"Bastardo-ball" - Return to La Plata #FM18 #WeAreTheCommunity

Previously in Return to La Plata, Ángel Bastardo counted the money.

Osvaldo Zubeldía [left] with Estudiantes de La Plata's 1st ever Copa Libertadores trophy in 1968.


"Wait ages for one bus, then three come along at once" as the saying goes.  The same could be said for Ángel Bastardo and cup finals.  3 and a half years of work culminated in three 2020 finals: a Copa Argentina face-off with Racing Club and then an all Argentine double bill against Boca Juniors in the Copa Libertadores.  The pinnacle of South American club football and a watershed moment for Bastardo's Estudiantes, perhaps? 

I rarely write game-by-game breakdowns but I've made an exception for these three spectacles, which were all streamed live on Twitch over the period of seven days.  From these streams we also have a spectator's opinion on each game, who offer their unbiased view on 2020 Bastardo-ball.

Before that, a recap on what's happened in La Plata since May 2020...

Season 2020/21

There were no major sales in the summer, but we did lose our No.5 Deep Lying Playmaker Abel Aguilar to retirement.  We also said goodbye to a few of the old guard fringe players: Darío Cvitanich, Israel DamonteWalter Erviti

In place of these departures the standout signings were:

  1. Augusto Fernández [Free Transfer from Independiente] - 34 years old
  2. Maximiliano Lovera [Free Transfer from Rosario Central] - 21 years old
  3. Maxi Pereira [Free Transfer from FC Porto] - 36 years old
  4. Raúl Rolón [€2.1m from Libertad] - 18 years old
  5. Leonel Vangioni [Free Transfer from Monterrey] - 33 years old

It's a great mix of youth and experience, but the huge coup is beating the likes of Paris Saint Germain to the signature of Raúl Rolón...who I think will be a huge player for us in future years:

Raúl Rolón in November 2020.

So we continue with the 4141, just the one change in the 1-11 squad number system I use in this save: the aforementioned departure of Aguilar's No.5 shirt going to Fernández.

The 4th iteration of the Estudiantes squad numbers graphic.

Season 2020/21 Argentine Superliga

It is hard to gauge how well we are doing in the 2020/21 Argentine Superliga.  We are 7-8 games behind some teams around us, because we've had to juggle fixture congestion between the domestic and continental cup competitions.  Still, 8 wins in 11 games leaves me with hope that we can build on last season's 3rd place finish and push for the title.

Copa Libertadores

If you read the introduction, you know we reached the final of the 2020 Copa Libertadores.  We've been solid throughout the knockout stages, winning home and away in Colombia and Brazil:

The road to Boca.

But before we taste the greatest South American club final(s), we had an opportunity to win our first trophy: the 2020 Copa Argentina.  Strap yourselves in, it gets crazy...

1. Copa Argentina Final

Estudiantes 5-3 Racing Club

Estadio Libertadores de América.  Avellaneda, Buenos Aires Province

11 November 2020

Both teams went into this on the back of away league loss.  Racing losing 5-1 to Temperley and Estudiantes losing 2-1 at Godoy Cruz.  What happened next was a classic, never say die, end-to-end final.  The danger man was Racing Club's Lautaro Martínez, who the AI manager benched due to being jaded.  In his place was Pablo Cuadra, a similar mould to Lautaro, and who netted two first half goals.  Estudiantes went into Half Time 3-1 down.  A solitary goal from Fernando Zuqui, converting Carlo Lattnzaio's fine run and cross.  The 4141 wasn't working, young Carlo was often isolated upfront and Racing's sheer quality on the flanks was pushing us back.

I gave the 4141 a further 10 minutes...before matching Racing's 442.  It's a formation I have struggled to face in FM18, and I find the best method is to fight fire with fire and mirror it.  I went for a classic Big Man-Little Man partnership, with Walter Bou coming on as support Target Man.  I figured we needed an outlet more centrally, somebody who could receive the ball and free up Lattanzio to make runs.  It took just 4 minutes to get going, Lattanzio finding space to make it 2-3 on 59 minutes.

Then there was a great lull, I saw my 18 year old newgen left winger (Ramiro San Martíin) struggling on the final stage.  So I subbed him off for left back Leonel Vangoini...and in turn pushing Álvaro Pereira forward into the ML slot.  We needed crosses...but it was the other side that delivered.  On minute 80 Carlo Lattanzio, as he did in the 1st half, made a great run down the right to cross for Walter Bou.  It was 3-3!

It kicked started the most explosive 6 minutes of FM personally experienced.  Carlos Auzqui, Zuqui's replacement showing the necessary cohones to find space and shoot.  4-3 La Plata...the tide was on our side.  Four minutes later we sealed the trophy.  Lattanzio the hero again, leaving Bastardo with his hands on silverware at last!  5-3 Team Bastardo.

The Twitter Thread:


From the stands:

Leaked image of the cocaine residue in the Estudiantes changing room after FT.

"The nerve, the pulse, the sounds of the crowd. Unique to the most important games of South American football.  It was time for the Copa Argentina final against Racing and the first chance for Bastardo’s boys to win some silverware.  It looked promising when Zuqui broke the dead-lock but Racing swiftly turned the game around with three goals before half-time.  I had the feeling that the half-time talk would be a tough one and when one grown man after another came out back onto the pitch with ash grey faces and shiny eyes I knew that I had been right In my assumption.
Last of all came Bastardo with fire in his eyes and his hair on end. The Estudiantes players responded superbly to the half time scolding scoring two goals to get back to even score. When Estudiantes scored the 4-3 goal I spontaneously rose from my seat screaming “Champagne all around”, but quickly sat down when my eyes met the Bastardo “Stare of Death”. I felt ashamed and became terrified I had jinxed the team and would have Bastardo haunting me forever if Racing turned it around once more.
When the 5-3 goal fell I could finally relax, and when my eyes met Bastardo’s he smiled at me and made me feel the way that only he can! I don’t know what happened to the bottle of champagne I gave to one of the Arena guards after the game with the instruction to take it to the Estudiantes dressing room, but when I fell asleep in my bed after the game I dreamt that Bastardo was standing in the shower room with the bottle in his hands, laughing crazily while spraying down Auzqui and Lattanzio, both giggling like school girls out of equal amounts of fear and joy".

