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There Is No Spoon

Duruji Kvareli – 2043 Open Thread

December 2042 / January 2043 – Odds & Ends, Transfers.

We draw Julian Stephan’s Chelsea in the Champions League. The frauds sit 10th in the Premier League, and we torched them at this stage 2 years ago.

The 2042 award season arrives with Shaw suffering the side effects of his anti-malaria medication, ahead of his trip to Abidjan for the Cup of Nations. I would think he’s used to the vivid hallucinations, by now — just another Tuesday, thank you very much.

It’s Sizzurp for everyone, as Atle Hovring wins the Ballon d’Or and World Player of the Year, while also finishing as runner-up for World Footballer of the Year. It is the first time one of our players has earned this distinction.

Guga Iashvili is honored with the World Golden Glove and World Goalkeeper of the Year.

Iashvili and Hovring are also named to the World Team of the Year, which is otherwise filled with players from the “big” clubs we delight in beating. (This is the second straight year in which Hovring has earned this distinction.)

For the second straight year, Miguel “Katchip” Katchipwisayla earns numerous distinctions, including the Broadcaster’s African Footballer of the Year and African Footballer of the Year. He is also voted African Defender of the Year and to the African XI.

Arild Henrickson claims the Golden Boy — the second time it has been claimed by a Duruji Kvareli player, following Dariusz Sapa’s in 2040.

Jalal Hosseinpour is also named Asian Footballer of the Year for the 4th time in 5 years.

Ahead of our pre-season tour of the United States, we celebrate the long-planned arrival of Jair Adamo ($150k; Ferroviario de Beira). He needs time to develop as a mezzala, but our scouts saw tremendous promise in him.

We also welcome Luka Burnadze ($375k; Zestaponi). Luka appears to have the potential to reach the first team squad, but will play with the U21s for now.

The bad news? Freidgeimas has asked to move on. After all he has given for the club, I feel obligated to honor that request. He does not lack for suitors, with the likes of West Ham, Bordeaux and Marseille interested in acquiring his services. In the end, he agrees to move to Brescia for a modest fee.

The end of an era. Otar Jikia will take his place in the 2nd XI, with Giorgi Gelashvili playing from the bench with the 2nd XI.

Another source of disappointment? The Erovnuli Liga announces that, for the first time since television rights payments were issued, there is no year-on-year increase. Clubs will receive $66.27 million in 2043, exactly where it was in 2042 ($66.27 million).

With the imminent arrival of Dutch youth international Florian Joly in early March, we bid a fond adieu to Franck Kessie who joined us on a free transfer in 2035, after being on trial prior to his 18th birthday.

As one would expect, Joly is far less developed than Kessie at the moment, but in time could very much prove to be his equal. Kessie was a beloved player, but his contract was due to expire and his demands going forward were beyond what we were willing to pay for a 25 year-old backup.

Kessie‘s $51M fee is also a club and Georgian record.

A similar move is in the works on left flank.

Vladimir Danko will be allowed to leave after the signing of Demba Camara — a brilliant Guinean youth international who joins on a free, choosing us over Stade Reims. As much promise as Camara has, he needs minutes. He will see them with our 2nd XI.

In the end, Danko leaves for Marseille at the end of the window, with Saimir Shehu also leaving for Atletico. (Maxim Prokhorenko will replace Shehu in the 2nd XI.)

All told, it is a highly profitable window.

Of course, the usual transfer window muppetry was in full effect — led by none other than urCristiano himself, who tried to tap up Sergei Khasenov before sending a delegation to Kvareli, notwithstanding our firm “no.”

Shaw was dispatched to “negotiate” with urCristiano’s minions, over chacha at Giglo’s. I like to think his methods are effective.

February 2043 – Champions League, First Knockout Round (1st Leg).

Shaw‘s trip to Abidjan is an utter failure. While several managers are sacked, they are each immediately replaced by promotions from within.

It makes me question whether Shaw even went to the Cup of Nations in the first place. For all I know, he spent two weeks in Ibiza with Jack Grealish.

****. Now I wish I’d spent two weeks in Ibiza with Jack. Why didn’t I think of that earlier?

We romp through the pre-season, and task the 2nd XI with the first competitive fixture of the year — the GFF Super Cup against Dinamo Tbilisi.

The annual projections are released the evening before the match — while we are the heavy favorites to claim our 17th straight Erovnuli Liga title, the 1-25 odds are much narrower than the 1-91 odds that we saw in 2042 and in prior years, with Dinamo Tbilisi improving their odds marginally.

