The FM23 Pentagon Challenge #16: Clubs Named After Portuguese Explorers Are Good, imo
Last time we met, I had just completed my first season (part season) as manager of Vasco da Gama in Brazil. The team was great and also shite. Sometimes, in the same game. We went on a tremendous unbeaten run lasting two months and then managed to win only one game in another two months. Clearly, I need to make some footballing changes. The main cause for concern is a total lack of depth in some departments. Namely holding midfield and striker. Also, centre back. We’ll get to that later.
First things first. I looked some players up. I’ve done the England squad (at time of writing) to see what happened to all of them. If I don’t mention them, they’ve gone out of the game and I can’t see anything.
Aaron Ramsdale. The Arsenal keeper switched to Atletico Madrid in 2030 and ended up appearing more times for them than Arsenal.
Kyle Walker. Retired in 2028, a Man City player.
John Stones. Left Man City in 2026 (clearly Pep had seen enough) and went to Inter. He returned to England to play for West Ham in 2029 but only played 8 times for them and retired aged 36.
Marc Guehi. The first player to still be in the game. He left Palace in 2027 and played 236 league games for Leeds, before a recent switch to Strasbourg. He speaks fluent French.
Declan Rice. Aged 37, he’s still a Premier League player. He stayed at West Ham until 2034 when he moved to Leicester. He has a staggering 178 caps for England and is the current skipper of the national team.
Jordan Henderson. One of the few England stars to take up coaching. He’s currently on the books at Crystal Palace. His stats look good and he might follow other former players into management.
Jude Bellingham. 32 years old, and capped 158 times by his country, Bellingham has been at Man Utd since 2029. He did play an entire decade at Dortmund before moving though.
Kalvin Phillips. It had to happen but I’m shocked it’s happened to Kalvin; he’s an actual manager. He’s had a crazy career too. As a player he left Man City to join Everton for £6M. They sold him only two years later for a mere £900,000. Where to? Santos Laguna. That’s right, Kalvin Phillips played in Liga MX. Immediately after retiring he took on a manager’s job at Stevenage and has moved onwards and upwards since to AFC Wimbledon and then back to Everton. He got Everton promoted back into the Premier League and that’s where he is now.
Conor Gallagher. He moved to Palace in game in 2024 for £24M before a lengthy career at Selhurst Park. Twice relegated there, he eventually moved to Almeria in La Liga. Almeria is one of the team’s of the save and are regularly fighting for Champion’s League places. He flopped horribly though and was released, despite a whopping £22M fee, and he now plays for Real Valladolid.
Bukayo Saka. Aged 34, Saka is still in North London. He’s played 557 games for Arsenal and made 131 appearances for England. EDIT: During this season he moved to Newcastle.
Harry Kane. Never left Spurs. During his time there he won two Carabao Cups. On retiring he became an assistant manager and has had that role at Barnsley, Bournemouth, Derby and Brentford. He has been caretaker manager of all of those clubs. He retired with 102 goals for England. No, really. EDIT: Spurs recruited him during the season, he’s now their AssMan.
Jack Grealish. Jack left Man City at the start of the save. He didn’t even play the first season. PSG signed him and he played nearly 200 league games there before retiring in 2031, aged just 34. He scored 46 goals.
And just for laughs; Anthony Elanga now plays his football for my former club; Brisbane Roar. He left Man Utd in 2026 to play for Salernitana and also had a five year spell with Atalanta prior to this bizarre development. And now, the transfer window!
Santiago Gimenez (retired). On 32.5k, 34. Calling it a day.
Cristian Medina (Shakhtar Donetsk, free). Bit of a club legend but on 31k and is 33. We’ve already wiped 63.5k off the wage bill here.
Alex Alves (end of loan). Didn’t quite pan out like I hoped tbh. I’m not going to pay the optional £21.5M,
Ramiro Lobo (mutual termination of contract). On a whopping 40k, his legs have gone. So, I’ve paid him off.
William Gomes (Pachuca, £4M). Right winger, very much a fringe player. A stupid waste of money, as they paid £10M for him.
Patryck Lanza (Gremio, £3M). Well into his 30s. Hardly played last year. Back up left back. No idea why Gremio want him.