MikaelinhoFM (@MikaelinhoFM) - FM Blogger


2. Copa Libertadores Final [1st Leg]

Boca Juniors 3-3 Estudiantes

La Bombonera.  La Boca, Buenos Aires

25 November 2020

Away goals count in every knockout Copa Libertadores stage with the exception of the Copa Libertadoes Final (Why? Because it’s CONMEBOL).  It's something that encouraged  Bastardo's initial pragmatism: we'd go 4141 again, structured and try to play on the counter.  But as these live finals were playing out...chaos is the only option.  It was 2-1 to Boca by the 14th minute.  Ezequiel Schelotto & Alejandro Gomez causing Estudiantes problems on the wings.  But Estudiantes were given a lifeline as Boca's Alexis Sosa brought Advanced Forward Carlo Lattanzio down who was through on goal.  Maverick Centre Back Diego Polenta was tasked with the penalty, who smashed the goal and the net.  It was a proper defender's penalty, the best kind!

But Estudiantes were poor throughout.  Carlo Lattanzio was isolated for long stretches and Reynoso AWOL.  To remedy this we went 442 (again) bringing on Target Man Walter Bou...and initially it backfired.  Alejandro Gomez, Boca's best player, putting them 3-1 up.  The lowest moment in the two finals so far, we looked well and truly beaten with 22 minutes still to play.  A few tweaks to the mentalities of player roles and an introduction of Carlos Auzqui changed the game once more.  Auzqui laying off to Carlo Lattanzio, now in the Poacher role, to stab it home.  A lifeline: 3-2 to Boca.

Then boom!  Walter Bou delivering a great cross during an overload counter attack for Lattanzio who made it 3-3 on 84 minutes.  Young Carlo's 4th goal during the two finals.  The fight would return to La Plata, all square and all to play for.  3-3 Full Time - another frantic day for Ángel Bastardo.

The Twitter thread:


From the stands:

"I witnessed a great encounter between two sides craving for continental success. Boca Juniors were dangerous on the flanks with ‘Papu’ Gomez and Ezequiel Schelotto creating lots of trouble for Estudiantes’ fullbacks.  A deserved lead for Boca was eventually nullified after Ángel Bastardo switched to a 4-4-2, resulting in two late goals. A great tactical move which massively troubled Boca’s defence.
The referee should have sent off Boca's young defender, Alexis Sosa, for causing that penalty though.  Red cards don’t get any clearer than that!  Let’s hope it won’t hurt Estudiantes in the second leg.  Overall, Estudiantes will be happy to take a 3-3 draw with them to La Plata where they can win their 5th ever Copa Libertadores title.

Vincent Guzman (@VincentGuzman_) - South American Football Analyst

3. Copa Libertadores Final [2nd Leg]

Estudiantes 3-0 Boca Juniors [6-3 on agg]

Estadio Único, La Plata

02 December 2020

Those that know me, or who have read the blog for a while, will know that I am stubborn.  The 4141 had started pretty poorly in each of the previous two finals.  But I was determined to keep it for the biggest game of Bastardo's professional career...after all we were at home and had been solid with it all season (those two finals aside).

But certain adjustments had to be made to counter Boca.  Their strengths from the first game were certainly the flanks, so our Full Backs were more conservative.  35 year old Álvaro Pereira was told to hold his position and 36 year old Maxi Pereira's attacking instincts were restricted, he'd no longer be instructed to get further forward.  I hoped their considerable experience would be enough to tame Schelotto Gomez, who had both caused carnage against me in the 1st leg.  The knock-on to this would be that we'd be less supportive to the two wide men: Jesús Medina & Fernando Zuqui.  But it's the balancing act we'd have to make.

The 1st half was tight.  No real chances of note, except an Estudiantes disallowed goal.  Alexander Barboza adjudged to be offside when heading in from close range.  But the good news was that Boca Juniors were no threat down the wings whatsoever.  I always trust my boys to show some grit when going in level at on HT...and that's exactly what we did in the 2nd half.  We finally saw true Bastardo-ball in action.  It was glorious.

On 46 minutes Carlo Lattanzio, our Homegrown Advanced Forward, smashed a shot against the cross bar...the stars aligned and it fell to ex-Boca boy Fernando Zuqui.  1-0 Estudiantes.  Then we scored a freekick straight out of the Keysi Rensie handbook: Medina, laying it off short to Lattanzio to run & cross for Augusto Fernández.  The 35 year old powering his volley into the net.  2-0, the La Plata crowd were roaring.

Estudiantes’ third goal on 64 minutes was the archetypal Bastardo-ball goal.  Boca’s corner breaking down, allowing Emanuel Reynoso to incisively pass to Lattanzio.  There is no stopping this kid, he bleeds for Bastardo.  Running the length of the entire Boca half, before laying it off to Jesús Medina.  The Paraguayan made no mistake: 3-0.  Estudiantes hands were on their 5th Libertadores trophy.

But there was still work to be done.  We switched to the Contain Mentality, summoning the spirit of Zubeldía, Sabella and Simeone to push us through.  Anti-fútbol was alive and rocking!  Boca had no answer, and even when they did get a slice of fortune: a penalty on 90 minutes, there was still one man to stop them.  37 year old captain Mariano Andújar, a winner of this trophy 11 years ago in 2009.  Boca’s penalty was saved, and the referee blew for full time: Estudiantes 3-0 Boca Juniors.

