There Is No Finish Line

Gareji Sagarejo – 2031 Open Thread


January/February 2031 – Odds & Ends; Transfer News.

The Board are in a celebratory mood after the dramatic finish to the 2030 Erovnuli Liga campaign, declaring their intention to expand the stadium — by 284 seats, at an estimated cost of $409k.

I guess their enthusiasm has limits.

With the reserves’ promotion the Erovnuli Liga 2, the television rights picture changes this year. The Erovnuli Liga rights rise to $227k per team (up from $193k in 2030), whereas the rights for the Erovnuli Liga 2 sit at $112k per team.

We add two players to the first team squad — Alain Fokou ($70k, Canon Yaounde) and Erekle Jalaghonia (free, Lokomotivi Tbisili).

Fokou will retrain as a ball-winning midfielder, stepping into the 1st XI to replace Iurii Iskakov, whose loan-back from Napoli expired.

Jalaghonia will play as the mezzala in our 2nd XI alongside Karaboue, with Gigauri dropping to the bench (and playing for the reserves).

Ucha Pataria ($35k, Merani Tbilisi) joins the U19s, and will retrain as a wide centerback in hopes of providing depth in the future.

Gareji’s 24-man first team squad, ahead of the 2031 Super Cup.

With no European football to prepare for, we must entertain ourselves. Drunk on Boone’s Farm, Mat apparently submitted an application to manage the Australian national team, even going so far as to call up the local football media (pretending to be me) and talking at length about my interest in the position.

Spoiler alert — we didn’t get the job. I think it had something to do with Mat bragging about head-butting a kangaroo in Macau over the Christmas holiday (which could be taken the wrong way, if not explained in context).

We also spent more time than I’d care to admit debating Mat’s “Ferris Bueller Fight Club” theory. He is adamant that Ferris is nothing more than a figment of Cameron’s imagination.

“There’s no way they could have done so much on one day. Not without the Dirty Dancing girl or Rooney figuring it out. I mean, have you seen the traffic in Chicago, Rezo?! The parade scene?! It’s frankly ludicrous. Even for Hollywood in the 80s.”

I’m not convinced. “What about Sloane? She interacts with both of them, and others, on screen!”

“I don’t rate that at all. Cameron loves Sloane, man. Since she wouldn’t normally pay him any attention, it is only natural that stuck in bed, feverish — obviously delusional, if not homicidal — his mind creates ‘Ferris,’ who is everything Cameron wishes he could be! All the implausible events happening, with the storybook ending for ‘Ferris’ and the girl of Cameron’s dreams! It’s a love story, man. Like True Romance, without the killing. At least, without any killing that we know of…and you can’t deny that Brad Pitt is in True Romance, so it all adds up! Brad Pitt! True Romance! Fight Club!”

I just sigh as he waggles an eyebrow at me, like a deranged Carlo Ancelotti.

We’ve been over this. Repeatedly.

Point.

Counterpoint.

I’m beyond arguing. So, I say nothing.

“Rezo, you’re not watching closely enough. The hints are all there. It’s only when, in a fugue state, Cameron wrecks his father’s car that he has to confront reality. ‘Ferris’ doesn’t exist. He is a figment! An illusion! Who gives Cameron a life outside of what he perceives to be a dead-end, pathetic existence! But also gives him the courage to stand up to his father! It’s all right there on the screen, man!”

There’s only one way to stop this discussion. You can’t talk to Mat when he gets like this. He’s like a dog with a bone.

I concede the point.

Raising his arms in victory, Mat smirks and chuckles. I can’t tell if he really cares, or if he just wanted the win.

Gods above, the season can’t start soon enough.


February/March 2031 – Georgian Super Cup; Season Preview.

The campaign kicks off with 2 straight matches against Dinamo Tbilisi, at the Arsen.

Our straightforward slate of pre-season friendlies has prepared us for the task at hand. In search of revenge for last year’s humiliations, we go on the hunt in the Super Cup — securing a 2-1 victory thanks to a quickfire brace from Keburia. It is of little consequence, however, in comparison to the league.

The media and bookies have grown increasingly-respectful of our talents — Gela Keburia and Zura Chighladze are in the running for top goalscorer; Jimothy, Giorgi Mskhvilidze and Desire Kourouma are up for best player; and, Jimothy, Kourouma and Fokou in the mix for best young player.

