’ve grown accustomed to the unearthly, incandescent glow burning through my windows every night…and they’ve taken to letting me walk through the drive-thru in my pajamas late at night, a privilege afforded no doubt thanks to my local celebrity.
The Erovnuli Liga rises to 55th in the competition reputations table. While Georgia rise to 19th in the nation club coefficients rankings, it is not enough to change the European qualification seeding.
While we have gained ourselves some measure of credibility, we are still seen as a hipster’s plaything. Soon to be forgotten when the next shiny bauble catches their attention. We need to continue disabusing the footballing world of these notions…
The first hurdle in the 2031/32 Champions League qualifying campaign? Maltese champions, Birkirkara.
Our annual youth intake preview is a mixed bag, as it appears to be a case quantity instead of quality, with 2 possible exceptions.
Jiri Rak and Giorgi Labadze have been promoted to the first team, where they will deputize in our 2nd XI after Giorgi Gvazava and Zurab Asatiani were ruled out with injuries. Our coaches have always rated Rak and Labadze highly, so this will be a chance for them to shine. Rak was recalled from loan, where he’d claimed 3 goals and 5 assists in 11 matches for Saburtalo, who sit a distant 3rd.
July 2031 – Champions League, First Qualifying Round.
The tie with the Birkirkara goes as expected — a 6-nil win in the first leg, followed by a 9-nil romp in the second leg. Our finishing was less than ruthless on both nights, but thankfully it did not need to be.
We advance to face Icelandic champions Valur, who defeated Maccabi Haifa 2-nil on aggregate.
Valur, as noted above, have already agreed to sell us an exciting young attacking midfielder — Magnus Oliver Hjaltason, who will step directly into our 1st XI.
And, just days before the first leg, we confirm the signing of their best young defender, Icelandic U21 international Kjartan Stefansson, who will join our 2nd XI (replacing Khaburdzania) and fight for a spot in the 1st XI.
July 2031 – Champions League, Second Qualifying Round.
The first leg in Iceland is as straightforward as they come — a 6-1 win, which saw us score 4 goals in 4 minutes, to all but end the tie.
As noted at the start of the year, Marko Cipot arrives before the 2nd leg, ready to take over as the ball-winning midfielder in our 2nd XI. Since he’s new to town and on a low wage, I agree to sublet him my flat overlooking the Taco Bell — I’m moving into a new house, sitting above town on Ilia Hill, near the Training Center of Justice. (I got a great deal from one of the local entrepreneurs, who has occasionally been in the papers as a potential buyer of the club.)
The second leg is functionally a training match. We notch an emphatic 5-nil win, and part on good terms with young Stefansson. He did not cover himself in glory over the two legs, but he’s only 17 and playing in a side that simply cannot handle the infinite being of Duruji Kvareli.
We will face 2030 Allsvenskan champions (and current leaders) Hammarby in the next round. A favorable draw, all things considered.
Domestically, the 2nd XI have held their own quite admirably. If we can maintain this form, the Erovnuli Liga title will be sealed in no time.
We have a six-pointed against Dinamo Tbilisi the first weekend in August, but they’re facing fixture congestion associated with Europa Conference League qualifying, having eliminated Welsh side TNS in the Second Qualifying Round.
Saburtalo and Torpedo Kutaisi were both eliminated at the first hurdle in the Europa Conference League — by Shakhter Soligorsk and Eupen, respectively.
August 2031 – Champions League, Third Qualifying Round.
We kick off the 1st leg in Stockholm in style, as our mullet-headed opponents are caught napping. Gordulava scores in the first 20 seconds, and we claim 2 in the dying moments of the first half. A 4-1 win is our just reward, and a straightforward 3-nil win in Lanchkhuti seals the tie…although no one has been able to give me a good explanation as to why we played this match more than 6 hours from Kvareli.
The only thing standing between us and a return to the Group Stage? Belgian champions Gent, who eliminated AEK Athens, 5-4 on aggregate. Maybe we can play the home leg in Sokhumi.
