AF Diary #15
FOOTBALL MANAGER – PORTO 2035-36 SEASON
When we last met, Porto had just won the Taca de Portugal but missed out on the league title thanks to the dominance of Benfica. Before the new season can get underway it’s time to shuffle the deck and change the playing staff a bit. First things first; end of season team meeting and I tell the lads we’re going to do the same again next year. Essentially target second. They don’t want the pressure of being told they’re in a title race…yet.
The board are relatively happy. 60% satisfaction. The board are “very pleased”. There is no major criticism. Spain played a few ‘post season’ Euro Qualifiers. It was Faroes and Andorra so naturally two wins. Andorra was 10-0 and Barbera scored a few in that.
OUT: Enes Coppens. He was the fan’s player of the season so this probably isn’t going to go over well. In my defence he was out of contract and pushing 34 years old. He’s gone to China for the big pay day and I don’t really blame him.
OUT: Marcel Lange. The 31 year old Austrian midfielder fell out of favour and wasn’t really good enough. Salzburg give me £10.25M for him. It’s not ideal but he’s the wrong side of 30 and he won’t play.
OUT: Erling Haland. I’d only signed him for 12 months but he gained an extra year based on games played (how was I to know every other striker wouldn’t score?). Anyway, someone in Romania offered me money for him so he’s gone on the cheap.
OUT: Jiri Kraut. He’s been moaning and complaining about wanting to go home to the Czech Republic since I got here. He refused to sign a contract, deliberately let it run down and has now moved. Back home to the Czech Republic? Of course not, the dirty bastard has signed for Lyon. He was widely disliked by his teammates so this is probably a win.
LOANS: I tried to retain some of my loanees. Stuttgart want to keep Berisha, Hurtado is likely to play games at Arsenal this year and Goossens I tried to buy outright. Anderlecht want £36M for him. If I was in charge of Anderlecht the player would get stroppy that such a ridiculous fee had been touted and I’d be able to get him for about £12M but it’s AI management so nothing happens.
OUT: Ruben Neves. He’s retired. That was £775,000 well spent. He played five games.
OUT: Pedro Neves. As much as it hurts me to do so, I’ve released Pedro on a free. The former Anderlecht man ruined his knee two games into his Porto career and his attributes are FUCKED.
OUT: Gianluigi Venturi. Offloaded to Venlo. Oddly enough Roma decided they didn’t want him after seeing him actually play in goal.
IN: Vinicius Jr. He was here on loan last year. His Inter contract expired so I’ve grabbed him on a free. Fans happy about that. He was good last year.
IN: Adrien Mercier. Three star rated AMC, signed on a free from AC Milan. Fans rate him too.
IN: Guillermo Bravo. An absolute game changer. Fans love this. Easily rated the best signing. Still in his prime at 29 years old. From Barcelona. Outstanding footballer. Still the lynchpin of my Spanish midfield too.
IN: Cesar Cabrera. This will be the third club I’ve had Cabrera at (Anderlecht, Dortmund and here). He’s still only 25 years old. Amazingly the fans barely react in favour of him signing. He is World Class.
IN: Riccardo Di Giovanni. Left back from Leicester. Signed for nothing. He’s really good.
IN: Kylian Mbappe. He’s 36 now and his physical attributes are fucked but it’s still Mbappe.
IN: Magnus Mikkelsen. When I signed him for Ajax, he fixed all my midfield problems. Got him from Celta Vigo for £10.25M, which is a snip if he repeats the work he did at Ajax. He’s a DM and should fix what’s been a difficult position for me.
IN: Joan Moratalla. On loan from Barca. Yes, it’s yet another striker but if I’m playing two up top for most of the season I’ll need depth. He’s…a bit good.
IN: Jhon Hurtado. The AMR was here on loan last year and didn’t play much because of Enes Coppens. This year he won’t play much because of Micael Valente, a very young winger that’s come through the youth team. But I always need options.
