AF Diary #16
Welcome back to Portugal. Last time Porto were doing pretty good. Still in Europe past Xmas. Top of the league. Almost doing ok in the domestic cups. Half the squad angry about the lack of depth. No fit AMC at all. It’s fine, it’s fine.
LEAGUE CUP MADNESS
As I’m sure you recall we needed a miracle win for Paco de Ferreira against Academica. The Academica lads were even at home. Well, it is Xmas. It is a time for miracles. A reminder that Olly Still plays for fucking Porto. Agent Still went undercover to ruin Academica’s chances of progressing from our group. Nice work agent!
IN: Mo Achik. £1.8M for a DM who can provide cover for Mikkelsen. I was starting to get a bit worried that our defensive midfield area was a tad thin. Achik comes in from Barca. I’ve actually managed him before…at Liverpool! In the 23/24 season. Did I give him a free transfer? Hmm. Maybe. Schalke once paid £39M for him. He’s almost as good as Mikkelsen and gives us tremendous depth.
OUT: Vinicius Jr. Do I hold a grudge because he missed that penalty? Or is it just that he’s getting too slow? Either way he decided he wanted to go back to Brazil and I’m not stopping him. He was great for me last year so I owe him.
IN: Bright Itodo. 31 year old striker from Valencia. He’s joining us in the summer and is particularly good at everything but scoring. I’m hoping I’m not around to see him arrive but we shall see. Itodo used to freak me out in Spain because he had a massive rep. 215 goals for Valencia. Has scored one in the last three years. In his defence he’s only started 7 games in the last four seasons. They wanted £6M for an instant transfer. Too rich for my blood.
IN: Guiherme Guimaraes. £2.6M for this lad. He’s one for the future but he’s so close now. My hope is he remembers me and wants to play for me somewhere else. He plays central midfield in a variety of roles. Hard worker, smart boy and only a few technical stats shy of being a real player.
IN: Jose Mourinho? I offered him the Director of Football job but it’ll cost £1.2M to get rid of the existing one and, let’s face it, Jose is a bit of a prick. It is Porto, or I wouldn’t have even considered it.
IN: Oreste Moshini. This lad was available on a free in the summer and no one picked him up. He’s effectively the same player as Mercier and after signing on a free is worth £16M. 26 years old, has played AMC for Spurs, Hertha Berlin and Napoli.
OUT: Adrien Mercier. Two years running I’ve signed a French AMC on a free and then been horribly disappointed by their form and sold them for a huge profit in the January window. I got £12.5M for this twat. Mercier, who’s no fool, had a contract giving him 15% of that so he trousers £1.6M. Fair play. Now fuck off. We’ll get that back in installments over the following 12 months.
IN: Dorielton. He’s an AMC and mentally he’s one of the best players I could have signed. He’s got all the attributes you look for in a smart footballer. Good vision, decisions, composure and decent at everything else. I like that he’s determined. His physical stats are fine and he’s pretty quick. Passing and dribbling are maybe a bit lacking but if he had those someone big would have signed him.
Portimonense 0 Porto 1
We certainly are having ‘one of those days’ for 40 minutes. That is until Peter Jackson crosses for Azard Harte to head in. It’s our first shot on target. In defence of the team Portimonense haven’t had any shots of any description. Just to completely freak me out they have a corner cleared off the line in 90+1. I was getting big Belenenses SAD freakout vibes. We see it out. 1-0. Bad game. On the back of it I have my worst team talk of all time. I call the result a “let off” and there a couple of demotivated players so I try and bring them up and everything I say pisses someone else off to the point where everyone is demotivated. It’s a fucking disaster. Just a reminder btw; Portimonense are bottom of the league.
Porto 3 Penafiel 0
What’s this team…Pedophile? I wonder if they’re twinned with Nantes. We play so badly in the first half I switch everyone’s positions until they have little green circles. I want happier players. That doesn’t work so I chuck on Moshini for his debut and he starts spraying passes around like David Beckham. His passes open Penafiel up twice and turn 1-0 into 3-0 and we’re finally safe. Two more for Harte here, he’s really racking them up and one for Hurtado. Harte now has 19 in all competitions. He got 15 in all competitions the entire of last season.
