Duruji Kvareli – 2041 Open Thread
December 2040 / January 2041 – Odds & Ends.
An immediate headache as we transition to the new campaign — our training and youth facilities have been downgraded. The Board readily agree to invest in our youth facilities, but angrily reject my insistence on further investment in our training facilities.
While they will almost certainly be looking to avenge their Super Cup loss in August, I don’t see how they have the firepower to do it.
The 2040 award season is upon us and it is time to break out the chacha.
Amilios “Amy” Nikolauo wins the World Golden Glove and World Goalkeeper of the Year, while being named to the World Team of the Year. (Ironically, as will be discussed shortly, I’ve considered dropping him to the 2nd XI for the coming year.)
Finally, Jalal Hosseinpour — another player who plays from the bench for our 1st XI — was named Asian Footballer of the Year.
Joining these players is our only confirmed signing of the transfer window, who was in fact signed some time ago. In the interim, he won his first caps for Norway and has taken the Eliteserien by storm.
Our scouts were nothing if not clear — sign Arild Henriksen at any cost. With the passage of time, the $5.5 million we paid Rosenborg looks like an absolute steal.
The biggest question being where to play young Arild.
Let’s be honest — if his tackling and marking attributes were just a tad higher, I’d deploy him at libero.
But we’re not going to do that. And while he could be an epic roaming playmaker (attacking from deep) and is a natural shadow striker, I will primarily deploy him as a mezzala. We were arguably in need of a player for this role as it was and — more importantly — it is also a role that will suit his aggression and attacking qualities perfectly.
The Erovnuli Liga has also announced that each club’s respective share of the television revenue for 2041 will be $63.61 million, a modest year-on-year increase from the $61.01 million received in 2040.
February 2041 – Squad Review.
The last time we looked at the squad was back in February 2039, ahead of our 2038/39 Europa League title-winning run, on the heels of our unceremonious departure from the Champions League.
As time has proven, the squad was in tremendous shape at that point. 2 years on, we have gone from strength to strength.
We are playing PM Haaienvuist — my Naglesmann-inspired strikerless setup, detailed in A Kiss With A SharkFist Is Better Than None.
We approach the new campaign with a 22-man squad, and a clear plan in my head as to where players fit into the 1st and 2nd XIs. Let’s get right to it.
For several years now, our trio in between the sticks has consisted of Amilios “Amy” Nikolaou, Guga Iashvili and Walid Boubaker. Nikolaou has been our starter for years, but the gap between he and Iashvili has narrowed substantially, to the point that Iashvili is arguably the better player, especially when you consider his potential for continued development.
Bottom line, Iashvili will be our starter this year and I’m willing to consider a decent offer for Nikolaou.
For a long time, Boubaker was seen by my scouts and coaches as the most promising of the three. However, he has yet to make an appearance for the club, and failed to push his way into Dinamo‘s XI during a short-lived loan spell in 2039 — which prompted his recall and a long-term loan to ES **nis, followed by a loan to Young Boys that appear to have cancelled for unknown reasons (perhaps because I set the offer for an unspecified length of time). We did not receive any decent offers for Nikolaou during the winter transfer window, so Boubaker has now left on loan to Malmo through the summer. He needs minutes — minutes he won’t get as our third-choice keeper.
Our starting centerback pairing sees Sergei Khasenov and Frank “the Danish Cannavaro” Daugaard flanking Banach. These two are absolutely brilliant — world-class defenders who have much to offer when in possession. Their capable backups are vice captain Skerdi Shiba and Mafa Kouakou, both of whom could step in on a moment’s notice.
We also have Irakli Arveladze in reserve. Arveladze has enjoyed successful loan spells with Toulouse, Osasuna and Leverkusen — the time will come this summer when I need to either: (1) sell Shiba or Kouakou, to make room for Arveladze; or (2) let Arveladze leave. There isn’t a “wrong” answer here, obviously. All 3 are highly capable of anchoring our 2nd XI and stepping into the 1st XI on an as-needed basis.