Once again, we place 10 players in the media’s pre-season Dream XI, with Dila Gori‘s Mikheil Vasadze the token non-Duruji Kvareli player of the year.

When reached for comment, the selection committee had some difficulty justifying the selection of Vasadze to the Dream XI.

Immediately following the 2nd XI’s 6-nil annihilation of Dinamo Tbilisi in the Super Cup, we head to the airport for our flight to the Big Smoke. London Town. Ol’ Blighty.

Keita Balde has recently taken over the struggling London club, after a brief interim period under the guidance of Axel Tuanzebe. Chelsea sit 8th in the Premier League, the Champions League being their last hope for a trophy.

The moment we step out off the bus at Stamford Bridge, Shaw spits on the ground in disgust. The stadium has been in disrepair for decades, the smell of urine all-too-strong. The Chelsea board keep promising that the long-promised renovation is just around the corner, “the timing isn’t right yet” — only to disappoint once again, in due course.

The Blues line up in a cowardly 4411, like the cowardly cowards they know themselves to be. Mestrovic is taken off late in the first half as a precaution having sustained a knock to his knee, but it is an otherwise quiet 45 minutes with the hosts refusing to come out of their defensive shell.

Panchev heads off the crossbar in the 49th minute — so close to breaking the deadlock. But in the first competitive fixture of the year for our 1st XI, it is apparent that we are somewhat rusty. The cobwebs in need of clearing.

A loose ball falls to Panchev in the 58th — he dutifully punches it home, only for VAR to rule it out. (It is truly shocking how, after more than 20 years of use in continental competition, VAR is still a shambles.)

A scoreless draw ensues.

We fly back to Kvareli shaking our heads at the cowardice of our opponents, mindful of how this tie played out 2 years ago — when we lit them up for 5 unanswered goals back at the Goose after a bland draw in London.

March 2043 – Champions League, 1st Knockout Round (2nd Leg).

Season ticket sales rise to 1,455, up from 1,102 in 2042. (Ticket prices rise modestly, to $47 per match and $367 per season ticket, up from to $44 and $341 in 2042.)

As previously noted, the final transfer arrival of the window is Florian Joly ($750k, not incl. future fees; PEC Zwolle), a speedy Dutch wingback who my scouts believe has immense potential and will step directly into our 2nd XI.

Joly arrives just in time to join the 2nd XI for a 7-nil stonking of Mertskhali. Shaw envisioned this as a “sink or swim” moment, but given the caliber of our opposition on the day the metaphor only works if you assume he was thrown into a half-empty kiddie pool.

We take a 96-match unbeaten streak into the Chelsea match at the Goose, dating back to our June 2041 loss to Atletico in the Club World Cup.

Hjaltason opens our account in the 35th. Chelsea have been predictably terrified of our prowess, prompting Shaw to wax philosophical. “Is it really a football match if only one team is trying to score, Boss?”

Mestrovic curls home an unstoppable free kick in the 43rd minute, which puts an end to the tie.

Chelsea are gutless for 180 minutes. Cowards to the final whistle.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m not mad.

I’m just disappointed.

“Now, you go have a long flight home and think about what you’ve done.”

We will face Teemu Pukki’s Stuttgart in the quarterfinals, after they eliminated Manchester City on away goals, with a 4-3 win at the Emptyhad featuring a 92nd minute winner from Timis “Timmy Timmy” Alexandru-Mihai, who rejected our advances more than a decade ago.

If we can maintain our nerve, we will have a chance to claim a 100th match without losing, away to ze Germans in early April.

For good measure, we finish off the month with a 5-nil win over Dinamo Tbilisi. The momentum is building.

Per usual, though, just when we are getting on a roll in the early stages of the year, we have to go our separate ways for the international break.

April 2043 – Champions League, Quarterfinals (1st Leg).

Away to ze Germans, we prepare for a reunion with Milosz Banach — our former libero, who left upon the arrival of Katchipwisayla. I am pleased to see him again, and for his success over the last year. But tonight, we must break him.

(Timis, on the other hand, was, is and will alway be a ****.)

The early stages are wide open. Parry and thrust. And then thrust again.

Henriksen — deputizing for the injured Hjaltason — breaks through the line in the 27th minute to bury a brilliant diagonal ball from Mestrovic, who spied Henriksen, Hovring and Panchev all beating ze German offside trap. 1-nil to the good guys.

Ze Germans, to their credit, refuse to bow down before us and immediately counterpunch, only to be denied by the woodwork.

