Following on from Thomas Paine's (@Armchair_Gaffer) use of Kate Upton in his latest blog post, and my vow to follow suit for one week only, may I present to you: Estefanía Bernal. Who I wish every success in the 2016 Miss Universe competition (held on 30 January 2017). 180 cm of quality fibra, Estefanía has every chance to cause an upset and take back the throne from the Philippines, which would end a 54 year wait for Argentina.
Unfortunately today's blog isn't about Miss Universe, it's about my FM save in La Plata, Argentina. I've hit the mid-season break: a one month pause to reflect on the previous few months of competitive games, which include a glorious 2016 Copa Sudamericana campaign and an update on two key signings...
Copa Sudamericana 2016 Winners
The Copa Sudamericana, South America's secondary continental competition, has been a refreshing tournament to be a part of...and it's unlike anything Europe has to offer. Firstly, it's only ever a Knockout tournament...with games being played home and away between clubs from South American's Football Confederation, known as CONMEBOL. Secondly, I've visited teams I only come across when Regen hunting for clubs back in Europe - clubs like Club Bolívar and Emelec. Both clubs have a proud history in their domestic countries of winning titles and competing on the continental stage...yet they rarely make their way into mainstream European media. Lastly, it has a two-legged Final - a spectacle for fans of South American football. Away goals are discounted during the Final, something I quickly realised when over-celebrating Carlos Auzqui's 51st minute strike away at Club Deportivo Universidad Católica of Chile. Yet Estudiantes de La Plata (EdlP) went on to win the home leg, 3-1 (thus 4-2 on aggregate)...sealing EdlP's first ever Copa Sudamericana title. Here are the games below:
On the whole, the draws were favorable...with EdlP avoiding tough ties in Brazil and Colombia. Instead we went to less reputable clubs like aforementioned Club Bolívar and Emelec (where I grabbed a fantastic away win in Guayaquil, Ecuador). In total, the travel to Bolivia, Ecuador and Chile equated to 16,566 kilometers.
I also knocked out two Argentinian teams en route: Belgrano and 'Big 5' team San Lorenzo. In truth the games were pretty dire but I saved my best football for the 2nd Leg Final appearance against underdog Universidad Católica from Chile. The second half of that game to be precise, where Carlos Auzqui netted a 24 minute hat-trick...forever justifying my persistence in turning him from Right Winger to Advanced Forward. My in game persona: Ángel Bastardo had delivered a trophy to Club Chairman Juan Sebastián Verón at the earliest opportunity. Absolutely buzzing.
The Continental Hangover
However, the league form has suffered due to Bastardo resting several of his Bastards for key Copa Sudamericana games. The impact is that 3 of my 4 loses come directly after a Copa Sudamericana match...proof that the Continental Hangover also exists in South America.
But the good news is that we have already faced off against the five biggest clubs in Argentina, collective known as the 'Big 5': Boca Juniors, Independiente, Racing Club, River Plate and San Lorenzo de Almagro. We picked up a respectable 9 points out of a possible 15, which notably included a 2-1 comeback with 10 men against the mighty Boca Juniors.
We're now at the half way point, sitting in a respectable 9th position. In 2017, the games will come thick and fast once more, as EdlP enter South America's premium club competition next (the Copa Libertadores), which kicks off in early 2017. It's time to reinvest some of the Ascacibar money (as mentioned in last week's post) and flesh out the squad...
The 'Restrictive Transfer Window'
But with this being Argentina (and its lust to be different), I am only able to bring in two transfers. In what is known as 'The Restrictive Transfer Window'. So I have opted for two young Domestic players who should easily integrate into the squad for the 2nd part of the season. Luckily for me, the Ascacibar money has given me real power in the Transfer Market allowing me to sign the 'crème de la crème' from the Argentine Primera División...Rodrigo Bentancur & Nicolás Tripichio.
Both are well known to most FMers, but I've never managed either of them. They fit the fibra model I am trying to install at EdlP (providing Bentancur improves by one fibra point before 21 years of age). They also have great re-sale value (signing for a combined fee of £7.5m), and with no minimum fee release clause in place, I am hoping a European Super Club comes in for them in 2-3 years.
So that's my quick mid-year review of sorts. It's deliberately short, because I REALLY want to get back to playing this amazing save. Thanks for reading/sharing the love through RTs on Twitter and generally interacting with me. You're all brilliant.
Now let me get back to Estefanía Bernal...