Duruji Kvareli – 2040 Open Thread
December 2039 / January 2040 – Odds & Ends.
The luxury of being a seeded club, is you can often look forward to a (relatively) straightforward tie in the first knockout round. Or so I’ve been led to believe.
No such luck for Duruji Kvareli, as we draw Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid, who currently sit atop La Liga — a side who will undoubtedly be looking for revenge after we eliminated them in the quarterfinals 3 years ago.
The Erovnuli Liga has also announced that each club’s respective share of the television revenue for 2040 will be $61.01 million, a 13.72 percent year-on-year increase from the $53.65 million we received in 2039.
The only arrival in January is the long-ago finalized move for Diego Olivera ($2.2M, Fenix) — our first South American signing. He will play as the libero in our 2nd XI, taking over for Ghayas Vikskjold, who was allowed to sign for Shanghai Shenhua ($19M, plus 50 percent next sale).
If a suitable offer comes in for Marius Dahlen, he will likely be allowed to leave. Saimir Shehu is waiting in the wings — he will formally join the club in March (after nearly 2 years on trial), stepping into the midfield as a mezzala with our 2nd XI. Shehu is not an immediate upgrade on Dahlen, but Dahlen has hit his ceiling while Shehu has potential for growth and is more than capable of handling himself in our 2nd XI.
The only other moment of note in when one of our youth players (who is utterly terrible) manages to sustain a double hernia in training. I’m genuinely curious as to whether he was doling out the “robust challenge” or on the receiving end.
February 2040 – Champions League, First Knockout Round (1st Leg).
It feels like it has come too quickly this year. The first competitive match of the campaign. One we cannot brush aside if it does not go as planned. A club that for more than 2 decades has been in the thrall of a true giant of the modern game, claiming no less than 9 La Liga titles and 7 Champions League titles.
A club that — for all of its arrogance and history — has not progressed beyond the quarterfinals since 2032/33, when they lifted the title. A seven year itch.
The early minutes favor the Virus, but we are the first to strike — Sapa dinking over the onrushing keeper in the 17th minute, after Panchev spied he and Freidgeimas breaking into space behind the Madrid line during a rapid counter-attacked. And, when we rattle the crossbar a few minutes later, the home supporters know they are in for a scrap.
We take a 1-nil lead into the half, thanks in no small part to their poor finishing. We look to raise the pressure in the 2nd half. But having committed players forward for a free kick, Madrid draw level in the 53rd after an incisive counterattack of their own, with Castillo beating Khasenov on the dribble before going clear through on Nikolaou. In the 58th, Madrid go Route 1, with Andrada hammering home their second.
Madrid rattle the woodwork in the 64th, close to a driving home a killing blow.
In response, we ring the changes, with Mbabu on for Hjaltason, and Danko on for Munteanu. Freidgeimas breaks through and delicately chips the keeper in the 70th minute, only for Ramon to cover and acrobatically clear off the line…and Madrid to surge back the other way, Castillo hitting the outside of the post.
Something has to give. Hovring replaces the tiring Freidgeimas. The tide begins to turn, as we find 3 chances in rapid succession. With 10 minutes to play, anything can happen.
In the 83rd minute, we launch forward, Sapa drifting to the touchline on the right. He finds Mbabu streaking to the back post with an inch-perfect, curling 40-yard pass…Bienvenu makes no mistake, beating Ramirez at his near post to level the match.
We have the bit between our teeth. Aggressive. Incisive. And in the 87th, Mbabu restores our one-goal lead, capping off another incisive counterattack.
The Virus immediately press forward in search of a third, but find themselves stretched thin at the back. Exposed. Which we punish ruthlessly, through Hovring. 4-2, thanks to a curling ball behind the Madrid line from Mbabu, who has been scintillating since his introduction.
To their credit, Madrid refuse to give up, and press forward relentlessly.