Joao Dalla Corte (Atletico Paranaense, £8.5M). I’d already accepted a £7.5M bid when these lunatics came in for him. I don’t trust him in the slightest. He’s a big tall centre back but every time he plays we let in a stupid goal. He’s also pushing 30. Time’s up!
Flavio Rossi (Botafogo, £3.2M). Was used a lot as a sub last year. I’m still not sure what his position is. One of those many ‘creative’ midfield types who can’t do anything else.
Davi (Sampaio Correa, £7M+ add ons). I thought I’d scored us some solid money for a left back who never plays. Vasco paid £8.75M for this guy. He’s not even good!
Ignacio Medina (Defensa y Justica, free). Great creative attacking midfielders are a dime a dozen in South America, so I picked this 27-year-old, in his fucking prime, attacking midfielder for nothing. Flair 19, decisions 16, touch 16, technique 16, agility 16. He’s a menace.
Francisco Gomez (Alvarado, free). Yet another great attacking midfielder. He’s not as good as Medina but has passing 16, decisions 16, touch 16. I’m thinking he’s a sub, although that’s not what his contract says. He’ll probably get pissed off and ask to leave halfway through the season.
Elvis Bazan (Alianza Lima, £90k). Bazan played for Rangers for a while but went back to his native Peru. He is a pretty tasty finisher and should slot into the Alex Alves spot without costing £21M.
Serhiy Kyryliuk (Voskla, £3M). With limited Brazilian options in defensive midfield positions, I had to import one. He’s a Ukrainian international box to boxer, who doesn’t do the attacking stuff very well. Which is fine, I have loads of players who can do that. Teamwork, work rate, decisions, stamina are all 16. He’s the one who does the dirty work.
Daniel (free). He was unattached and has been training with us for 6 months. He’s an actual left winger, which means the club now has…two of them. Fabiano is an inside forward so technically one of them.
Andy Dawson (Charlton, £550k). Again, I had to import a midfielder who knows how to defend. Dawson is technically a centre back but he can’t head the ball so I’m converting him to midfield. Lots of bravery and determination and English type stuff.
Rafael (Sao Paolo, £11.5M). It’s a chunk of change but he’s a great attacking full back, can play either side. Strong teamwork, work rate and stamina so he can do all the running too. Only 21, room to improve.
Tiago Scanoni (Cruzeiro, £8M). His team went down so I snapped him up. He can play either side full back, but I’m interested in converting him to central defence as he’s tall and great in the air and can pass the ball.
Luiz Gustavo (Palmeiras, £6M). Central defence looked very shallow so I picked this guy up. He’s a ball playing defender. We might actually pass the ball out from the back without giving it away constantly.
Paulo Ricardo (Atletico Paranaense, £11M). Another centre back. He’s really, really good and I beat AP down from £28M asking price to this with no add ons. So, yeah, we have another great central defender.
Our Copa Libertadores group has been drawn and this is fairly kind. America de Cali are from Colombia, Independiente del Valle from Ecuador and Caracas from Venezuela. No other Brazilian teams, no Argentine teams. Piece of cake. Del Valle only have one real player.
The season starts in a similar, worryingly so, vein to last year. At times the team is spectacular. They absolutely smash Internacional in the Supercopa and yet, somehow, lose the game 1-2 with an xG of 4.21 vs 0.30. While we batter a few teams, we manage to embarrass ourselves in a 2-0 loss to second division Volta Redonda. We were so bad, I actually fined a player for poor performance. I’ve never done that.
A major cause for concern was the board deciding, in the off season, that I have to “make the most of set pieces”. I tried to negotiate it away but they were adamant. I’ve turned “play for set pieces on”. I don’t know what more I can do. We are not scoring from set pieces. The board are tremendously disappointed. And it’s marked as REQUIRED. I am probably getting sacked.
As the Copa Libertadores gets underway it becomes clear that the competition is a complete joke. Only the Brazilian teams (+Boca/River) are any good. The rest of the teams are terrible and it’ll be a cakewalk into the knock outs. We have to play a bunch of jabronis, TWICE. If that’s a joke, so is our Copa do Brasil draw. As defending champs we have Gremio AWAY in R3. We literally couldn’t have gotten a worse draw.
The team is pretty good. The one issue I have is centre forward; Anderson started the season well but stopped scoring, Deivid Washington has scored a few clutch goals but only seems to be any good as a sub and Medina has been patchy. Bazan has been so bad, he’s not even playing. It’s the first time in the entire save I’ve not had a striker on fire.