The message at the half is simple. Straightforward. Two-fold.

More. Harder.

Hosseinpour replaces the tiring Henriksen on the hour mark, the match having fallen into a sullen lull. Olivera replaces Hovring minutes later, allowing Hosseinpour to push forward into the attacking midfield strata. With a little more than 20 minutes to play, we need to tighten our grip on the match and snatch a 2nd, if we can.

With 10 minutes to play, Kyei replaces Sapa. More steel in the heart of midfield. We’ve come close to finding that elusive 2nd goal, and need to remain wary of conceding in transition.

We cannot find that 2nd goal, but ze Germans are left holding on for dear life.

We will take a 1-nil lead back to Kvareli.

April 2043 – Champions League, Quarterfinals (2nd leg).

We welcome ze Germans to the Goose, undefeated in 101 matches in all competitions. If we only consider Erovnuli Liga matches, the tally is 300.

Hjaltason returns to the bench for the match; he will almost certainly see action.

Zhornikov gives Stuttgart a vital away goal in the 3rd minute, after Panchev nearly opened the scoring mere moments earlier.

Game on, fellas.

Munteanu strikes back in the 6th, firing the ball into the near post upper V like a Howitzer.

We immediately regain complete control of the match, but are struggling to find the goal to give us the lead we deserve. Unti the 34th minute, when Mbabu storms through the center like a man possessed, slamming the ball into the back of the net with authority. 2-1 on the night.

Ze Germans can feel the tie slipping away. They launch forward, relentless. Iashvili tips a shot off the post in the 40th minute. The halftime whistle is no relief. We are leaving the door ajar for our guests.

Shaw gives the halftime speech of his life. Half Alan Partridge, half Pep Guardiola. Whatever the alchemy, it works as we come out of the gates, guns blazing. Henrikson claims our 3rd in the 46th minute. Ze Germans’ hopes now hang by a thread.

Panchev hits the post in the 55th, with Sapa finding our 4th in the 62nd. Zornikov manages to pull one back on a rare foray forward, but at 4-2 the match is over.

We return to the semifinals, to face Thomas Tuchel’s Barcelona, who sit 15 points behind urCristiano’s Virus in La Liga.

Diego Simeone’s Liverpool will face the Virus in the other semifinal.

April 2043 – Champions League, Semifinals (1st Leg).

Kyei will deputize for the injured Mbabu at the Goose and Camp Nou, as our American-Congolese midfield maestro is in a race to be fit for the final…assuming we make it. Kyei is more steel than silk even if he is more than capable of doing a job in our midfield.

We kick off, attacking the west end — the renovations to which are nearly complete. A tifo depicting Shaw checking Tuchel‘s oil hangs across the scaffolding and, like a red flag in front of a bull, we attack with relish and look dangerous in the opening minutes, even if Katchipwisayla looks like he wants to murder someone.

We cannot capitalize. The match degenerates into a midfield battle, the Catalans showing far more spine than we would have expected from these tippy-tap, prancy-pants ****s. We nearly gift them a goal in transition in the 40th minute, but they do not have the testicular fortitude to challenge Iashvili directly.

Scoreless at the half. It is not good enough. I scream and shout, and the lads seem to perk up — even Boubaker, and there isn’t a chance in hell he’s stepping foot on the pitch.

Iashvili denies Robinson in the 66th minute — the closest either side has come all match. We need a spark. Henriksen will replace Hjaltason; Hosseinpour, Panchev.

With 15 minutes to play, the game is starting to open up as tired legs take effect. Olivera replaces Kyei. And in the 87th minute, the versatile Uruguayan makes his mark — getting into the box, before hitting an early, low cross to find Hovring at the near post. 1-nil. It has been anything but pretty, but it may just be enough.

The Catalans push forward. The inevitable happens. We punish them in transition, Hosseinpour feeding Sapa. The 2-nil scoreline is not undeserved, but the Catalans can rightly feel that it does not reflect the balance of play over the first 85 minutes.

For all their anguish, in the 93rd Katchipwisayla buries them. Another counterattack, this time finished off with a 25-yard bullet into the top corner, still rising as it hit the back of the net.

A savage, ruthless final 10 minutes to the match. One that would leave anyone bereft of hope. But the Catalans still surge forward.

And again, we punish them, an incisive, determined counterattack is finished off by Hovring. Tuchel lies prone in the technical area, face down, pounding the ground with one fist. His despair, understandable. Minutes away from a scoreless draw, they now find themselves 4 goals down. An impossible task before them at the Camp Nou.