The Twitter Thread:

From the stands:

So, having watched the first leg and seeing Bastardo's tactical masterclass lead to a 3-3 draw after being down 3-1. Coming into the second leg of the final, essentially being 0-0 due to a lack of away goals, I was slightly nervous due to Boca's strength and their dominance in leg one, but it was clear that Bastardo was able to take the game to Boca.
An early disallowed goal (Boca trying to pay off the refs, surely), was the only real thing of note in the first half, but the second half was full of excitement. With three, well worked goals, the second being my favourite, it was clear who the dominant force of South America was: Ángel Bastardo's Estudiantes de La Plata. Los Pincharratas dominated once the second half whistle had blown, due to Bastardo's strong words at halftime, and it was a thoroughly enjoyable watch, with 3 masterclass goals, amazing tunes, and I'm happy I was able to watch it

Servalarian (@ServalarianFM) - FM Blogger

Copa Libertadores (5): 1968, 1969, 1970, 2009....2020.

The Future of Bastardo-ball

A few people have asked if wining the Copa Libertadores means the end of my time with Estudiantes de La Plata in FM18.  It actually couldn't be further from the truth.  Ángel Bastardo has finally delivered on his promises to the Board & Fans, who together can now begin working on the remaining objectives (the ones I set out in my intro post):

The 'La joya de Bastardo' aka Nico Rosales came good at FC Porto and was called up for an Argentina friendly, earning his first International Cap.  Playing 17 minutes in one of the warm up matches, before being selected ahead of the 2020 Olympics squad.  That ticks off (5).  So now we look ahead to league titles and Club World Cups.  Bastardo can only dream, and make no mistake, he's a dreamer.

Thanks in advance for reading/sharing and caring.  Also massive respect to everyone who took an interest in those 3 finals, whether you stopped by for 1 min or 270 mins of those finals...it's appreciated.  Or even if you just read the live tweets and enjoyed it, it's been a blast.  I wouldn't expect many more streams from me in FM18, I'm only doing the 'first' finals before I win them.  So the next logical destination is the Club World Cup...this month!

Until then, punch strong.

FM Grasshopper, in the guise of Ángel Bastardo.

"A Fistful of Dollars" - Return to La Plata #FM18 #WeAreTheCommunity


Even the overly ambitious Ángel Bastardo would acknowledge that the most significant achievement in his first 3 years in La Plata has been to avoid the sack.  Obviously trophies are a clear and quantifiable measure of success in Football Manager...but satisfaction can also come from moving through the struggles. 

Make no mistake, the Superliga 2019/20 was at times a struggle.  The mammoth campaign saw 24 teams play 46 games each...a domestic feast of 506 league matches culminating in 1,331 goals, 12,517 fouls and 58 stadium sellouts.  For all the peaks and troughs that came about, Bastardo's Estudiantes finished up 3rd in the league.  Progress from previous 6th and 5th place finishes.

Today we look at how Season 3 concluded, before moving on to a brief financial summary of how things stand in La Plata three years in. Vamos!

Season 2019/20

Argentine Superliga

We struggled in the 'Big 5' matches during the 2nd half of the season (especially at home Vs Independiente), but I take some pride in going away to both Boca and River Plate and coming away with a point in each.  However, it was the 12 domestic games unbeaten during February to April that put us in contention of a top 3 finish.

Spare a thought for Temperley fans, who watched their side score 30 more goals than Lanús, yet still missed out on continental football for 2021.

We have to be happy with the progress shown this season, we pretty much played a game every 3-4 days for months on end, and showed a resilience to dig in when it mattered.  Squad selections were often switched to accommodate another successful Copa Libertadores Group Stage...

2020 Copa Libertadores

It was almost a perfect Group Stage...2-1 up away at Santos with 1 minute left on the clock.  Then BOOM.  A Diego Polenta own goal and a freakish long shot on 90+3 mins saw us lose 3-2.  Never mind, we topped Group B and our reward is a two legged tie against two-time champion Atlético Nacional of Colombia.

Copa Argentina

For the first time in this save, we're through to the 7th Round.  We knocked out Boca Juniors and Sarmiento de Junín with tight 2-1 wins.  Like most Argentine fans, I am not really making much of an effort with this competition...but now that I am just 3 rounds away from reaching a Final, I may as well start trying.  Up next: Atlético Tucumán in late August.

A Fistful of Dollars

I intend to make this the first in a trilogy of financial summaries.  The 1st is obviously today’s post at the end of Season 3.  The sequel will probably follow after we conclude Season 5 (i.e. the mid-point of my save).  Before finishing up with a post at the twilight of my time in La Plata (Seasons 9 or 10).

Before we discuss the finer details of club growth, I thought I would show some key facts as part of an infographic in order to refresh our memories of Seasons 1-3:

Seasons 1-3 in summary.

You will see from the above that we have made a net profit of €5m on transfers during the last three years.  Obviously this isn't a huge amount as we've been extremely risk adverse in our recruitment, often limiting ourselves to 3-4 signings per season.  But I get the sense we are on the verge of making major financial gains in the Transfer Market in the near future, mainly due to the age profile of our successful(ish) squad.

This was demonstrated by the sale of 18 year old Nico Rosales who left for FC Porto of Portugal in January 2020.  As discussed last time out, Nico was my brightest prospect...but I knew that he would probably be the first to leave and in no way realise his potential in La Plata.  So we negotiated, what I think is, a beast of a deal:

In total, the guaranteed upfront money Estudiantes will receive is €3.5m...but the potential short term income is likely to be €6m: a fistful of dollars!  In addition, further long term financial gains could be made as La Plata will receive 50% of whatever profit is realised from Porto’s original €4.2m fee.  So €6m could well end up being €16m, €26m, €36m...who knows!  All I hope is that this money is received before my save is over.

We’ve got a whole host of 17-18 year olds, like Nico, ready to step into the First Team.  For this reason, successful players of 2019/20 like Maxi Romero and Emanuel Reynoso could be sold on for huge profits.  Both attracted interest in January 2020 from the riches of the English Premier League.  Bastardo's loyalty does not rest with his players, rather the bank notes that they can bring him.