Early competition business is the Rio State Championship. We have to get to the semis, which we do easily, and promptly lose the final to Flamengo with two embarrassing performances. Copa Libertadores, we win 5 straight games to win the group. Three rounds of knock outs separate us from our next major continental final.
More importantly, the lads have been scoring free kicks and heading in the corners so we’re nailing the “if you don’t do this, you are fired” requirement of “make the most of set pieces”. It’s made us a dumber team but hey, I need the job to win the fucking Copa Libertadores.
Our first KO draw is favourable as we’ve got Barcelona. No, not that Barcelona. This particular Barcelona are from Ecuador. They only have three real players. The most intense draw is Boca Juniors vs Gremio. Either of those could have made the final. If we win our game, we play either Internacional or Defensa Y Justicia. Inter were superb last season. I don’t particularly want them. After that it’s either (probably) Atletico Mineiro or River Plate.
The tree looks like this. Basically, if everything goes to form/talent; Barcelona, Internacional, River Plate, Gremio/Flamengo. All of that is possible. We can do it this season.
Around Europe, as we’re now in May and their season is over, Rennes shock PSG to win Ligue 1. That’s after Toulouse, out of nowhere, won the title last season. PSG getting bantered two seasons running. Almeria have become a powerhouse in Spain and finished P3, behind only Real & Barca. In Italy Hellas Verona finished P5 and missed CL qualification by one point. I dream of a Hellas title win. It can happen! It has happened.
My summer transfer target is a guy called Sergio Roberto, who is a striker. He’s fucking awesome. I manage to have multiple offers rejected before finally agreeing to £4M up front, £13M in instalments and £2.5M after 50 games. He won’t even talk to me. He knows full well some European moneybags team is going to offer for him and he’s all “fuck you, buddy, I’m off to Europe to make cheddar cheese levels of cashola”. Well, I don’t think he said cheddar cheese or cashola but he definitely said fuck you.
This is how the lads have been lining up and they’re all good chums now. Look at all those green lines. It’s absolute filth. If we had a 30 goal a season striker, we’d be set. Deivid Washington has managed to score 14 goals in 20 games. The fun part is, he’s only started 11 of them and every time he’s started he’s been bad (apart from one random hattrick). Most of his goals have come as a sub. He might actually get 30 goals this season, to be fair. He’s 31.
Speaking of age, I’m so far into this save Sandro Tonali, Dejan Kulusevski, Kylian Mbappe and Phil Foden are retiring. Another weird curio is discovering Nathan Collins (of Wolves fame) has played for Arsenal, Real Madrid, AC Milan, Roma and PSG. Mbappe, incidentally, played his final game (for PSG) in a CL win over Real Madrid. He scored the winner in the last minute. What a fucking way to bow out that is!
We manage to turf Gremio out of the Copa do Brasil, making me think we’re destined to win that competition every year we’re in it. Which would be a convenient way to backdoor into continental competition. Although we are also currently top of Serie A. At one point, we’re seven points clear! For a competition I don’t give a shit about we’re smashing it. To be fair, it’s a good team. The fact we’re bossing Brazil is good news for Copa Libertadores. The thing about Brazilian football is that when your team is good that’s when Europe comes and steals all your players.
To prepare for this anticipated raid, I recruit my guy Klebao from Newcastle for £9M, plus a bunch of old timers from European gigs including Reiner, from Roma, Andre (Real Madrid) and Wellington Jose (Napoli). All good Brazilian lads, just a little past their best. They will all act as cover and squad depth, bar Klebao who will start.
Copa Libertadores resumes and we face Barcelona (not that one). We win the away leg 3-0 at a canter. I’m not really worried until we hit the bigger teams. Boca Juniors, River Plate, the other big Brazilian teams. Until then the competition is minimal. We win the second leg 3-1, Villegas giving the ball away on the edge of his own box for the consolation. Washington scored five goals across the two games. Despite a minor injury crisis, the lads do well. In the QFs we have a line up of 7 Brazilian teams and River Plate.