Taca de Portugal R6
Porto 1 Boavista 0
This is Dorielton’s debut. He came in from Sporting Kansas City and is the player to replace the injured Bruno Pinho. If his performance matches his stats, we’re onto a winner. Aside from smacking one off the upright around the hour mark he doesn’t have a particularly exciting debut. Rui Vieira heads in a Hurtado corner for the win.
Arouca 0 Porto 6
Arouca were a promoted side. They also sound a bit like Kris Akabusi’s favourite phrase. Arouca’s manager is Digas, who slates my style in a press conference. He used to be my assistant manager at Liverpool. He is a proper little shit. I hope we smash them. KT drills home Makinen’s cross after 1m12s for a hot opener. Azard Harte then bangs in #20 for the season. I don’t exactly field a first eleven here and Saico Balde is on. He clips in a beautiful free kick for 3-0. Then it’s Oreste Moschini popping up for number four. Hurtado makes if five. 5-0 at HT. Fuck you, Digas. KT adds another second half but the game was already over.
IN: Lee Ji-Ho. On loan from Dortmund. I know how good he is but he’s so versatile it’s hard to say what player I’ve got. He can play anywhere in the forward area. He’s got 55 goals for South Korea. I never started him at Dortmund because I couldn’t decide where to play him. Evan McNally finally thinks I’ve got enough players now.
League Cup SF
Porto 1 Vit. Guimaraes 0
At 0-0 I accidentally tell the boys to “calm down” and they immediately score from a set piece. We huff and puff for the rest of the game and although the stats favour us, we’re not convincing. It finishes 1-0 and the goal was an OG. I will take it! One win away from the Portuguese League Cup. Of course, we’ve been here before. This time we’re not playing Benfica though, we’re playing Feirense, who upset Sporting in the other semi.
League Cup Final
Porto 3 Feirense 0
They don’t mess around in Portugal. As soon as the final is set it’s happening. Peter Jackson was nearly an issue here because he’s broken his wrist but I’ve got him a protective covering so he can play. We start quickly. Jackson, broken wrist and all, cuts it back and Azard scores. We dally with danger and Sandro Pinto misses a penalty. Good save from Evan McNally. I bring Jeff on to sure up midfield and he promptly breaks into the box and makes it 2-0. I love you Jeff! His free kick is headed down by Harte for Mbappe to make it 3-0. Game over. Harte has been so good of late there’s talk of an England recall for the 32 year old.
Porto 3 Academica 0
Dorielton hits a screamer to open the scoring. It’s a defensive header that falls at his feet and he hits it flush on the half volley. I bring on Lee Ji-Ho, Korean megastar, for his debut and he loses his marker on a corner for 2-0. Ji-Ho is brought down for a pen and KT makes it 3-0. We looked much better when Lee Ji-Ho was out there, pulling defenders out of position.
Sporting 1 Porto 1
We were dreadful for an hour here. No shots at all. I have to change it up at 1-0 down and as soon as I make changes Azard Harte nips in and scores. In the end I’ll take the point. We had one shot on target! 4 points in 2 games against Sporting means if we finish level we win the league.
I didn’t notice this but Man Utd signed Gritti from Napoli for £70M in the January window. The replacement is Donny van der Veen from PSG. They’ve taken him on loan. I know Donny and he’s a good player but he’s not Gritti. Bad news for Napoli!
Porto 1 Vit. Guimaraes 0
This is going badly so I bring on Mbappe and as far as impact subs go, he’s pretty boss. He doesn’t score but he drags defenders out of the way and Bravo smashes one in from long range.
P. Ferreira 1 Porto 2
Not the most exciting of games. I bench almost everyone because of the forthcoming Champion’s League fixture. Lee Ji-Ho clips in a lovely free kick for one-nil. Did I mention the shirt sales this motherfucker has given us? We normally sell 50,000 or so shirts. We’re at 275,000 this season. Everyone in South Korea is wearing Porto shirts. I’ve given him the stylish Michael Jordan #23 too. Ji-Ho adds a second. If he keeps banging these goals in I’ll buy a Porto shirt with his name on the back! I’m thankful of him scoring twice after Denis gives a pen away in injury time. The result is still great though, considering I rested the entire first eleven bar the keeper.
