Gareji Sagarejo – 2030 Open Thread
January/February 2030 – Odds & Ends; Transfer News.
The draw for the Europa Conference League knockout rounds is unbalanced — several giants lurk, amidst a sea of favorable potential opponents. Those to avoid? For now, at least… Rangers, Granada, Fenerbahce and Galatasaray.
When it comes down to the final four, we are still in the pot with Galatasaray, Maribor and Oleksandriya.
I can’t watch.
As one of my ex-girlfriends would tell you, vengeance is a powerful motivator.
We will need to be on our toes.
Our average attendance continues to rise significantly. But we’ve only just now surpassed Saburtalo — and, as Mat points out, no one likes them. Literally.
They’re both under contract through December 2031. Neither has a release clause.
The reality, of course, is that there may be nothing we can do to convince them to stay. My only hope at this juncture is to make a run in the Europa Conference League, to build up the camaraderie to the point that they sign a contact — in complete derogation of their own self-interest…
…if only we can avoid ticking them off too much in the interim.
An awkward meeting with Zaza and the Board, who want to expand the budget available for Mat‘s wages.
I don’t know how to describe it. There were lots of “air quotes” in places that didn’t make sense. Winks. Nudges. As if there was something they aren’t telling me.
Whatever. Zaza likes to think he’s good with people, but he just came across as if he has something to hide. As if there was something underhanded or shady about the proposal the Board was voting on.
Zaza rubbing ice cream on his face to celebrate the vote didn’t help make it any less weird.
As the European transfer window closes, Iskakov agrees to a $1.2M move to Napoli (plus a 50% next sale clause), with a loan-back through December 2030.
Meanwhile, Bedoidze throws his toys out of the pram about moving to a bigger club in early January, generating substantial interest. In the end, he moves to Koln for $900k (plus %50 next-sale).
This leaves 2 holes in the midfield, as we had planned for Bedoidze to possibly step into the 1st XI this year, replacing Gigauri. Instead, Iskakov will shift to the ball-winning midfield role, with previously-announced new signing Jean Gnahore ($180k, ASEC) as our mezzala.
Gigauri drops to the 2nd XI, where he will play alongside Salif Karaboue ($250k, ASEC), a player we’ve been tracking but had declined to pursue given Bedoidze‘s promise. So, when Bedoidze threw his fit, there was an obvious solution.
(If I’m being honest, I’m relatively certain that our Africa-based scout has only watched ASEC play. Not the worst strategy he could employ, but he’s lacking in the “creative thinking” department.)
Gigauri also earns a contract extension through the end of 2031, given: (1) the need to replace Iskakov next Winter, a task likely to be handed to Karaboue; and (2) the need to identify a long-term midfield addition.
At the end of the European window, we have a 22-man squad ready to conquer, and — for the first time — something that is beginning to resemble a proper reserve squad. The U19s have a few bright spots — with 4 players set to join the reserves upon their official signing over the course of the year.
With Oleksandriya looming, we scheduled a straightforward series of friendlies which we romped through, as befitting a club of our relative stature — increased fitness, camaraderie and confidence, the order of the day.
February 2030 – Europa Conference League, 1st Knockout Round.
The first leg in Tbilisi sees us take a few minutes to find out sea legs. To get acclimated to the pace of a truly competitive match. One of the risks, perhaps, of such a straightforward series of friendlies.
The floodgates open in the 2nd half — by the time the final whistle blows, Gnahore, Chighladze, and Ugrekhelidze have each claimed a brace as we put the Ukrainians to the sword, 6-nil. (Mat claims not to have seen a 45-minute period so one-sided since his last trip to the Itchy Kitty in Belgrade.)
Despite calls for the 2nd XI to take the pitch, at this stage of the season the lads are like a pack of thoroughbreds. We need to give them the room to romp…though they play as if restrained. It’s hard to blame them, though — the tie was over before we boarded the plane. A 2-1 win sees us through…
…to face Nuno Espirito Santo’s Lazio.
It is about as unfavorable a draw as we could have had.
March 2030 – Domestic Campaign Kickoff; Europa Conference League, 2nd Knockout Round.
