Football Manager (FM) is a peculiar drug. During Football Manager 2016, I have fallen in love with two players that will never exist. I have also started to follow a Club I have never seen play live, let alone visit the country that they play in! This is what FM can do. It creates fandom in the unlikeliest of places. I've spend 10 glorious in game years in Zürich, becoming Grasshopper Club Zürich's (GCZ) most successful manager with 15 major titles: 10 Swiss Super League titles & 5 Swiss Cups.
Today's blog is the FINAL FM16 content post you will read here. It's an insight into a 10 year projection (to the in game year of 2035) to see what has happened to GCZ without its legendary manager: Loïc Swartzendruber...
Turmoil at the top
During the 10 years simulated, GCZ had SEVEN permanent managers (9 if you count the caretaker positions). There has been incredible unrest, perhaps amplified by Franco Soldati selling the Club 5 years into the 10 year simulation (2030). Perhaps this was to be expected, whilst he pretty much gave up on financing the Club part way through my GCZ save - leaving me to fight off Financial Fair Play in Season 9.
In fact, the most successful manager in the above list was Ole Gunnar Solskjær...who was sacked in only his second season. A shame considering he led GCZ to a league title the season before. Soldati's ruthlessness came as Solskjær won only once in nine games during October/November 2026.
The below graphic clearly shows the decline at GCZ after 'The Swartzendruber Years'. Green overlay is the time before Loïc Swartzendruber, Gold represents the glory years and Red overlay is the dark times:
I could spend ages charting everything that went wrong with GCZ under AI management, but it boils down to two things: (1) GCZ not being able to recover after losing Champions League revenue in 2027/28 after an 8-1 aggregate loss against AS Monaco in a CL Qualifier. (2) A transfer policy of minimal player movements. For some reason the AI Management is not a good seller. In 5 of the 10 years GCZ could not sell players exceeding a combined value £2m. Instead they were experts in letting BIG players like Roman Bürki, Remo Mahrer, Nikola Vlasic, Julian Weigl & Richairo Zivkovic leave the club on Free Transfers. This not only impacted on the money received, but also it meant GCZ could not compete in the Transfer Market. In fact, in 6 of the 10 years simulated...GCZ did not sign a single player! Personally, this kind of decline is self-inflicted.
The result is that the Swiss Super League has returned to its familiar predictability of FC Basel dominating the Champions spot:
One legacy that has remained intact is the production line of talent that GCZ generate. Before I arrived GCZ already had a good youth system, but this was enhanced during my 10 years there. Alongside the improvement of training and youth facilities, the coaching staff was instilled with professionalism. The result has been a conveyor belt of talent, and it's actually been quite satisfying to see the fruits of my labour.
In the 10 years I simulated GCZ sold Academy talent for a combined value of £32.66m. Some of these players have gone on to play for some of Europe's biggest clubs: Chelsea, Juventus, Liverpool to name a few.
The only criticism I could say is that some of the talent was sold too early. A further 1-2 years of Swiss Super League First Team football would have seen them reach the values of Marco Simon (sold to Olympique Lyonnais for £20M) and Nikola Gjorgjev (sold to Barcelona for £30m). The 3 prime examples are shown below:
It does make me wonder what I could have done with these youngsters, the Homegrown XI could have become a successful reality...
GCZ's Golden Generation - where are they now?
So I have spoken about the Regens who you have never heard about, what about the Top 5 Regens that came through whilst under my management? Here are the Top 5 Regens I produced at GCZ, with the notable exceptions of Marco Simon & Remo Mahrer (who you really should know about by now). The top 5 isn't based on ability, it's more a gauge of my 'connection' with them...
5. Jan Lange
Jan would definitely be higher on this list of players, if it not for him joining GCZ in the twilight of my spell in Zürich. He arrived as a 16 year old as a flamboyant Centre Forward who was already a competent finisher. During the last two years of my time at GCZ, I gave him 4 league starts. He only repaid me with one goal, scoring against Wangen b. Olten in the Swiss Cup during Season 9. But I saw enough in him, in the way he picked up Franco López's PPMs with ease, and the way he applied himself in training.
Since I left GCZ, Jan spent a loan in Holland with ADO Den Haag. He then spent another year back at GCZ scoring 18 goals in all competitions before leaving on a Free Transfer to Luzern. Since then he was gone on to excel at RSC Anderlecht, scoring 107 league goals in 211 league appearances. He has been recognised Internationally and now has 32 caps with 10 goals. He is Remo Mahrer's deputy, meaning that he is next in line for the Swiss Captaincy...in what would be a hat-trick of Swiss Captains coming from the GCZ Academy (after Marcon Simon & Remo Mahrer).
Here is Jan in 2035:
4. Stephan Hotz
Stephan Hotz joined GCZ as part of the February 2019 intake (my 4th intake). He had a great First Touch and his Heading was very good, but there were things in his game that I didn't like: his average Bravery to play the Target Man role, his One Footedness and his poor Finishing.
