Why Estudiantes in #FM18? - Return to La Plata #WeAreTheCommunity

Previously in Return to La Plata: Ángel Bastardo woke up.

Special thanks to Keysi Rensie for these fantastic kit designs.

Special thanks to Keysi Rensie for these fantastic kit designs.

Adiós Ascacíbar

The love affair with Santiago Ascacíbar is over.  Ángel Bastardo's little midfield gem has made the move to Europe for FM18, VfB Stuttgart the team, €7m the fee.  But Santi leaving has not stopped me yearning for another crack at managing Estudiantes de La Plata in Football Manager 2018.  Today's blog sets out my aims, aspirations and parameters, as we look ahead to kicking off on Friday 10 November 2017.  Let's begin...

Why Estudiantes in FM18?

Please become acquainted with my FM18 Return to La Plata checklist.  I plan to be crossing items off as I progress through my 10 season save, so I hope readers will see this often. Today though, I'll discuss why they are on there in the first place and ultimately why I am back in La Plata!

Trophies - Aims (1), (2) & (3)

If FM17 is anything to go by, Ángel Bastardo has acquired the lust for the shiny stuff.  Bastardo won 13 trophies in all, culminating in that special 2026 Champions League win.  But that was just a cocaine dream, and Bastardo will have to do it all again.  As the player behind this save I still have ample amounts of hunger for trophies too, especially those in Argentina and South America.  After all, I never won a domestic trophy in the three seasons I stayed in FM17 Argentina.  4th, 3rd and 2nd league finishes and a Copa Argentina final loss on penalties to my name, close but certainly no Verón cigar.

Aim (1) - The Copa Libertadores is Estudiantes' obsession...they are four times winners despite not being a 'Big 5' Argentine club.  It's a record I want to continue but, more importantly, I also wish to overcome the heartbreak of my consecutive Quarter Final exits to bogey side Grêmio.  There's unfinished business here and I want revenge.

Aim (2) - The 2017–18 Argentine Primera División has been re-branded as the 'Superliga Argentina' with changes in the structure of the league and number of teams.  I will produce a guide in the near future as to exactly what's happening here but all you need to know is that I am aiming for back-to-back titles.  It's the true sign of a champion and in a league where the vultures from Brazil, Europe, Mexico and the Rest of the World swoop for your best players each year...two consecutive titles would be quite the achievement.

Aim (3) - Lastly the pinnacle of club trophies (at least for those outside of Europe) is the Club World Cup.  I decided against playing on for another season at Inter Milan and winning this trophy, because at that point in time I knew I wanted to return to South America in FM18.  Winning the Club World Cup for a team and continent that wholeheartedly wants it is more enjoyable.  It's also a considerably harder task for an Argentine club, due to the gulf in wealth between Europe and South America.

The Club World Cup - the ultimate club trophy?

Clean sheets - Aim (4)

Every man goes to sleep at night hoping to find clean sheets in his bed. Ángel Bastardo is no different.  He even applies this to his football, build from the back and do not concede!  That's why I've targeted 250 clean sheets in 10 seasons.  It might seem like I've plucked that figure out of nowhere but it's an ambitious target given my past performance at Estudiantes in last year's save, where I averaged 25 clean sheets per season (76 cleansheets in 137 games, 55%).  I'll keep a running total as I go through and update you with my save's progress. 

Youth Development, Transfers & Fibra - Aims (5), (6) & (7) 

There's always an element of luck with regards to youth development.  In FM16 I was blessed with two golden boys in my 1st youth intake at Grasshopper Club Zürich.  It was great seeing them grow up and become two of the greatest Swiss players ever to have graced the game.  

In FM17 however, youth development never really happened for me.  Maybe it's because I only spent 3 seasons at Estudiantes and another 5 at Inter...meaning I never really had long enough to establish youth.  Or maybe it's because my youth intakes were crap.  The only player of note that I had a big influence on was Estudiantes' Newgen Jorge Rodríguez, who did go on to play for Argentina after being signed by my Inter team in 2023 (whilst previously being in my first intake at La Plata).

Jorge Rodríguez as a teenager in La Plata.

Jorge Rodríguez, International player at Inter MIlan.

Aim (5) - so the plan is to focus hard on nuturing a Newgen to International recognition.  Even if that means me selling him on to Europe or elsewhere for the betterment of his career.  If he's Homegrown from Estudiantes but is capped elsewhere it still counts for my checklist.