To our credit, we punish them. Panchev finding our 5th in the 94th minute, after Sapa plays him in over the top in a moment of transition, with both Panchev and Hovring looking to beat the offside trap. Ramirez saves the initial shot but cannot hold it, and Panchev pounces on the loose ball.
The final whistle blows. An utterly ruthless display display of what can happen when a side leaves themselves exposed at the back, and we’re playing PM Haaienvuist — ironically, a tactic purpose-built 3 years ago for the latter stages of the Champions League, ahead of a trip to the Bernabeau.
On the eve of the GFF Super Cup, the projections are out — surprising no one, we are heavy, heavy favorites to win the Erovnuli Liga for the 14th year on the bounce.
Season ticket sales are up this year, rising to 905, up from a paltry 585 in 2039, by far the most significant increase in club history. (Ticket prices are still modest, at $38.89 per match and a laughable $261 for a season ticket — as compared to $36.65 and $247 in 2039.)
March 2040 – Champions League, First Knockout Round (2nd Leg).
With the Goose undergoing expansion, we host the Virus on a cold night in Tbilisi. We know they will have to chase the tie, which is exactly where we want them. Yet cannot be complacent. Not against a side like this.
The home supporters need not wait long for a moment to celebrate. Madrid control the opening minutes, but we launch forward in the 10th minute, Panchev firing into the bottom right corner to finish off an incisive counterattack. 1-nil on the night, 6-2 on aggregate. Madrid need 5 goals.
Undeterred, the Virus launch forward.
And we strike again on the counter in the 11th minute, this time through Hjaltason. The Madrid defense is in tatters. Zidane can only watch in horror as the Kursha Road Brigade serenade him mercilessly.
While the match settles into an easy rhythm — one in which our supporters delight in sinking one of Europe’s most-storied clubs — Freidgeimas makes it 3 in the 34th minute with a thundering volley.
The rest of the match passes in a surreal haze. A triumphant 3-nil win, 8-2 on aggregate.
We have every reason to be pleased with our performance. However, none of it will matter when we take the pitch in the quarterfinals, even if we are the team no one wants to face.
With the Madrid match in our rearview mirror, we’ve had several straightforward weeks in the Erovnuli Liga.
The real battle is on the horizon. Roma. In 4 days’ time.
April 2040 – Champions League, Quarterfinals (1st Leg).
Back in Tbilisi, we lay out the red carpet for the Romans. By which I mean that Luke has rolled out a white carpet, soaked in what I hope is not blood. Whatever it is, the flies are all over it.
Roma have been at the pinnacle of the Italian game for years. They will be no pushover.
Perhaps we have tempted the Football Gods, as we suffer a nightmare at the start — conceding in the 4th minute, our defense sleepwalking to allow Medina to ghost in at the back post.
The problem being that this gives the UEFA mafia a chance to put their thumb on the scale, which they proceed to do in the 8th minute after Mestrovic is taken out in the box. VAR says no penalty, and awards a free kick on the line. An absolute farce, this.
But we fight on, refusing to let the bureaucrats win. In the 25th minute, we are rewarded when Hjaltason breaks the offside trap with a run from deep, smashing home to draw us level on the night.
For all of our pressure, however, we have little to show for it until Mestrovic rides a tackle and then finds Panchev in the middle, to nod home from close range. 2-1. It is a start.
I feel like we’ve found our breaththrough with Mbabu in the 71st, but he smashes the post, the keeper well-beaten. We hit the post again in the 92nd, a goalmouth flurry that somehow the Romans escape unscathed…until, with virtually the last kick of the match, Roma equalize. We’ve fallen asleep again.
There is a whiff of offsides, but the referee refuses to look at the VAR.
In the end, we have only ourselves to blame. 2 mental lapses. 2 goals conceded. And a flurry of missed opportunities at the other end.
April 2040 – Champions League, Quarterfinals (2nd Leg).
Having drawn at home, conceding 2 goals in the process, our backs are against the wall.
Roma are controlling the pace and flow of the match, but we are the first to find the back of the net — Hjaltason rising to head home a Freidgeimas corner in the 20th minute.