August 2031 – Champions League, Qualifying Playoffs.
The Belgians are more tentative than expected in Tbilisi for the first leg, which allows us to claim a narrow 2-1 win, with Ghoghoberidze as Man of the Match.
One would think their scouts are blind, as they seem oblivious on the return leg, when we go straight for the throat. Have they not been paying attention? 34 year-old Youri Tielemans is left chasing shadows all night. We stake an early 3-goal lead, and don’t look back. An emphatic 4-1 win on the night, 6-2 on aggregate.
Another $17.94 million in prize money. The future is bright in Kvareli, even if the draw is painful to see. We will face Stephane Roche’s Milan (the defending Serie A champions), Sergio Conceicao’s Arsenal (again), and Ajax (three-time defending Eredivisie champions).
We “celebrate” the draw by watching the 2nd XI draw away to Saburtalo. With our prize money in hand and a sixteen-point lead on our way to our sixth-straight Erovnuli Liga title, we may be big fish in Georgia. But we know there is a long road ahead, if we are to topple these giants.
On paper, the first match of the Group Stage was our most straightforward opportunity to claim a scalp, as we host the Dutch in Tbilisi. It doesn’t hurt when Aguilera lets a 35-yard screamer from Freidgeimas through his hands in the 13th minute.
I can hardly believe my eyes when Utsmuts makes it 4 in the 45th, firing home to finish off a ruthless, incisive counterattack.
To our credit, the 1st goal may have been a gift but we’ve been utterly ruthless in taking the 2nd, 3rd and 4th.
The television commentators are beside themselves with the “historic upset” that is brewing. I’m not buying it. Anyone who watched us take Inter apart 1 year ago would have known — the chances of us playing timidly in the face of more illustrious opposition were non-existent. And you underestimate us at your peril.
In the 2nd half, Ajax look sharper…up until the point they enter our defensive third, when they are utterly baffled. Toothless. Declawed.
Lezhava rounds out another counterattack in the 79th minute. 5-nil.
Kvilitaia finds the top corner in the 88th from 25 yards. A curling, untouchable finish that is the cherry on top. 6-nil. Ajax has not registered a single shot on target.
It is our most impressive performance to-date. An utter evisceration of one of the giants of the game. The critics who have called us a one-hit wonder will have to reassess.
While it is only September, we’ve already set a record for Champions League goals in a campaign — 45 and counting. The sharks are circling again, although our Chairman seems inclined to not cash in on his meagre investment into the club, back when we were in Liga 3.
Our youth intake is disappointing. While Omar is pleased with himself, the players leave no lasting impression. Levan Japaradze, Otar Makhatadze, Lasha Goletiani and Giorgi Dzidziguri are the most promising players, but I am not impressed. We’ve offered a number of youth contracts, but I cannot see any of them making the grade.
The 3rd match against Arsenal in a year, and for the 3rd straight time, they played us off the pitch.
Freidmeigas made it look close with a goal in the 63rd on the counter, but we were lucky to have it end as a 2-1 loss. Vinicius Junior fired a late penalty well-wide of the target, and they spurned any number of chances. A record crowd of 12,671, which translates into a record $375k in gate receipts.
We claim the Erovnuli Liga title with 5 matches to spare, as the 2nd XI secures a draw at the Tsentraluri against Dinamo Tbilisi. But there is no time to celebrate. We’re off to Milan in the Champions League, and takeover rumors are gaining steam, as the Chairman has apparently decided to move on.
At the San Siro, Vasil tries to crack a joke in the locker room, to break the tension. This is why I didn’t want to bring him along. His attitude has been poor. His contract demands have also been unreasonable in the extreme, which why his contract will not be renewed. And, why he hasn’t played a minute for the first team this campaign. An inflated ego, to say the least.
He gets a few laughs, but I just shake my head and stare daggers at him. Read the room Vasil. More to the point, you can’t laugh at someone you don’t trust. Just like when Mom sang The Lumberjack Song after she had her affair.