Financial Highlights 2017-2020

So, our 3 year financial summary is found below.  We opened up this save in July 2017 with an Overall Balance of €6.5m, but these reserves were always going to take a hit as Bastardo improved the playing squad and fleshed out La Plata's backroom staff.  Things were not helped when previous Club Chairman Juan Sebastián Verón took out a TWENTY THREE YEAR bank loan of €15.2m!  This equates to an outgoing of €55k a month (€660k pa) until 2040.  Unfortunately we cannot pay off this debt in one lump sum...so, as discussed earlier on in the series, Bastardo paid to get rid of Verón.

Note - a notable factor in the revenue increase for 2019/20 is the record breaking 46 game Superliga: meaning 23 domestic home games :-) 

Without the meddling of Verón in his way, Bastardo has had free reign on financial matters: increasing revenue by 74% in 3 years, with player sales contributing heavily.  Juan Bautista Cascini's sale to River Plate for €4m upfront cash really helped balance the books at the start of Season 2.  But Leonardo Jara's sale of €2.7m (again to River Plate) and the Nico Rosales deal (mentioned earlier) have taken us to a secure financial level.

Furthermore, the wage bill has been kept at a reasonable level...only rising 18% in 3 years.  This is mainly due to a strict wage cap of €50k per month on playing staff (around €12.5k a week), which sees Estudiantes sit 6th in the salary table.  No prizes for guessing who sits 1st and 2nd in the salary table: River Plate and Boca Juniors of course! 

So can we go one step further, by continuing the Marxist wage structure and win a league title in 2021?  OR will I have to eat into some of our early profits by signing 1-2 marquee players in order to win silverware?  As always, stay tuned to my save updates to see what we do and how we do it.  You can find me over on:

As always, thanks for reading/sharing & caring.

FM Grasshopper


"Las Joyas de Bastardo" - Return to La Plata #FM18 #WeAreTheCommunity


25% of my 10 year FM18 save has already passed, and we've won absolutely nothing!  However, Ángel Bastardo came mightily close to reaching his 1st final.  In fact, we were just 2 minutes away from going through on away goals to South America's great club event: the 2019 Copa Libertadores final(s)...until €8.5m rated Maycon gave Corinthians a 1-0 away win in La Plata.  In truth, Corinthians played the better football over the two legs...but it was still gutting to go out after being so close.

But I'm determined not to be too downbeat in today's post, we're still in a job and we're looking to the future, with Youth Development being today's focus.  Before that though, I'll update you on the progress of my third season in La Plata which has reached its mid-point.  Vamos.

Season 2019/20 - progress?

Bastardo sticks with the 4141 this season, the only major outgoing was Leonardo Jara who moved to River Plate for €2.7m (a profit of €1.4m made).  In came replacement Emanuel Brítez on a 2 year loan deal from Unión de Santa Fe.  We also invited Carlos Auzqui back to Estudiantes on a similar 2 year loan deal, ending his 18 month stay at River Plate.  Another La Plata return occurred too: Walter Bou (ex-Gimnasia La Plata striker) arrived on a Free Transfer from Boca Juniors.  Also, Emanuel Reynoso finally grabbed that No.10 shirt:

The annual tradition continues: Estudiantes de La Plata Squad Numbers 2019/20.

2019/20 Argentine Superliga:

We finished 6th in our 1st league season, and we followed up with a 5th place finish last time out.  So a 4th place finish is the next logical step right?  Well, that's where we currently reside at the mid-point of the 46 game 2019/20 league season:

Despite the little blip of three consecutive losses in late December, we've handled the relentless schedule really well.  Fernando Zuqui as our Wide Midfielder on Attack is leading the way with 9 league goals in 19 games.  Maxi Romero is not far behind, with a year of fitness under his belt [after his disastrous start with injuries in La Plata], he's bagged 7 league goals in 13 starts.  My No.10 Dreamweaver, Emanuel Reynoso, has created 18 scoring chances in the league and provided 6 assists...he's also waded in with 5 goals too.

2019 Copa Libertadores

Maxi Romero saved his best football for the continental stage though, scoring 9 goals in the first 4 knockout games.  He sadly blanked both times in the Semi Final matches, young Carlo Lattanzio getting the important away goal for La Plata on 89 mins.  But as mentioned earlier, Corinthians largely dominated the second leg, with Maycon leading his club to their second consecutive Copa Libertadores final...which they won Vs Boca Juniors.

It was gutting to come so close to reaching the Final(s), but this campaign offered so much joy.  It's especially notable because we only qualified due to San Lorenzo's Copa Argentina win in 2018.

We were the last entrants into the tournament, and one of the last to leave.  Team Bastardo will be back for the 2020 party, as we enter at the Group Stage!

Las Joyas de Bastardo


Now onto the future...

Like most things in FM, I place realism at the forefront of my thinking with regards to youth development.  I try to base my decisions around what I would do in real life (if I was a manager).  The key thing I always have in mind is that: "it's easier to improve a player's strengths, than it is to remove his weaknesses".

Keeping the above quote in mind, decisions regarding youth are naturally easier to make.  I do what's best to improve them and do not:

  • Place great emphasis on whether they fit within my current 1st team tactical setup, roles/mentalities etc.
  • Worry about whether certain attributes are shockingly low.
  • Always listen to my staff...because they often give rubbish advice.

It's worth pointing out that only a small % of the crop of youth will make it into my 1st team…(because they have to be better than what's currently there and/or better than what I can get externally).  A Homegrown XI has always been a Holy Grail for me in FM, so part of the satisfaction I take from youth development is making players better and moving them on.  I'm no hoarder either, I prefer to work with a youth squad...not squads.

In my current save I have worked with three different types of youth:

  • Category A: Those that exist at your club from day 1 of your save (real players).
  • Category B: Those that come in via your annual youth intake (newgens).
  • Category C: Those that come via external recruitment (real or newgen players).

Today I will introduce three players, one from each of the categories above.  I will outline what I have done so far with them, and also predict where I see their career taking them.

Disclaimer: I have looooads of youth that I could introduce to you today (most from Category B), but for the purpose of keeping my post concise...I am sticking to just the three.  They aren't necessarily the best within the Academy (although one certainly is), but all three players chosen today have had a certain level of thought and micro management applied to them.