An hour gone and the match still hangs precariously in the balance. With 10 minutes to play, the same balance holds. It has not been a pretty match. Thus far, you will hear no objection from our traveling supporters.
Roma are reduced to 10 men in the 86th, with Rocco leaving the pitch injured. But still they press forward.
It’s the last chance saloon, as the game opens up to a nearly intolerable extent. But we hold firm, through 6 minutes of injury time. (Again, the UEFA mafia playing silly buggers.)
It is anything but pretty. But it does the job.
We will face Erol Bulut’s Hoffenheim in the semifinal, after they eliminated Juventus 4-1 on aggregate. Ze Germans sit 5th in the Bundesliga. Our only history with them is 2 matches in the 2036/37 Group Stage, which tells us nothing as to how this particular tie will play out.
Thomas Tuchel’s Barcelona and Imanol Alguacil’s Lazio are squaring off in the other semifinal.
April 2040 – Champions League, Semifinal (1st Leg).
The flight to Germany is interminable. Mainly because Shaw commandeered the in-flight entertainment system to binge-watch Baywatch, to help the lads prepare mentally for the task at hand.
No matter how many times Rigobert Song explains it to him, Luke simply cannot wrap his head around the fact that David Hasselhoff and Hoffenheim are not inter-related, and they promptly get into a shouting match over Song’s insistence that Carmen Electra was hotter than Erika Eleniak. Luke is not having it. Not one bit.
They’re still fighting at kickoff. Fortunately, the lads are up for it. We control the early passages of play and simply need to find the back of the net. Hoffenheim strike the post with a speculative shot in the 15th minute, and we counter at pace, with Sapa smashing the post less than 20 seconds later. End-to-end stuff, momentarily.
Panchev opens our account on the night, pickpocketing a Hasselhoff centerback in the 18th minute and racing 50 yards to slot it home. 1-nil on the night.
Ze Germans, meanwhile, have all the accuracy of a drunken David Hasselhoff eating a hamburger, with 8 shots but none on target late in the 1st half. We laugh at our own peril, however, as the margins are thin at the half, the tide turning away from our early control.
Kyei clears off the line in the 46th, setting up another counterattack. Again, we come close to hitting ze Germans in transition. But we are living dangerously ourselves.
Nearly an hour gone, we again counter, Mestrovic centering for Panchev, who hammers it home from close range. 2-nil. It is his 17th goal of 2040, in only his 10th appearance. We have one foot in the final, if this result holds.
With his first touch of the game, substitute Hosseinpour flicks a header past the outstretched arms of the Hasselhoff keeper to make it 3-nil.
Ze Germans have no answer. We are not booking our tickets to Wembley. Not just yet.
Meanwhile, Lazio snatch victory an injury-time winner at the Camp Nou to stake a 2-1 lead in the other semifinal.
May 2040 – Champions League, Semifinal (2nd Leg).
Desperate to avoid a meltdown in the return leg, we keep the lads focused. The 2nd XI draws away to Dinamo Tbilisi, but no matter. We’re hunting bigger game.
Lazio secure their spot in the final with a 1-1 draw at the Olimpico, advancing 3-2 on aggregate.
A gigantic Knight Rider tifo greets ze Germans at our temporary home in Tbilisi, only with Luke Shaw’s head on Hasselhoff’s body. The sensuality as it ripples in the breeze is breathtaking. Make no mistake — there will be no fun and games tonight. For we aim to make a statement by burying Hasselhoff tonight. Metaphorically.
The first half is abysmal. Truly awful. We cannot connect our passes, and ze Germans are misfiring in virtually every respect. I give the lads the hairdryer treatment, and we come out with some fire in our bellies.
A relentless counterpress greets Hasselhoff, leading to an incisive counterattack finished by Hjaltason in the 47th minute, after he broke the offside trap with a run from deep.