A poignant example of the cruelty of sport, if ever there was one.

May 2043.

Distracted as we are by the Champions League, we nearly miss the news – Alexandre has quit the national team, to take over at Athletic Bilbao.

I promptly register my interest, much to the chagrin of the Board. In the end, can there be any question?

It is our destiny. A day we’ve dreamed of, for years.

Suffice to say that this changes everything.

There is work to be done. The Crusaders were relegated from the Nations League Division A, but have a favorable draw for the Euros. Expectations are low.

There are many familiar faces in the current, 23-man squad.

As a nation, Georgia sit 40th in the latest FIFA rankings — impressive enough for a nation with our footballing history and size.

But it is not good enough. Not by far.

This Champions League campaign will be the last for the current Duruji Kvareli squad. We will retain a full XI, to be backfilled over the summer transfer window — which opens in 6 short weeks — with as many promising, young Georgians as possible, no matter the cost. After all, we can afford it.

I’ve tasked Shaw with filling out the Crusaders’ backroom staff. His role with the national side will be informal — a “Minister Without Portfolio,” if you will.

His first task? To sort new kits for the Crusaders. He’s quite proud of himself, as he should be.

The Crusaders’ brilliant new kits, courtesy of @Wightyyy.

The rest of our plans must wait. We face the Catalans in 72 hours.

May 2043 – Champions League, Semifinals (2nd Leg).

Be honest. When you think of a European semifinal at the Camp Nou, your mind fills with glitz, glamour, and golazos galore — doesn’t it?

Yeah, well, not in 2043. Because in 2043, the Catalans play host to a dire night of football with virtually no redeeming qualities whatsoever.

Seriously. **** this ****.

We advance to our 4th straight Champions League final (the 5th in 6 years), where we will face urCristiano’s Real Madrid — a rematch of the 2041 final, which was epic on several levels.

We’ve since avenged that loss with 3 straight wins, including in last year’s semifinals. But this is an entirely new match. 90 minutes for a chance at glory.

The Virus sit atop La Liga and defeated Diego Simeone’s Liverpool 4-3 on aggregate, after an intense 4-2 win in the 2nd leg at An**field.

May 2043 – Champions League, Final.

The run-up to the final at the Hansi Flick — Bayern’s 112,764-capacity stadium — is unnaturally quiet.

urCristiano’s Virus are narrowly favored, notwithstanding our 25-match unbeaten run in the Champions League and 112-match unbeaten run in all competitions — both of which date back to the 2041 final. During that time, we’ve beaten the Virus 3 times. And we’re in solid form since the 2nd leg against Barcelona, winning 4 straight, despite ensuring adequate squad rotation.

Yet, they’re favored.

If they will not respect us when we have played their game, by their rules, over the years, we have no choice. We must not only beat them into submission. We must also — as we pivot towards developing Georgian youth — eventually destroy them with a core Georgian contingent, if not a full Georgian XI.

Mbabu returns to the XI, even if he will not be capable of playing out the full 90.

We start the match with a bang, with numerous opportunities falling our way after a short corner sets off a flurry of activity, only kept out by desperate, last-minute tackles…only for the Virus to clear their lines and counter in the 4th minute, Ochi burying their first opportunity of the game. Football at its most cruel.

urCristiano glistens unnaturally under the floodlights, as a muted violet paints the sky over Munich. Surely just a trick of the light, but it appears that there is someone standing precariously next to the lip of the stadium, watching the match unfold below, shadowed by one of the arches arcing across the pitch, and buffeted by a light breeze which does not seem to touch the figure’s clothes…or hair.

Hovring nearly draws us level in the 11th minute, firing just over the bar. Madrid go direct in the 17th minute — Iashvili denies Ochi this time, keeping us in the match. We adjust our high line, dropping slightly deeper.

Mestrovic clears a header off the line in the 31st minute — and we counter at pace, led by Sapa and Hovring. But Sapa overhits the pass, leading Hovring wide and allowing the Virus to recover…yet we have men arriving late in he box, in space, if Hovring can find them. He cannot, and the Virus clear their lines. A big opportunity, wasted…especially as the Virus once again counter, finding Ochi in space. 2-nil.

A disaster is unfolding. All too often we have been on the other side of this match — carving our opponents apart in transition.

As the halftime whistle blows, my eyes are drawn back to the roof. The figure is still there, barely visible as a silhouette against the darkening sky, a flash of red eyes in the night. The shouting, kicking and screaming in the locker room is warranted, and appears to motivate the squad. We are falling apart on the biggest stage. It is unacceptable. And they know it.