We are 2-1 favorites to win the league, just behind Dinamo Tbilisi, with Jimothy, Mskhvilidze and Keburia named to the pre-season Dream XI:

The supporters are lining up to see the three-time defending Erovnuli Liga champions — we sell 537 season tickets, a massive 67.81% year-on-year increase from last year’s 320 season tickets.

We do not disappoint, before a packed house on Matchday 1 against our title rivals. Another 2-1 win. A strong performance. With any luck, a harbinger.


March/April 2031.

The most frustrating thing for Mat and I, in looking to improve the squad, is that we need to invest to get to the next level. I’m loathe to break our wage structure — such as it is.

Yet, our new South American scout sees potential. And we can’t help but take the opportunity presented to us.

The math is simple.

Luis Robledo, a full Bolivian international, arrives for $425k from The Strongest. His $5k/week wages are triple those of Karaboue, our erstwhile highest earner. But he’s worth it, even if he isn’t savvy enough to see the 3-year extension clause tucked into the contract. Regardless, he will step directly into the 1st XI.

Now, you’ll recall that I mentioned math. And I take nothing seriously if not math.

The other side of this equation is Dinamo Tbilisi‘s dastardly, misplaced desire to steal Mite Petkovski from us. The same Petkovski who is firmly entrenched in our 2nd XI, with no likelihood of stepping into the 1st XI, sitting 4th on our depth chart for wide centerbacks. An initial offer of $600k plus future add-ons is negotiated upwards, to $1.8M ($900k of which is in deferred payments) and a 50% sell-on clause.

Translation? Dinamo are paying for our new centerback.

I am a math genius.

Turns out, Mat and I may just be football geniuses, too. Except for that loss away to Samtrediathough, what if they’re super-geniuses? That would explain it…

Or, not.

It’s hard to say at this juncture.

Best not think too much about it.

All I can say for sure is that we’ve beaten our arch-nemesis, Dinamo Tbilisi, 3 times already — in the Super Cup, and then twice in the Erovnuli Liga — each time, by a score of 2-1, with a stunning free kick from Jimothy proving to be the game-winner in our latest triumph.

May says the repeated scorelines are just a coincidence, but I don’t think he knows what that word means… I’m going to turn on Signs tonight, and try to get him to see the repeated scorelines as a sign of an imminent alien invasion. I figure I’ve got a 50/50 shot at it.


May 2031.

The hype train rumbles on. We’re in excellent form, unbeaten in all competitions over the course of the month, having not conceded in heading into the summer break.

We simply cannot allow our focus to slip. 10 points clear of Dinamo Tbilisi, with a chance to extend our lead ahead of the European qualifying campaign when the ****s come to visit in early July.


June 2031 – European Review.

Like a cocaine-fueled, Boris Johnson fever dream, England come crashing back to reality.

In the Champions League, for the first time since 2022/23, a non-English side takes home Ol’ Big Ears, as Julian Nagelsmann’s Bayern Munich is clinical in the extreme, defeating Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool 4-1.

2030/31 Champions League: Overview | Knockout Rounds

Massimiliano Allegri’s Manchester City manage to claim the Europa League title, after an epic, 14-round shootout win over Paco Jemez’s Hertha Berlin.

2030/31 Europa League: OverviewKnockout Rounds

And, in the Europa Conference League, Lionel Scaloni’s Levante defeat Hernan Perez’s Neverkusen in a less entertaining, rather bog-standard shootout.

2030/31 Europa Conference League: OverviewKnockout Rounds

In the active leagues: Massimiliano Allegri’s Manchester City won the Premier League title, when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United were held to a draw at Old Trafford on Matchday 38 by to John Dahl Tomasson’s Leeds United; Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid reclaim the La Liga title; Brendan Rodgers’ Juventus defended the Serie A title, in what was yet another photo finish; Julian Nagelsmann’s Bayern did Bayern things; and, Mauricio Pochettino’s PS-****ing-G did PS-****ing-G things.

The Erovnuli Liga rises 9 spots to 43nd in the competition reputation rankings, right behind the Czech and Greek 2nd tiers.

Gareji rise to 46th in the club coefficient rankings — sitting right behind Hibs, Partyzan, and Granada, 7 spots above Dinamo Tbilisi.

Our Director of Football’s reaction to the latest club coefficient rankings sent a simple, readily understood message to Dinamo Tbilisi. Real mature, Zaza.