10 minutes later, it’s a virtual carbon-copy of the first goal, only this time Freidgeimas slots it home, as Banach spied his delayed run to beat the trap. Freidgeimas claims his brace in the 64th, as Hasselhoff chase a goal — another incisive counterattack, breaking the German offside trap.
Freidgeimas collects his third in the 78th minute, as ze Germans (ironically) are unable to handle our aggressive, high press. 4-nil on the night, 7-nil on aggregate. Hasselhoff’s humiliation is complete.
Hovring makes it 5, just a few short minutes later, as Hasselhoff commit players forward for a corner. It is at this point that Shaw saunters over to the traveling support, stripping down to a fire-engine red banana hammock and politely applauding their continued singing, in what he later explained to UEFA (facing a 3-match ban) was merely a gesture of “solidarity.”
Ze Germans were distracted by this display of flesh, allowing Hovring to run free and chip Karabulut in the Hasselhoff goal. 6-nil.
It may have taken us 45 minutes to wake up, but the statement we wanted to make? Consider it made.
At the final whistle, the home support send up a rousing rendition of She Wore A Yellow Ribbon, led by Shaw in his banana hammock. We’re going to Wembley, lads.
The run-in to the Champions League final is straightforward. A busy fixture list, but at this stage of the season we are in our prime. The 2nd XI are also more than capable of deputizing in the domestic competitions.
May 2040 – Champions League, Final.
Anticipating a tough battle, the scouts and analysts send over their report.
I’ll have to deal with them later. We’ve got a match to play. 90 minutes from glory.
We will kick off in PM Haaienvuist, daring Lazio to come at us…and they do, striking first on the counter after we send men forward for a corner. Their direct play kills us, with Garcia burying his chance.
An ill omen when Mestrovic has to be replaced in the 31st minute with a possible back injury. Kessie is his capable understudy, who will need to step it up. He intercepts and plays Freidgeimas, who makes a mazy solo run, firing into the roof of the net to draw us level in the 33rd minute. A stunning solo effort that has the crowd on its feet.
In the 41st minute, Panchev flicks a header past the outstretched arms of the Italian keeper to give us a lead we do not necessarily deserve…but we take it into the half. If we can hold our nerve and maintain our focus, we’ve got one hand on the trophy.
We set out to nullify our opponents in the 2nd half, and effectively smother the game through 71 minutes, when we make our other substitutions — Mbabu and Hosseinpour entering the fray.
It could have been 20. Lazio cannot find a decent look at goal in the closing stages. The final whistle blows. We have done it.
Nikolaou, Daugaard, Sapa and Hjaltason are named in the Champions League Best XI. Nikolaou and Sapa also claim Best Keeper and Best Midfielder, with Daugaard, Freidgeimas and Hjaltason also earning a nod.
On the other end of the spectrum, we sack the performance analyst team who couldn’t be bothered to compile a report in advance of the Champions League final, starting with Tabukashvili, our (former) Head Performance Analyst.
May/June 2040 – European Review.
The Champions League is rather thoroughly documented above, as we managed to sneak past Imanol Alguacil’s Lazio, 2-1.
In the Europa League Unai Emery’s Chelsea defeated Jon Dahl Tomasson’s Tottenham, 2-nil.
In the Europa Conference League, Sami Khedira’s Leicester City beat Dinamo Zagreb, 2-1.
In the active leagues, Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid defended their La Liga title; Diego Simeone’s Liverpool won their first title since 2022/23; Patrick Vieira’s PS-****ing-G won their 8th straight Ligue 1 title; Alguacil’s Lazio won the Serie A title; and, Julian Nagelsmann’s Bayern did Bayern things.
Reputation-wise, we’re climbing slowly but steadily.
We’re still 7th in the nation club coefficients table — we need help from the other clubs to overtake Portugal.
To commemorate our Champions League title, Shaw arranges for the reveal of our new kits, modeled by the Kursha Road Brigade and several local social media celebrities. (The event was, if anything, more painful and confusing than what you are imagining. The local Animal Control authorities were not amused.)
