"Il più grande imbroglio che il diavolo abbia mai escogitato è stato convincere il mondo che Ángel Bastardo non esistesse più"
06 March 2021
"The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the World that Ángel Bastardo no longer existed" read the article in La Gazzetta dello Sport.
Ángel Bastardo is back in club management, 639 days (1 year, 9 months) after leaving Estudiantes de La Plata in Argentina. During his downtime, he went to the Middle East, Japan and England...broadening his outlook on the beautiful game. Now F.C. Internazionale Milano have answered the call, a club with rich history and at the summit of Worldwide fame. A club that has a special relationship with Argentina, with players such as Cambiasso, Crespo, Milito, Samuel, Simeone, Verón, Zanetti and legendary manager Helenio Herrera (who brought home back-to-back European Cups for Inter in 1964 & 1965).
Luckily I managed to get some hours into this save before blogging about it...covering the final 3 months of the 2020/21 season through to the start of the 2021/22 campaign. I wanted to make sure I survived those initial 3 months before re-commencing the blog, which were also played inconsistently over the months of February and March (whilst I battled late night newborn sessions).
Today's blog therefore outlines the task at hand: (1) what's happened to Internazionale during the 4.5 seasons of play-through in my Football Manager 2017 save, and (2) hopefully where they will be going under Bastardo's stewardship...including some fabulous Newgen love near the end of this blog post.
Oh Ángel, I have missed you.
What happened to Internazionale?
2016-2021 - 2nd best in Milano
In FM17 Frank de Boer lasted a lot longer at Inter than he did in real life. Four full seasons were completed under de Boer's management, and all four of his Serie A finishes guaranteed Champions League football: 3rd in 2016/17, 2017/18, 2018/19 & 2nd in 2019/20. However the runners up medal in 2019/20 may have been bittersweet...losing out on the title to arch rivals A.C. Milan.
In the Champions League, Inter never made it past the Last 16. However they did make the Euro Cup Semi Finals on two occasions, losing to FC Schalke 04 in 2017 and going out on away goals to Liverpool in 2020.
Frank de Boer also made some high profile sales, Gabriel Barbosa leaving for PSG in a huge deal for €61m (possibly rising to €95m) and João Mário who swapped Milan for Munich in a €43.5m deal (possibly rising to €48.5m). In terms of incoming transfers the signings made were pretty low key, although Kasper Dolberg (€22m) and Danilo Cataldi (€37.5m) are particularly tasty.
It feels like Inter were a 'nearly team' under de Boer. Certainly good enough to qualify regularly for the Champions League in Serie A...but not quite good enough to compete past the Group Stages.
2020/21 - Chasing Bielsa
The nearly team lost its way under de Boer during his 5th season in charge. With 12 games to go, Frank de Boer was sacked 4 points from the Champions League qualification spots and 17 points away from Marcelo Bielsa's inspired league leaders Roma.
Inter's Indonesian Chairman Erick Thohir called time on de Boer's contract, after a disastrous 0-1 loss at home to Genoa. Inter were still in the Champions League Last 16 however (albeit being 0-3 down against PSG from the 1st leg).
It was time for Bastardo, who kicked off with a typical conservative approach to life in Milan. 6 clean sheets in the first 8 matches saw us move into contention for the Champions League places. I was playing a 4-3-3, because my usual bastard 4-4-2/4-4-1-1 (with two banks of four facilitating 'La Plata anti-fútbol') was not possible due to the current Inter personnel [or lack of]:
You will see that I was not so good in the big games against A.C. Milan, Roma & Juventus. This meant that I had to beat Fiorentina on the final day to qualify for the 3rd Champions League spot (via a better head-to-head record):
Now I am not sure if I would have been sacked if I had fluffed that final game (as the Board tasked me with a Champions League finish)...but to win 5-0 away from home AND with such panache was joyous. Special mention must go to hat-trick hero Danilo Cataldi...who repaid the €37.5m fee that de Boer paid in the previous Summer. However I couldn't overturn that 0-3 loss to PSG in the 2nd leg of the Champions League tie...but I did give PSG a real test and it left me with hope for the future. With a few additions to the squad, I could build a powerhouse of a team. It was time to start planning for the 2021/22 season...
2021/22 - Signing Santiago
One of the standout stories of my Fame & FIbra in La Plata series was the sale of Santiago Ascacíbar from Estudiantes to PSG, I even dedicated a blog post to it (See: "Selling Santiago"). The deal was £50m, rising to £55m (€64m). Now the story does not end there, I was able to loan him back to La Plata for the next 4 seasons. He then subsequently went to Sampdoria in Serie A on a season loan (2020/21) for the final year of his contract. To my astonishment, in the lead up to Summer 2021 he was available to discuss terms...because the fools in Paris had not renewed his contract. Maybe they'd forgotten all about him? Anyway, Santiago is mine...forever mine. He signed a pre-contract agreement coming in to compete with Gary Medel (another reunion from my 2019 Chile stint) for the traditional ball winner/defensive midfielder slot. It seems that Ascacíbar and Bastardo are forever united.