The Board are in the midst of celebrating the infusion of an additional $5.98 million from UEFA (our allocation of additional television revenue and coefficient ranking pool funds), when we spoil the party by insisting that they invest in Fabrika.

Drunk on grapefruit vodka-tinis, they readily accede once we promise them a Hawaiian shaved ice machine for the corporate offices. Further upgrades to and investment in the training facilities, youth facilities and youth recruitment are in the works.


June/July/August 2031.

The best thing about Georgia’s improving coefficient? We avoid the initial qualifying rounds in Europe.

This year, we will have a 180-minute playoff tie to determine our fate — the Champions League Group Stage, or the Europa League.

Before we get there, though, we have 2-plus solid months of domestic football, during which our rivals will be facing those European qualifiers. At the outset, our academy graduating class again looks to be strong — with a central midfielder and two forwards standing out at this early stage.

On the pitch, our quest for a fourth-straight 2-1 win over Dinamo Tbilisi hits a brick wall, as the ****s fail to score. I’ll take a 2-nil win, though. After a narrow title win last year, we are waltzing away with the league, unbeaten since March.

Our success has translated into numerous transfer offers for our players. We’ve been working overtime to offer new contracts, engender camaraderie among the lads, et cetera — anything to beat the vultures off. [Ed. – there has to be a better way to say that.]

Torino manage to turn Mskhvilidze‘s head after the Georgian transfer window closes in late July, and he insists upon leaving. We negotiate a total fee of $1.8M with a 50 percent sell-on cause, with Giorgi loaned back through the end of the calendar year to give us time to secure a replacement.


August 2031 – Champions League, Qualifying Playoff.

With Mskhvilidze off, we make an offer on our top choice to replace him…only to see him choose Marseille. We end up signing our fall-back — Hilmar Arason ($425k, Breidablik). An established Icelandic U21 international, he could be a monster in time.

The qualifying draw pits us against Kazakh champions Astana. A tie we can and should win.

In the first leg, Gnahore has a night to remember — 2 assists and a goal, leading us to a 5-nil win. He’s having an epic year — 26 goals and 10 assists in 23 appearances.

A 5-2 win back in Tbilisi (fueled by yet another Gnahore smokeshow) secures our passage through to the Group Stage.

Ahead of the draw, which we’ve gathered to watch in the Fabrika auditorium, Mat insists that the players vacate the premises. “I regret to inform you, Boss, that a comet is heading straight for us.”

I can only sigh. “We just went through this at Christmas, Mat.”

“That was just a false alarm, Boss. The aliens were testing our reactions. They pretended the comet was real that time, and now they’ve perfected the launch trajectory.”

“Any chance they’re aiming to An**field, Mat? Do us all a favor, yeah?”

“You know who’s not laughing, Rezo? The aliens. They revel in your mockery. How easily you let your guard down.”

“You’re not an astronomer, Mat.”

“I built my own telescope!”

“Out of a Pringles can.”

“That’s irrelevant!”

“Your sour cream and onion breath begs to differ.”

“YOU… YOUYOU BEG TO DIFFER!!!”

It went downhill from there.

As a 4th seed, perhaps the blissful eternity of instant death would be preferred to the likely humiliations we face if the draw goes poorly.

When the 4th seems came around, I found myself hoping for Group F…only to find ourselves in Group B with: (1) Julian Nagelsmann’s Bayern (the defending champions); (2) Inter, led by Sir Pep the Bald, First of His Name, the Once and Future King of Stockport and ertswhile Earl of the Blackpool Central Pier; and (3) Dynamo Kiev.

While we have no chance to finish above ze Germans and their Italian conspirators, I’d like to think we can beat the Ukrainians. Passage through to the Europa League knockout rounds would be welcome.


September 2031.

The big test comes on Matchday 1, away to Dynamo Kiev. Win, and we’re on the path towards the Europa League knockout rounds.

Keburia gets us started in 5th minute, and we don’t let up. 5-1. In this run of form, anything seems possible.

The academy class doesn’t objectively meet the lofty promise of June, but perhaps our expectations are too high.

The best players appear to be Tsotne Gogochuri, Giorgi Khardzeishvili (who has the six o’clock shadow of a man twice his age), Imeda Khobakhidze, Shota Sulaberidze and Gocha Guruli.