Everything went pretty smoothly during the summer window. I knew what I needed and I ignored all the available AMC’s that came pouring in as recommendations because I knew I didn’t need any of them (NOTE: my final paragraph today is called AMC CRISIS, so this went well). One problem area was central defence. Having failed to re-loan Goossens (that £36M fee still grates at me) I moved on to Huran Dundar, who I’d had at PSG. I knew he was quality and that was a little past his best. He signed for Torino. Next I looked at Stanislaus Kudimbana, who’s played for Anderlecht, Dortmund, Ajax and Montpellier. So he’s like a tour of my former clubs. I’ve managed him twice already and he was finally the signing I needed.
IN: Stanislaus Kudimbana. Central defender to replace Goossens/Kraut.
Here’s the team for 2035-36 then:
GK: Evan McNally. The Aussie retains #1 with youngster Edgar Cuesta breathing down his neck.
RB: Peter Jackson. I’ve got young Finn full back Ville Makinen as cover.
LB: Riccardo Di Giovanni. He’s come in from Leicester on a free. Marginally better than existing LB Ramiro Denis. They’ll rotate for the spot.
CB: Stanislaus Kudimbana & Rui Viera. A veteran defender from many of my teams and a plucky local youngster. I have similar sub options in Shimakawa, who’s returned from loan, and Filipe Areias.
DM: Magnus Mikkelsen. He’s the only player I have in this position but a few others can play there at a push.
CM: Guillermo Bravo & Cesar Cabrera. They both speak Spanish. I don’t know if that will help them combine here. I’ve also got Jefferson Perez Benwhatever. I call him Jeff. Saico Balde has gotten better too. He’s the other sub option.
AMC: Bruno Pinho. Alongside McNally he’s the only player who I had as a starter when I joined Porto. There’s been churn! Cover player here is Adrien Mercier who came in from Milan. Also Ze Freitas from the youth team.
AML: Vinicius Jr. KT is still here so there’s cover.
AMR: Jhon Hurtado. He did ok on loan last year. I’ve got Micael Valente as cover. He’s an exciting youngster who spent last year on loan excelling.
ST: Azard Harte and Joan Moratella will start in the diamond. Having Mbappe as an impact sub is quite the thing.
All in all I’m happy here. There’s cover in every position and we have another player for the two formations. Are there areas where we could level up a bit? Sure. The Team Report suggests we should have spent some money on the back line but a lot of those lads are young and will come good.
Pre-season we went on a little mini-tour of Germany and lost to Gladbach and Frankfurt. In the latter Kudimbana was sent off and we lost 5-2. It’ll be fine.
Benfica v Porto
The game is pretty even but we come into our own in the second half. Our style of play breaks up possession and takes the other team out of its rhythm. We won’t play this shithouse stuff all season but when it’s needed, it’s perfect. Benfica can’t deal with it and when Bruno Pinho curls in a free kick on 72 minutes we deserve the lead and go on to win it 1-0. The gap has been closed! This was a really satisfying result and showed how far the team have come since the bad run of last season.
Champions League Qualifying
KV Kortrijk 0 Porto 3
Kortrijk are Belgian. They never came close to Anderlecht. If we beat them over two legs, we probably get Celtic. Mbappe starts! I’m keeping with the shithousery tactic here but slightly tweaked with Mikkelsen playing a less defensive role in midfield. I will switch back to the gegenpressing at some point but I want the lads to be good and prepared in this formation for when it is needed. We end up grinding two pens, Mbappe scoring both, and Cabrera scores a goal from distance that’s so good the keeper dives the wrong way. One small issue; Azard Harte strained his hamstring and is out for 4-6 weeks.
Porto 3 KV Kortrijk 0
Moratalla leads the line here and heads in a Peter Jackson cross for 1-0. Minutes later a Jeff shot takes a wicked deflection off a defender and goes down as an own goal. Mbappe scores the third after I bring him on for the final ten minutes. The shot is from a loooong way out. Elsewhere Celtic have two sent off and lose to Dinamo Moscow.