As we step back onto the pitch, I feel an itch in my shoulders. I glance towards the roof of the Flick, but it is fully enveloped in shadows now. My mind is surely playing tricks on me, but I would swear I see a sillouette. Shaw steps up next to me, a shiver in his voice. “You saw him too, Boss?”

I shake my head and mumble a non-response, turning back to the pitch. We have bigger fish to fry.

As planned, we push forward. Relentless. Munteanu breaks into the box in the 54th, beats his man…and is taken down. The whistle blows. VAR confirms. Penalty.

Katchipwisayla casually slots it into the corner, dragging us back into the match. 2-1.

We do not dial back the pressure, tactically. We continue to push forward — the risk-reward calculation weighted towards the former.

We are immediately rewarded in the 57th, as the Virus are forced into an awkward, wild clearance, which merely servers to reset our attack. Panchev surges forward, finding Hjaltason in the channel — our captain hammers one into the back of the net. 2-2. A captain’s goal. All to play for.

5 minutes of aggressive, silky-smooth football. Still, we do not relent. Momentum is currently in our favor.

But Ochi is of another mind. An unplayable on the night, it seems. His third — against the run of play — is a dagger.

With 20 minutes to play, we need to once again change the dynamic. Henriksen, Hosseinpour and Kyei are set to enter the fray.

As the minutes tick away, one simple truth cannot be denied. Our finishing has been poor.

Any lingering hope of a miraculous comeback is banished in the 93rd minute, as Ochi finds his 4th of the night. Savage.

We can only watch in horror as the final whistle blows, and the Virus’ showpony of a manager prances across the pitch, having changed into a full kit (with shinpads) to celebrate.

Notwithstanding this setback, we remain resolved. For the good of Georgia, we will begin to rebuild this squad over the coming weeks.

The phoenix must burn to emerge.

June 2043 – European Review.

The Champions League is rather thoroughly documented above, as urCristiano’s Real Madrid defeated us, 4-2, to end the freewheeling, anything-goes era at Duruji Kvareli with a loss.

Now? Now, we pivot. Towards a squad focused on Georgian youth.

Guga Iashvili and Sergei Khasenov are the sole representatives of the club in the so-called Dream XI, with Iashvili also named Goalkeeper of the Season for the second year in a row.

In the Europa League, Ferran Torres’ Hertha Berlin defeated Mario Hermoso’s Roma, 2-nil.

In the Europa Conference League, Jon Dahl Tomassen’s Tottenham Hotspur defeated Malmo FF, 1-nil.

In the active leagues, urCristiano’s Real Madrid claimed their 5th straight La Liga title, the cherry on top of a brilliant inaugural campaign for the Portuguese legend; Ruben Amorim’s Manchester City won their 2nd straight Premier League title; Wim De Decker’s PS-****ing-G reclaimed the Ligue 1 title; Dejan Stankovic’s Inter Milan defended their Serie A title; and, Julian Nagelsmann’s Bayern did Bayern things, after being taken to the wire by Torres’ Hertha Berlin (who lost away to Ilzat Akhmetov’s Gladbach on on Matchday 33).

The Erovnuli Liga rises to 7th in the UEFA competitions rankings, up 2 spots from last year, sitting behind Portugal. However, as expected, we rise about Portugal in the nation club coefficients table, to 6th —at long last, earning a 2nd automatic spot in the Group Stage going forward.

Duruji Kvareli remain 1st in the club coefficients table.  Reputation-wise, we move up 1 spot to 4th, passing Merih Demiral’s Manchester United, sitting only behind urCristiano’s Real Madrid, Nagelsmann’s Bayern and Amorim’s Manchester City.

We have brought the Erovnuli Liga as far as we can on our own — to continue to rise, we need other clubs to begin carrying their weight.

June 2043 – Euro Qualifying.

Our debut in Tbilisi is as gentle and forgiving as the talent at the Itchy Kitty when Luke Shaw arrives with a pocket full of singles — the Andorrans simply are no match for us, even though our squad that features few genuine starters. 5-nil is decent enough. For a start.

72 hours later in Copenhagen, we look to punch the Danes square in the jaw. An epic first half ensues, seeing 5 goals and a flurry of sleek, aggressive football. We take a narrow lead into the final stretches, but are undone when we concede a penalty and are reduced to 10 men in the 81st minute. Our 3-2 lead dissipates in the warm evening breeze, turning into a 4-3 loss. Frustration does not begin to describe it.