For more than 80 minutes, the only bright spots are Utsmuts smashing a penalty in the 41st minute, followed by a delicate chip to finish off a rapid counterattack in the 58th — his 14th and 15th of the competition.
The Italians are simply head and shoulders above us. But in the 86th the improbable happens, as Gabelia rises to head home a Freidmeigas corner…and it is suddenly 4-3. We push forward to find the equalizer…only for Milan to punish us in transition. A taste of our own medicine.
We lose, 5-3. But we go down swinging.
When we get back from Milan, I put my foot down with the Board. We are making strides in Europe, but still have work to do. We need to invest in our training and youth facilities. I won’t take no for an answer. This time, they listen.
Utsmuts kicks off the match against Milan in Tbilisi with yet another Champions League goal, through a 34th minute penalty…but the Italians’ quality shines through in a 3-1 loss. Another record crowd — 15,360, with gate receipts totaling $475k.
It is Utsmuts 16th goal of the competition — he currently is on the shortlist for the Golden Boot, incredibly enough. Erling Haaland can suck it.
In Amsterdam, we can seal progression with a win…and hit halftime with a narrow lead. It does not hold. With minutes left, we’re down a goal and on our way out of Europe…until Lezhava flicks a header past the outstretched keeper’s hands to draw us level. A 3-3 draw may not be pretty, but it is functional. As things stand, we will progress to the Europa League knockout rounds for the second straight year.
The campaign will conclude by hosting Dinamo Tbilisi for the Davit Kipiani Cup, followed by 90 minutes at the Emirates just 3 days’ later. It’s all on the line. Again…
…And ahead of a massive week for the club, we’re placed under a transfer embargo. Because we needed the distraction.
December 2031 – Season Review.
As is becoming standard, the campaign ends with 2 massive matches — the Davit Kipiani Cup final and a decisive Matchday 6 in Europe.
We welcome Dinamo Tbilisi to the Tsentraluri, with a chance to finish the campaign unbeaten at home in domestic competition. Since we must immediately travel to London for the Arsenal match, I rotate the 2nd and entrust the 2nd XI to take care of business, as they’ve done much of the year.
In what should have been a triumphant moment, the 2nd XI crash out, losing 2-1 (aet). Shameful. Frustrating in the extreme.
In London, facing Sergio Conceicao’s Arsenal for the 4th time in a year, we knew we were up against it. Still, we intended to go down swinging. Lady Luck was on our side, as first Lezhava tapped home into an open net in the 56th to draw us level against the run of play, before Utsmuts drew us level in the 70th minute after a fortuitous deflection. The Gunners’ strength eventually proved the difference, as we simply could not keep the dogs at bay. We lose 4-2, but Ajax fall to Milan in Amsterdam meaning we finish 3rd and qualify for the Europa League knockout rounds again.
We return home to the news that the local counsel has — for the fourth straight year — blocked our planned expansion of the Tsentraluri. Perhaps, if the takeover goes through, our new owner will find a way to “sideline” the bureaucrats.
Which means it is a bittersweet end to the campaign, even with my “glass is half full” mentality. The bright spots being our qualification for the knockout rounds, at which point we will have welcomed 3 new signings, who will improve the squad on day 1. Miroslav Ivkovic and Kjartan Stefansson have the potential to be impact players; however, Magnus Oliver Hjaltason will be the best player to wear a Duruji Kvareli kit, to-date.
This window will mark the first time we pay a transfer fee — 3 fees, really. It is a new day. We can afford it, and players worth our time are starting to see that their future lies in Kvareli.
Of course, the arrival of new players means that the curtain must also fall on the Duruji Kvareli careers for several players. We will kick off the 2032 campaign will a full-blown squad review, to fully assess the squad and my plans going forward.
Goals for 2032: Not embarrass ourselves in the 2031/32 Europa League knockout rounds. Reach the 2032/33 Champions League Group Stage. Win the lot, domestically.
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.