Porto 5 Arouca 0
Arouca came up last year and are favourites to go down. A nice easy start to the season. KT bangs in a Peter Jackson cross early doors. The second comes from a free kick, bundled in at the third attempt by Bruno Pinho. Bruno adds another from open play before half time and we’re cruising. An own goal and a late Mbappe strike makes it five.
Champions League Qualifiers
Porto 3 Dinamo Moscow 0
Di Giovanni, our roving left back, sets up Bruno Pinho for the opener. It’s a tight game with few chances but Pinho seems to get free easily. We score a second from a set piece. Another calamity in the area from Moscow’s defence and Cabrera pokes home. We look a lot better than them and Dinamo have come to defend. The third is a peach. Di Giovanni knocks one over the top and Moratalla smashes it in first time on the volley. Already the difference between this team and last years is like night and day.
Porto 1 Sporting 0
This was incredibly one-sided. We had 17 shots to their 5 shots. 10-1 on target. They had no highlights. Our goal was nothing special, a clumsy challenge in a crowded area and Mbappe dispatched the penner.
Champions League Qualifiers
Dinamo Moscow 1 Porto 3
We didn’t start great here and shipped an early goal (first goal conceded this season) but scored an away goal when the ball came back off the post and in off the keeper. Early in the second half Moratalla smashes one in for 2-1 and that’s game over. Another assist for Peter Jackson! He bags a second with an assist from the other full back Di Giovanni too.
This marks the first of three requirements from the board this season. We’ve made it into the Champion’s League group stage. It’s a good job the board are happy with making the group stage because we’ve been drawn in with Bayern, Barca and Sparta Prague. Some challenging fixtures there for sure! It doesn’t help that I’ve managed both Bayern and Barcelona.
Deadline Day. Enraged because Ricardo Goossens has signed for Benfica. The man I improved to the point where he was good enough for this level and has he signed for me? Nah, he’s signed for Benfica. Judas!
Vit. Guimaraes 0 Porto 2
They turned up looking to boss this, after winning the same fixture 4-2 last year, and we shithoused them and hit them on the break after five minutes. Pinho to Moratalla. 1-0. We switch to defensive and then do them on the counter again before half time. Makinen to Mbappe. 2-0. I was a little worried about this fixture after how last year’s finished but I shouldn’t have been. This is simply a better squad. We were too good for them at the sharp end.
Spain 3 Bosnia & Herzegovina 0
Totally dominant win here. Nebai Hernandez, the young AML, opened the scoring. Spain had loads of shots. Loads of clear cut chances but couldn’t get a second until a pen from my boy Guillermo Bravo. I brought on Joan Moratalla for a laugh and he promptly scored a brilliant volley in the last minute. Should give him a nice boost for his club form.
Spain 4 Estonia 0
We’re now in a race with Austria to see who can score the most goals. Whoever does, wins the group. Unless we win in Austria. Or vice versa. We’re on +27. They’re on +23. Braulio, Dani, Perez and Barbera here. Aniol now has 115 goals for Spain. Legend.
Portuguese League Cup
Porto 0 Academica 1
The League Cup has qualifiers unless you finished in the top eight of Portuguese football. Then they’re sorted into four groups of four. You play everyone once and the top team makes the semi. And after all these great performances so far this season they have to choose this game to completely fail. Yes, I made some changes but the team was a good one. Hurtado got sent off. Mercier, who played at AMC, was not good enough. Those two have caught the brunt of my rage. It wouldn’t be a season with me without some sort of failure would it. Pity I FUCKING NEED THIS TROPHY.
Porto 2 Barcelona 2
We were unlucky here. We led twice. Both Peter Jackson crosses. The first tucked away by Mbappe, the second by Azard Harte. Barca were outplayed and I’m left ruing a game where we did everything better than Barca but didn’t win. We’ve definitely levelled up this season.