Maybe Shaw should be spending more time with the youth squads, as the incoming academy class is less than impressive.
Our return to domestic football — after scaling the heights of European glory — is fitting.
8 wins from 8 matches, 37 goals for, 1 against — including a 3-nil dismantling of our primary domestic rivals.
Truth be told, their purchases were solid. But they’re miles off the pace, sitting 16 points back while we’re on a 206-match win streak in the Erovnuli Liga — a run stretching back more than 5 years, to October 2034.
Euro 2040 Review.
Watching the Euros this year, I realized something.
No, not that. That is still deeply repressed. Trust me — we should let that sleeping dog lie.
The Georgians had a brilliant Group Stage, drawing against Hungary before beating ze Germans and the Russians. For all the success we have had, there’s another angle to consider. Another summit to climb.
The Champions League is one thing.
Next year’s World Club Cup? No, that’s just a glorified series of friendlies — an excuse for our supporters to avoid their wives and girlfriends for a week.
No, to truly go down in history, we need to aim higher. To look towards glory on the international stage — the World Cup, in particular. Perhaps it is a foolish ambition — hubris of the highest order. But I now recognize that ambition within me.
More to the point, I recognized the derision and resentment I hold for those who have stood on our shoulders. After all, the Crusaders’ brilliant run at the Euros was fueled by a group of players developed in Kvareli. And Alexandre only got the job because I didn’t want it at the time — he’d been unceremoniously sacked at Saburtalo shortly before his appointment. He’s now frauding a living and reputation based on our hard work. And that cannot stand.
We are resolved. The moment he slips up, we will begin to question and criticize him in the media, and openly lobby for him to be sacked. Perhaps, if the right job were to open up in the interim, we would take it. But ultimately, we must take the Crusaders to the next level.
For now, we simply have to laugh at ze Germans’ resilience. They may have fallen to the Crusaders in the Group Stage, but Daniel Thione‘s men managed to rally to win it all, beating Nuno Espirito Santos’ Portugal 2-1 in the final.
Ahead of the UEFA Super Cup against Chelski (who remain managerless after Unai Emery’s retirement), Shaw is in rare form, insisting to the incredulous media that we will sit back try to grind out a result.
One would think that, by this juncture, the media would have realized that Shaw is anything but a “reliable narrator.” There’s a reason he’s dispatched to press conferences. It always pays to have someone on staff who can utter the most absurd lie with a straight face and is amoral to the core.
And, in Shaw‘s case, someone who is willing to wipe a booger on the opposing manager’s cheek during the national anthems, just to see if he can provoke a reaction. (Much to Mario Hermoso’s credit, Chelski‘s caretaker manager did not rise to the bait.)
Hjaltason opens the scoring in the 24th minute, with a sumptuous volley from close range after finding a gap in the massed English defense.
The scoreline holds through the half, and through the hour mark at which point we decide to ring the changes. Atle Hovring makes an immediate impact, doubling our advantage after Daugaard plays him through in the 62nd minute.
The English have no answer, as we waltz to our 2nd UEFA Super Cup title.
In the Champions League draw, we are drawn into Group D, where we will face Andrea Pirlo’s Juventus, Gary Cahill’s Monaco and Benfica. It is not a favorable draw. But I am literally itching to get back to European football…perhaps I should make an appointment with my dermatologist.
We return to action after the international break to confirmation that the expansion of Levan Akhobadze Park (aka ‘the Goose’) has been completed, on schedule — a 24,211 all-seater, it is now the largest stadium in the Erovnuli Liga.
As it would happen, we are in the middle of a 5-match run of away games, so we will not be allowed to christen the ground until we host Zana in 3 weeks’ time. Shaw promptly launches a “no fap ’til the Goose” campaign on social media, which proves far more successful than I would have expected, especially when the companion hashtag #NoNut4Zana was added in. (There was only mild confusion with Wayne Rooney’s long-running anti-dementia campaign, #NoNut4Nanna.)