Aim (6) - creating a conveyor belt of talent will also fuel my ambition to have a self-sustaining transfer model...whereby youth sales help me fund some incoming elder statesmen.  From season 3 onwards, I would hope to be self sustaining and certainty by seasons 8-10 well into profit.   Again, this is all dependant on the intakes and the volatile transfer market, which is another reason I haven't put a precise target of how much $ I wish to make.

Aim (7) - Underpinning everything I do in La Plata is the fibra recruitment policy (more on fibra here), which has some subtle changes this year.  Importantly, I am only applying the criteria to players 25 years and over.  Mainly, because I want to fuel the sustainable transfer model as best I can.  I missed out on a few exciting youngsters last year, all because of a few attributes...so I don't really want to experience this again.  Those under 25s will either grow into warriors or make me money once they hit 25.  It's a win-win.

The Fibra Recruitment Policy for FM18.

The second change is doing away with Determination as a fibra attribute and adding Bravery in it's place.  This is not to say Determination is no longer important, if anything it's importance in FM17 was heightened half way through FM17's cycle as SI made it an influencer again in reaching Potential Ability.  But after thinking and talking it through with fellow bastard James (@FMPressure), I've decided to add Bravery into the mix.  As in reality, I wouldn't really want an aggressive player that stays away from 50/50 tackles.  Note - there is also a correlation between higher scores in Aggression/Bravery attributes anyway, so I think it fits nicely into my recruitment policy + Determination can be vastly improved via tutoring in any case.

I could obviously have left Determination in and also added a few other fibra related attributes, such as: Concentration (influencing player focus at critical moments).  But I found that recruitment was hard enough with just the 4 criteria within Argentina anyway - after all my fibra policy should help the team, not hinder it by being too constrictive.  So the fibra attributes in FM18:

  1. Aggression - a highly aggressive player is more likely to exert physical force in the tackle
  2. Bravery - a brave player will more likely go for the ball and put his body on the line
  3. Teamwork - a player with a high teamwork attribute will follow tactical instructions and complements the attacking/defensive units of the team
  4. Workrate - a player with a high workrate will exert more of his physical capability during a match

Note - 25 year old (and over) recruits must have a combined fibra score of at least 55 (average of 13.75 across the 4 mental attributes above).

I also have other parameters in place that come with managing in Argentina, such as the amount of non-Argentines in the squad, restrictive transfer windows etc.  These will all be addressed in my Argentina players' guide due out soon. 

So these are the 7 challenges running alongside my FM18 save - ensuring it holds my interest thoughout the whole of FM18's cycle.  I will of course continue to keep you updated via blog posts, Slack and Twitter updates.


FM Grasshopper

'El Retorno de Ángel Bastardo' Credit: Nestor

Prologue: "Cocaine Dreams" - Return to La Plata #FM18 #WeAreTheCommunity

Cocaine Dreams GIF 2.gif

Cocaine Dreams

The three words echoed in his head like a beating drum: “For La Plata”, “For La Plata”, “For La Plata” …it had been this way for hours, days…maybe even years?  He couldn’t tell.

Every bone ached.  His head pounding and his chest hollow, the next breath could be his last.  Breathe slowly he thought, but even that hurt him.  His olive-skinned face, hardened by 41 years of Argentine sun, was covered white by the snow that surrounded his desk.  The snow was everywhere, covering the Estudiantes logo on his blazer, over his desk and all over the floor…Winter had finally arrived in La Plata.  Yet, when Ángel Bastardo looked out at the window, the sun was shining and the air was warm. He had awoken into a nightmare.

But this wasn't a traditional Winter...and this certainly wasn't snow. The silence in the room was abruptly brought to an end as Santiago Ascacíbar bundled his way through the door, walking around the hills of cocaine that littered the floor. 

"Boss?" he cried out "Where have you been?  Training starts in 5 minutes".

Ángel Bastardo paused, the drug induced hangover caused him to slow his words, "Santi, why are you here my boy? I sold you, to Paris and then you came to Milano. Why are you here?"

"Boss! Verón is here too, he demands you come immediately.  I’m to be sold to Stuttgart in Germany"

Jesus Christ. If Juan Sebastián Verón (aka La Brujita) was here to tell Bastardo that Estudiantes’ best prospect is to be sold, there’ll be Hell to pay.  What kind of hangover is this?

He'd only just signed a contract with Estudiantes, yet the cocaine dreams had him winning the Copa Sudamericana for La Plata, a stint with the Chile National Team and Scuddeto titles & a Champions League win with Inter Milan. He’d travelled the World, visiting fellow managers…learning from the very best: Mendoza, Darwen and Rensie.  10 years of dreams were seconds in reality.  A millisecond in the life of Ángel Bastardo, played out as a lifetime of drama…a splinter of the cocaine mind.