Champion’s League KO1 Leg 1
Napoli v Porto
Napoli’s most expensive player is Hugo Trevino, who played for me at Juventus. I had him on loan, Napoli have him on loan too. He’s a very solid central defender. They have a few talented lads like Ciabatti, Cosentino, Roncalli that always pop up when we play Napoli. They’ve got Cedric Kinsombi, who was at Porto last year on loan from Barcelona. They’ve also got PSG striker Donny van der Veen there on loan. Their boss is Wojciech Szczesny. He started out managing Poland but has had a club career involving Barcelona B, Bilbao and Aston Villa. This is his first season at Napoli and they’re top.
We last an hour before a free kick comes off the bar and of course Kinsombi scores on the rebound. Nothing else happens despite a lot of adjustments and it finishes 1-0. My one positive is that Napoli didn’t look particularly good. I would be happier with an away goal but here we are. Not a bad result.
Porto 1 Chaves 1
Oh no. It’s happening again. Besnard scores an astonishing free kick for them. Even more astonishing when I look at his stats and discover he 12 for free kicks. Harte levels it up but I throw on forward after forward and somehow there’s no more goals. With 11 games left in the league and Benfica right there, this is not the result I needed here. Also my left back is out for four weeks. It’s just raining shit on us here. It’s amazing how quickly things change at Porto. Just one bad day changes everything.
Benfica lost! Feirense with two in stoppage time. An own goal from the best keeper in the league and a penalty. You couldn’t make it up. Now we look doubly stupid for not beating Chaves. We’d have a four point lead! We’d have actual breathing room. As it stands, it’s two points and we still have to play them again.
Rio Ave 0 Porto 1
We were terrible in the first half. Absolutely terrible. I hook Dorielton at half time and stick on Lee Ji-Ho. He finds the net immediately but gets pulled back for offside. Minutes later he scores for real. We hold on for 1-0. Everything is such a struggle at the moment. Nothing is coming easily.
Taca de Portugal SF L1
Benfica 1 Porto 1
Now, I don’t need this. I’m done with the Taca de Portugal. It’s in the bag. But the opportunity to further knock Benfica’s confidence in their ability to beat me? Can’t resist that. Harte nicks an early goal and aside from Cazorla getting them level it’s a pretty dull game.
Some CL knock out round results:
Amiens 5 R Madrid 4
Monaco 1 Arsenal 2
Shakhtar 1 Valencia 2
Southampton 2 Leipzig 2 (So’ton on away goals)
Man Utd 4 Benfica 2
PSG 2 Bayern 2 (PSG on pens)
Porto 3 Gil Vicente 0
Azard Harte nets again here. 25 on the season. KT bashes in a penner after Vieira is pushed at a set piece. KT then crosses to Azard for 3-0 and we finally have a comfy home win. First comfy home win in 6 weeks!
Champions League KO1 L2
Porto v Napoli
Crisis this week as I get a lot of little injuries. Mbappe, Mikkelsen and Di Giovanni all pick up minor injuries. Probably not enough to knock them out of the team but all three? I’m not taking the risk. Plus Pinho is close to fit but rocks up at 35% match fit. With Moschini and Ji-Ho not registered it’s a tricky team selection. I opt for the double diamond but with Jeff in a much deeper role instead of an AMC. Technically it’s 4-1-3-2. Will it work? Let’s find out.
Napoli come in with no width whatsoever. It means the middle of the park is going to be cramped. If it stays that way I have two wingers on the bench. It’s a tense opening 30 minutes but we’re effective from set pieces. It’s a Jeff corner that leads to the goal. Bravo laying it off to Cabrera outside the area and he fires in a belter from 25 yards or so. 1-1 on aggregate. Everything goes very dull until 71 minutes. Trevino fouls Moratalla in the box. Harte steps up to score the pen. We’re ahead! It finishes 2-1. We’re through!
Champion’s League QF Draw:
PSG vs. Man Utd
Amiens vs. Porto
Valencia vs. Man City
Arsenal vs. Southampton
Amiens are second in France at the moment and have been great for about four years. However, I think they’re beatable. I wanted to avoid Man City and we did that. Bayern, the only other team to be particularly terrified of, are already out. And we beat them in the group stage! £8.5M in prize money for beating Napoli btw. Their star player is Spanish striker Asier Ramos, who I’ve dropped from the Spanish national side because I don’t think he’s that good. Oh, fuck. He’s going to score like six goals against me isn’t he?