We’re on track to qualify from the second place table. We simply need to take care of business going forward.

June 2043 – Transfers, Transfers & More Transfers.

The time for hard decisions has come. Well, it is coming.

As indicated above, we will now begin the process of rebuilding the squad, with a heavy focus on developing young Georgian players.

Up to this point, I’ve noted on several different occasions how reluctant I have been to go down this road, given my desire to: (1) conquer Europe, in the first instance; and (2) avoid propping up the Georgian national team prematurely, and thus prolong the tenure of my predecessor.

That doesn’t mean our scouts haven’t had our eyes out for promising Georgian youth. We simply haven’t prioritized their signings. Which means there was little need for hesitation or doubt, coming into this window. I knew who many of our transfer targets were — and, in one case, we were already finalizing our efforts to sign him, for an arrival this summer.

So, without further ado, and in no particular order, let’s take a look at the players who will be joining us at the Goose.

We have 4 players who arrived with the opening of the summer transfer window:

  • Giorgi Aladashvili ($6.75 million; Dinamo Batumi), a talented young prospect who will train as a mezzala. He can also heave, so we’re working to get him the “long, flat bullet throw” PPM.
  • Giorgi Gvazava ($6.5 million; Dinamo Tbilisi), stolen from our in-country rivals who were letting him languish with their reserves, Gvazava will retrain as a libero — a position we need to develop for the national team. It is more than I would usually want to pay for a player from a rival — that being said, the AI and I have very different opinions as to who should be trained as a libero.
  • Giorgi Tvildiani ($2.9 million; Zana Abasha), a player I’ve coveted since I first laid eyes on him — the player mentioned above, whose transfer was secured separate and apart from our appointment with the national team. Tvildiani is a natural-born libero in my eyes, despite his tender age. Together, he and Gvazava could be the Crusaders’ deep-flying fulcrum for years to come.
  • Levan Kamladze ($4.7 million; Malmo FF), a talented Georgian-Swedish dual national who I have been following for years. Much is expected of young Kamladze, who is ready-made to be a ball-playing defender in our tactics.

We have also secured the future signings of 4 brilliant young players from the continent:

  • Zviad Gedenidze ($3.8 million; Monaco), a promising young midfielder who will train as a mezzala upon his arrival in January 2046.
  • Irakli Tsnobiladze ($7.5 million; Nurnberg), the perfect example of the type of player we need to sign — a Georgian-German dual national with bags of potential. And, while we can assume that certain players will develop, our strikerless system demands that Tsnobiladze learn to play as a shadow striker, or find himself as the proverbial square peg in the round hole. He will arrive in January 2044, and step directly into our 2nd XI.
  • Mamia Jincharadze ($3.2 million; Koln), another Georgian-German dual national who seems to have bags of potential, but requires nurturing to reach his true potential in our system. Jincharadze will (obviously) train as a right wingback, upon his arrival in January 2045.
  • Stefan Carpanu ($3.8 million; Steaua), a player signed before we took the Georgian job, who…let’s be honest, could be an absolute beast. The problem being that we have a number of strong shadow strikers at the club…whose development I feel I must prioritize, over and above that of a brilliant young Romanian lad. We’ll sort out his role, in due course.

Of course, we cannot simply sign players. We have to make room for the new signings. Which means brutal decisions are being made, as we consider the imminent departure of world class players who — against all reason and common sense — no longer feature in our plans.

The first player out the door is the utterly brilliant Diego Olivera, who joins Diego Simeone’s Liverpool for $65 million, plus 50 percent of any future fee. Not bad business for a backup that we no longer had any need for, as it breaks the club and Georgian records set in January.

It has been a busy transfer window thus far. The urgency of our scouting efforts is underscored by the disappointment of our annual youth intake preview, which is an utter embarrassment.

July 2043.

The only things certain in this life are death, taxes, and Duruji Kvareli winning the Erovnuli Liga.

We continue to waltz through the domestic campaign, while a flurry of transfer rumors wash over the city and we celebrate the opening of the refurbished, expanded west stand, which raises our capacity to 32,601.

Arild Henriksen is the next player to depart — he joins Keita Balde’s Chelsea, for $74 million plus 50 percent of his next sale. For the third time in 2043, we’ve broken the club and Georgian transfer records, earning ourselves more than a quarter-billion dollars in the process.

We are still carrying a bloated, 27-man squad — surely there is more news to come, even after an epic transfer window to-date.

August 2043 – Transfer Update.