Bastardo dusted off the residue ‘snow’ from his blazer, straightened the collar on his shirt…and headed out with Ascacíbar to the training ground.  It was time to Return to La Plata.

Note from the Editor:

Part of the decision to bring back Ángel Bastardo was that I needed to revisit Argentina in Football Manager 2018.  3 seasons in the Primera Division during FM17 were simply not enough, I never won a domestic trophy and I feel as if I have unfinished business in this special league.

I also couldn’t choose a different team in Argentina.   Estudiantes de La Plata’s dark & rich history captivated me from the onset and I now find myself following their real-life results and watching as much of their games as I can (timezone dependant of course).

The persona of Ángel Bastardo also merited another year of FM content.  Whereas Grasshopper Club Zürich’s Loïc Swartzendruber reached a natural conclusion in FM16, Bastardo is only getting started.  He is often fiery and temperamental, but sometimes calculated and cold.  Like Estudiantes, Bastardo is now very much central to my life.

So I hope you join me again in my new series: “Return to La Plata”.  The plan is to spend the whole of FM18 with this crazy club, reaching 10 seasons and building an Argentine dynasty that will see the World take note of Ángel Bastardo once more.  My next post (out on Friday 20 October 2017) will discuss the finer details of what I want to do in FM18.  A little tease can be seen over on fmgrasshopper.com/fm18...which is where this year's content will be collated.  But until then…rejoice in the fact that Bastardo is back!

FM Grasshopper (in the guise of Ángel Bastardo)

"Return to La Plata, Smokin cigars with Verón in Buenos Aires..."

Epilogue: "For La Plata" - Inter is coming #FM17 #WeAreTheCommunity

Previously on "Inter is coming": we witnessed the ecstasy of Ángel Bastardo.

"For La Plata"

The traditional end of season soirée had concluded, a 5th season done and dusted at Inter Milan.  Champions League winner Ángel Bastardo, a club & city icon, crawled home as he usually did after such an immeasurable amount of wine.  Yet despite the veil of alcohol surrounding him, something felt wrong.  He was in the Quadrilatero della moda District, famed for its fashion, celebrity lifestyle & nightlife.  Yet nobody was around, except the faint image of a hooded man who flickered in the distance…Bastardo changed direction, turning into a narrow side street to see the same hooded figure flickering in front of him.  North, East, South and West…four of them stood, like the four horsemen of the apocalypse, each with daggers in the dark.

They closed in on Bastardo to within striking distance. One of the shadows pulled back his hood.  “Señor Bastardo” it hissed.  Bastardo remembered this voice instantly, Juan Sebastían Verón…Chairman of Estudiantes de La Plata and former boss to Bastardo.  Before Bastardo could utter any words back, a dagger pierced into his side…the second hood revealed itself whilst pulling the blade out from within Bastardo…it was Juan Sebastían's father: Juan Ramón.  “For La Plata” they hissed in tandem, as Juan Sebastían grabbed Bastardo’s shoulder, thrusting a knife into his chest: “For La Plata”.

Bastardo stumbled back into a third dagger…this time from ex-Captain of Bastardo’s Estudiantes team: Leandro Desábato…who pushed Ángel Bastardo down onto the floor pulling his blade out from Bastardo’s shoulder.  “For La Plata” he proudly declared.  Ángel Bastardo sunk to his knees, the blood seeped out of him like the wine he had spilt on the dining table only moments ago.  Where was fibra now to save him, he thought?  As the twilight air soothed his porous wounds.  The three daggers in the dark stepped aside to reveal the fourth, held by a much younger man...perhaps even a boy…the blade’s hilt glistening in the moonlight.  As he approached, Bastardo looked in disbelief.  Not him, anybody but him.  It was Santiago Ascacíbar.

Bastardo could only muster out a solitary “Santi”, before the fourth blade cut into his torso with great accuracy and force.  He didn’t feel the blade leave his body, he only heard it.  “For La Plata” cried Santiago Ascacíbar as he watched his manager fall face-first into the gutter.

Note from the Editor - Bastardo has had quite the journey in Football Manager 2017.  From La Plata, to Chile, then around the world on holiday...before finishing up with 5 glorious seasons in Milan.

