3 minutes. I was 3 minutes from reaching the 2024/25 Euro Cup Final in Poland, in what would be Loïc Swartzendruber's 500th and final match in charge at Grasshopper Club Zürich (GCZ) - ending a trophy-laden 10 year spell in Zürich. 3 minutes away from erasing GCZ fans' memories of a Semi Final exit at the hands on SC Bastia on away goals in 1977/78. Just 3 minutes.
But in those final 3 minutes, Olympique Lyonnais scored to equal a 4-1 1st leg defeat and take the tie into Extra Time at 5-5. The rest is a heartbreaking collapse, as documented by my [at the time live] Twitter updates. There will never be a 500th game in charge, instead I said my farewells at home against FC Thun - my 499th game - on the final day of the 2024/25 Swiss Super League season.
Today's blog post is the 1st entry of a two part farewell to GCZ. In today's Part 1, we review Seasons 1-10...the good, the bad and the ugly. For as regular readers know, this hasn't been a fairy-tale save... if anything it's been the HBO Game Of Thrones of FM16 saves. Brutal, unpredictable and strangely satisfying in every small detail. Part 2 will be released next Friday (07 October 2016) and will simulate the next 10 years of life without Loïc Swartzendruber for GCZ and the Swiss Super League. But before we look forward, let's take a look back on 10 years with GCZ...
Season 1 was probably my most challenging pre-season, I had to build an effective team within a very limited transfer budget. The main success was keeping the players I had, certainly Munas Dabbur...who went on to become top scorer in the league with 19 goals. The team was micro-managed to such an extent that we ended up with a very specific asymmetric 4-3-2-1 formation. The success was mainly put down to the injury free season I had...with Yoric Ravet (Inside Forward) and Dabbur (Poacher) creating a really good partnership upfront scoring 45 goals between them in all competitions (71% of our goals came from these two guys!). There were also specific combinations, tweaked to make great use of the FM Match Engine, such as Deep Lying Playmaker Kim Källström consistently releasing Attacking Wing Back Taye Taiwo down the left flank. Again, both these players remained injury free and we managed to pip FC Basel to the title (securing Champions League football) AND win the Swiss Cup. This would lay the foundations for the Swartzendruber legacy that was about to unfold...
Top Performer: Munas Dabbur with 23 goals in all comps
Marquee Signing: Taye Taiwo (£13k)
Notable achievement: A Swiss Domestic Double
Overall Balance at end of season: £-1.8m
In Season 2 we continued with the 4-3-2-1 asymmetric formation, and made a strong start domestically. However a disastrous November, in which GCZ failed to win a game, saw us knocked out of the Swiss Cup to lower league Servette FC and have no chance of progressing in the Champions League. We did however progress to the EURO Cup due to a 5-1 demolition of RSC Anderlecht. As Season 2 progressed GCZ Homegrown talents Shani Tarashaj (22) and Nikola Gjorgjev (19) really started to shine: accumulating in the fantastic 2-1 away win against Sevilla FC. The standout signing was Goalkeeper and South African Captain Itumeleng Khune, who played the Sweeper Keeper role perfectly. As the season progressed, we used the 4-3-2-1 sparingly and used a higher tempo 4-1-2-3, resulting in better football and more goals. It did however start to freeze out the tricky wide ball players of Caio and Yoric Ravet, in favour of more traditional width.
Top Performer: Shani Tarashaj with 19 goals and 9 assists in all comps
Marquee Signing: Itumeleng Khune (£350k)
Notable achievement: A 5-1 home win against RSC Anderlecht in the Champions League
Overall Balance at end of season: £11.3m
Season 3 was so nearly a terrible campaign for us. We were overpowered in the Champions League, crashing out bottom of the group with two points. We also had long barren periods in the league, an example being from February to April...where we picked up on two wins (in 14 games!). We recovered in the final few games however, with new £3.5m striker Moussa Konaté hitting form when it mattered. We won the league on the final day, overturning a losing position against St. Gallen (where we had dropped to 2nd in the live league table). However this day will be remembered as the birth of a new star at GCZ: as 18 year old Remo Mahrer powered in a vital equaliser to send GCZ top once again. The Club was also taken over by Italian Businessman, Franco Soldati in January of 2018. The Club finances swelled to unimaginable heights, concluding in an £11m signing of Niklas Stark in January 2018.