The exodus of non-Georgian players continues, with Michael Kyei joining Thomas Tuchel’s Barcelona ($50 million, plus 50 percent next-sale), club vice captain Skerdi Shiba joining Jon Dahl Tomasson’s Tottenham ($42.5 million, plus 50 percent next-sale), and Frank “the Danish Cannavarro” Daugaard joining Pol Planas’ Brighton ($56 million, plus 50 percent next-sale).

These are big moves, no doubt, generating truly absurd transfer revenue — $401 million in the calendar year, to-date.

Duruji Kvareli’s net spend?

However, we still have a 24-man squad brimming with talent — a 1st XI comprised of proven, Champions League-winning players, backstopped by a talented 2nd XI that has seen an influx of Georgian talent (especially if I can get Prokhorenko to switch his allegiance to Georgia).

August 2043.

The Champions League draw features two Georgian teams this year.

We are the top seed in Group A, with Mario Hermoso’s Roma, Isco’s Dortmund, and Zenit. Dinamo Tbilisi finds themselves drawn into Group H, and will face a murderer’s row of Wim De Decker’s PS-****ing-G, Diego Simeone’s Liverpool and Gennaro Gattuso’s tycoon-fueled Betis.

We’re also at the point where our outgoing transfers could start to haunt us — the fixture congestion associated with a European campaign will allow our young players to feature domestically, but also creates risk. Let’s do it.

September 2043 – Euro Qualifying.

Away to Iceland, and the tension is building between Shaw and Volodmyr Shevchuk, who have a history due to the latter’s lack of professionalism during his time at Duruji Kvareli. Fortunately his attitude has improved. But Shaw still hates him. I know this because Shaw tells him, to his face, at least 3 times per day.

We claim a 4-1 win in Iceland, which is followed by an underwhelming 3-nil win in Luxembourg. 6 points are 6 points, though, keeping us on track to qualify from the second place table.

September 2043.

Champions League football returns. A welcome moment after months of self-torment following our capitulation to the Virus in Munich.

We revel in that moment, utterly relentless in an 8-1 annihilation of Isco’s Dortmund at the Signal Iduna. A savage display of what we are capable of.

72 hours later, we claim our 17th straight Erovnuli Liga title. The celebrations are muted — nothing less than continental domination will suffice.

To assist in that process, I join Tella for what I expect to be an afternoon of disappointment, assessing the latest academy graduates.

For all of his sense, Tella doesn’t see it. Young Giorgi has some potential, he acknowledges, but he’s simply too slow to play up top in our attacking midfield.

But Shaw sees it. Giorgi Gabelia? A mezz, perhaps. A libero, if we’re bold.

Ivane Gabelaia also shows some potential.

Vakhtang “Bono” Bochorishvili is Tella‘s pick of the litter, and he may be serviceable in the long run. But he’ll need time.

We close the month in the frigid north. Zenit. The ****ing ****s. We are nowhere near as merciless as were were against ze Germans. But it is enough to claim a 3-nil win, even with the 3 goals called back by VAR. I can’t believe we missed Taco Tuesday at Giglo’s for this.

October 2043 – Euro Qualifying.

Two matches. Against teams ranked 142nd and 180th in the world by FIFA.

While Shaw is quick to point out how utterly unreliable the rankings are, I think we can read something into these numbers.

Liechtenstein is up first, in Tbilisi. I don’t think the lads got the memo about “take this seriously, you ****wits.” 3 points are 3 points. Except when you’re up against Liechtenstein, where a 2-nil win feels more like points dropped than anything else.

Away to Andorra, I keep waiting for someone to jump out and shout “surprise” as if we’re on some prank show. This country can’t be real. For various, independent reasons.

Shaw keeps shouting “accio” at random inanimate objects, as he’s convinced we’re visiting Hogwarts’ Iberian counterparts. I’ve tried explaining it to him, but he’s unreachable when he gets like this.

“Shawzy, wasn’t that ginger from Harry Potter was going to parachute in the match ball for the game?”

“If he was going to be here, Boss — and that’s a big if — he’d fly it in on a broomstick, proper like.”

“Broomsticks can’t fly, Luke.”

Shaw just laughs. “Not with that kind of attitude, they can’t, Boss.”

Remind me to make sure the doors to the roof are locked back at the Goose…

The match ends 6-nil in our favor — a thoroughly a one-sided affair, “kind of like when Hermione cheated on the ginger with the wizard bloke, eh Luke?!”

“I’ve told you not to joke about that, Boss. It isn’t funny.”

But it is. It truly is.