So it's time for me to take a break from the game I love so much.  Not too long, around a month before FM18's beta kicks off.  But this gives me a chance to just unwind and relax from the pressures of having such a huge alter-ego in my life.  My future plans will be revealed in October, but until then I'd like to thank you all for coming along with me on my journey.  Thanks for all the shares, likes, comments and laughs that we've all had together during FM17.  It's been brilliant.

But there's also a few special people I need to thank, who helped play their part (large and small) in my FM17 journey.  No particular order (perhaps chronologically, kind of...I don't know):

  • Lee and James who I thank for some tactical discussions early on in La Plata.  DLFs, defensive lines - both high & low etc...it all helped me.
  • João & Nestor.  Two guys behind the scenes pulling me through technological advances one step at a time.  Who also contributed to the 'Argentina Survival Guide' post along with Diego Mendoza.  I love you nerds.
  • Ed, for getting me on the Deep Lying Podcast to talk about Argentina, fame & fibra.  It was a great chat and still my only ever Skype convo to date!
  • Diego, ChrisOndřej.  For those 'Bastardo On Holiday' posts, those were special.  But more importantly, so were your saves.  Thank you for sharing your stories with me...and thanks for putting up with my constant direct messages at ungodly hours.
  • Samo.  For pioneering the FM Slack Community.  I've grown closer to a lot of FMers who share a passion for sharing advice, stories and tips on FM.  You brought us together, thank you.
  • To all the Night's Watch brothers in the #thefm_daddies channel on Slack.  You took a lot of shit from me in February-April as I battled through a new born baby with no sleep. Thanks.
  • Thomas who helped with some Italian translation as I joined Inter Milan.  Grazie!
  • Guido, for helping me share 'fibra' with the masses.  I hope you continue to find passion in your writing, those detailed/methodical guides you write are needed for players (new and old).  Danke je!

There's probably loads more people I should thank, you'll have to excuse me...I've just been stabbed up by the Estudiantes gang.

Best Wishes,

A weary Ángel Bastardo

“The ecstasy of Bastardo” - Inter is coming #FM17 #WeAreTheCommunity

Previously on "Inter is coming": Bastardo built The Wall.

Inter is here.

20 years a slave

I have been playing Sport Interactive's football management simulations for two decades now. In theory, if you play a game that long, nothing should surprise or captivate you anymore. Yet last Saturday night I witnessed the end of Ángel Bastardo's journey with Inter Milan and I was taken aback at how compelling this game can [still] be. 

5 seasons of work culminated in an unbeaten Serie A campaign, Coppa Italia & Suppercoppa Italiana trophies and the obsession: a Champions League win at last. We did in the way I wanted to do it too: plenty of Argentines, fibra and revenge. The perfect end to FM17 all intertwined with determination, grit and plenty of luck. We'll discuss the 2026 Champions League final first, before a 3 minute tribute recaps the 'Inter is coming' series - do make sure you scroll right to the bottom so you don't miss it ;-)

Champions League 2026, Cardiff

30 May 2026

Pre match

A strong run in the knockouts, defeating Real Madrid, Olympique Lyonnais and Juventus, saw us drawn against Paris Saint Germain (PSG) in the final. Notably it was a repeat of the 2023 final, which saw PSG triumph against Bastardo's Bastards.

My team pretty much picked itself, the only notable absentee was Andrei Ivan...who was coming back from a broken arm.  He made the bench though.

PSG set up in a 4231 and Inter is a 433. Three of the Inter team selected had started in the 2023 Manchester final. My Argie wonderboys: Ascacíbar, Colidio & Pavón. All three were fixated on revenge, they didn't even need any of the Mongolian Bull semen I had prepared for them.

1st half

It started extremely tight, both teams looking good with the ball but only a few chances.  I was fearful of the front 4 of PSG, especially Kelechi Iheanacho - whose two goals in the 2023 final broke Inter's hearts.  But we kept them quiet for the first 15 minutes.

On 17 minutes, the first of a few headaches arrived into the mind of FM Grasshopper.  Goalkeeper Sérgio Gomes had to go off after landing awkwardly, which meant that homegrown Alessandro Adessa (in only his second taste of First Team football with Inter) was the man to keep out PSG in a Champions League final!

Alessandro Adessa thrown into the deep end of life at Inter!

'The Wall' stood firm for a further 13 minutes, until a Pablo Dybala free kick cannoned off the woodwork...to then be converted by public enemy No.1 'Iheanach-gol'.  PSG 1-0 up with only their 2nd shot on target:

30 mins: Iheanacho puts PSG 1 nil up.