Let's meet Bastardo's jewels...

Carlo Lattanzio (Category A)

Carlo Lattanzio met Bastardo on Day 1 of the Return to La Plata save, sitting in the Reserves as a 19 year old.  He had good Acceleration and Pace combined with solid scores in Composure and Finishing.  I'll be honest, I didn't see a long term future for Carlo at Estudiantes, but I was certain I could better his game and sell him on in the future.

Carlo Lattanzio in July 2017.

The first thing I did was have him tutored with the experienced head of 35 year old Mariano Pavone, who has a Driven Personality and 18 Determination.  Mariano Pavone also had the 'Shoots With Power' Player Trait, which I didn't really want Carlo to have.  So I opted for the bottom of the two entries when tutoring: "As a member of the team, I think it would be beneficial if you were to take Carlo Lattanzio under your wing and mentor him off the pitch".

I associate 'Shoots With Power' as a trait for a beast of a striker (think Brazil's Hulk).  So I looked at the attribute scores in Long Shots & Strength and saw that Carlo only has 9 and 7 in these attributes.  So I would rather train 'Places Shots' manually for a more delicate finish in the penalty area.  Hence my decision to only take the Personality traits and Determination from Pavone.

The instant impact was that Carlo's Personality changed to Resolute.  I also saw a growth in Determination to 18 and I started training him as an Advanced Forward in the Position/Role training section.  Sadly I never saw huge gains in him and I decided that he needed 1st team football to take that next step during my second season in La Plata.

Carlo was loaned to Argentinos Juniors for the remainder of the 2018/19 season, because the AI promised he'd be a First Teamer in the Advanced Forward role.  Unfortunately the AI lied...and Carlo was rotting in the reserves, which he could be doing with me anyway!  I also noted a drop of 1 attribute score in Determination.  So I immediately recalled him from loan (TIP: always add this clause in)...and the rest is history as I discussed in my previous blog post.

Carlo Lattanzio in 2020.

He's now my 1st choice pacey striker in a more direct 4141.  Carlo offers a different option in games compared to the stronger [and slightly less mobile] Maxi Romero and Walter Bou.  This means Carlo gets plenty of game time, whether I’m chasing a game or notice lethargic opposition CBs.

Appearances: 18 starts (and 17 subs).  Goals: 13

Bastardo's reflection:

+ Successful tutoring with Pavone.
+ Some sublime performances in the FM18 Match Engine.
- Still yet to learn that 'Places Shot' Player Trait, after failing a few months ago.
Carlo has an immediate future in La Plata's 1st team and could potentially move to Europe in the future.

Nico Rosales (Category B)

Nico Rosales is Homegrown from within the La Plata academy (Category B), arriving in my 1st intake during November 2017.  Straight away I could see he was special, with a strong set of Mental attributes, particularly his Decisions and Determination standing out.

Nico Rosales in May 2018.

Nico arrived as a fairly quick and extremely agile player too.  Perfect for a link role in midfield, whether it’s at DM linking the defence or further advanced linking the attack.  So my initial thinking is that he is a future heartbeat of the team.

Seeing that he is natural at DM, and not wanting to waste any of his ability re-training him in another position, I decided to sign 37 year old Walter Erviti to help tutor Nico.  It’s a costly measure, but I had no real suitable tutor and I was craving for him to learn the 'Dictates Tempo' Player Trait.

The downside is that we’d lose some Determination score, but I figured that this could be brought up with future tutoring at a later stage from somebody else.  So we used the top option when tutoring: “As a senior member of the squad, I'd like you to tutor Nico Rosales as I think you can help improve his game"

Usually tutoring lasts around 6 months, but in the case of Nico-Walter it was only around 3 months due to a falling out.  Unfortunately not all of Walter’s Player Traits were passed on, but it was a partial success as Nico could now dictate the tempo of a match.  This was my initial intention and justified the risk I took by losing 3 points of Determination.

Next, I wanted Nico to learn to switch the ball to either flank.  By the time he reaches maturity he should have a solid Passing-Vision combo, and him being central on the pitch at DM means he’d make use of this Player Trait well.  Unfortunately he failed to learn this over 2018, so it’s something I will revisit again over 2020.

The reason for the year gap in re-attempting was because I was conscious that we needed to get Nico’s Determination back up, sooner rather than later.  So I’ve made 37 year old (and soon to be retiring) Israel Damonte his mentor.  The result is an increase of Determination to 17. 

Nico Rosales in January 2020.

Increased gametime has been Nico’s biggest growth factor.  He’s trained and played as a Deep Lying Playmaker on Defend duty and doesnt look out of place in Argentina’s top flight.  He has the highest passing rate in the squad and has already become a heartbeat of my team...at 18 years old.

In my opinion, Nico Rosales will go to the very top of club football and it’s a question of ‘when’ he moves to Europe not ‘if’.  Paris Saint Germain are already interested and are likely to bid within the next two Transfer Windows.  Until that time though, I will work with Nico and continue to make him better.

Appearances: 23 starts (and 18 subs)

Bastardo's reflection:

+ Partial success of tutoring with Erviti & Damonte
+ 91% passing success rate in the 2019/20 Argentine Superliga.
- Still yet to learn that 'Likes To Switch Ball To Other Flank' Player Trait, after failing last year.
Contracted to 2023, Nico will command a fee if he is to leave for Europe and graduate from Team Bastardo.  A future playmaker for the National Team?  I think so.

Lucas Pessarini (Category C)

Lucas Pessarini represents my third category of youth: those that come into the youth team externally.  I found Pessarini when scouting the 2nd tier of Argentina, where he was playing for recently relegated Quilmes in Primera B Nacional.  He made 4 appearances in total during 2017/18, with one of them being a Man Of The Match performance.  With his contract running down, Bastardo moved in to bring him to La Plata.  Here's how he looked in May 2018:

Lucas Pessarini in May 2018.