Ahead of the domestic campaign kicking off, the media have tipped Mskhvilidze and Macharadze for Player of the Year and/or Young Player of the Year — as if Luka needed any more of an ego boost. (Notwithstanding all of his talk about “needing to move to a bigger club” and refusal to negotiate a new contract, no one expressed even the mildest interest in him before the close of the European transfer window.)
The Board firmly believe that we are primed not for a title challenge, but for a top-half finish.
The oddsmakers continue to narrow the odds — we are 4-1 to repeat as champions, a substantial narrowing of the odds from last year, with Macharadze and Mskhilidze named to the media’s pre-season Dream XI.
The morning of the Super Cup, we use the pre-match press conference to publicly announce a bid for Mukbaniani with a cheeky, ****-eating grin from Mat — the midfielder rejected our advances at the end of 2028, choosing instead to join the behemoth that is Dinamo Tbilisi. It isn’t a serious offer. Mind games, more like.
If we could pry him away, he would be a surefire 1st XI player. But its the symbolism that matters.
Georgia is ours, you corrupt ****s.
It’s also a risk. In that it could engender some measure of solidarity in our rival’s locker room.
The match itself does not lack for drama, as we claim a 5-4 win at the Boris Paichazde.
In Tbilisi for the 1st leg, the outlook is grim. Billy Gilmour is a beast. By all rights, Lazio should play us off the pitch. They do, but we keep it tight. A 1-nil loss — a scoreline which flatters us immensely — in front of a record crowd of 3,564, meaning record gate receipts ($95k).
There are worse ways to spend a Thursday night.
But those are the only two good moments of the night — a 2-2 draw sees us out of Europe, 3-2 on aggregate. The tie was nowhere near as close as the aggregate scoreline suggests. 180 minutes of heartbreak, seeing just how far we are adrift from a mid-table side in one of the “big” leagues.
I wonder if anyone has ever been this unhappy in Rome.
Not even an offer from Sevilla can brighten the mood. The 2nd XI dropping points against Shukura doesn’t help, given how many chances were wasted.
A busy April sees us playing 2 matches per week, fully rotating the XI, throughout the month. The 1st XI lose a frustrating match at the Arsen to Dinamo Tbilisi, but we are nearly into calmer waters — a much slower pace in May. And despite a few slip-ups, we’ve put ourselves into a good position and — at times — are playing truly scintillating football.
Word is getting around. The press officer calls us at the house on the outskirts of town — 1537 Kaghaldis Kucha, still in desperate need of renovation.
Irakli’s news? The Pope has apparently followed Gareji on Twitter.
Well, not the Pope.
Who, according to Irakli, has some rather strong views on the application of Leviticus 4:17 to VAR.
June 2030 – European Review.
England’s European dominance continues, like something out of a cocaine-fueled, Boris Johnson fever dream.
In the Champions League, for the 3rd time in 5 years, Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United squared off, this time in Budapest, with United claiming a 3-1 win.
It is the 7th straight year that an English side has won Ol’ Big Ears — a year marked by Liverpool‘s 11-nil annihilation of Arne Slot’s Roma in the semifinals. And there doesn’t seem to be an exit sign for this Anglophile merry-go-round.
Peter Ramage’s Newcastle defeated Brendan Rodgers’ Juventus on penalties to win the Europa League, a mere 3 months after they sacked Sir Pep the Bald, First of His Name, the Once and Future King of Stockport and ertswhile Earl of the Blackpool Central Pier (who promptly rocked up at Inter with his vestigal tail tucked between his legs).
And, in the Europa Conference League, Pellegrino Matarazzo’s Everton curb-stomped Rangers, 4-0.
In the active leagues, there was nothing like the drama of recent years: Klopp’s Liverpool reclaimed the Premier League title; Oscar Lopez’s Barcelona reclaimed the La Liga title, leading to the abrupt, unceremonious end of the 9-year reign of terror overseen by Carlo Ancelotti’s mischievous eyebrows at Real Madrid; Brendan Rodgers’ Juventus reclaimed the Serie A title; Julian Nagelsmann’s Bayern did Bayern things; and, Mauricio Pochettino’s PS-****ing-G reclaimed the Ligue 1 title.