After Ascacíbar, a mix of big names and talented youth followed...largely dictated from my fibra policy ('fibra' - what's that? Read more here). 33 year old Karim Benzema is the one exception, recruited prior to my arrival on a €758k per month pre-contract agreement by de Boer. Luckily it's just a 1 year deal. Here are their fibra scores:
- Karim Benzema - 33 year old Striker - 41 fibra
- Santiago Ascacíbar - 24 year old Midfielder - 56 fibra
- Sérgio Gomes - 20 year old Goalkepper [Newgen*] - 57 fibra
- Eduardo Colautti - 20 year old Attacking Midfielder [Newgen*] - 47 fibra
- Facundo Colidio - 21 year old Striker - 48 fibra
- N'Golo Kanté - 30 year old Midfielder - 60 fibra
- Leandro Bazán** - 20 year old Winger [Newgen] - 62 fibra
*More about those Newgens later on in this post.
**Leandro Bazán immediately loaned back to Argentina (Argentinos Jnrs) for 1st team football.
The huge outgoing deal was for 28 year old Geoffrey Kondogbia, who returned to AS Monaco in a deal rising to €55m. He is a great all round midfielder but sadly couldn't outshine Danilo Cataldi as the primary playmaker in midfield. €55m was simply too tempting. Overall our profit/loss on transfer fees stands at €48.5m, which has contributed to record highs in the club's bank balance: €175m.
Part of the decision to offload so many senior pros was because I saw a number of young talents, either those that have come through the Inter youth system or those that have been recruited externally. I am really excited by them, who all have the required personalities to make it at the top level. Let's have a look:
Abubakar Abubakar - 20 year old Centre Back - 50 fibra
So good, they named this motherfucker twice. French/Ghanaian 'Abu' was bought by de Boer for €20.5m from Montpellier. He's not the perfect defender yet, but he did a decent job partnering Jeison Murillo at the back during the 2020/21 season run-in. I'd like more Composure and Concentration but his Anticipation & Decisions are very strong. The 1st of three Wonderkid Centre Backs I am about to introduce you to.
Gianluca Belfiore - 17 year old Fullback - 48 fibra
Academy product Gianluca Belfiore is a speedy Fullback who can play on the left or right side. I need to work on some technical aspects of his game (notably Crossing), but he is already physically advanced for 17 years of age. I will certainly be training the PPM: 'Knock Balls Past Opponent' to make use of that Acceleration and Pace.
Eduardo Colautti - 20 year old Attacking Midfield - 47 fibra
I'm usually frugal in Football Manager's transfer market, but Eduardo Colautti is something special. In 2019/20 he spent the season on loan from Udinese at Celta Vigo in La Liga, scoring 12 top flight goals at 18 years of age. In 2020/21 he returned to Serie A and scored 15 goals for Udinese. Worth every cent of the €17.5m paid...I hope.
Nicolò Marcheggiani - 20 year old Centre Back - 50 fibra
Academy Nicolò Marcheggiani is the 2nd of 3 Wonderkid Centrebacks at Inter. I would like more Aggression and Composure, but his Anticipation, Decisions and Positioning are wonderful for his age. Combined with his physical attributes, he has massive potential.
Matteo Zanini - 18 year old Centreback - 55 fibra
It's hard to believe this kid is only 18 years old. Matteo Zanini is another academy player and is the 3rd Wonderkid Centre Back in my team. He is Aggressive, Brave and Determined...my kind of bastard. I am hoping for some natural growth in Concentration and Decisions and then I will have a real beast. He is also a left sided CB, something I like to have combined with a right sided CB if I decide to play from the back.
That's 5 of the best talents, but there are a few more including Portuguese Goalkeeper Sérgio Gomes (57 fibra). Sérgio signed on a Free Transfer and has been given the No.1 jersey after Samir Handanovic retired...a bold move that is probably going to give me a heart attack. With Eccentricity 18, this guy is going to do some incredible things (both good and bad). The top target was A.C. Milan's Gianluigi Donnarumma who went to Liverpool for €28.5m...annoyingly I bid in excess of €40m...but my main rivals were having none of it. Wankers.
There's also versatile academy players like Christian Macrì (63) & Vito Serafini (60) who are likely to play some part in the 2021/22 season. Despite being raw...they have exceptional fibra:
Inter is coming...
Thanks for making it this far through the blog post, full of my ramblings and some [long overdue FMG] Newgen love. Also thanks must go to Thomas Paine (@Armchair_Gaffer) who helped me with the proper/native Italian translation found in my intro :-)
I am not sure how regular I will be playing/posting during the 'Inter is coming' series...but I will certainly be posting snippets about my save via Twitter and my channel on the FM Slack (just search #fmgrasshopper). I would also like to belatedly thank all those who passed on best wishes since the birth of my son 'Luca', the real life Newgen is doing great thanks...already over 2 months old :-)
Ángel Bastardo cannot promise Inter trophies, but he is certain to bring shitloads of drama and fibra.