He was classed as a Young Centre-Back, but I saw an opportunity to work with him and develop him.  He had strong physicals and could also head, mark and tackle...all key for the Centre-Back role.  It's worth noting that I do not think Pessarini has incredible potential, but it goes back to the point I made earlier in this post: the satisfaction I get when I see a player grow and move on.  We are also likely to make a bit of money too, as he signed for €0!

I partnered him with Uruguayan Centre-Back/Full Back Diego Polenta, who has 16 Determination and has a Fairly Determined personality.  Like I did with Carlo Lattanzio/Mariano Pavone, I opted to only take the tutor's Determination and Mentality, as I was reluctant to take the Player Trait of: 'Runs With Ball Down The Left'.  It's not really useful for a Centre-Back.

Lucas Pessarini in January 2020.

The gains have not been incredible, but Lucas Pessarini's Determination has increased to 16.  He's had a year in the youth team, playing 48 times.  This season he has spent 6 months with my First Team squad, sitting on the bench for a number of games  However, he is still not good enough for First Team action.  So for the remainder of 2019/20, I have chosen Club Atlético Huracán as his 6 month loan.  I am hoping that he can get a taste of action there, after the AI stated he'd be a Rotation option.  But don't worry, I have placed a recall option into the deal, if he is not being played.

Appearances: 0

Bastardo's reflection:

+ Has improved, becoming a 'Promising Centre-Back' during 2019.  Now rated as 'Centre Back'.
+ 48 youth team games in 2018/19 and has been recognised by Argentina U20s (12 apps/2 goals)
- Remains mentally poor, which is a huge barrier to making it into Team Bastardo.
I'll be honest, I do not think Lucas can make it here.  But I am keen to see how he does at Huracán in 2020.  He is contracted until 2022, so I am in a position to make money from him...should he get suitors within the next 2 years.

My #FM18 Checklist

Remember this checklist from one of my intro posts?  Don't worry if you cannot, I am not easily offended.

We've actually been meeting (6) and (7)...but there's still some time in achieving the other items.  We're currently miles behind on item (4): my 250 clean sheet target (we're on 44 clean sheets in 2.5 seasons).  This is probably the likeliest to fail.  Grrrr.

If I had to guess what I would complete first, it's perhaps (1) or (2).  But there is an outside chance that Nico Rosales will help me achieve (5) before anything else.  Can 'La joya de Bastardo' come good and lead La Plata’s Golden Generation to glory?  We'll have to wait and see.

Keep up-to-date on my Twitter (@FM_Grasshopper), Slack channel (#fmgrasshopper) or here on my blog (I have a handy URL for all FM18 content: fmgrasshopper.com/fm18).

Thanks for reading/sharing/caring,

FM Grasshopper

"Emanuel In Space" - Return to La Plata #FM18 #WeAreTheCommunity



Football Managers make mistakes.  Failing to address & adapt to those mistakes can, more often than not, be their downfall. 

For the best part of 6 months, Football Manager Ángel Bastardo had been attempting to play the same way as last year.  Except, as discussed last time out, the match winners from last year (CasciniDubarbier & Pavone) were no longer there to create, score and lead.  Failing to adapt was NOT going to be Bastardo's downfall, it's time to address and adapt to the problem...

One step forward, two steps back

So from last year I had lost a Winger on Attack, a 'Doble Cinco' CM on Attack and a Complete Forward on Support.  For the 4141, that's three huge attacking outlets weakened.  Was it any wonder that I was struggling at the mid-point of Season 2018/19, languished in 11th place?  On reflection it should have raised alarm bells at Pre-Season...but I, like Bastardo, am extremely stubborn.  My original remedy was to recruit internally:

Lucas Rodríguez (Winger on Attack).  Has some attractive qualities:

  • Crossing 14 & Technique 14
  • Acceleration 13 and Pace 15

I believed Lucas would do well as a Winger and a like-for-like replacement for Dubarbier, and so it proved this season: 35 appearances (all comps), 9 goals, 7 assists and a 7.27 average rating.  However, replacing Dubarbier with a younger and better alternative was not my mistake...we'll come on to those now.

Mistake 1: The imperfect 10

Fernando Zuqui.  My imperfect 10.

In Season 2017/18 Fernando Zuqui was an effective wide player for Bastardo’s Estudiantes, but I thought I could make use for him centrally this year as a Central Midfielder on Attack duty.  I gave him the No.10 role in my 4141.  This is quite an honour because, like Argentina has done through its history, I am playing a No.10 in its purest and classical sense. I want the No.10 to adopt the Romanticism of old: Artistry, Dribbling & Risk Taking.  So what did Zuqui bring to the role:

  • Dribbling 12 & Passing 14
  • Decisions 12 & Vision 11

It's distinctively average and not what a No.10 lover would rate at all, and it's mad I couldn't see it straight away.  Here is what his predecessor (Juan Bautista Cascini) brought to the role:

  • Dribbling 11 & Passing 12
  • Decisions 18 & Vision 17

So Technically Zuqui is stronger, but as I champion all too often...it's all about the Mentals.  Fernando Zuqui was never going to have the same output as Cascini doing the same role, it was complete folly to even think it in the first place. 

Outcome: we needed to sign a proper No.10 in the January Transfer Window.

Mistake 2: Declining Darío

Last year, top scorer Mariano Pavone would win games on his own.  He seemed to flourish as a Complete Forward on Support duty as the primary outlet for the team in my 4141.  I was pretty cut up about him retiring, he was my MVP and he had at least another year on his contract.

In response to Mariano's retirement, I let my frugal nature get the better of me.  I internally drafted in Darío Cvitanich as the guy to take on the CF-S role, and after Summer Signing Maxi Romero’s 5 month knee injury, Darío was my first choice forward.  The results were disastrous, just 4 goals in the first 6 months of 2018/19.  He simply couldn't hold up the ball, despite being Technically proficient, his Physical powers are on the unstoppable decline at the age of 35.  The CF-S is a demanding role, I was asking Darío to do too much and it showed in the match engine.  So I needed to think about how else I can attack, and more importantly make use of that ST slot in the 4141.