At right wingback, Milan Mestrovic continues to hold down the spot in our 1st XI, supported by Franck Kessie. More than solid, even if I have given serious consideration to transfer offers we’ve received for Kessie — we do not have a ready-made replacement or available target (Roma having snaffled up my primary target).
On the other flank, Victor Munteanu is our starter, with converted inverted winger Vladimir Danko in reserve. Another solid pairing — we are more than covered here, unless one of them throws his toys out of the pram in search of a transfer.
At roaming playmaker, Bienvenu Mbabu has taken over in the 1st XI, with Michael Kyei as his capable deputy. (We also let Soso Bokhashvili leave for Liverpool on transfer deadline day for $18M plus 50 percent of any future fee. We simply did not need 3 players in this role.)
Our starting mezzala pairing continues to be Magnus Oliver Hjaltason and Dariusz Sapa. These two are utterly brilliant, but equally brilliant are their backups — new signing Arild Henriksen and Saimir Shehu.
As noted above, Henriksen could arguably play anywhere in our midfield and attacking midfield. He will (should?) be devastating as a mezzala in our tactics, though. If no one leaves, I can see him supplanting the legend that is Hjaltason in due course. Shehu‘s brilliance, on the other hand, is pure potential.
We also have academy graduate Stoyan Gospodinov in the U21s. After spending time on loan at Lokomotivi the last 2 years, he is in need of minutes. I plan to send him out on loan for another year, as he simply isn’t good enough to supplant Shehu in our 2nd XI, or fast enough to play as a shadow striker.
Up top, Toni Panchev continues to be the focal point of our attack, having been our leading goalscorer (and the fans’ player of the year) in both 2039 and 2040. Atle Hovring took over as the second shadow striker in our 1st XI last year, claiming 29 goals in all competitions to add to the 26 from his debut campaign. This duo is extremely strong, with many years ahead of them.
While Hosseinpour primarily plays up top, he also provides cover at mezzala. He’s more of a playmaker than the others, but is a loyal servant. I’d let him go for the right offer, but certainly am not in a hurry to move him on.
Freidgeimas is a verified club legend, and enters his 12th year of service for the club. He’s seen it all, having joined when we’d established ourselves in the Erovnuli Liga but were looking to break through in Europe. Truth be told, he’s a bit of a relic — once the undisputed best player at the club, his relative quality has diminished as the squad has evolved. While I pride myself on not making squad decisions based on sentiment, Freidgeimas is the exception that proves the rule. He will stay as long as he wants to pull on our kit. However, if he were to ask to leave I would feel obligated to respect that request.
One of the joys of having such a young squad is that we’re still developing and improving, slowly by slowly. We are a stronger now than we were when we won the Champions League 8 months ago.
While the day may come where we revamp the squad to compliment a national team appointment, the reality is that there does not appear to be any need for significant, immediate investment.
The signings we could make would not improve the squad, and do not represent value for money given the players we have on-hand.
February 2041 – Champions League, First Knockout Round (1st Leg).
After a pre-season in which we run rampant (winning all 9 matches, scoring 110 goals and conceding none), we appear to be ready. Is “ready” the right word?
In the Big Smoke for the first leg, a dreary match ensues with neither side looking dangerous long past halftime. Late signs of life lead to disaster, however, as we fail to take the chances afforded to us, while Chelski strike through a lucky deflection in the 91st.
The home supporters are delirious, thinking they’ve stolen a march and the first leg. But just over a minute later, Chelski‘s keeper flaps at a cross, leaving Freidgeimas with an easy finish.
We will take a 1-1 draw back to the Goose.
On the eve of the campaign kicking off, the projections are out — surprising no one, we are heavy, heavy favorites to win the Erovnuli Liga for the 15th year on the bounce, with no less than 10 players in the media’s pre-season Dream XI.
The only non-Duruji Kvareli player in the so-called Dream XI? Mikheil Vasadze at left back. I’m sure they had their reasons.
March 2041 – Champions League, 1st Knockout Round (2nd Leg).