Next up will be Internacional, which last season would have been tricky but they’ve lost key players since then. The other fixtures; Sao Paolo vs. Flamengo, Atletico Mineiro vs. River Plate and Sampaio Correa vs. Gremio. If we get past Internacional, it’s Mineiro/River in the semi. I’m fairly confident we can make the final.
Bizarrely we get a job offer from Chelsea. I’m not interested. I’ve never managed Chelsea, maybe next year. Todd Boehly’s attempts to entice me, are doomed to failure.
On a bright note, we’re probably going to win Serie A. Or at the very least finish so high up the table that we get another crack at Copa Libertadores next season. Basically, it’s only a matter of time until we bag that continental trophy and get to 4/5 done. The congested fixture list meant quite a bit of chopping and changing against weaker sides, which meant back to back games for Elvis Bazan and he only scored two hattricks. What the fuck dude? You’ve been completely useless all season!
Copa Libertadores QF, first leg, against Brazilian champions Internacional. First leg is a torrid affair. We play destructive football and stop them playing. The result is a dour 0-0 draw to take back home.
The second leg is also disciplined. We control the ball, deny chances and Rafael’s long pass is tucked away by Deivid Washington when he gets one on one with their keeper. And just like that, we’re into the semis! Elsewhere, River Plate oust Atletico Mineiro 2-1 on aggregate, so we play Argentine opposition in the semis. The other semi is Flamengo vs. Sampaio Correa. The latter having dispatched Gremio, the best Brazilian side left in the competition. My biggest fear is now a Rio derby vs. Flamengo in the final.
In a bizarre update, I get a newsflash on my social feed that Deportivo Toluca have won the Leagues Cup. I get it because Monterrey lost in the final. But who manages Deportivo Toluca? MY BOY GEORGE ATTRAM! George Attram has won a trophy as a manager. I’m so proud.
Fixture congestion means that after the Internacional game we play Palmeiras in the Copa do Brasil two days later and two days after that it’s Flamengo away in the league. That’s a mad six days. If it wasn’t for a late Flamengo penner, we’d have won all three too!
It completes an astonishing month for us. You might notice Klebao among the scorers there. I added him in the summer window to prepare for Pedrao leaving and he’s still here too. Klebao was someone I signed at Newcastle and thought was going to be great. He’s not but he’s outstanding for this league. The player who does leave is Guillermo Villegas. In a £14M move to Real Sociedad. I did not see that coming. When I arrived he was a bad central defender. I turned him into a good defensive midfielder. I replace him with Andre, the freebie Real Madrid player who I had on loan at Monterrey two years ago.
The Elvis Bazan Story continues with him being pissed off about not playing enough, even though he’s not as good as my other forwards, and he goes on loan to Panathinaikos, even though he was getting game time. He wanted to be a regular starter, the cheeky fucker. The loan fee is £220k, we only paid £90k for him.
Before I know what’s happening, it’s Copa Libertadores semi-final time. We only have two shots in the opening 15 minutes but somehow lead 3-0 thanks to an own goal.
Washington gets four goals and we should put the tie beyond River but stupidly give away a second from the counter and almost a third shortly afterwards. We take a three-goal lead to Argentina in a week’s time. Washington now has 37 goals in all competitions. He’s having a wonderful season. We follow this with a comfortable, controlled 2-0 win in Argentina and the final beckons. One game away! It’ll be against Rio rivals Flamengo, who beat us in the Rio State Championship earlier in the season. Hopefully lightning doesn’t strike twice.
With us top of Serie A and in the Copa do Brasil final, we could actually win a famous treble. I didn’t think we had the squad for that but fortune smiles on the brave. We get a youth intake and there’s an unbelievable full back in there. I offer him a deal and put him in the first team squad because he’s that good at 15, but I can’t register him. Damn it. He legitimately would have played.
The George Attram rollercoaster continues as he’s fired just 6 weeks after winning his first trophy. Fuck you, Deportivo Toluca.
Having lost the first leg of the Copa do Brasil, I thought we’d probably lose the final. Instead we battle back from two goals down to make it to penalties. Then my cup goalie, Leonardo, saves THREE penalties. One trophy down, we’re on for the treble! Having lost two finals this season (Supercopa, Rio State) it was nice to not fuck this one up. I didn’t even try to win Copa do Brasil. I routinely rested players and left key players out. We knocked out Gremio, Palmeiras and beat Sao Paolo in the final. I don’t get it.