Outcome: rethink how we retain the ball and attack with it in attacking spaces.

Emanuel In Space

Emanuel Reynoso might not be a household name just yet, but in my Football Manager 2018 save he has been a 2019 Superliga revelation.  Picked up in January 2019 for €1.3m from Talleres de Córdoba, who were willing to let him leave, he has become my La Plata Player of the Season (in just 3 months of football)!  He is the No.10 I was looking for...capable of dribbling and unlocking a defence with ease:

  • Dribbling 16 & Passing 15
  • Decisions 15 & Vision 14

La Plata's new No.10.

Emanuel is playing the Central Midfield role on Attack, I have instructed him to Shoot Less Often, Dribble More and make More Risky Passes, in order for him to be more 'Doble Cinco-like'.  He is pretty close to the Mezzala role, just without the expansive movement (Move into Channels & Roam From Position), and slightly less pressing.  Note - there's no great need for my Doble Cinco to roam as he has two gazelles either side of him in the 4141: the aforementioned Winger and a Wide Midfielder....who are usually both set to roam.

Reynoso's Player Instructions.

Time after time, Emanuel is finding himself in space.  Able to quick think his opponent with a neat dribble and turn of pace, a genius pass or a belter of a shot if nothing else is on.  In the 3 months of football. Emanuel Reynoso's Estudiantes statistics are pretty impressive: 7 goals, 6 assists and 7 Player of the matches...in 20 apperances (all comps).  Here are a couple of highlights: 

Reynoso Vs San Lorenzo.gif


Reynoso Vs San Lorenzo 19/05/2019

Reynoso Assist Vs Temperley.gif


Reynoso Vs Temperley 02/03/2019

But Reynoso's instant impact has also addressed my second mistake: the Striker role.  I have changed the ST role to an Advanced Forward.  The AF can run in behind the backline and stretch the opponent's Centre Backs allowing Emanuel in space to cause more damage.  So I needed a runner upfront, something that poor Darío Cvitanich cannot help with. 

The unlikeliest of heroes emerged, 21 year old Carlo Lattanzio was recalled from loan for the second half of the season.  He might not look amazing, but he has the attributes to fulfill the AF role by:

  • creating space by using his Acceleration & Off The Ball 14
  • relieving the pressure on the team by retaining the ball: Dribbling 15 & First Touch 14

I loaned Carlo to Argentinos Juniors for 2018/19, but placed a Recall option on the loan.

Carlo has chipped in with a few goals and assists: 5 goals and 3 assists in 16 appearances (all comps), but his real value is found within the Match Engine on Comprehensive highlights.  It has reinforced my belief that we're on to a winner with the AF role.  We quickly adjusted Team Instructions to More Direct Passing and have increased the Closing Down of the team.  This has resulted in more turnovers of play from my fibra warriors, and time and time again Carlo is there to provide that out ball for the team.  Glorious.

When the CM-A and AF-A combine from defending a corner (Vs Corinthians).

Season 2018/19

The two main aims going into the last 3 months of the season were: (1) secure 2020 Copa Libertadores football via the league (meaning a top 5 finish) and (2) progression from the 2019 Copa Libertadores qualification rounds.  As discussed last time out, I did not expect to be in this year's Copa Libertadores...but fate would have us enter at the 2nd qualifying round due to San Lorenzo's Copa Argentina win (who had already qualified into the Groups via a league place finish last year).

In short, we did it!  A 5th place league finish, an improvement of one place from last year!  Plus we also got through the two qualifying rounds and entered the Groups as 4th seeds.  We found ourselves in a challenging group, but did enough to win it.  Three straight wins sealed our place in the knockouts where we will face Atlético Mineiro - for a two legged knockout match that will kick off in August.

It's taken around 18 months of tweaking and finding the right players to get this 4141 firing, but we now look good.  18 wins from 24 games since the January/February break leave me with hope that we can push on next year...in what will be a mammoth campaign.  Season 3's domestic league will be 46 games, as 24 teams will now play each other home and away.  Combine that with Continental football & the Copa Argentina...and we could easily be playing well over 60 games next season.  It's finally starting to feel like a proper South American save at last :-)

Roll on season 3.

Thanks for reading/sharing/caring,

FM Grasshopper

"Innocence Lost" - Return to La Plata #FM18 #WeAreTheCommunity


Things in La Plata were always going to become tougher in the short term.  Despite a 6th place league finish & an unbeaten Copa Libertadores Group Stage, three end of season departures left Bastardo's Estudiantes hollow and worried for the future:

  1. Top goalscorer Mariano Pavone retired, after scoring 14 goals (all competitions).
  2. Top goal provider Sebastián Dubarbier, with 12 assists (all competitions), left on a Free Transfer after refusing to agree a new deal.
  3. Best performer Juan Bautista Cascini, with an Average Rating of 7.26, headed to River Plate in a €4m transfer.

I was not agreeable to losing any one of the trio prior to 2018/19 kicking off, let alone all three.  But there I was, replacing the best players of my team.  Improving year-on-year has to be any manager's aim, but 2018/19 is so far turning out to be a real slog.  Hold me.

Innocence Lost

The 146th top flight professional Primera División era La Plata Derby ought to have been a draw.  No side deserved to win.  3 major decisions defined the match: a 1st half red card resulting in Gimnasia playing with 10 men for 60 minutes + two penalties, both to Gimnasia...who gratefully converted.  For Estudiantes, they were awful.  Chances were missed and they ended up losing the Derby 0-2!  Our only remarkable stat: 21 fouls on the pitch.

After the final whistle, more fouls followed.  An unquantifiable level of hatred and ugliness erupted on the pitch and then into the tunnel dressing rooms.  The skirmish caught on TV would define a Platense generation.  

Bastardo's innocence was lost, seen bringing down three Gimnasia players with a machette...

