Duruji Kvareli / Georgia – 2049 Open Thread
December 2048 / January 2049 – Odds & Ends, Transfer News.
The 5th team, Torpedo Kutaisi, falls into the Europa League where they and Dila Gori will fly the Georgian flag. Meanwhile, Samtredia fall into the Europa Conference League after finishing level with Lech on points in their Europa League group, but take 3rd on goal difference.
The more interesting draw, however, is for the World Cup qualifiers. This is where our 1st seed pays off.
We will face Slovenia, Serbia, Belarus and Moldova.
Disappointment abounds during the annual awards season.
Atle Hovring‘s return to form sees him back in the running for major honors, only to finish as runner-up for both the Ballon d’Or and World Player of the Year. His 6th of each will have to wait…hopefully, no longer than next year.
As previously noted, we have two arrivals during the Winter 2047-48 transfer window — Miroslav Perkovic ($800k, Dinamo) and Steffen Falkenhain ($26.5M, Koln). Both will join our 2nd XI, with Falkenhain training as a libero. The plan is to integrate them into the squad while Shalamberidze and Gvazava go out on loan…
…and, of course, those plans do not hold up. We have no other arrivals, but several players depart on loan and permanent deals, the most notable being: (1) Gvazava, Perkovic and van Eijck leaving on loan; and (2) Kamladze leaving on a permanent deal, to ensure he gets adequate minutes ahead of the World Cup.
Tsnobiladze rejected both Sheffield United and Inter on transfer deadline day; slight shock for him will be playing from the bench with both XIs, as Jabua needs minutes to develop as a potential member of the 2050 World Cup squad.
Kvirkvelia also returns from last year’s loan to Saburtalo to join the 2nd XI as our roaming playmaker. Given a lack of top quality Georgian centerbacks, his versatility will be critical for the World Cup.
Television rights continue to be $218 million per team for the fourth year in a row. I have to think that, unless and until we crack the top 5 leagues in reputation, this isn’t going to increase any further.
Of course, the clubs are spending like there is no end in sight to these riches — the most expensive transfer in the Erovnuli Liga (with 8 weeks left in the window) being Fabian Trecachi, who joins Dinamo Tbilisi from Saint-Etienne for $31M.
February/March 2049 – Champions League, First Knockout Round.
Per usual, we romp through our pre-season friendlies, much to Shaw’s childlike glee. Honestly, though, it doesn’t take much to keep him entertained.
The first leg at the Benito Villamarin is a Jekyll-and-Hyde performance of the worst kind. Tvildiani is the name on everyone’s lips after 2 sublime finishes…and a schoolboy error, dispossessed in the build-up to gift Betis a late goal and chance to get back into the tie. A 2-1 win will suffice. I’m not angry, Giorgi. I’m just disappointed.
We start quickly in the 2nd leg at the Goose, claiming 3 goals in the first 12 minutes to put the tie to bed. The match finishes 6-nil on the night, 8-1 on aggregate. Ruthless. The football equivalent of the elevator scene in The Shining, an unstoppable wave of claret crashing down upon our guests.
We draw Julian Nagelsmann’s Bayern in the quarterfinals, a rematch of last year’s final — which was only the latest in our recent knockout-round battles with ze German giants.
How do you say, “Daddy, do you want some sausage?” in German? I’m asking for a friend.
It’s hard not to feel that my entire career has built to this point. The World Cup next year in Brazil. Only, we cannot afford to put the cart before the horse, no matter how favorable our qualifying draw may be.
We avoid a banana peel on an icy pitch against 10-man Belarus, wasting numerous chances before securing a 2-nil win, including a debut goal for Saba “The Hut” Jabua. Jabua is in the squad on pure potential — a speed merchant with room to grow. I envision him as being a wild card from the bench in Brazil…if he can develop over the next year.
The following match — hosting Slovenia in Tbilisi — will be my 1,500th in managment. They pose little opposition, kindly allowing us to walk the ball into net twice in the 1st half en route to a 3-nil win.
The end of the transfer window sees an incredible $512 million spent by Georgian clubs. (That’s $672 million in Schrute Bucks, at the current exchange rate.)
Notwithstanding the arms race amongst our rivals, we kicked off the domestic campaign by — for the 18th straight year — taking home the GFF Super Cup, this time with a 3-1 win over Saburtalo.
The Erovnuli Liga campaign also kicks off smoothly — 3 wins and 1 draw to extend our unbeaten run to 513 matches. Predictably, we are clear favorites to claim our 23rd straight Erovnuli Liga title — at 1-48 odds, with 9 players in the pre-season Dream XI (with Hovring excluded, of all players).