In Serie A, where we’ve been top all fucking season, we play Sao Paolo, the only team anywhere near us and lose. Sao Paolo go top, getting revenge for the Copa do Brasil and that’s not an ideal time (4 games left) to lose the lead. Just when I think it’s over we get a crazy away win at Gremio and Sao Paolo drop points against Atletico Mineiro. Speaking of Atletico Mineiro, it’s then our turn to blow it and we draw with Mineiro too. Advantage Sao Paolo, they go back top.
As you can see everyone else is dead and buried. Literally just a head to head with Sao Paolo and we’re losing. To make matters worse, Fabiano breaks his ribs and misses the Copa Libertadores final. Speaking of which, that’s next! Fabiano is a big loss. He has 23 goals, 18 assists this year. He seems to always turn up in the big games. He’s also having the best season of his life.
Seeing this on my saving screen gives me butterflies. I’m so close to 4/5 on the Pentagon.
Here we go. It’s a good start. We lay siege to Flamengo’s goal. It’s all one way traffic. Then my goalkeeper passes the ball straight to their striker when he’s out of a goal. It’s a tap in into an empty net. Fucksticks. 0-1. The lead lasts ten minutes. We’re insatiable going forwards and Klebao dances into the box before slotting the ball into the corner of the net. 1-1. We have a staggering 20 shots and their keeper, the talented Silezio, finishes the game on a 7.6. I make a load of subs but it’s Washington, battling through a knock, who tees up Delmar Sampaio Santos on 96’. 2-1. Everyone is knackered so I make a bunch more subs and it’s one of those, Francisco Gomez, who nods in a corner at the back post for 3-1. There’s time for us to clear the ball off our own line twice and have sub Reinier stretchered off, leaving us with 10 men but we’ve done it. Copa Libertadores belongs to Vasco da Gama for the first time since 1998. We’ve been superb this season and breezed through almost every Copa Libertadores game. Including the final where we had 27 shots, 14 on target and three times the xG of our opponents.
Due to the summer scheduling of the Brazilian league this gives us our third Continental title in as many years. Newcastle, Monterrey, Vasco. What a run this has been. We always seem to get the luck when we need it most. That said, Vasco has been a delight to manage. After the lucky Copa do Brasil win in the first season, the recruitment was bang on. Copa Libertadores only gets hard in the latter stages, but we made it look easy (apart from going to ET in the final).
Delmar Sampaio Santos had 11 key passes in that final. Staggering. We did it even without Fabiano.
With two league games left we smash Santos, a team I almost joined, 5-2. Two more for Deivid Washington in that game. Sao Paolo play the next day. They leave it late but win 2-1 away at Londrina. That’s who we play last game. We’re both at home final day with Sao Paolo knowing a win will give them the title. We do what we need to do, beating Londrina 3-0 but Sao Paolo go one better and win 4-0 despite missing an early penalty. Still, if you told me at the start of the season that we’d win two trophies, and one of them would be the Copa Libertadores I would have taken that all day long. Especially given the nature of the Pentagon challenge. As with Newcastle, we never won the title with Vasco da Gama but I hope they do so after I leave. Cracking club.
We finish the season with the most points they’ve ever accrued and the most wins. Deivid Washington scored a sensational 45 goals. I said earlier he might be a ‘30 goals in a season’ man this year. He was…plus 15 more! Fabiano finished with 23 goals, 18 assists, which was astonishing. He’s such a big moment player. Anderson, much maligned by me this season, grabbed 17 goals. Delmar Sampaio Santos checked in with 14 goals, and a stunning 25 assists. What a forward line we had this season. Paulo Ricardo got double figures from centre back, headers from corners all ten times. 21 different players scored this season. The only regular player who didn’t was full back Rafael and he had three assists. Love this team. I’ll miss them.
While the board has me at A+ and untouchable, the fickle fans have me on a C+. Fuck you guys. You know who really loves me though?
Ah, Pape. You’ll always be there for me.
NEXT: I predict a riot?
Asian Champions League: Champions (Brisbane Roar, 2028)
African Champions League: N/A
UEFA Champions League: Champions (Newcastle, 2034)
North American Champions League: Champions (CF Monterrey, 2035)
Copa Libertadores: Champions (Vasco de Gama, 2036)