Season 2018/19

Prior to the infamous 'Battle For La Plata', we made a number of respectable signings, notably: Maximilano Romero who takes the No.9 shirt from Pavone in a €1.4m fee from Vélez Sarsfield.  As discussed in my final intro post, squad numbers are re-assigned each season.  So for 2018/19, we move towards using a 4141 Argentine system as our base formation:

All eyes on Fernando Zuqui this year, who takes the doble cinco shirt from Israel Damonte.

2018/19 Argentine Primera División/Superliga

After the shock waves of the Gimnasia Derby, Estudiantes would go on to pick up just the one solitary point on the road.  The form has been erratic and we're making no progress on last season's 6th league place.  Probably not helped by the fact that no Estudiantes fan is allowed in an away stadium until at least 2019/20!

I'm still confident that we can use the mid-season friendlies to find some solidity and push up the table, where we currently lie in 11th place:

2018 Copa Libertadores

Bastardo also learnt the hard way in the Copa Libertadores.  Having an away knockout match Vs Santos (the current Copa Libertadores holders in my save) in the 2nd week of pre-season was too much.  The match fit Brazilians ran riot, winning 3-0 in the 1st leg.  Not sure how I cope for this in the future, as the earliest Pre-Season date was chosen!  In the second leg, we bested Santos for much of the game but still ended up losing 0-1 to a ridiculous Ricardo Oliveira freekick.  The 0-4 aggregate loss came as a stark realisation of how much work is needed in order to become successful on the continental stage.

Goodbye Copa Lib dream xxx

Surprise Copa Libertadores!

Hacked elections, mass brawls and now qualification to the 2019 Copa Libertadores, this save has it all.  By finishing 6th in last year's league I had a very slim chance at gaining entry into the Copa Libertadores campaign: a glimmer of hope that both finalists in the 2018 Copa Argentina would be two of those teams in the 5 places ahead of Estudiantes in the final 2017/18 league table (Boca, River, San Lorenzo, Lanús and Talleres). 

My fate to the Copa Sudamericana (South America’s secondary club competition) was seemingly sealed when San Lorenzo and Aldovisi played out the Copa Argentina final.  That final 2019 Copa Lib place should go to losing finalists Aldovisi (as San Lorenzo had already qualified).  In real life events, the Argentine Football Association (AFA) in their infinite wisdom, confirmed this was the process.  But the luck of a poorly coded game, or a little bug, means Estudiantes qualify to the Second Qualification stage.  I'd be raging if I was Aldovisi, but I'm not, so onwards and upwards.  Estudiantes are through to the 2019 Copa Libertadores campaign.

Did AFA take illegal payments in my save? Ángel Bastardo cannot possibly comment.

Squad Planning

The Argentine 2018/19 season is one of the shortest ever campaigns, with only 25 league games (26 teams playing eachother once) spread across 10 months, it could be forgiven for thinking that Argentina doesn't care about football!  However, 2018/19 is the calm before the storm, as 2019/20 sees the league rise to 46 games (24 teams) who will then play each other twice.  This huge increase in games leaves me with a headache:

  1. Recruiting too much in 2018/19 will more than likely cause disharmony in the squad, as players will be moaning for playing time.
  2. Recruit too little in 2018/19 means having a lot of work to do in the summer of 2019 (signings & squad integration), leading up to 2019/20.

The Argentine Superliga structure in FM18 (Seasons 1-5).

This is a unique situation for me in FM, I've never had the league I am playing in change structure each season in the 1st five years.  To remedy the headache of 2019/20's fixture list, planning the quantity of my core squad* is essential.  After all, with the 2019 Copa Libertadores campaign now included, I could be looking at a 3 game per week cycle from August to December.  Then a 2 game per week cycle [with no Winter Break] until March...where a 3 game per week cycle returns until May (if I qualify for continental football in this current season - 2018/19).  It's tiring just writing about what's to come!

So the plan?  Buy/agree to sign first team players in 2019, prior to the lead up to 2019/20.  I reckon we need to boost our number of first team players by three.  Then promote around 5 youth players during the later half of 2018/19 - giving them game time and integrating them into the squad.  All in the hope that they can flesh out the squad during manic patches next season.  So the core squad size i am looking at:

  • Season 1 (2017/18) core squad of 22 based on 27 league games
  • Season 2 (2018/19) core squad of 20 based on 25 league games
  • Season 3 (2019/20) core squad of 28 based on 46 league games
  • Season 4 (2020/21) core squad of 25 based on 42 league games
  • Season 5 (2021/22) core squad of 23 based on 38 league games

*Core squad meaning those players within: Backup, Rotation, First Team and Key Player.  Youngsters & Hot Prospects are an added cover...who usually don't come moaning to me  :-)

The 23 man target for 2021/22 above is based loosely around the widely discussed number within the 25 man squad limit for a 38 game Premier League Season.  Previously manager's like José Mourinho have come out and said they prefer to work with 20-23, which aligns to how I usually approach squad size in FM.

The transition from Season 2-3 is perhaps the biggest upheaval.  But we've gone about our business proactively, bringing in 21 year old left winger Jesús Medina for €1m.  He's a classic example of why I withdrew my fibra criteria on under 25s.  I think he will be brilliant and will perhaps provide me with a great bit of profit in the future when I do sell on.

Jesús Medina.  A South American treasure in FM18.

If we needed any demonstration of how good Jesús can be: he won the Argentine Young Footballer of the Year...only 9 days since arriving in the country.  It seems award ceremonies are just as easy as elections to influence in FM18 :-)

The next step is to keep an eye on those entering the final 6 months of their contract.  Of course, keep a check on my Twitter or FM Slack channel (#fmgrasshopper).  It's here that I will update you on any future signings between blog posts.

Season's Greetings

I'm just one guy writing a blog.  I'm not a brand and I am certainly not 'building a community', but I do want to wish readers a happy festive period.  Whether you're religious or not, please take some time away from festivities and play the joys of Football Manager.  This is my religion and it's a joy sharing my story with you. 

So, season's greetings!  My playtime will be limited over the period, as I will be in France with family. So it's best I wish you well now :-)

Speak to you in 2018 and thanks for reading.

FM Grasshopper