Ahead of the Georgian Super Cup, the news trickles through — season ticket sales have risen to 1,307 this year, up from 905 in 2040. (Ticket prices remain relatively modest, at $43 per match and $336 per season ticket — as compared to $38.89 and $261 in 2040.)
The traditional Georgian curtain-raiser is a one-sided affair, per usual, as Dinamo Tbilisi rarely leave their defensive shell. However, our finishing is dire. The final 2-nil scoreline will suffice, even if it is not the display we sought.
Back at the Goose, we know that Chelski will look to deny us the killing blow and hope to hit us on the counter. The only remedy? Hit them first, and hit them hard. Panchev gives us the lead in the 24th minute, meaning that our guests will have to come out to play.
We are in control through the end of the first half. We simply need to bury them.
It takes until the 68th minute, but the breakthrough finally arrives when Mestrovic beats Manganaro high to his near post, from an oblique angle. At 2-nil (3-1 on aggregate), the tie should be dead and buried.
And 2 minutes later any doubts are put to rest, with Banach rifling one into the top corner to make it 3-nil on the night.
The match turns to farce in the 78th minute, when Chelski fail to deal with a challenging cross and Panchev heads off the bar, only for Corte-Real to hacks the rebound into his own net.
Panchev strikes two minutes later to make it 5-nil, which is where it stands as the final whistle blows. A savage, humiliating exit for Chelski.
We will face Ruben Amorim’s Roma in the quarterfinals, who sit 3rd in Serie A and eliminated Villarreal 3-1 (agg). It is, of course, a rematch of last year’s quarterfinals, which we won 3-2 on aggregate.
April 2041 – Champions League, Quarterfinals (1st Leg).
The roar of the crowd in Rome is deafening. Shaw adapts, giving an impromptu speech to the lads in the locker room. Something about gladiators, lions and Russell Crowe.
Whatever he said (I wasn’t listening) must’ve struck a chord, though because Panchev elected to strike an audacious volley in the first minute, smashing it past the befuddled keeper to give us a 1-nil lead before running off to celebrate by mounting the corner flag (“like a horny lion,” he later explained).
Roma refuse to be cowed and strike back in the 8th, only for VAR to chalk it off for offsides. The delicate nature of the moment sees both sides pause for a moment, and a stalemate ensues…until the 34th minute, when our high press forces an error in the Roman build-up. Hovring punishes them. 2-nil.
Again, Roma fight back and find the back of the net. This time, it stands. As frustrating as it is to concede, we still take a lead into the break — an advantage we gladly would have taken at kickoff. Roma faff about in the 2nd half, unable to change the overall ebb and flow of the match…until they are reduced to 10 men in the 76th minute.
We push forward in search of the killing blow. But it is Roma who strike — catching us in transition in the 88th minute. We cannot find a third, and thus have to settle for a 2-2 draw in Rome.
It isn’t a total ****ing disaster. But it is. It really is.
April 2041 – Champions League, Quarterfinals (2nd Leg).
Six days later, back in Kvareli, we are resolute. We need to set right all that went wrong at the Olimpico.
In the 3rd minute, we strike. Hovring finishes calmly after we force a turnover during their build-up. 1-nil.
In the 7th minute, Sapa hammers a low cross into the mixer, deflecting into the back of the net off of Roma’s Marcos Aurelio. 2-nil.
In the 26th minute, Sapa drives past 2 defenders to go clear through on goal, drops his shoulder and then goes the other way, rounding the keeper to calmly finish into an open net from an oblique angle. 3-nil.
It is not enough. It never will be enough.
Roma are dead and buried on the night. Our eyes are fixed on history, though, and the need to assert our dominance. To forever consign to the dustbin of history any notion that we are somehow a lesser club, by virtue of our Georgian provenance.
The only way to do that is to bathe in the blood of our foes. Metaphorically.
So furious are our attacks that Roma manage to pull one back against the run of play. Freidgeimas restores our 3-goal cushion in the 85th.
We do not relent. We look for a 5th on the night, launching reckless attack after reckless attack, resulting in Hovring burying one in the 92nd minute.