The Erovnuli Liga rises to 52nd in the competition reputation rankings, right behind the Irish top tier.
Georgia also move up to 13th in the nation club coefficients table (up one spot from last year), 3 spots off of Holland for automatic qualification to the Group Stage.
Spain 2030 – World Cup Review.
Someone has to stand up to the English. Simple as. And in the end, the hosts were tasked with the job at the Camp Nou.
It took 6 rounds of penalties, but Rafa Benitez’s Spain did it, defeating Petr Bosz’s men thanks in part to a missed penalty from none other than Harry Kane (who nevertheless took credit for the penalties that were scored in the shootout).
It was an otherwise unremarkable tournament, for the most part. Cameroon and Nigeria reached the quarterfinals, the only joy I had in watching the matches unfold.
With our entry into the Champions League deferred until the 3rd Qualifying Round, we enjoy a quiet 2 months.
Quiet, that is, until Matsil confirmed our hopes for the Academy. It’s the best class we’ve had to-date. Hands down.
Optimism abounds. Accordingly, the Board agree to further investment in Fabrika — throwing another $4.3 million at our training facilities and youth facilities, in addition to further investments in our junior coaching and youth recruitment.
The only fly in the ointment? Macharadze‘s departure was accelerating, and he began to throw fits when we rejected offers from Diego Lopez’s Perugia.
Accordingly, we accelerated our own plans to sign his replacement — Sverirr Karason ($195k, Bredablik). While not a like-for-like replacement, my scouts thought he had greater potential than Macharadze, but our coaches seem to have a different opinion.
Macharadze departs a few days later, peeling out of the parking lot at Fabrika with Simple Minds’ “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” blasting from the speakers of his Volkswagon Golf. What a ****.
Life goes on. No player is bigger than the club. Except for that one lad in the U13s. He’s never meet a doughnut he didn’t acquaint himself with in the Biblical sense.
Though we have yet to claim a Davit Kipiani Cup, both the first team and the reserves are in the quarterfinals, with the reserves drawn against fellow Liga 3 side, SK Tbilisi.
August 2030 – Champions League, 3rd Qualifying Round.
A variety of conflicting feelings swell within me as we land in Copenhagen. The local and national media ignore us, as their attention has been drawn to the dramatic rescue of a 30-something year-old Danish man, who had been locked in a basement by his (now) former girlfriend for years, subsisting solely on a diet of Nutella and Ramen noodle flavor packets.
While we have a job to do, I am captivated by the man’s story. He was, of course, a Brondby supporter — and thus the “good” kind of Danish. Not like these FCK supporters.
(Apparently, the girlfriend had been impersonating him on social media and in interpersonal communications after they moved to Dublin, while also working to build a social media empire for their dog. The dastardly plot was revealed only when Internet sleuths realized that in recent photographs the dog’s festive Grundlovsdag sweater had been frayed in a deliberate manner, spelling out “halp” in Morse code.)
Clearly, our hosts are distracted by the man (who could be David De Gea’s brother) and his plight — we stomp them 3-nil in the first leg, and then 2-nil back in Tbilisi. (Our supporters’ “bring out the gimp” tifo was perhaps a bit too on the nose, I must say.)
We are 180 minutes away from an appearance in the Group Stage. Dynamo Moscow stand in the way.
August 2030 – Champions League, Qualifying Playoffs.
Ahead of the trip to Moscow, Mat claims to require a stop-over in Helsinki after the match.
He’s been internet dating again, it seems, and has tentatively booked a “date” with a woman claiming to be the Finnish Prime Minister, who wants to go clubbing. I can only shake my head, before insisting that he count his kidneys before the so-called “date,” since this is clearly a setup of some kind.
All I know is that I don’t want to get a 4am phone call from him when he wakes up in a bathtub full of ice. When I tell him as much, he just laughs, saying he used my picture on the app, to protect himself from that exact possibility.
So, of course I am not surprised when — after a big 5-1 win in the first leg — it’s my picture splashed across the front of the newspapers, dancing with the woman who, as it turns out, was the Prime Minister of Finland.