On the verge of securing the league title, with the reserves on the verge of winning the Erovnuli Liga 2, the inevitable happens — for the second straight year, we will face each other in the Davit Kipiani Cup semifinals. They’ve been drawn as the home side. So, they’ve got that going for them.


October 2031.

The big European matches arrive. We host ze Germans and then the Italians in Tbilisi. Nagelsmann’s Bayern annihilate us, 5-2, as expected, in front of a record crowd of 15,593 (generating $550k in gate receipts). We give Pep’s Inter a massive scare — but only after they hit the post twice in the first 10 minutes, , but at the end of the day their quality sees them claim a late 4-2 win.

Domestically, the reserves claim the Liga 2 title before a valiant rearguard action in the Cup semifinals sees the first team claim its spot in the final, with a 2-nil win.

Mat created an army of sock puppet accounts on twitter to harass Yuriy Vernydub, whose position with the Georgian national team remains insecure. The Crusaders aren’t underperforming, per se, but were long since eliminated from contention in the Euro qualifiers. It’s time for change. And we’re ready to run fast and break things on the international stage. If not with the Crusaders, with someone else.


November/December 2031.

Though we are well and truly outmatched in Milan, a 1-nil loss is a scoreline we can be proud of.

In Tbilisi on Matchday 5, we annihilate the Ukrainians 6-1 to guarantee passage through to the Europa League knockout rounds and give us a glimmer of hope — albeit little more than a faint shimmer — of finishing second. Premised, of course, on the hapless Ukrainians beating Milan, and us defeating ze Germans in Munich.

Surprising no one, neither happens. Nagelsmann’s Bayern romp in a 4-1 loss, a performance befitting the defending champions. We may be out of the Champions League, but we will be playing European football after New Year’s.


December 2031 – Season Review.

Erovnuli Liga champions for the 4th year running. A second straight domestic treble. With our reserves romping the Erovnuli Liga 2 and — for the second straight year — reaching Davit Kipiani Cup semifinals.

Collectively, we are a force to be reckoned with. Individually, a flood of accolades wash over us.

Divali claims the Jughashvili medal, continuing our stranglehold on the award.

We place 6 players in the Davit Kipiani Cup Best XI, 8 players in the Davit Kipiani Cup Next XI, 10 players into the Erovnuli Liga 2 Best XI, and an additional 8 players in the Erovnuli Liga Best XI.

In the Erovnuli Liga 2 awards, Kublashvili claims the Golden Glove, and Vashakidze wins the Goal of the Year, while Esoyan runs away with both the Young Player of the Year and Player of the Year.

Not to be outdone, Jimothy claims the Erovnuli Liga Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year, with Gnahore taking home both the Golden Boot and Foreign Player of the Year (ahead of Robledo). Karason takes home the Golden Glove.

Rounding out what has been an immense campaign, Jimothy secures the biggest accolades on offer for a Georgian player — the GFF Player of the Year and GFF Young Player of the Year.

Caught up in the hype surrounding Dvali and Barbakadze‘s fast-track to the first team (and drunk on cheap champagne), the Board readily agree to further investment in our training facilities, youth facilites, and youth recruitment. More to the point, the stories about modest expansion of the Arsen prove unfounded, as we will nearly double our capacity, to 3,609.

It will mean playing our home matches at the Mikheil Meskhi for a time — less than ideal for our supporters, in the short-term, but a good long-term investment. In theory.

There can be no complacency. No lowering of our gaze towards an artificial horizon. We have no choice but to continue to build on our success, and to look beyond the horizon. Not literally. That would be impossible. Figuratively.

The media keep linking us with international appointments — thanks in no small part to Mat’s efforts to stoke that particular fire. With any luck, something will crop up.

Goals for 2032:  Win the lot, domestically. Not embarrass ourselves in the 2031/32 Europa League knockout rounds. Qualify for the knockout rounds of a European competition in 2032/33. Take the reigns of a suitable national team.

Squad | Erovnuli Liga | Transfers
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.”

If you’ve stumbled upon this post and are finding yourself a bit confused, the basic concept behind Straight Outta Sagarejo is explained here, and each installment in Rezo Gorlami’s journey can be accessed through the Straight Outta Sagarejo Archive.

You can also join Seattle Red in his dedicated DtG discord channel, to discuss any and all things related to his saves, tactics and anything else under the sun.


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