The Champions League opener in Lisbon is laden with additional importance tonight, above and beyond the 3 points at stake — Georgia sit immediately beneath Portugal in the UEFA nation coefficients which determine allocation of places for European competition. We need to take every possible opportunity to slap them down. (Saburtalo have also been grouped with Farense in the Europa League.)
As the time arrives for Tella to detail this year’s academy graduates, I find him in the kitchen with a bottle of Skittlebrau. He looks weary. Too exhausted to be afraid, really. But he should be. Because this is dire.
Davit Jimsheleishvili is the most promising player in the group. And that isn’t saying much.
The next-best players appear to be Temur Sharvadze, Davit Gogichadze and Giorgi Kurganashvili. I can see why they drove poor Tella to drink. There isn’t a chance this crew will ever play for the senior squad. And if Tella can’t sort this out, we’ll be sending him back to Barnsley where he came from.
There’s only one thing to do. Put Shaw in a room with the scouts on lockdown — no one leaves for any reason until they’ve run the rule over promising youth at other Georgian clubs, to find players we can poach.
They emerge after 4 days, bereft of ideas. There is no golden generation coming through at Dinamo or Saburtalo. Or anywhere else, for that matter.
Away to Pirlo’s Juventus to start the month, we concede two early, soft goals. While show spirit in fighting back, it is a frustrating 2-2 draw.
It is left to the 2nd XI to christen the expanded Goose, several nights later. The 2nd XI is handed the task and it is fitting that Valdas Freidgeimas draws first blood. Zana offer little resistance in what proves to be a one-sided affair — a 2-nil win, typical of most domestic matches these days in which our opponents merely seek to survive the encounter.
Fitting, as well, that it is the night on which we secure the Erovnuli Liga title — our 14th straight.
We trounce Gary Cahill’s Monaco 3-nil as club football resumes following the October international break. A confident performance befitting the reigning European champions — one which we repeat during the reverse fixture to claim a 3-nil win, assisted in no small part by the hosts being reduced to 10 men early in the 1st half and VAR awarding not 1 but 2 penalties.
We dispatch Benfica 2-nil at the Goose on Matchday 5, a scoreline that is generous to our guests.
With 3 matches to play in the campaign, we are unbeaten in all competitions.
December 2040 – Season Review.
After defeating Dinamo 5-1 in the final Erovnuli Liga match and Lokomotivi 2-nil in the Davit Kipiani Cup final, it all comes down to Pirlo’s Juventus at the Goose. This is not only a chance for an unbeaten campaign, but also to secure seeding for the Champions League knockout round.
Are we ready? Does the Pope **** in a funny hat?
20 seconds into the match, Juventus have not even touched the ball. And we’re up 1, through Hovring. Panchev makes it 2, one minute later. Hovring looks to have claimed his brace on the stroke of halftime, but VAR chalks it off. We’re playing the Italian giants off the pitch, and there’s nothing Pirlo or his beard can do about it.
Juventus manage to pull one back against the run of play, but we will not be denied. Our patience is rewarded in the 90th minute, as Hovring claims his brace. This time, VAR does not intervene.
The final whistle blows. 3-1. Undefeated.
A strong end to what was an eventful campaign, to say the least.
At the end of the day, it isn’t much of a surprise that this year concluded on such a high note. We have — far and away — the best squad of my tenure here in Kvareli. There may be room for improvement and reshuffling, however. So, we will kick off 2041 with a full-blown review — strengths, weaknesses and areas to target for improvement.
Of course, there is also the question of the Georgian national team. Having finished a respectable 3rd in a tough Nations League campaign, it is unlikely that the position will open up…absent total failure in the imminent World Cup qualifying campaign. If something else opens up in the interim, I may take it — keeping the Crusaders on the back burner, as part of the long term plan.
For now, though, we are focused on Duruji Kvareli and defending our Champions League crown.
Goals for 2041: Win everything. Take over an intriguing national team job (if one opens up), to tide me over while waiting for the Georgian national team position to become available.
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.