Top Performer: Moussa Konaté with 24 goals in all comps
Marquee Signing: Moussa Konaté (£3.5m)
Notable achievement: Beating Basel on penalties to win the Swiss Cup. The 2nd Domestic Double
Overall Balance at end of season: £24.1m
Season 4 was the birth of entertainment at GCZ. We took our football to the next level by breaking the points record in the Swiss Super League (95 points). Moussa Konaté ran riot, netting 34 goals in all competitions. We also had a very industrious midfield with Marko Grujic, Niklas Stark and 19 year old Vice Captain Marco Simon overpowering opponents. We also did exceptionally well in the Champions Leauge, winning Group C against AC Milan, Arsenal and Zenit, and then beating Valencia home and away. Before finally going out at the Quarter Final stage against FC Bayern. Despite big signings of Argentinian sensation Franco López (£7m) and Spanish Right Back Patric (£3.5m), the finances were healthy...mainly due to £20m in Champions League prize money. We also won our 3rd Domestic Double.
Top Performer: Moussa Konaté with 34 goals in all comps
Marquee Signing: Patric (£3.5m)
Notable achievement: Beating Valencia home and away in a Champions League knockout match
Overall Balance at end of season: £22.9m
Season 5 saw another Double win, with record signing Iuri Medeiros (£16.75m) contributing 20 goals and 28 assists. The football at times was golden, with 37 goal (all comps) Moussa Konaté operating in front of Homegrown talent Remo Mahrer in 'the hole'. Unfortunately, we had a terrible away result at PSV in the 1st EURO Cup knockout round, losing 3-0 after a 0-0 1st leg draw at home.
Top Performer: Iuri Medeiros with 20 goals and 28 assists in all comps
Marquee Signing: Iuri Medeiros (£16.75m)
Notable achievement: A 5th straight league title
Overall Balance at end of season: £24.9m
Season 6 was another 'nearly year' in Europe, as we went as far as the Quarter Final of the EURO Cup. Going out on away goals to Leverkusen. Our fabulous run to the Quarters, which included knocking out Shakhtar Donetsk and Man City, was orchestrated by January record signing Julian Weigl (signed for £24.5m). Julian Weigl would go on to become GCZ's heartbeat for the remaining 5 years of my time. Sadly we had to say goodbye to Marco Simon (record £20m sale to Olympique Lyonnais,) who had become our Homegrown Captain in Season 5, and Patric who had a £16.75m release clause activated by Tottenham. Nevertheless, we walked to a 6th successive title with only one loss in the league all season.
Top Performer: Adama Traoré with 15 goals and 14 assists in all comps
Marquee Signing: Julian Weigl (£24.5m)
Notable achievement: A EURO Cup run to the Quarter Finals
Overall Balance at end of season: £35.7m
Season 7 was the birth of the Homegrown XI Project, a 5 year project set out to achieve European glory with a comparable set of Academy players to rival the great European teams of Ajax (1995) and Barcelona (2011). During Season 7 57% of the team was made up from Academy players (12 out of the 22 players), however we did polish around the squad with some marquee players. This included Swiss National Goalkeeper for Roman Bürki (signed for £15.75m) and Regen Winger Víctor Silva (£8.75m) - who replaced record sale Iuri Medeiros (sold to Man Utd for £30m). We won the league again, despite having some barren spells in September and February. I also had the embarrassment of a Swiss Cup exit to lowly FC Lausanne-Sport on penalties. We exited the Champions League with a 5-0 aggregate loss to Juventus, however further pain against this team would resurface in Season 10.
Top Performer: Remo Mahrer with 16 goals and 14 assists in all comps
Marquee Signing: Roman Bürki (£15.75m)
Notable achievement: A 5-0 home win against FC Porto in the Champions League Group Stage
Overall Balance at end of season: £36.1m
In Season 8, we broke the points record in Switzerland by amassing an incredible 101 points: with 33 wins, 2 draws and 1 loss. Our flamboyancy reach ridiculous levels, scoring 101 goals in the league. Our play was expansive with Wingers Nikola Gjorgjev & Nikola Vlasic being directly involved in 60 goals (either assist or goal). Remo Mahrer also reach new heights with 18 goals and 18 assists, he had officially developed into a phenomenon for both Club and Country. With 14 International goals in 32 caps, he was recognised as Swiss National Player Of The Year (Nati award). But there was the continuing heartbreak in Europe. After a terrific performance away from home against Monaco (winning 2-1), we succumb to a 3-1 loss at home. After being 3-1 up in the tie, the team folded in the final 30mins...eventually losing the tie 4-3 on aggregate. I hoped the experience would teach the youngsters who now had a 60% share in my 1st team (15 Academy players in squad of 22). I was to be proved wrong...