April 2048 – Champions League, Quarterfinals.
Hovring is ready. Ze Germans are led by Francisco Zuniga — the man who usurped his rightful role at the peak of the game, winning the 2048 Ballon d’Or.
There is no path back into the match for Bayern, who can only muster a draw back in Munich after Hovring — who else — gives us the lead.
Bayern are left licking their wounds, once again. 5-1 on aggregate leaves no room for debate.
April/May 2049 – Champions League, Semifinals.
Following his heroics against ze Germans, Hovring enters the Duruji Kvareli record books with a 92nd minute goal against Dinamo Tbilisi — his 210th Erovnuli Liga goal and 340th in all competitions, overtaking club legend Valdas Freidgeimas.
At Anfield, Hovring once again puts us on the right path — an early goal setting the stage for a vital 2-1 win. One foot in the final, lads. All we need to do is hold serve at the Goose.
But we get caught in transition, conceding in the 20th minute to allow Liverpool back level even if we hold the advantage on away goals. Squeaky bum time.
Yet for all the importance of the moment, we are flat-footed. When Hovring hits the post in the 49th minute, it is only our 3rd shot of the match, our first on target.
Minutes later, Liverpool find their 2nd. We are in trouble.
We up the tempo. And the aggression. Arveladze heads off the bar. So close…again.
We are desperate. Until Hovring volleys home a long throw-in from Aladashvili in the 83rd, at which point euphoria erupts from all corners of the Goose. Though we are still down, it is back level 3-3 on aggregate.
We’re not dead yet.
Tsnobiladze finds the back of the net in the 90th, but the flag is up. Offsides.
Extra time will be needed to resolve the tie. But both sides are dead on their feet. And neither is willing to risk exposing themselves at the back.
Penalties will decide the tie.
Sapa buries his penalty calmly, with ex-Duruji Kvareli libero Olivera to take for our guests…only for Iashvili to read him like an open book. He saves, high to his right, to give us a narrow advantage. 1-nil after 2 rounds. A tragic moment for a player who was much adored at the Goose — having missed his penalty in the 2045 shootout, as well.
Hovring slides his penalty into the bottom left corner. Now, the crowd is feeling it. But Paszek maintains his nerve, smashing one down the middle. 2-1 after 3 rounds.
Amrell can win it, and punch our ticket to Old Trafford…but Fredriksson denies him. Brioschi steps forward. It is a weak penalty, read clearly by Iashvili who dives to his right, catching comfortably.
Iashvili, the hero.
By the narrowest of margins, we remain in the hunt for an unprecedented 4th straight Champions League title (at least, in the modern era).
We will face Andrea Pirlo’s Juventus, after they defeated Arsenal 3-2 on aggregate.
May 2049 – Champions League, Final.
90 minutes, lads. Just like back at the Goose.
For the first time, we are favored in the final. I’d like to think that it is a function of our dominance in the competition over the last decade, not to mention our current performance and run of form, but who knows. None of these factors are “new” in any real sense of the word.
We’re missing Shalamberidze, our backup keeper, but otherwise have no selection issues beyond Jikia being on a poor run of form. He will retain his spot in the XI, though. He’s earned it over time.
The anthem is being played. The time is now. Get stuck in, lads.
For all his struggles of late, Jikia nearly gives us the lead in the 5th minute, only for Luiz Fernando to deny him.
Mere minutes later and Juventus are under pressure, struggling to get out of their half. We recycle a poor clearance, Amrell threading the ball through to Hovring, who finds Jikia running into space. It’s all too easy. 1-nil.
Juventus manage to find their sea legs, but the damage is done. Jincharadze replaces Villa in the 34th, after the Mexican international takes a knock and cannot continue.
It is a dominant performance, marked by patterns — we thrust, Juventus parries with desperate lunges. By the half, it is a miracle they haven’t been reduced to 10 men.
The patterns hold until the hour mark, at which point the tension has grown to an intolerable degree. Aladashvili curls a 40-yard ball to Sapa, launching a run from deep. He settles and finishes calmly past the onrushing keeper, to make it 2-nil. It is no less than we deserve.
We continue to come close, wasting chances. Unable to find the killing blow. Navio and Tsnobiladze replace the tiring Arveladze and Jikia in the 67th. Before they can settle into the rhythms of the game, however, Juventus hit us in transition, to make it 2-1.
Juventus are growing into the match…minutes later, a mental lapse from Navio sees Pereira through on goal, he rounds Iashvili to draw the Italians level. All to play for. And both sides engage, fully. End-to-end football, without an end result.
Into extra time we go. Prokhorenko replaces Bull. But, just as in the Liverpool match, neither side can break down the other.