Things went from bad to worse on the 39th minute, when Dybala set up 25 year old €56m rated Newgen Arthur Besse who shanked it past Adessa.  The Bastardo ship was sinking fast, my Newgen keeper had faced 2 shots and conceded both.  This could turn nasty:

39 mins: Besse makes it PSG 2-0 Inter Milan.

2nd half

So, 2 nil down with a novice goalkeeper...anyone but a fool would feel that the dream was over.  I kept faith in the players and told them to buck their ideas up.  We would wait until 60 minutes with the 433 system and then try the bastard La Plata style 4141.  No Bastardo team ever goes down without a fight, we can always guarantee a few kicks at least!

15 minutes dragged on and we couldn't function against PSG's 4231, we switched it to 4141 on 65 minutes...making a huge gamble by taking 31 goal Cristian Pavón off, in favour of Federico Dimarco (a natural left back!).  He dropped back to LM as a Wide Midfielder on Defend as did Marcus Coco to RM as a Winger on Attack. My beloved Santiago dropped to DM to stifle Besse out of the game.  With added protection, we gave Fabinho the license to roam forward as a Central Midfielder on Attack.  After all, the 4141 needed to help lone wolf Colidio as best it could.  The mentality: Attack.  The instruction: Get further forward and fuck shit up.

I never expected the switch to work so quickly.  Dimarco's first contribution was a one two with Björn Marinov...before crossing low to Fabinho.  An Inter goal and a way back into the match on 67 minutes.

67 mins: Fabinho gives Inter hope.

Then the mother of all turning points arrived 5 minutes later...the rampaging Fabinho brought down by €90m PSG signing José Magalhães.  It was a professional foul, Bastardo was seen on camera spouting all kinds of filth at the 4th official, it was a clear opportunity for Inter to equalise.

72 mins: Hope.

PSG retreated deeper, whilst keeping two CMs in the centre.  They were 4221 Wide.  It was time to revisit the 'Engine Room': DLP, CM and B2B.  Be patient with the ball, roam and push for the goal to take us into extra time.  We waited another 14 minutes to find a hero, then he came: 35 year old Alessandro Florenzi.  His 7th free kick goal of the season, shadowing Antonio Candreva and Alexis Sánchez who went before him.  I am adamant it's an FM17 hack: get a 35 year old+ and get him to take your free kicks.

86 mins: Florenzi free kick. 2-2.

It was 2-2 [finally], we faced Extra time...or did we?  Nope, we left Attacking on..."strike whilst the iron is hot"...and Bastardo's Bastards were hot.  On 88 mins, Grasshopper HQ went into pandemonium...Fabinho scoring to put Inter ahead:

88 mins: Fabinho to make it 3-2 Inter. Legend.

No game is complete without a Colidio goal.  On 90+2 Facundo scored his 126th Inter goal...to confirm Inter Milan as the 2026 Champions League winners.  Hammering in a Florenzi free kick, which had beaten PSG's Gerónimo Rulli, just not the post.  Ángel Bastardo walked onto the pitch a ghost after Half Time, but he walked out a Holy Spirit at the final whistle.

90+2 mins: Colidigol.

The ecstasy of Bastardo

So goals on 86', 88' and 90+2' minutes to win a Champions League trophy is the stuff of dreams, everything else before it pales into insignificance.  Better than Mancini?...Yes.  Mourinho?...Yes.  Herrera?..Quite possibly.  But it's important to remember just how special this 5 year stint in Milano has been in its entirety.  Last year for FM16, I wrote a season by season re-cap...but this year I always had in mind to finish with a piece of music (in fact, this has been in draft for a few weeks now).

The score comes from Sergio Leone's Spaghetti Western: 'The Good, The Bad, The Ugly' and is composed by Italian Ennio Morricone.  'The ecstasy of gold' pretty much sums up Bastardo at Inter: a lust for the shiny trophies.  I love the way the track winds down at key points, only to pick up again and become even more epic in symphony.  I think it fits perfectly too, a great start to life at Inter...only to hit a slight dip...before a final success in the 11th hour. I apologies in advance, mobile devices may only be able to view in the below embedded video (not the source URL). All due to Ennio's copyright claim, sorry!

Please take your headphones and sit somewhere quiet for 3 minutes, 24 seconds and just enjoy the beauty of this track (mixed in with a little bit of Football Manager content of course).  Ángel Bastardo will return in a couple of days as part of the Epilogue to 'Inter is coming' too (Wednesday 0730 UK time to be precise), from then I officially go 'cold turkey' from the game.  

But if the last 20 years are anything to go by, I'll be back.

Thanks for listening, reading and watching :-)

FM Grasshopper