In the post-match press conference, the media question the sportsmanship of our play on the night — the fury with which we attacked, even when the Romans were well and truly beaten. I scoff, see red and throw down the metaphorical gauntlet, questioning why we should bow before the hegemony of the so-called “bigger” leagues and clubs — why we should succumb to the whims of the UEFA mafia? As if Roma would have treated us differently, had the shoe been on the other foot.
A gross overreaction? Absolutely. It may well also have been my finest press conference.
Yet, having watched Gladiator 3 times the night before the match (when I was unable to sleep), I’m relatively certain that I plagiarized the whole thing from Russell Crowe.
We will face Vincent Kompany’s Manchester City in the semifinals. The snide ****s sit 4th in the Premier League. I despise them with every fiber of my being — on general principle, separate and apart from our shared history.
Ahead of the City match, we rattle off three straight Erovnuli Liga wins, with the 2nd XI deputizing for two of them.
Our unbeaten streak now stretches to 72 matches in all competitions, 230 in the Erovnuli Liga. We have not lost since November 2039, when we faced City at the Emptyhad.
Yet UEFA, the big clubs and the media continue to treat us like some kind of novelty act. Their arrogance knows no bounds.
May 2041 – Champions League, Semifinals (1st Leg).
The Goose is ready for the spectacle that is a European semifinal, unveiling a tifo depicting Luke Shaw ****ing on the City crest, while strangling Bobby Manc with his scarf — a tifo designed to provoke a reaction, no doubt.
In the 2nd minute, we catch City sleeping with a quick short corner — slick, quick passing finds Panchev lurking at the edge of the box. He slots it home. 1-nil, before City has even begun to play.
In the 9th minute, we build from the back off of a goal kick — patiently robing, pushing, finding Mestrovic who gets to the byline and cuts it back to Hjaltason alone on the 6, who puts it in off the post. That’s 2.
We know that the match is not over. We hunt for a third, but find no joy as City look for a way back into the match.
Up 2-nil at the half, our focus is unmistakable. We’ve been in this situation before. We must close this match out.
We do. A thorough, professional job. City will have to chase the tie in the 2nd leg, which is right where we want them.
May 2041 – Champions League, Semifinals (2nd Leg).
The prawn sandwich brigade is out in full force in Manchester. The mating calls of the nouveau riche ring from all around the ground, as selfie sticks are wielded in lieu of the spanners of yore. The air so thick with condescension that you could cut it with a knife.
Fortunately, Shaw managed to sneak a few of those past airport security. And I’m quite certain he bought a few more once we got into town.
He tries to tell me they’re only a last resort. “Just in case we need to flash a little steel, if you know what I mean, Boss.” I would push back, but it is cute when Shawzy tries to act tough, with his dad stubble and paunch. He’s like a roly-poly teddy bear, that Shaw… When he’s on his meds, at least.
Bottom line, we’ve put ourselves into a commanding position. Now we simply need to play our game. The rest will take care of itself.
But City have plans of their own, snatching a goal in the 9th minute after successive counterattacks build upon each other. Two heavyweights, throwing punches. They’ve simply landed the first blow of the night…
And then they land the second, in the 23rd minute as Ahl rises to head home off of a corner.
Trouble? Only if we cannot find out sea legs.
Fortunately, we don’t need to. Hovring scuffs a shot from the 18 in the 29th minute…only for it to slip straight through Damato’s hands, which makes it 2-1 on the night in City’s favor, but 3-2 in our favor on aggregate, with a vital away goal.
In the 42nd minute, Munteanu manages to find Sapa ghosting into the near post, unmarked. Sapa doesn’t miss from that range — he buries it. 2-2 on the night. Brilliant. The Emptyhad is stunned to silence.
With 45 minutes to play we are within touching distance of a 4th European cup final in 4 years, the 5th in 6 years. City have been the better side. Of that there is no doubt. We will get our chances. We simply need to take them.
With 15 minutes to play, we’ve thrown the last dice. Our substitutes have been made, though I continue to be baffled by Banach‘s poor run of form.