Porto 3 P. Ferreira 0
This was very comfortable. Guillermo Bravo scored a beauty to get us going. KT smashed in a second and Peter Jackson drove in number three. Increasingly Jackson is looking like an inspired signing. £1.4M is a bargain.
Chaves 1 Porto 2
This wasn’t the best of performances. Young Portuguese winger Micael Valente scored a cracker and Cesar Cabrera also rifled one in from outside the penalty area. Then we switched off and conceded and I was somewhat worried. Held out for the 3 points and still a perfect record in the league.
Porto 1 Rio Ave 0
We have one of those days. Two goals ruled out for a push, hit the woodwork three times and then score a complete fluke when a Vinicius Jr free kick deflects off the wall and gets volleyed in by Harte. 26-1 on shots here. 1-0. Eh, I’ll take it.
Manager of the Month for September! Love it. We have had a few issues with the squad though. Adrien Mercier has decided he should be playing but when I picked him he was shit. So I’ve transfer listed him and the lads agree with my assessment…apart from KT, the club captain. He’s already mad that he’s not getting enough games so I think I might have to bin him off too. Evan McNally decides the squad is lacking depth and comes to complain about it. I can’t accommodate all the players I’ve got! Why are footballers so fucking dense?
Sparta Prague 1 Porto 3
Vinicius Jr misses an early penalty but makes amends by playing Azard Harte in for 1-0. It’s a rough half for Valente who won the penalty and saw it missed and then scored only for it to be chalked off for offside. Porto are terrible in the second half but Sparta, after levelling, have a player sent off and Cabrera gets the winner in the last minute. Deep in injury time Harte adds another and the scoreline flatters us.
Gil Vicente 0 Porto 2
Jeff opened the scoring with a “stupendous” free kick. Vinicius Jr knocks in a pen for 2-0 and he was only on because KT went off injured. He’s pulled a calf. Out for 2-3 weeks.
Austria 0 Spain 2
I was expecting Austria to come out a bit more at home but they come in defensive and Babs scores a free kick early doors to fuck that plan up. A dodgy second; a header hits the post and bounces in off the keeper’s arm, and we’re done here. Austria were the biggest threat. Euros should be qualified for now, barring disasters.
Bosnia & Herzegovina 0 Spain 4
Bosnia are the 3rd best side in the group so we couldn’t have had a harder grouping of matches. Babs has us 1-0 up in 10 minutes. He’s next level. Babs then steals the ball from defender Grbic and nicks a second goal. Barbera leaves it late for his hat trick but scrambles one in last minute. That takes him to 120 goals for Spain. Legend. While I’m typing about it, he scores another one. He’s phenomenal.
Taca de Portugal
Vianense 0 Porto 6
A much improved performance versus the terrible league cup outing from a very similar team. Mbappe grabs two, assists twice. Hurtado, Denis and Pinho all score and Jeff hits a sensational lob for number six right at the end.
Porto 1 Bayern Munich 1
We were winning here but even though I told them to go on defensive the full backs were still charging forward. I guess its habit. Di Giovanni gave the ball away and they hit us on the counter for 1-1. Being competitive against Barca and Bayern gives me great hope. The fact that I’m disappointed with a draw against the European Champions shows how far we’ve come.
Porto 3 Boavista 0
A frankly astonishing game. Boavista parked the bus. Got a player sent off and parked it further back. After 88 minutes it was 0-0. I was expecting ‘one of those days’. Kudimbana, of all people, popped up at a corner for 1-0 and then we added two more in injury time for shits and giggles.
Porto 4 P. Ferreira 0
We played with wingers to start with before switching to the shithouse formation later on. Moratalla got two. KT and Harte both scored. Comfortable. Still worried we won’t make the semis after that loss to Academica.