Top Performer: Richairo Zivkovic with 28 goals in 26 starts (all comps)
Marquee Signing: Silvan Widmer (£9.5m)
Notable achievement: A records points tally to win an 8th consecutive league title and a 4th Domestic Double
Overall Balance at end of season: £15.5m
Due to [in part] my miss-management and an inactive Boardroom (as discussed here), Season 9 was a struggle to survive Financial Fair Play (FFP). My great legacy was on the brink of collapse in my penultimate season! However, we balanced the books and had to sell on the fringe players...sadly these were mainly Academy products. In essence, the Homegrown Project was over...just 3 years into the plan. Instead we bought established stars to steady the ship: Wingers Bismark Ngissah & Regen Florian Rahn. Despite the potential doom and gloom around the Club, we actually went on to have a great season including the away hammering of Young Boys way 7-1 and Basel 5-0 to clinch the title as Unbeaten Winners. The tweaked high tempo 4-2-3-1 was working wonders, with Julian Weigl & Academy product Nuno Gouveia forming an irresistible partnership in midfield. There was but more heartache though, and we went out Galatasaray S.K in comical fashion as documented in my Season 10 preview here. The team needed experience, which was the driver in my recruitment for my 10th and final season at GCZ...
Top Performer: Richairo Zivkovic with 32 goals in 30 starts (all comps)
Marquee Signing: Bismark Ngissah (£10m)
Notable achievement: An Unbeaten Season and my 5th Domestic Double (and surviving FFP!)
Overall Balance at end of season: £2.9m
Season 10 had become an obsession with Europe. After 9 Swiss Super League titles and 5 Swiss Cups, we had become a Domestic Powerhouse. We recruited to a specific kind of player: experienced with high levels of concentration, players that had vast Europe experience. German duo Willi Orban and Christoph Kramer arrived from Leverkusen in a £6m double deal. To fund the recruitment some big decisions were made, Club Icon Nikola Gjorgjev was sold to Barcelona for £30m (equalling the record sale again). We also said farewell to Club Record Scorer Moussa Konaté who was sold back to Sion on the cheap after falling out of favour in the Central Striker position. However, Europe didn't go swimmingly at first...we recorded our biggest ever defeat against Juventus: 8-0. It was the darkest day in the 10 seasons and I used the Winter Break to shore up the leaky defence and re-sign Niklas Stark for £15m in order to add more experience [and German steel]. We stumbled our way in to the EURO Cup Knockout rounds thanks to two wins against Lech in the Champions League Group Stage. We knocked out Dortmund, Roma and Porto en route to a famous 4-1 1st leg home win against Olympique Lyonnais. Despite the euphoria, we crumbled in the 2nd leg...3 minutes was how close we came to that European Cup Final...on what would have been my 500th game.
We won the league this season, making it 10/10. But I leave GCZ with regrets of what might have been. What might have been possible if I had curbed my enthusiasm for entertainment and goals. It is the right time to say goodbye to this wonderful club, in what has been a great FM save.
Top Performer: Bismark Ngissah with 18 goals and 19 assists (all comps)
Marquee Signing: Niklas Stark (£15m)
Notable achievement: A Euro Cup Semi Final (and 3 minutes away from a Final grrr)
Overall Balance at end of season: £10.1m
- During the 'The Swartzendruber Years' GCZ have jumped 174 positions in Club Reputation Rank (from being the 223rd Ranked Team Worldwide in 2015 to 49th in 2025).
- The Club's average attendance has grown by 12,818 fans. Including 10 capacity crowds of 25,000 in 2025, a Club record. Hopefully the next manager can convince the Board to relocate to a new stadium.
- 80 players featured in 'The Swartzendruber Years': 25 GCZ Academy Players (31.25%), 6 Homegrown in Switzerland (8.75%) and 40 outside of Switzerland (60%). See below:
Now that I have wrapped up Seasons 1-10, I am ready to sim 10 years into the future. To see what becomes of GCZ without me. This will be presented in Friday 07 October's blog post. But before that, I need to thank a few people who have really helped me in this save (and apologies in advance if I have missed anybody out). I moved into the Swiss League for the first time in FM16 and their help and support has been appreciated:
- @aulit_z - The Swiss Researcher for Football Manager, please follow him. He reports on some of the best [& most outrageous - yet accurate] Swiss transfer news. The Swiss FM database can have no better person overseeing it. Danke, mein Freund.
- @FootballSwiss - This Twitter account has some passionate support. It pretty much covers every Swiss Super League game, in some way of the other. I shall certainly be following, even though I leave Switzerland for pastures new. Keep up the good work Gents, I will be reading!
- The next few accounts are GC fans that are good guys to talk to. It made my job feel more important as they took an interest in my save, thanks for your support and I wish GC every success in the future: @cedinho19, @Oli_Marriott, @TheUmlautAfobe, @frederikhvillum and the magical @talentfactoryFM
Hopp GC Forever,