City are done for. A spent force. They launch forward but cannot find any path to goal.
We are through. 2-2 on the night, 4-2 on aggregate.
I like our chances. We eliminated the Virus in the First Knockout Round last year, and in the 2036/27 Quarterfinals.
June 2041 – Champions League, Final.
We will take to the pitch at the Signal Iduna unbeaten since October 2039 in all competitions — a run of 81 matches.
To no one’s surprise, the Virus are favored. No matter that Hovring leads the competition with 10 goals to his name. No matter that we are the defending champions, playing in our 4th European cup final in 4 years — the 5th in 6 years, in fact.
Everyone knows who UEFA’s favored sons are. It is our responsibility to, once again, demonstrate that we belong.
(Truth be told, I prefer to be the underdog. Overlooked. Disrespected. It serves as motivation, to say the least.)
At long last the moment arrives. Wayne Rooney, UEFA’s Vice President of Football Development and Microwaves, presides over the ceremonial coin flip. A cheeky nod is offered to Shaw, who refuses to return the pleasantries. He’s never gotten over the “unpleasantness” of Corfu ’26.
As Rooney leaves the pitch, I see Shaw’s eye twitching madly. I momentarily taken aback by Shaw’s restraint, as I can see he wants to stick Rooney with a high, two-footer. The moment passes. We don’t need Shaw to be sent off before kickoff. No matter how entertaining the memes would be.
Per usual, we make no concessions for our opponent. Tonight, as on every night, we live and die by the SharkFist.
The early minutes are — in a word — ****. Truly ****.
The first real chance falls to the Virus in the 13th minute, as they look to hit us in transition after we commit men forward after winning a throw in deep in the final third. But we are more than equal to the moment, Daugaard denying him a straight look at goal, and Iashvili well-positioned in goal.
In the 22nd minute, we finally get our first shot off — as the Virus look to again counterattack at pace, Banach intervenes and we find Munteanu cutting in from the flank after a a passage of slick interplay, but he fires just wide of goal.
The Virus should be ahead in the 28th minute — Iashvili denies Degli with a world-class save, only for the rebound to fall to Ochi 6 yards from goal, in a yard of space. He cannot make good contact, however, spinning the ball just wide of the far post. Bullet dodged.
Yet after 30 minutes a pattern is emerging. The Virus are in control. We tweak and adjust modestly, looking to be more deliberate in the build-up play and final third.
We are almost immediately rewarded, as Sapa finds space in the channel, beating Ilic, only for Ramirez to deny him at close range. Easily our best chance of the match thus far.
We do not have long to wait for another. In the 41st minute, Mestrovic forces a turnover and drops the ball to Daugaard, who spies Hovring breaking into space behind the Virus’ high defensive line, and hits an inch-perfect pass to spring Hovring clear. Ramirez foolishly stays on his line, allowing Hovring to pick a corner with little pressure, to make it 1-nil.
We look to hold the lead through the half, but the Virus manage to strike in the 45th.
1-1 at the half is not the end of the world. Yet it is not good enough. We must improve.
While I shout and threaten the lads, Shaw just shakes his head in disappointment. His silent judgment is likely the more effective of the two approaches, but I am merely thankful that he did not slap anyone. In the face. With a fire extinguisher.
Whatever the reason, we come out with a fire in our belly. Swift, purposeful passing sees Hovring with a chance immediately after the resumption of play, but he fires inches wide.
A stalemate ensues. After an hour, it is time to ring the changes. Kessie replaces Mestrovic; Hosseinpour on for Hjaltason.
Twice in quick succession we counter at pace — Hovring, then Panchev firing just high. While Panchev has been slightly off tonight, he still has legs. Whereas Mbabu is beginning to tire; Kyei will replace him.
In the 74th minute, Andrada rises at the near post to head home a corner from Degli. Television cameras catch Rooney celebrating like a man possessed, while I seethe in fury on the touchline.
We push forward. Relentless. Incisive. But Ramirez is equal to the task.