Belenenses SAD 1 Porto 1
This was a disaster. With Benfica winning every game we needed to railroad any smaller teams without any fuss. We led 1-0 for ages here, as we have done many times before, but shipped a late equalizer and failed to get back into the game. Harte hit the post in the last minute and I was borderline depressed. Not again lads.
Bayern Munich 2 Porto 3
Holy shit! Holy shit! We did Bayern on their own pitch. They went ahead early but Jeff clipped a lovely free kick in and Viera headed home. Harte put us ahead and Mbappe got number three. We were so good. Scaroni scored a blinder to make me worried near the end but fuck me, we ruled here. We have arrived as a team.
Porto 2 Benfica 0
Wow. Talk about impactful back to back performances. It was very tight coming up to half time and I started second guessing some of my selection decisions. Particularly Mbappe as the game seemed to be played at a pace above his. Then he went and scored. Harte added number two very late on. Thrilled at this, honestly. I could not have asked for better back to back results. Benfica had no shots on target here!
Spain 13 Faroe Islands 0
Win and Spain are effectively in Euro ’36. They just about edge it. 42-0 on shots. 19-0 on target. 13-0 on goals. Babs didn’t even play up front and got a hat trick. Botia got a hat trick. Pascual, the heir apparent to Barbera, scored four.
Andorra 0 Spain 8
Sensational stuff from Nebai Hernandez in this one. Scored twice and then got bored of scoring and started laying them on for rookie striker Santi Palacios. The lad ended up with five goals. All five assisted by Nebai.
Taca de Portugal R4
Rio Ave 2 Porto 4
This was an exercise in not playing any first teamers and still advancing in a cup competition you don’t care about to keep the board happy and confidence up. Only one player who featured here will start against Barca in mid-week and that’s only because Cesar Cabrera is injured.
Barcelona 1 Porto 1
The shithousery is working so well this season. We messed up Barca’s rhythm. It ruined their game plan and despite them scoring early they hardly had any big chances. An Azard Harte penalty denies them victory and Porto have actually qualified from this group with a game to spare!
Hang on, if Bayern win (which they do)…I’ve knocked Barcelona out of the Champion’s League!
Braga 1 Porto 0
Of course, we lost the next game. Of course, we did. First league defeat of the season. All that work to get ahead of Benfica undone.
Academica 1 Porto 5
We need some revenge for the League Cup loss here. Azard Harte is up for it. He scores twice in the opening ten minutes and even has time to miss a penalty before completing a hat trick. Valente smashes in a beauty and Filipe Areias, exciting young central defender, heads in another. Comfortable win, which makes the League Cup game all the more frustrating as this was virtually the same team.
A glance at the table reveals Porto, Benfica and Sporting are all on 31 points. It’s going to be tight this year. We have improved but unfortunately so have Benfica and Sporting. So instead of all of us making a mess of it and Benfica’s class showing through like last year, it’s a genuine title battle.
Porto 5 Feirense 2
This was interesting! We missed a sitter after 30 seconds. Went 1-0 up through a cracking Valente volley. Makinen scored an own goal. 1-1. Harte won a penalty and I refused to let him take it. KT scored. 2-1. Makinen then scored at the right end for 3-1 and we never looked back. Harte got one from open play. He’s up to 14 on the season. He scored 15 all year last campaign. Kudimbana headed in a Jeff free kick for #5. Defensively we looked a bit shaky here but so much attacking intent. Love it.
Porto 3 Sparta Prague 1
When the draw was made this was the game I looked at and thought; “hey, we might win this one at least”. Now if we do win it, we win the group. A group with CL winners Bayern in it and Barca, top of La Liga. KT bangs in an early penalty and then Bruno Pinho scores a wonderful goal where he steals the ball off a midfield, lays it off, gets it back and then smashes it in from distance. KT adds a third inside 25 minutes and it’s so beautiful. Mikkelsen on, defence engaged. Coast to victory.