Truth be told, I don’t even remember being there.
That’s how tired I must have been.
How tired I still am, after Mat‘s self-proclaimed “diplomatic mission” continued into the early hours of the morning back at our shared suite.
Ahead of the 2nd leg, I can’t sleep. We’re close to the Promised Land. So close. The reserves continue to impress, reaching the Davit Kipiani Cup semifinals on the back of a 5-1 win over SK Tbilisi. If our 2nd XI manages to beat Saburtalo in our own quarterfinal, we’ll face them for a spot in the final.
First things first, however. Gnahore is unplayable against Dynamo Moscow, claiming a hat trick in a 3-nil win to send us through to the Champions League Group Stage.
We are drawn into Group G, to face Brendan Rodgers’ Juventus, Didier Deschamps’ Chelsea, and Valerian Ismael’s Hoffenheim.
I can only laugh maniacally.
And not in a good, “diplomatic mission to Finland” kind of way.
Ahead of our debut in the Group Stage, the pundits are less than impressed with our chances — we’re 10,000 to 1 to win it all.
Mat, not being very good at math, is more optimistic.
Brendan Rodgers’ Juventus quickly disabuse us of any notion that we have a chance to progress to the knockout rounds, however, with a 3rd minute goal from Andrew Mpandle (who I would libero in a heartbeat) en route to a 3-nil win — a match in which the Italian champions barely broke a sweat.
Otar Bagalishvili, Mamuka Mchedlishvili, Akaki Makasarashvili, Otar Gordulava, and Kakhaber Bidzinashvili round out the players of note, even if they do not appear to be on the same level as the Giorgis. Altogether, it is easily the best Academy class we’ve seen.
The other good news? Gareji will appear in a Davit Kipiani Cup final for the first time. The only question is whether it will we will be represented by the first team or our reserves.
On paper, it is our best chance to secure points in the Group Stage — in Tbilisi against ze Germans.
For more than an hour, we (barely) managed to keep from going under and kept within touching distance of a stolen point.
Until the wheels fell off in the last 20 minutes.
We cannot complain. It is a “fair” result, given ze Germans’ superiority on the night.
Ironically, we manage to set multiple, seemingly-contradictory records — a record low attendance for the Champions League, while serving as our club-record high attendance and club-record gate receipts.
October 2030 (continued).
Ahead of the Chelski match, we have every reason to fear Deschamps’ men. But it is apparent they don’t respect us. Which angers us. Motivates us.
Still, no one gives us a chance. They shouldn’t. But therein lies the beauty of football.
We refuse to accept what is readily apparent to everyone. So when Iskakov bursts through in the 4th minute, riding a tackle before putting one into the back of the net, the pundits scoff.
More gilded words are spoken when Ugrekhelidze doubles our lead in the 10th.
We concede a penalty moments later, at which point the pundits proclaim the inevitability of our downfall.
But they did not count on Karason, riding the wave of adrenaline coursing through the Boris Paichadze, flying to his right to deny Vinicius Junior his due.
Though they manage to pull one back, we are not done for. Chelski may be snatching at their chances. But us? We are taking ours. Gnahore claims our 3rd in the 50th minute, as the ball spins loose from Mingueza’s brutal take-down of Chigladze in the box. No need for a penalty. We’ll take the goal, thank you very much.
Chelski pull back another, setting up what feels like will be an epic last stand as the visitors pour men forward in search of the equalizer. We counter and Aslan is taken down just outside the box. An opportunity to waste some time. Aslan proceeds to curl his free kick around the wall, only for Simon to cover…but he spills it, right in the path of the goal-crashing Jimothy, who has the easiest tap-in of his young career. 4-2. Surely, we’ve done it…
The ball is in the net again, mere moments later. For the visitors. But it is ruled out by VAR. Glorious, glorious VAR.
In the 90th minute, Gnahore slots a through ball to Chighladze, who fires home fr0m close range to make it 5-2.
At the final whistle, one thing is clear. We have been played off the pitch, yet we are ahead of Chelski in the only statistical measure that counts. An undeniably historic night in Tbilisi, before a record crowd of 6,037 (and record gate receipts).