In the 85th minute, we recover a poor clearance as the Virus look to clear their lines. But Banach spies Panchev isolated against a centerback, and feeds him. Panchev takes a quick glance to see Ramirez advancing, controls, and chips him with a delicate, sumptuous half-volley.
The ball nestles softly in the side netting.
2-2. All to play for. Our faith in Panchev is duly rewarded.
Momentum in our favor, we decline to take our foot off the gas. We intend to push for the winner.
But the Virus have similar thoughts. They will not go down without a fight, and immediately launch forward en masse straight from the kickoff. We counter, and an ambitious through ball finds Panchev racing clear…only to be cruelly hacked down from behind by Victor. The whistle blows. VAR confirms. Penalty.
In the chaos, Victor somehow escapes a second booking, despite the fact that a straight red would have been justified.
The Virus manage to clear. A massive opportunity gone begging.
Back and forth we battle. Punch and counterpunch. In the 93rd minute, Panchev buries a loose ball…only for the UEFA mafia to declare it offsides through VAR.
With neither side able to break through, it will be extra time. Another 30 minutes.
Henriksen replaces the exhausted Sapa. We need fresh legs in midfield. He forces a save from Ramirez with his first touch of the match, a mere 18 seconds after play resumes.
On the stroke of the break in extra time, a long throw from Khasenov finds Panchev romping free behind the line…but he cannot get his knee over the bouncing ball, and smashes it off the bar.
With 10 minutes to play, it is anyone’s match. The lottery of a penalty shootout looms large, and Madrid largely retreat into a defensive shell, rarely committing men forward.
Yet in the 120th minute, they win a corner. Now — now they push men forward. Andrada’s whipped corner finds Toni at the near post, whose header flicks off of Munteanu and nestles into the back of the net. An absolute disaster. Cruel in the extreme.
In the 123rd minute, the final whistle blows as Henriksen plays a ball behind the Virus’ line, looking to find Panchev and Hovring. An absolute farce.
We have only ourselves to blame. Not Munteanu — that is nothing more than bad luck on his part.
No, we had our chances. We did not take them on the night.
Watching Rooney celebrate on the pitch with Zidane’s men merely adds insult to injury.
To their credit, none of our lads is in tears. They watch every moment of the trophy celebration, a righteous fury burning in their eyes.
This isn’t the final chapter. Not by a long shot.
June 2041 – European Review.
The Champions League is rather thoroughly documented above, as Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid pipped us 3-2 (aet), to claim their 18th Champions League title. Seriously. I hope Zidane accidentally sits on a pineapple tonight.
Atle Hovring wins the Golden Boot and is named the midfielder of the tournament. However, in yet another shocking display of UEFA’s bias, Dariusz Sapa is the only Duruji Kvareli player named in the Dream XI, alongside no less than 9 players from the Virus.
One would think this would be disheartening, on top of the manner in which we lost the final. To the contrary, it is simply more motivation. Fuel for the fires that burn within us.
In the Europa League, Fran Fernandez’s Sheffield United defeated Wim De Decker’s PS-****ing-G on penalties, after a 1-1 draw.
In the Europa Conference League, Dejan Stankovic’s Inter Milan claimed the title with a 4-2 win over Lokomotiv Moscow.
In the active leagues, Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid claimed their 3rd straight La Liga title; Diego Simeone’s Liverpool successfully defended their Premier League title; Wim De Decker’s PS-****ing-G won their 9th straight Ligue 1 title; Imanol Alguacil’s Lazio defended their Serie A title; and, Julian Nagelsmann’s Bayern did Bayern things.
We receive an additional $57.67 million from the UEFA mafia in additional prize money ($17.65M), television revenue ($7.42M) and coeffecient ranking pool money ($32.6M). We’ll take Rooney’s blood money. The utter thunder****.
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, but have an outside shot of catching them by this time next year.
June/July 2041 – Club World Cup Review.
After the bitter disappointment of the Champions League final, I was looking forward to the Club World Cup in Spain as a palate cleanser. Sure, I knew we would see some familiar faces. But the different context would be refreshing.