Santa Clara 0 Porto 1
24-0 on shots. One of those days where gegenpressing doesn’t really get the job done. A Jeff cross headed in by KT the only goal.
Champions League Draw:
Porto v Napoli
Juve v Man City
Benfica v Man Utd
Bayern v PSG
Southampton v Leipzig
Shakhtar v Valencia
Monaco v Arsenal
Amiens v Real Madrid
Napoli is tough. They’re currently second in Serie A and only behind Juve on GD. They’ve won five of the last seven Serie A titles. In striker Giuseppe Gritti they have one of the most in demand players in the game. He’s wanted by literally every other great team. He considers Napoli, and Serie A presumably, to be beneath him. In winning the group we’ve avoided Man City, Real Madrid, Arsenal and Man Utd. If we’d finished second it would have been PSG. Not sure which game is tougher.
Taca de Portugal R5
Porto 2 Gil Vicente 0 AET
I really don’t want extra time here. It goes to extra time. Jeff immediately fires in a cracker from outside the box. Where was that in the 90 mate? Harte scores too. Worse news is that Bruno Pinho has a hip injury and is out for months.
Taca de Portgual QF draw
Porto v Boavista
Famalicao v Vit. Guimaraes
Benfica v Santa Clara
Sporting v Feirense
All the big boys kept apart.
Porto 0 Famalicao 0
I can’t look at this team’s name without thinking it’s a family of cows. Or a cow that I thought I recognized but it turns out not to be that cow. It’s familiar cow…from a distance but close up, nah. I need to win this league so I’m not getting wound up by cows, SAD or Paulo Ferreira. In an early Xmas present Benfica drew with Paulo Ferreira. Now we just need to not bottle it.
Oh, and 0-0 against these cunts. AGAIN. Total domination of the ball. One highlight. In 90+3. Penalty. Vinicius Jr misses it. It is the season for giving. Benfica give away two points so we naturally give away two points ourselves. Aw, it’s such a nice display of sportsmanship.
I am furious.
Boavista 0 Porto 3
This is all fine and dandy but unless P. Ferreira beat Academica we’re still not going through to the semis. Come on P.Ferreira! Goals here from Hurtado, Harte and a late pen from Azard Harte. Vinicius Jr is now banned from taking them.
Meanwhile Benfica lost and are out. Why didn’t this happen last year?
2035 is finished. Before we move into 2036 and the second half of the season here are some stats.
- Azard Harte 16
- Kylian Mbappe 11
- KT 9
- Joan Moratalla 8
- Bruno Pinho 6
Harte is much improved over last season. Already scored more than 2034-35. Mbappe has been pleasingly prolific. 11 starts, 6 sub appearances, 11 goals. KT has got his 9 goals in 14 games. He’s been incredible. Especially considering a) I nearly got rid of him in the summer and b) he only played that much because he complained about a lack of playing time.
- Riccardo Di Giovanni 9
- Jeff 6
- Peter Jackson 6
- Vinicius Jr 5
- KT 4
- KT (AML) 7.82
- Filipe Areias (DC) 7.68
- Peter Jackson (RB) 7.67
- Ville Makinen (RB) 7.63
- Riccardo Di Giovanni (LB) 7.60
The full backs are key in both formations. When I play with wide players they’re inside forwards, creating space for overlapping full backs. On the double diamond they provide the only width. In both formations they chip in high ratings and lots of assists. The starting full backs have contributed 17 goals in goals and assists.
This has become my problem position. Bruno Pinho is out for four months and we’re in January so we’ll get him back for final month of the season and that’s about it. Adrien Mercier has proven to be a little bitch and has been such a disappointment he’s on the transfer list. Ze Freitas has a big future at AMC but he’s not really ready. Vinicius Jr can play here but he’s not good and his attributes are collapsing at an alarming rate.
Join me next time for the second half of the season and January transfer window. Hopefully we’ll be celebrating a title!