Facing Spain was Argentina's reward for finishing 2nd in a World Cup 2018 Group of Bosnia & Herzegovina, Costa Rica and Wales. After netting the winner against Costa Rica and saving Argentina's blushes in a 2-1 opening win, Lionel Messi's tournament was over...stretched off with a hip injury in the final moments of a 2-1 loss against Bosnia & Herzegovina. Subsequently Argentina bowed out of the 2018 World Cup losing to a 2nd half strike from Álvaro Morata. Argentina could only muster 1 shot on goal and were abysmal. As expected, Edgardo Bauza resigned under a nation reeling from the embarrassment of such an abject performance. Ángel Bastardo's eyes lit up at the opportunity of managing Argentina from their lowest moment and hastily put together an application.
Similarly, the Chile job was also available...after La Roja's 'Golden Generation' exited at the Group Stage after disappointing results against Switzerland (a 2-1 loss) and Ukraine (1-1 draw). Until an Alexis Sánchez inspired performance against Australia, in which he became Chile's all-time top scorer (with goals 38 and 39), meant at least the Chileans travelled home celebrating a 3-0 win. Again, an application to manage a South American team was hurriedly put together.
Argentina quickly rejected me in favour of ex-River Plate Striker Ramón Díaz. I am not annoyed at the rejection, after all the Bastardo approach would kill the creative talents of Javier Pastore & Lionel Messi. If I was manager, they might as well announce their International retirements early...as I wouldn't stand for their crap work rate.
But Chile on the other hand are full of 'fibra', the precious commodity that makes the Bastardo approach flourish. The likes of Alexis Sánchez, Arturo Vidal & Gary Medel are no strangers to hard work and selfless sacrifices on the pitch. They are Fibra Demi Gods, the kind of player that I yearn to manage in this FM17 save. To my surprise, the Federación de Fútbol de Chile called with the offer of employment. Within seconds I had become the Manager of Chile, managing probably the most fibra-intensive side on the International scene. Vamos!
Back in La Plata
Now you're probably wondering where this leaves me and Estudiantes de La Plata (EdlP). Relations with Club Chairman Juan Sebastián Verón have been going well over the past two seasons. I have brought a trophy each year* and two consecutive Top 4 finishes** (thus securing Copa Libertadores participation). I am clearly meeting expectations and have a contract for the duration of Season 3 (expiring in June 2019). I have promised Verón that my Chilean adventure will be over at the climax of the 2019 Copa América. This gives me one year of juggling the priorities of both International and Club management together, but provides the platform to take a Copa América title holder to defend its crown in Brazil. It's fairy tale stuff and Verón has surprisingly been agreeable.
*2016 Copa Sudamericana & 2017 Recopa Sudamericana
**4th place finish in 2016 and 3rd in 2017
So my updates during Season 3 will be divided between both EdlP and Chile.
La Plata, Argentina
We've had a great pre-season touring Japan. I was excited about generating £400k in appearance fees, but fellow Bloggers @DMendoza1969 and @FM_Samo pointed out (correctly) that significant costs may be incurred. With a huge £1.3m in travel costs, they were right. We hope to break even with increased merchandise revenue but it will be hard to justify a similar trip next year to Verón (providing I am offered a deal beyond 2019). Nevertheless, I am still sitting pretty on a balance of £40m - which is a vast amount of money for South America.
I am 2 games into Season 3, in what is always a hard task for Argentine sides: playing the knockout Copa Libertadores matches straight away. We had a fantastic away performance with newboy Facundo Colidio (more on him later) finishing off a lovely move. But we were so wasteful in the 2nd leg and ATM took us to penalties. Luckily, we won and I avoided breaking something in the house!
Our reward is a second successive Quarter Final against Grêmio, who knocked us out of the 2017 Copa Libertadores with that disgusting goal (see last week's post here). Some consolation is that Grêmio went on to win that tournament, but I still wonder of what might have been if it wasn't for that fluke goal.
Facundo Colidio, remember the name
Transfer-wise the big deal is bringing highly rated 18 year old, Facundo Colidio from Boca Juniors on a 2 year loan deal. I also have the option to buy him outright for £5m at anytime. With injuries to Carlos Auzqui and Lucas Viatri hampering the end of pre-season, I gave a start to Colidio as the most advanced forward in a 4-4-2 (which at times was shaped like a 4-4-1-1 with the Defensive Forward (on Defend) partner patrolling the half way line and pressing Grêmio's DMs.
To put it simply, he was outstanding. Running the channels well and getting 6 shots away (4 on target). Might not seem like much, but Bastardo football uses shooting sparsely.
Ángel Bastardo is probably the worst EVER International Manager. For the 23 man squad to face Hungary in a friendly, Bastardo simply selected on fibra attributes and player value. Not a single player was watched and Ángel seems to be more of a Parody Consultant than Manager. But there are some aims for my brief spell with Chile:
- Favour experience over youth (there's no intention of leaving any legacy here)
- Play the 'Bastardo Way': counter attack, fibra, high tempo, narrow, time wasting etc.
- Complete a hat-trick of Copa America wins for Chile.
- Resign after the tournament...hopefully as a hero.
So my 1st squad to face Hungary looks like this (player roles subject to change):
I have to decide whether to use the 4-3-3 and have MVP Sánchez in his preferred Inside Forward role...or whether I adopt the EdlP 4-4-2 and perhaps play Sánchez as a Central Striker combined with a more advanced partner. I am also debating whether to use Marcelo Díaz as the Deep Lying Playmaker...or do away with playmakers completely, like what I am doing with EdlP.
You may also see it is quite an old squad, with an average age of 29.5 years old, which I think will suit International football. Age is also a correlating factor with 'fibra' as I discussed in a previous post (see here). Obviously the standout players are Sánchez & Vidal, but there are some nice surprises in this squad...including ex-Utd and Wigan Striker Ángelo Henríquez who has developed into a great clinical striker:
Football Manager Slack
Stay up-to-date with Bastardo's forays into International Management via my Twitter feed but also a new platform called Slack. What is Slack? I hear you ask. Well fellow Gentleman, Keysi Rensie has done a feature post on what it is. Over 100 FMers have joined up already and the discussions are brilliant, I have my own channel there (linking in to my Twitter), but there's also an #fmargentina channel for all things specific to Argentine football. You will probably see me in there :-)
More info below:
Feliz año nuevo
Happy New Year to all of my readers and all the best for 2017. I hope you have enjoyed the introduction into Season 3, which promises to be another epic season down in La Plata. Speak soon...