Or so I assumed.
The draw is a farce. We will kick off against the Zidane and the Virus, followed by a match against Thomas Delaney’s Atletico. We curb-stomp the Virus, 5-2, before falling to a cowardly Atletico, 3-1.
Nevertheless, we win our Group to advance to the knockout rounds.
We faced urCristiano’s Manchester United in the final, which was a dreadfully boring 1-nil win (perhaps all the more so due to the 2 lively matches which preceded it).
The title was ours, but in all candor there remains a bitter taste in my mouth. For all the glitz and alleged glamour of the competition, we only faced the usual suspects from Europe — 3 Spanish sides and 2 English sides.
How utterly ****ing boring. Not even urCristiano’s presence was enough to induce anything beyond a passing interest.
Following the Club World Cup, I secure the Board’s agreement to refurbish our training facilities, after they were downgraded earlier in the year.
Tella also believes that we have a few prospects worth considering, even if it is a poor group of players overall.
We also agree to Amilios Nikolaou‘s long-anticipated departure — he joins Stephen Bradley’s Bournemouth for $26 million plus fees and a 50 percent sell-on fee. Maybe we could have squeezed them for more, but it isn’t bad business for a player who we’d dropped to the 2nd XI and were ready to move on in order to create room for someone else.
To replaced Nikolaou, We recall Boubaker from yet another disappointing, calamitous loan move, to play with the 2nd XI. It’s last chance saloon time. For all of Walid’s initial promise, it is time to stand up and be counted.
9 matches makes for a busy month. Perhaps if we hadn’t won them all, I would be annoyed. But it provides great opportunities for the entire squad to stretch their legs.
As I mark my 1000th match in charge of Duruji Kvareli, Kouakou joins Nikolaou at Bournemouth — $30.5M, plus fees and a 50 percent sell-on clause. Not bad business for a player who was in our 2nd XI, especially when we have a ready-made replacement in Arveladze.
Applying the “strike while the iron is hot” rule to contract renewals, we spent much of the summer offering out new contracts to key players — tying them down for the long term, and ensuring that their heads are not turned by our continental foes.
The calm before the storm. 6 matches. 6 wins.
Now the real work begins.
The domestic campaign may be all but over. But the Champions League campaign is only just beginning, and we’ve drawn a favorable Group: Andrea Pirlo’s Juventus, Dinamo, and Wolfsberger.
For the first time, we will be joined in the Group Stage by Dinamo Tbilisi. They have a tough task ahead, but it is a sign of progress — this is the first time they’ve reached the Group Stage in the modern Champions League era. (In recent years, they have reached: (1) the Europa League Group Stage twice; and (2) the Europa Conference League knockout rounds twice.)
Before the first ball is kicked in anger during the Group Stage, we’re already being written off at 25-1 odds and told this year will be a “good learning experience.”
Shaw did not take the news well, grabbing a bottle of Jack Daniels and his favorite axe, stalking the halls of the training facility and threatening various youth players, highly amused with his own antics.
Matchday 1 sees Wolfsberger join us at the Goose for a 4-nil thrashing, which saw 3 goals called back for offside. I let loose on the lads afterwards, telling them it wasn’t good enough, which they each acknowledge. There is a danger of complacency setting in. That is my biggest worry.
Spencer Tella does bring us good news, however — it appears to be the best academy class we’ve had in years.
It may just be my optimism playing tricks on me, but my gut says that the youth prospects around Georgia are looking sharper. More complete. Less…crap. Only time will tell.
The 2nd XI secure our 15th straight title with a 4-nil annihilation of Saburtalo, one of the sides who has invested heavily in their playing squad in recent years.
Matchday 2 of the Group Stage sees us travel to face Pirlo’s Juventus. As the home side, the Italians look to press their advantage. And while they control the majority of play, we have our chances. We waste them — unforgivably, in Shaw’s eyes — en route to a scoreless draw.
When the scouts approached me with a recommendation to sign Miguel Katchipwisayla, I have to admit, I thought they were kidding. I didn’t take them seriously. Sign him whatever the price? How good could he be, fellas?