And, just as in the Liverpool match, the deadlock will need to be resolved via penalties — in which we have to have the advantage, thanks to Iashvili, the Georgian heir to Yashin.
Tvildiani freezes the keeper, firing into the top right corner as he maintains his composure despite high profile failures in similar situations. True to his legend, Iashvili dives left to save Liverpool’s first. Pereira, heartbroken. 1-nil in our favor — a slim psychological advantage, perhaps?
Sapa finds the bottom corner. The epitome of calm. Frithzell responds in kind, managing to sneak his penalty just past Iashvili. 2-1 after 2 rounds.
Hovring finds the top corner, utterly unfazed by the moment. Van Hout also manages to put his penalty just out of Iashvili’s reach. 3-2, the tension building.
Tsnobiladze will take our 4th, jogging forward confidently. Luiz Fernando goes the wrong way. That’s 4. Sciavilla must score to keep the Italians alive…Iashvili taunts him, playfully. Pointing to his left…but Sciavilla does not blink, firing to Iashvili’s left, into the corner. 4-3 after 4 rounds.
Amrell is our 5th kicker, a chance for redemption as he saw this very penalty saved in the semifinals…but he sends Luiz Fernando the wrong way. Redemption. Glory. Name on the trophy. It’s all happening in Manchester.
No less than xix Duruji Kvareli players are named to the Dream XI — Iashvili, Amrell, Arveladze, Khasenov, Bull and Sapa. Oddly, Hovring is snubbed despite claiming the Golden Boot. Iashvili is also named the Best Goalkeeper, to no one’s surprise.
The question on everyone’s lips at the post-match press conference is predictable. Can we make it 5?!
Shaw responds, brimming with confidence. “Indubitably.“
He later admits that doesn’t even know what that word means.
June 2049 – European Review.
The Champions League is rather thoroughly documented above, as we claimed our 4th straight title.
In the Europa League, Teemu Pukki’s Stuttgart defeated Manchester United, 3-2.
In the Europa Conference League, Leicester beat beat Pol Planas’ Marseille, 3-nil.
In the active leagues, Merih Demiral’s Barcelona won their 1st La Liga title in 5 years; Gianluca “Johnny Manc” Mancini’s Manchester City successfully defended their Premier League title, 1 point clear of Arsenal and United; Theodor Corbeanu’s Lille won their first Ligue 1 title since 1954; Kylian Mbappe’s Inter won their 7th Serie A title in 8 years; and, Julian Nagelsmann’s Bayern did Bayern things in Germany.
Georgia remains 2nd in the coefficients table, although a big 2048/49 for England means that Georgian clubs will need to up their game, in order to knock them off their perch.
The Erovnuli Liga remains 6th in the reputation table, behind the “Big 5.”
Of course, Duruji Kvareli continues to be the most reputable club in the world and sit atop the club coefficients table. Meanwhile, other Georgian clubs continue to rise up the coefficient table, with Saburtalo cracking the top 10 and Dinamo Tbilisi sitting 11th.
June 2049 – Nations League.
The flight back from the Nations League finds me in a philosophical, contemplative mood. Although Shaw is in one of his moods during dinner, which precludes any serious discussion about our loss to the English and extra-time win over Turkey, securing a third-place finish.
“Do you ever wonder if life has something… More… In store for us, Luke?”
“You mean, like new women, Boss? You’re getting kind of old for dating. No offense.”
Offense very much taken. But I put it aside.
“No, Luke, just something…else, you know? Different. Not football.”
Luke looks like a child who has just been handed a particularly challenging math equation to solve, but only for a moment. The pleasantly befuddled look quickly returns to his face as the silence stretches out between us, and his gaze refocuses on his half-eaten steak, before gleefully spearing a piece with his fork.
“How do you do it, Luke?”
“Eat? My mother taught me.”
“No, Luke… How do you just… Put it all aside? All the drama, the stress… The isolation that comes with this life?”
Shaw can sense the seriousness of the moment. But, like a child, he does not understand why. He just watches me, confused.
He needs more prompting, obviously. “I’ve always admired your…how to put it…ability to ‘live in the moment. Almost as if the rest of the world wasn’t even there.”
At this, Shaw bolts upright, looking out the window, a worried look on his face.
It takes a few minutes to calm him down.
However, once he notices his steak again, all is right with the world. I remember Gvantsa talking to me about ‘mindfulness’ all those years ago. Not really my thing. But Shaw has a near-Zen like quality about him even in the most stressful times. Maybe that’s the key.
“What are you thinking about, Luke?”
He just shrugs, savoring every bite.
“Why don’t… Why don’t you just…?”
The confused toddler look returns.