I try to console Shaw with his favorite drink — a “fizzer,” named in honor of Phil Neville, the man who inspired him to go into management after his playing days were over. It’s rather tasty when prepared correctly — a tumbler of ice-cold, straight gin with a light dusting of crushed vicodin around the rim.

Three of those bad boys, and you’ll be doing stepovers all ****ing night long…if you know what I mean.

Denmark have virtually secured qualification as the Group winners. While we remain well-positioned to qualify through the second-place table, we will face Denmark on the final matchday in Tbilisi. A chance to kick them in the head. Even if only for sport.

November 2043 – Euro Qualifying.

The media are outraged at our having selected 8 Duruji Kvareli players for the November qualifiers. And that’s only if you don’t count the two players who were called up, that we’ve sent out on loan.

They’re angry now? Give it time, we’ll double that number.

Ahead of the Luxembourg match, Tvildiani is nervous. He isn’t going to start tonight, but he will play and then start against the Danes in 72 hours’ time. Given the dearth of Georgian talent at centerback, we need to shift Arveladze into a ball-playing defender role, and Tvildiani and Gvazava are the liberos of the future.

(Frankly, if it wasn’t for Katchipwisayla, they’d already be anchoring the XIs at Duruji Kvareli.)

Knowing how hard it can be to deal with so much pressure at a young age, Shaw took it upon himself to calm Tvildiani‘s nerves by bringing him a stuffed animal, which Giorgi promtply named “Winnie.” Ok, it wasn’t technically an animal. Rather, Shaw took a Ziploc bag and stuffed it with old newspaper, and then drew a smile on it. It’s the thought that counts, really.

A young, heavily-rotated squad takes the pitch against LuxembourgGvazava, Samkharadze and Aladashvili all making their debuts, an honor also bestowed upon Tvildiani after the break. We are in complete control — earning a comfortable 3-nil win, while allowing our 1st XI to prepare for Denmark, who win the Group with a late 1-nil win over Liechtenstein.

Though there is nothing more than pride on the line, we look to finish the qualifying campaign with a show of force. A demonstration of intent.

A 1-nil loss where we couldn’t get the ball on target? Not what we were looking for, fellas.

Regardless, we qualify for Ukraine/Poland 2044 through the second place table. Mission accomplished.

October/November 2043.

The Champions League rumbles on, as we make short work of Mario Hermoso’s Roma on Matchdays 3 and 4 — a straightforward 1-nil win at the Goose, followed by a 2-nil win at the Olimpico. Next, ze Germans came to Kvareli in search of some form of redemption, but it was not to be found in a 5-2 annihilation that left no doubt as to our superiority.

With 2 matches to play, we are on the verge of concluding the campaign with one loss (and two draws) in all competitions — to urCristiano’s Virus in the Champions League final. They’re currently struggling in Group D, so there is a chance we could face them again in February, in the First Knockout Round…if we’re lucky, at least.

December 2043.

The Davit Kipiani Cup final is predictable. The 2nd XI claims our 12th straight title with a pedestrian 2-1 win over Dila Gori in which the result was never in doubt.

While the visitors may not have been able to match us on the pitch, they get credit for style — harkening back to an era when the Georgian footballing federation would award European spots to teams based on hairstyles alone (instead of sporting merit), ensuring that only our most attractive footballers set foot abroad.

In the final match of the campaign, we dismantle Zenit, 6-nil, to complete our clean sweep of the Group Stage.

December 2043 – Season Review.

1 loss all season, in the biggest match of the year. It is a bitter pill to swallow.

The future is bright. The rebuilding project is in full swing, with more young, talented Georgian footballers in the ranks (and due to arrive) than you can swing a cat at.

The Erovnuli Liga may be entering a new era, as well. While we will be the only team playing in the Champions League knockout rounds, 3 other Georgian clubs will be playing European football after the New Year — Dinamo Tbilisi did just enough to fall into the Europa League knockout rounds, finishing 3rd in a brutal Group H; Dila Gori scraped through their Europa League Group, finishing 3rd to fall into the Europa Conference League knockout rounds; Saburtalo performed well in their Europa Conference League Group, finishing 2nd to advance with some momentum.

Progress, from the broader perspective. A sign that the Erovnuli Liga is becoming more competitive, as a whole…even if we continue to run rampant, domestically.

Goals for 2044:  Continue to evolve the squad to focus on Georgian players. Identify and sign the most promising Georgian youth, for the purposes of development and (if necessary) retraining.

Squad | Erovnuli Liga | Transfers

Finances | Income | Expenditure

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.

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