An incredible 13 first team goals in 19 games in all comps changed my mind about him. What he lacked in Flair and trickery, he made up for with big goals. It was not long before a European Superpower came calling, and in the Summer of 2022 Hotz left us for Fußball-Club Bayern München in a £6.5m fee. I did however arrange a 2 year loan deal, meaning that he continued his development with me. A further 21 goals in 38 games cemented his place in GCZ fans' hearts.
But since leaving me, the AI has never really utilised him. He never played for Bayern's 1st team and was bought back to Switzerland by FC Basel - where he was quite average. More recently he has been in Turkey for the last four season with Sivasspor playing only 5 times!
We can only dream of what may have been, if he and Swartzendruber remained at GCZ together...
3. Goran Vukoja
I remember being really excited by Goran Vukoja in 2019, when he registered 24 assists in 51 appearances in his first full season with GCZ Under 18s. The Youth Team went unbeaten that year, led by their Captain Marco Simon.
It didn't take long before Goran was itching to play, so I organised several loan deals within the Swiss Super League: Thun, Sion and St. Gallen. He did enough to earn a contract on his return and he played 16 games in all competitions during my 7th season at GCZ. However, Olympiakos came calling the Summer after with a £2.1m bid. I decided to sell, but looking back it was certainly the wrong decision. He was a great athlete and very defensively minded with good Concentration.
We did reunite though: in my last 6 months at GCZ, arriving for a cut price £1.5m deal. Goran has since gone on to make a further 395 appearances in all competitions for GCZ. He is now Vice Captain at GCZ.
2. Lukas Oswald
Sometimes good can come from what seems to be the most darkest of moments. Lukas Oswald's coming of age was just that, a brave performance during THAT Semi Final exit away to Olympique Lyonnais. Lukas was in the side during those two legs, due to Julian Weigl's broken leg. He stepped up admirably despite only being 20 years of age, bossing the midfield with fellow Academy player Nuno Gouveia in the 1st leg. Before scoring what I thought was the crucial away goal to send us to the EURO Cup final. I left GCZ with great frustration. But Lukas was the player to build around. A beautiful passer who covered a lot of ground...he was the Roaming Playmaker to take GCZ to the next level.
Unfortunately GCZ cashed in only 6 months after I left the Club. I would never have the sanctioned the deal, and Chairman Franco Soldati probably knows that. Liverpool paid £13m to take Lukas to Merseyside and despite losing 4 finals with Liverpool...he eventually won a European medal:
- A EURO Cup winner (at last) after two Runners up medals before that.
- English Community Shield Runner Up
- European Super Cup Runner Up
1. Nuno Gouveia
Part IV of The Marco & Remo Diaries was almost renamed to include 'Nuno' in the title, that's how much I rated this kid. I had sold Marco Simon, on the basis that Nuno Gouveia would one day be as influential for GCZ. Nuno was part of my 3rd Youth Intake, and at 17 years old he was already ridiculous:
It only took 4 years until Nuno Gouveia was a mainstay in the GCZ midfield...learning from the likes of Model Citizen Angelo Palombo en route to the top. Nuno developed a Professional attitude and became an influential player alongside Weigl and Kramer during my final season at GCZ.
Years before that, I had rejected bids in excess of £5m from Bayern and Juventus for Nuno. In the Swartzendruber era, if you wanted my talent...you had to pay a premium. So as I left GCZ, I was under no impression that he'd ever stay at GCZ and become a 'One Club Man'. The European Elite awaited...or did it?
The answer is 'No', the European Elite never came in for Nuno and he has amassed a staggering 429 league appearances for GCZ...he has beaten Mats Grens's total of 427 league appearances and sits 2nd in the all time appearance list for GCZ. 2nd behind a certain Remo Mahrer (who has 473 league appearances for GCZ).
Model Professional Nuno Gouveia replaced Remo Mahrer as Captain of GCZ in the Summer of 2032. He is now the icon fans turn to in order to lift the shadow over the Club...
Ein blick in die Zukunft....
Well this is it, the end of my 1,026 hour FM16 save. I have summarised the decline, evaluated the youth and now it's time to thank you for all reading and engaging with me about my GCZ story. It's been a pleasure. I have also collated all of my FM16 content into one place, visit: fmgrasshopper.com/fm16. This includes over twenty GCZ blog posts and ten FM guides, enjoy.
I WILL return to blog during FM17, that's for certain. So expect posts (and plenty of tweeting) during November and beyond. I hope to announce the club sometime week commencing 10 October. This will be via an introductory post - laying out the plans and aspirations, for what is expected to be another rollercoaster ride. I've been trying to put it to the back of my mind, so that I sign off the GCZ save with the time and commitment it deserves.