“Just say whatever is in your mind, man. Don’t think, just speak. Whatever comes into your head.”
Shaw continues to look confused, but starts to speak, slowly…laughing to himself softly
“Chew… Chew… Swallow… Smell… Hungry… STEAK… Forky-face-Fred, my best friend… You bring the food to my mouth… Now…stab. Stabbity-stab!”
This continues for several minutes, until I see a young, attractive stewardess heading our way. I shoo her away, horrified at what Shaw might say in her presence.
I marvel Shaw’s ability to revel in the simple pleasures of life, without thinking about the next training session, the last match, the transfer offers awaiting our approval, etc. Perhaps a change is needed. An end to the mad rollercoaster that football brings.
I suggest as much to Luke, whose monologued reverie is broken, the worried look returning to his face.
“Can we still have dessert, Boss?”
Ahead of the Club World Cup in Germany, we host the imperialists in a meaningless friendly in Tblisi. 2 goals in the first 7 minutes puts paid to their lofty ranking, only for Gvazava to be shown a straight red a few minutes later — reducing us to 10 men, while giving the Americans a penalty. We manage to right the ship and win 3-2, but it isn’t pretty.
The Club World Cup sees us square off against the Catalans and Congolese champions, TP Mazembe, as we seek to win our third straight title. We promptly dispatch both Barcelona and TP Mazembe in heavily one-sided affairs, before falling to Chelsea 2-1 (aet) in the quarterfinals.
Strangely enough, I am not bothered by the loss. It’s a hard tournament to take seriously. Especially now that I’ve decided that the end is near.
We have accomplished all that could be expected of us, and more. One more European campaign with Duruji Kvareli, and the World Cup with Georgia. After that… Well, we’ll have to see.
Shaw wants to open an alpaca sanctuary. I’m not convinced. (Just like I am not convinced by early reports regarding our youth academy graduating class.)
The Super Cup is traditionally held at a neutral location, but after winning it 3 years in a row the UEFA mafia had had enough. We face Stuttgart…at the Mercedes-Benz Arena. UEFA President Harry Maguire expresses his shock and surprise. But this is no coincidence.
We take to the pitch with a point to prove and curb-stomp ze Germans 4-nil. After each goal, Shaw gestures to the UEFA executive box, measuring the width of his forehead in mock surprise. After the first goal I thought it was just playful banter. But after four I recognize that fevered look in Shaw‘s eyes. There’s something more there.
Tossing fuel on the fire, the Champions League draw sees last year’s semifinalists Arsenal thrown into our Group as a third seed, after we’d already drawn Gattuso’s Betis. There’s nothing shady about that. No.
We press on. Relentless. Ignoring the takeover rumors which have been swirling all summer.
September 2049 – World Cup Qualifying.
On paper, our hardest match was always going to be against the Serbs in Belgrade. Both on the pitch and due to the distractions of the Itchy Kitty. And it showed, as we fell behind by 2 goals early on…only to score 5 straight before conceding a 3rd. A wild, 5-3 match that did not lack for drama — appropriate for a trip to the “Bangkok of the Balkans.”
Moldova were a far more predictable opponent — settling, like a hearty meal the morning after an all-night bender. A 3-nil win in Batumi means that we are on course for qualification as Group winners.
Nothing less will be acceptable.
As the weather starts to turn, we kick off with what Shaw calls a “football threesome” — winning our first Champions League Group Stage match (1-nil win over Betis), securing our 23rd straight Erovnuli Liga title a few days later, and the presentation of our youth academy class. As to the last, the only genuine candidates appear to be Luka Sepashvili, Ermin Mutavdzic, and Luke Mitchell. Beyond that? The football equivalent of cannon fodder.
With the Crusaders Qualification for Brazil is all but assured after a 3-nil win over Belarus and a 7-1 win away to Slovenia. The Crusaders sit 6 points clear of Serbia with 2 matches to play and a +19 goal difference.
November 2049 – World Cup Qualifying.
The Moldovans put up little resistance, meaning now we can breath easy.
At least, until the draw in a month’s time.
The run-in for Duruji Kvarlei after we secure World Cup qualification passes in a blur. We claim another Davit Kipiani Cup title and top seed from our Group for the knockout round draw. But our eyes are fixed firmly on the horizon.
I’ve quietly passed the word to the Chairman. The end is near.
The forthcoming Champions League run will be the end of my tenure at the club — in what will be my 29th year.
A media blackout is agreed upon to prevent despair. When the time is right, I will inform the lads.
And Shaw. You can’t share anything with him, the gossipy ****.
Goals for 2050: Win our 5th straight Champions League title. Make a run at the World Cup.
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.