Boavista 2 Porto 2
KT returns here, as he does against scrubs, and fires in a volley at the far post. Yet another Peter Jackson assist. He’s racking them up. Luis Perreira equalizes from 30 yards out with a free kick. A load of fluke free kicks keep going in against McNally. He has a weakness for them. Despite us getting a few highlights at 1-1 we only register 2 shots on target first half. Second half Monzelo scores an absolute screamer for them. Another 30 yarder. What the fuck? I make a radical change. Moratalla on for Kudimbana. Striker replaces centre back. Vieira, the remaining centre back, promptly clips one over the top and Moratalla scores. Tactical genius! We hit the post twice after that and someone draw this game.
Eight games to play and all three of the big Portuguese sides are dead level on points. There is good news on the injury front. Pinho, who’s been out since Christmas, is (sort of) fit again.
Porto 1 Belenenses SAD 0
KT wins and promptly scores a fifth minute penalty. We’re playing after Benfica and Sporting who both won. No pressure, lads. Belenenses score from their first shot but thankfully it’s offside. It’s a little worrying that we’re completely toothless for the rest of the game but hey, 3 points. It’s ok.
Benfica 1 Porto 1
We’ve been good against Benfica this season. Not here. Completely outclassed throughout. An hour gone, 1-0 down, and I just switch it up. Go to wingers. Hurtado immediately repays that with a great cut back for Harte to make it 1-1. Jackson finds KT for 2-1 but he’s offside. It’s marginal. In the end, it’s a draw and given the way we were completely smashed for an hour, I will take that. We’re still top. The great news here is we’ve played Benfica and Sporting twice and taken four points off both. Which means head-to-head; we win both ties. That’s an extra point in the bag.
To give you an idea of how far ahead the top three are; that point qualifies Porto for Europa League. There’s a big concern that if Sporting win every game, they win the league. I’ll counter that by saying they’ve got Benfica away and we don’t need them to win every game to bottle this title.
Champions League QF L1
Amiens vs. Porto
How many of their players would walk into my team? Well. All the back four. One of the central midfielders and both forwards. They play with a flat 4-4-2 so both wingers are ML and MR. Not a fair comparison. I go in to stifle and confound and it basically works. I make no attempt to win the game and grind out a 0-0. Take them back to Portugal. They’re not experienced at this level either. They might get overwhelmed by the occasion.
EURO 2036 DRAW
Spain are seeded #1. Along with big dogs France, Germany, Holland, Portugal and Belgium. If you wondering why no England it’s because they failed to qualify for the last World Cup. They’re in pot two with Austria, Poland, Ireland, Turkey and Switzerland. We get Poland. England in with Belgium. Ireland vs. Germany. Carat explodes! Third seeds, and I don’t understand this, include Italy. We get the Czechs. Fourth seeds are all the jobbers. We get Kosovo.
Expect a Euro ’36 Special when the season is complete. The media dub my draw “an easy group” with the Czechs rated #39 in the world, Poland at #46 and Kosovo at #95. We should qualify. I’m a bit worried some of the other groups will have a powerhouse runner up.
Porto vs. Braga
I didn’t really want to play Portugal’s #4 side in between the two European matches but here we are. While Braga are fourth, it’s mainly because of Carlos Djalo, their striker. He’s scored 20 league goals and is the division’s top scorer. Braga are the only team to beat us in the league this season. With only three days before the second leg with Amiens but also needing to win here I second guess my selection a few times. I’ve opted to go with wingers here, thinking I probably won’t play like that against Amiens. In my head I saw KT smashing one in early doors and it’s 6 minutes in when he does exactly that. It’s a long, long game but it finishes 1-0. Played the second half with only one recognized central defender. Glory Hunting is tough.