After 3 matches, we sit 2nd in the Group G table. Surreal. We need to enjoy while it lasts.
Because it won’t last.
The Cup match with our reserves was equally surreal. We rest our 1st XI ahead of the imminent, back-to-back matches away to Dinamo Tbilisi and Chelsea — accordingly, it was our 2nd XI and 3rd XI squaring off. Predictably, the 2nd XI are in control throughout, albeit complacent; the reserves, fight to prove their worth.
The 2nd XI prevail, 1-nil in a dire match, quick to be forgotten.
November kicks off away to Dinamo Tbilisi on Matchday 33. Win, and we can all-but celebrate our 3rd straight title.
Lose, and… Well, no need to think about that, yeah?
Except, for the 3rd time this year, Dinamo Tbilisi annihilate us. 4-nil. A savage, relentless beating that we have no explanations for.
No rest for the wicked, however, as we must immediately leave to face Chelski in the Big Smoke. Though Ugrekhelidze and Keburia (deputizing for Aslan, who is out until the Spring with a hip injury) manage to get on the scoreboard, we are again savaged, in a 6-2 defeat.
The pain doesn’t stop there, though, as the 2nd XI proceeds to drop points away to Telavi on Matchday 34, meaning that we enter the final matches with a narrow, one-point lead. (The good news is that the reserves win Liga 3, outright.)
Panic stations? Not quite. With the remaining schedule, the 2nd XI will either have to face Samtredia at home, or Saburtalo away. We opt for the former, and are rewarded by recent Fabrika graduate Dvali’s first goals for the club – a brace, which not only confirms that we are in the pole position on Matchday 36, it also etches his name into club history as our youngest goalscorer.
(Dvali was fast-tracked into the 2nd XI after Aslan’s injury. The plan had been for he and Barbakadze to join the first team in 2031, but Aslan’s injury forced our hand)
Following another thumping (this time at the hands of Juventus), Chighladze starts us off in the 6th minute in the shadow of the Mikheil Meskhi. Dinamo take an early lead across town, but we are relentless. And, when Saburtalo are reduced to 10 men on the stroke of halftime, already 3 goals down, the proverbial fat lady begins to sing. It’s over. 6-1 at the final whistle.
Ervonuli Liga? Our Liga.
Of course, there is still football to be played. Our first Davit Kipiani Cup final. And, away to ze Germans…a match which, if we were to prevail, would see us advance to the Europa League knockout rounds.
Against Dila Gori, we field a tired XI. They’ve earned this moment, and we have a week to rest against of the trip to Hoffen… Hoff… …Germany.
We are not as dominant as I would like, but a 3-1 win will more than satiate our lust for trophies.
We keep it respectable in Germanlandia — a 3-1 loss, in which we took an early lead. But that’s all relative, I guess.
December 2030 – Season Review.
As good a year as we had, there are warning signs. Dinamo Tbilisi will not simply roll over for us. And they took 3 wins from 4, in the league campaign. We need to up our game.
Iskakov‘s loan-back is over; he’s off to Italy. Big shoes to fill, for Karaboue.
Apridonidze is also off, having refused to sign a new contract as anything other than an “important player” — which he most certainly is not. Barbakadze will be asked to join the 2nd XI; a big step up for the recent academy graduate, but an opportunity I’m prepared to hand him, alongside Dvali (who is deputizing for the injured Aslan).
In the absence of European football, it should be a straightforward beginning to the 2031 campaign. Squad depth should not be the issue. Thus, we should have the freedom to re-shape the squad with signings, as and if necessary, ahead of the 2031/32 European campaign.
Not that we have reason to discard players — the accolades flow fast and free. 7 players named to the Davit Kipiani Cup Best XI, with 8 named to the Cup’s Next XI. In the Erovnuli Liga awards, Petkovski is named the Young Player of the Year, Iskakov claims the Goal of the Year, and 7 players are named to the Best XI with another 6 on the bench.
Goals for 2031: Defend our Erovnuli Liga and Davit Kipiani Cup titles. Qualify for the knockout rounds of a European competition.
Finances | Income | Expenditure | Reserves
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.”
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