Now, I can’t stop thinking about Miguel. His pace. His silky touch. His raw power. The size of our war chest…
I can’t eat.
I can’t sleep.
Even the wind seems to whisper his name. Miguel…
I tell myself that a player like that doesn’t deserve to be in a relegation battle. That, for Miguel’s sake, we should sign him. That even Banach would recognize how unacceptable his poor form has been (6.98 average, in this squad?!), and accept that Miguel would be an upgrade.
Thinking only of Miguel and his best interests, I tell the press he’s our top transfer target, buy tickets to Belgrade and Birmingham in order to watch him play, and dispatch Shaw to see what he can negotiate.
It isn’t like Luke has anything important to do.
In our 5-1 win away to Dinamo, Banach puts in a typically bland performance. He’s like a wounded horse, Milosz. The humane thing to do would be to put him out of his misery, wouldn’t it?
Besides, the media note that Miguel is “increasingly anxious” to make the move after my appearance in Belgrade. Post-match mezcal at the Itchy Kitty (the only place to get mezcal, east of the Rhone) only serves to bring further clarity.
After the Villa match mid-week, we’ll let Shaw off-leash, to see what he can do. It will tear our wage structure to pieces. But that is inevitable, on some level.
Shaw reaches agreement, far easier than expected. $109 million (inclusive of fees) is barely one-third of our transfer budget.
Contract negotiations are dicey. Painful to see that many zeros in one place. But we reach an agreement — again, far easier than I expected. I half expect Ashton Kutcher to leap out from behind a curtain, shouting that we’ve been punk’d.
We trounce Dinamo 3-nil on Matchday 4 to secure passage through to the knockout rounds, but no one cares. Social media is a tornadic hellscape, with every post leading to calls for the club to #AnnounceKatChip.
On the eve of the Lokomotivi match, word filters through. Terms are agreed. The deal is signed.
The KatChip era will commence in two months’ time.
We celebrate with a 5-nil annihilation of Lokomotivi.
A new day is coming.
Following the November international break, Freidgeimas retires from international football upon winning his 100th cap. Legendary.
As club football resumes, though, we let ourselves down away to Wolfsberger on Matchday 5, settling for a scoreless draw.
Tired legs. 3 matches remain. The 2nd XI will feature in the Davit Kipiani Cup final, while the 1st XI takes the final Erovnuli Liga match and the Juventus clash. We ROFL-stomp Zestaponi twice by a cumulative score of 20-1, ensuring that the 1st XI are ready for the final match of the year.
Before kickoff against Juventus, the Kursha Road Brigade unveil a tifo in honor of Katchipwisayla — depicting a dark grey tabby cat wearing a Duruji Kvareli kit eating guacamole with a bag of tortilla strips. Shaw thinks its art. I don’t know what to make of it, other than the fact that I’m hungry.
We put in a command performance, claiming a 4-1 win to win the Group.
December 2041 – Season Review.
In a year where we strode across the continent, masters of virtually all in our sight, two blemishes stand out.
The Champions League final, obviously. And our capitulation to Atletico at the Club World Cup.
All these months later, the pain of the former has yet to subside. The absurdity of the latter sticking in the back of my throat like a wayward peanut. I’m sure there’s a more apt analogy, but I can’t think of it… Exercising some discretion, I refrain from texting Katchipwisayla to see if he can think of a better one. He’s already threatened to block me if I don’t stop. This doesn’t seem important enough to bother him with…
A new era is upon us — Katchipwisayla‘s arrival is only the beginning. For years, we’ve fast-tracked promising youth players from our academy, while allowing others to leave. The strength of our first-team squad has been undeniable — however, the cupboard has been bare with our U19s and U21s. Accordingly, I have tasked our scouts with securing the most promising Georgian talents. And working to unearth “the next Katchipwisayla” before he wastes several years with the likes of Wolves.
Our years of financial success have allowed us to build a substantial war chest. It is time to use it.
Not indiscriminately. But with less caution than in the past.
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.