Champion’s League QF L2
Porto (0) vs. Amiens (0)
I did not expect to be at this stage of the Champion’s League. When you get this deep into the tournament you do start to believe though. So naturally we’ll lose here. 18 minutes in. Jeff. An “absolute howitzer”. One of those gorgeous thumping strikes from just outside the box. 1-0. 27 minutes. An Mbappe corner. AZARD HARTE rises highest. 2-0. 46 minutes. Palmieri gets in behind and heads in a cross. It’s 2-1. I was prepared to have to change the game to get more aggressive but holding onto a lead has caught me by surprise a bit. 87 minutes. I’ve gone defensive. Brought on a third centre back. We hit them on the break. Harte is down in box. PENALTY! I literally took Mbappe off two minutes before this. Harte steps up. He’s crap at penalties. HE’S SCORED! 3-1.
Porto are in the semi-finals of the Champion’s League. The best I’ve ever managed in this entire game is semi-finals of the Champion’s League. That was with Barcelona. The rest of the results:
PSG 5 Man Utd 1
Porto 3 Amiens 1
Man City 4 Valencia 0
Southampton 3 Arsenal 5
Had a quick peak at Europa League. Semi-finalists there are Atletico Madrid, Schalke, Celtic and West Brom. Celtic knocked Marseille out and Schalke put five past Chelsea.
Champion’s League Semi-Final Draw:
Man City vs. Arsenal
Porto vs. PSG
Before I play again Benfica play Sporting. This has huge ramifications for the title race so I drop by. Nothing happens for 87 minutes and then Benfica score three late goals. Two headers from set pieces and then one from open play as Sporting pour forwards in search of getting back into the game. This leaves the title race as follows:
Porto have a game in hand and superior H2H against both teams.
Feirense vs. Porto
Half time. No goals. No highlights. Uh oh. As the game progresses I throw caution to the wind. We finish with three attacking midfielders and three strikers on the pitch. 0-0. We’ve blown our advantage and need a favour from one of the shitty teams the other two have got left.
Taca de Portugal SF L2
Porto vs. Benfica
I don’t care about this. Is there not some way I could order the players to play double hard against Feirense and just ignore this fixture? KT seems to share my lack of interest in the game and gets himself sent off after 15 minutes. Oh, bravo sir. Well done. It’s a good fucking job I don’t need to win this trophy. But then the useless performance against Feirense doesn’t exactly help with my league ambitions either. Anyway, Benfica win 1-0. There’s not much I can do tactically with ten men. We switch around but they’re too good.
Porto vs. Santa Clara
With KT suspended and Hurtado injured I have no choice in terms of formation. I don’t have two fit wingers. So it’s the shithousery tactic, designed to stifle better sides. Not ideal for playing a team who’ll sit back and defend. First half; zero highlights. Finally a highlight. 49 minutes. Ji-Ho is clean through and he misses the target completely. I’m not getting that shirt with his name on. A few minutes later Harte heads in a Denis cross and we’ve finally scored. First goal since the Amiens game. It finishes 1-0. We completely dominated every single aspect of the game. 7-0 would not have been a generous score line.
Elsewhere: Sporting vs. Braga. I’m begging Braga to do us a favour. It’s 0-0. Braga only have one shot in the entire game. I feel your pain Sporting. Vit. Guimaraes vs. Benfica also ends 0-0. Thank you! Now we just need to not fuck up again.
Champion’s League SF L1
Porto vs. PSG
Due to fixture congestion and a build up of injuries I actually field a player with 86% fitness, which is unheard of. It takes PSG two minutes to break me down and Evenno, my old mate from PSG, finishes us off. We come out second half looking surprisingly lively and Cabrera nets on a counter attack for 1-1. Five minutes left and we attempt another counter, only to lose the ball and get counter-countered? Is that a thing? They score 2-1. That’s it. I’m very aware Porto are out of their depth at this stage of the competition. We’ve done remarkably well to get here but PSG? Man City? A bridge too far.
Famalicao vs. Porto
Oh, not these bastards. I had an email telling me we’d qualified for Champion’s League next year, which is true of Porto, Benfica and Sporting as we’re all so far ahead of fourth. I decide to field an unchanged team here because a) we never do that and b) I’m hoping a sense of familiarity will help. 1m 18s. That’s how long it takes Azard Harte to open the scoring. My familiarity gambit pays off. 15 minutes gone; Harte to Jackson and Petey’s cross is headed in by Cabrera. 2-0. Nerves very soothed. Moratalla, almost a forgotten man, heads in number three thanks to a Vieira cross. The centre back can play anywhere across the back four and I took Jackson off early to rest him. Famalicao get a consolation, which makes me very happy we didn’t coast to the finish at 1-0 like we normally do. 3-1. Job done.
Champion’s League SF L2
PSG vs. Porto
I really don’t want to play this game. Nothing good can come from it. Man City won 4-0 against Arsenal. They await in the final. I have no chance against Man City. They have easily the best squad in the entire world. I keep trying to tell myself I don’t care here but we have a shot cleared off the line and I do care. Late on I switch it up a bit and go for it and they score. 1-0. 3-1 on aggregate. I can’t complain. We gave a good account of ourselves and made it to the semi’s of the world’s most prestigious club tournament.
Porto vs. Portimonense
They’re already relegated. Nothing to play for. We need to win. We hit the post twice in the first 15 minutes, doing nothing for my nerves whatsoever. Penalty. Mbappe scores it. Harte nicks the ball off the keeper for 2-0 and I get a sense of calmness. Mbappe scores a third and he’s picked a wonderful game to suddenly come to life in after a goal drought. 3-0. One game to go.
Penafiel vs. Porto
Win here and we win the title. It’s that simple. First attack Mikkelsen hits the post. Please don’t be one of ‘those games’. Naturally Benfica score early. Half time. 0-0. Don’t do this to me. I switch up to wingers, bringing on KT and Mbappe, who I moved to the right side, hits a peach from range. 1-0 Porto! We miss chance after chance after chance for 2-0. It’s just not happening. Last minute and an Mbappe corner falls at the feet of Bruno Pinho. He rifles home. 2-0. Game over. We’ve won the title!
That was so close. You have no idea how much I was bricking those last couple of games. With the way Porto have been over these two seasons I was fully expecting a fucking 0-0 in that last vital game. It’s over though. We’ve done it. Here’s the stats:
- Azard Harte 33
- KT 16
- Kylian Mbappe 15
- Joan Moratalla 10
- Cesar Cabrera/Bruno Pinho 7
Harte is Porto’s greatest goalscorer on this save. Huge season for him. And to think he was one game away from being transfer listed last year. That goal against Valencia just changed everything. If any other strikers had been available he’d have been gone. KT scored 16 in 32 games, which is a terrific return for a winger. He’s angry and wants to leave because he’s not playing enough? He’s been injured. Footballers eh? Mbappe’s 15 goals is a great return considering he only started 20 games. Pinho should have gotten more goals but missed over three months with a hip injury.
- Peter Jackson 13
- Riccardo Di Giovanni 10
- Jhon Hurtado 8
- KT 7
- Azard Harte 7
The full backs reigned supreme on the assists. Hurtado did really well but had injuries. 5 goals, 8 assists in 21 games.
- KT (AML) 7.50
- Ville Makinen (DR) 7.48
- Peter Jackson (DR) 7.48
- Filipe Areias (DC) 7.46
- Riccardo Di Giovanni (DL) 7.46
The full backs in this team needed to perform and they did. Shout out to Ramiro Denis, the other left back, who also had a good season. Makinen is someone I’ll keep tabs on. 2 goals, 4 assists for him in a back up full back role.
Porto are set for the future here. They’ve just had a board takeover but they have an excellent squad. There is a lot of money to spend and they should have the base to overtake Benfica and become the main force in Portuguese football for years to come. It’s pleasing to see a team I’ve invested time in improve dramatically. Let’s face it, they were shit when BHL took over.
I looked at the jobs page and aside from a bunch of jobs in China there’s nothing exciting at all. Unless Ipswich floats your boat? I want to go into the Euros this summer without the distraction so we’ll see what happens afterwards. There are plenty of options, providing the jobs come up. Russia, Italy, England, Ukraine, Belarus, Turkey, China, Argentina, Czech Republic, Denmark. All these leagues are up and running and have yet to be conquered.
Next time: it’s Euro 2036. It’ll be a Euros special. With coverage of former tournaments, an introduction to the Spain squad and a look at the tournament as a whole. Maybe even information on my next team! Next time. Until then here is countries completed list: