Previously in The Bastardo Cinematic Universe, Bastardo invaded Africa with the help of an old friend.
Ángel Bastardo’s bones were old and hard, but they had never felt a chill like tonight.
Russia was a frozen Hell. He left Africa in the hands of his Generals, readying for another war. His Maghrebian loyalist were instructed to increase their Mediterranean naval strength and a further 200 anti-aircraft missiles were to be stationed by the Suez canal. The European Community are merciless in the face of weakness…so Bastardo had to ensure the Republic of La Plata was ready to respond with whatever military action the axis of evil would throw at him.
He was in Russia to meet Ruslan Chepiga, an expert in the dark arts of poisoning & subterfuge. The UN needed to be sent a silent but deadly message…
Ángel Bastardo wasn't the first military dictator Ruslan Chepiga had broken bread with but he was certainly one of the most intimidating. He stood well over 6 foot, built like a prize bull, with slick black hair.
Ruslan fixed his gaze on him and did not falter. "We can take care of your problem, we do this sort of thing all the time. But let me be clear there will be a price, a heavy price, for our expertise. If you fuck with us, we will do, what Russia does, you will not see it coming, you will feel safe, you will probably be smiling at home in your favourite chair, or making love, when the Russian Bear bites".
"Do not threaten me Russian, I have faced down bigger men than you. I am La Plata" Bastardo reached over for his drink, and Ruslan smiled: "I wouldn't touch that if I were you".
Ruslan grabbed the glass and poured its contents across the pristine mahogany desk, Bastardo smiled as the liquid dissolved straight through onto the carpet below.
"Do we have an accord or not!" the Russian exclaimed.
Ángel Bastardo didn’t have to say anything in return. Russia would stand with Bastardo.
FC Anzhi Makhachkala Vs América de Cali
One of the requirements that Bastardo insisted upon as part of his visit to Russia was that Ruslan Chepiga would host a Winter Break friendly against a top European side. If Bastardo was to be spotted by the media, he’d play the disguise of the ex-football manager watching a glamour tie. After all, his 8 years at Estudiantes de La Plata brought worldwide notoriety as a football manager…the European press do well to forget this when branding Bastardo awful terms, such as ‘Dictator’, ‘Mercenary’ & ‘Tyrant’.
So, imagine the disappointment for Ángel Bastardo when Ruslan Chepiga introduced América de Cali as the ‘glamour friendly’. Bastardo did not like Colombians, his time at Estudiantes made sure of that. Teams such as Atlético Nacional & Once Caldas had always put up a fight in the Libertadores, and more importantly, they could never be paid off. Their loyalty was solely to Colombia and the drug cartels that financed them.
However, América de Cali though had come a long way to correct its tarnished image from the 1990s, where being owned by the Cali Cartel, under the direction of the Orejuela brothers (aka The Gentlemen Of Cali), meant being placed on the dreaded 'Clinton List'. Their image had improved somewhat since 2018 with the appointment of a young Englishman in the name of Mike According. His América side playing some neat football over the last few years, with a rejuvenated Mateo Cardona pulling the strings from central midfield as a No.10. If there was ever a Colombian team that Bastardo could fall in love with, it could well be According’s Cali.
Anzhi Makhachkala, on the other hand, had a growing reputation for the dark arts of football - another Bastardo love. Ruslan Chepiga would often play a traditional 4141 and keep his wingers behind the ball, ready to counter on the turnover of possession. They were coming into the glamour friendly to boost confidence…after crashing out of the Champions League Qualifiers to FC Zürich of Switzerland. The good news is that the Europa League Group Stages still await: Roma, Sparta Prague and Young Boys the opponents. Chepiga had the love of his people - surviving a one-year transfer ban by blooding Anzhi youth into the First Team and insisting on only recruiting players from the Eastern Block. Anzhi Makhachkala were now seen as the workers' club, which is a far cry from the Anzhi of old, with its over-elaborate transfer policy of the mid-00s.
Two managers, two stories in motion: Chepiga & According. Anzhi & Cali. It was time for Bastardo to meet them…
AB: Hola caballeros. How are your teams coming into this match?
RC: We’re in Season 3 right now. The Russian League has started well, the only defeat coming against Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s Krasnador. We’ve looked good in other games, especially defensively. Could match 3rd again. Sacrificed the cups in previous two years.
MA: My Cali team are at the mid-point of Season 3. We had our 1st league title in season 1, and since then two domestic Semi-finals. On the continental stage, we’ve has a Semi Copa Sudamericana. Playing quite well in recent weeks, and I’ve stopped rotating as much as I previously was doing. Quite defensive in the league. 8 goals conceded in the first 19 games of the league. Anti-Futbol? Possibly.
AB: Who are your star players?
RC: Player of the season last year was Right winger Savichev: average rating 7.23, 8 goals and 8 assists. Very often he was set free on the right by long cross field passes by my favourite player, Right footed Left midfielder (WM-A) Doston Xamdamov from Uzbekistan. Excited by new signing Glushakov his player traits of gets forward and arrives late in opponents’ box are perfect for my system. 60+ caps for Russia.
MA: Mateo Cardona. No.10, top scorer and assister in the previous season (2019). Joined on a free at the start of 2018. 19 year-old Gustavo Carvajal, América youth prospect and highest potential player in the squad. He plays at DM/CM and is vice-captain and has led the side on many occasions.
AB: Do you have any perceived weaknesses?
RC: Quite often on the left side it can be open. Full back is in space to advance but can be exposed. On the lookout for a better LFB. I’m also limited in the save to players from the former Eastern Bloc so difficult to source replacements. Squad depth isn’t good after first XI, so it’s very limited. I am always too eager to adjust the tactic if you lose 2-3 games.
MA: Too negative football mostly using support roles (I’d rather win 1-0 than 3-1!). We’re quite low scoring and I value a clean sheet above all else. I’m slow on the changes too. We’ve put too much faith in young players or out of form players to turn it around.
AB: Describe your team in up to 5 adjectives.
RC: Blunt & Serious. Our club motto is: “through hard work and skill we shall overcome our foes”. This is what I’m working towards.
MA: Strong, Physical, conservative, robust.
The answers to the above questions left Bastardo worrying about the ambition and quality of these two teams. A 0-0 bore draw was looking likely and Bastardo longed to witness Mendoza-ball again. But would Anzhi Vs Cali play out this way? Let’s find out…
When a team from one continent meets another it often throws up huge tactical intrigue. Perceptions on how football should be played develop within their national or continental bubbles. National identity and pride therefore directly translate into football, such as the contrasting styles of mentalities (Defensive vs Attacking) and the profile of footballers it creates (Physical Vs Technical). The same contrasting views can be seen when Cali came to Anzhi. Despite both managers painting a picture of hard work & pragmatism, there were subtle intrinsic differences in the players on shown. Form Mateo Cardona's technical mastery to Denis Glushakov’s relentless industry in midfield, this was a match that promised a lot: East meets West. Chepiga Vs According.
Both teams similarly lined up with flat back fours and a central striker. The major difference between the two sides was the midfield, with Chepiga instructing his wide players to play deeper and in line with the central pairing of Konstantin Savichev and Doston Xamdamov. According’s Cali would rather have his wide players more advanced and feeding off Fernando Aristeguieta who was playing as a Target Man upfront.
Key players for Anzhi include Ivan Novoseltsev at the back, who is on loan from Zenit Saint Petersburg. Doston Xamdamov is unquestionably the poster child of Anzhi football right now, with good Technique and Vision. If Anzhi were going to win tonight, it would be Doston who’d no doubt feature heavily on the flanks. Lastly, Chepiga’s biggest transfer coup is Denis Glushakov - who has amassed 64 caps for Russia. His drive and experience would be key for Anzhi tonight and Bastardo was looking forward to seeing what he could bring to the team in central midfield.
According’s Cali was equally homegrown. Nicolás Vidal has a presence about him between the sticks with good Aerial Reach and Command Of Area. Fernando Aristeguieta was also one to look out for, after a failed spell in Ligue Un with FC Nantes the Target Man has become a bit of a cult figure in Cali. Aristeguieta has the player traits to suit such a role, and Bastardo was looking forward to seeing how he matched up against Ivan Novoseltsev. The third and final player that Bastardo couldn’t wait to see was Mateo Cardona. A raw and untamed talent that would be playing as a Mezzala on Attack in the centre of midfield.
The subtle differences in the 4141s deployed meant the location of attacking spaces were different for each side. However both teams were overly cautious in the first 45 minutes, and neither team could take advantage in open play.
Chepiga’s Anzhi were extremely disciplined without the ball, keeping their shape with good defensive organisation.
With both teams being so reserved, it’s little wonder that the 1st Half only saw 2 shots on target (1 from each team). Fortunately for According’s Cali, that shot on target came from the right boot of Mateo Cardona…
One of the standout South American bargains in FM19 (available on a Free Transfer in July 2018, if you have South American players loaded) is Colombian gem, Mateo Cardona. His attributes and overall performance in this year's match engine is perhaps vastly inflated considering he can't keep a club side in real life (at least five clubs in 2 years!). But under Mike According, Mateo Cardona is the perfect 10…showing incredible guile to put Cali 1-0 up with a glorious freekick. Cali would lead at Half Time. Chepiga needed a response.
Both teams remained unchanged after Half Time, with Ruslan Chepiga continuing with the flat four in midfield. Cali on the other hand were looking to exploit the right flank more often, after identifying Doston Xamdamov as a player who often cuts inside.
On the 50th minute, Anzhi Left Back Dmytro Nemchaninov had a horror show to forget. Losing possession in the attacking third, to Gustavo Carvajal - who had impressed Bastardo through his defensively sound pressing and maturity with the ball. The young Colombian found the deep lying Target Man, Aristeguieta. The damage was done as soon as Inside Forward Mayer Vidal had the ball. His driving run inside from the right flank (as you’d expect) caught the Anzhi backline off-guard. It was Nemchaninov’s missed interception (his second mistake in the same minute)…meant Mateo Cardona had a chance to smash in his 2nd of the night. 2-0 América de Cali.
An Anzhi comeback?
With just under 15 minutes to go, Ruslan Chepiga instructed his team to become more positive, as a counter measure Cali’s response was to go Cautious. This brought about a thrilling climax to an otherwise nervy encounter.
On 82 minutes, under heavy Anzhi pressure, the Cali defensive masterclass finally crumbled. Defensive anchor, David Silva, recklessly bringing down Konstantin Savichev in the area. Penalty Anzhi:
Concentration always plays a decisive factor in the closing stages of any game, and this one was no different. The Anzhi war machine had taken a while to start purring, but with 5 minutes to go there were pockets of attacking spaces opening up to exploit. Below, left sided Centre Back Ivan Novoseltsev picking out a perfect ball to release substitute Advanced Forward, Timur Zhamaletdinov…
Bastardo had been praising Gustavo Carvajal’s defensive displays all game, but on 86 minutes the most insane bit of decision making was used to cynically take out Anzhi’s Taras Puchkovskyi from a defending throw-in. It was a chance for Chepiga’s Anzhi to draw level and make it 2-2…
Nicolás Vidal would be the hero, not Denis Glushakov…whose penalty was a disappointment for the Russians.
This match will never go down as a classic, and perhaps not even register in the consciousnesses of most FMers…but it’s a noteworthy entry into Bastardo’s Lore. We had two beautiful moments of Cali play, capitalised ruthlessly by Mateo Cardona’s untamed potential. It’s perhaps “what might have been” for Ruslan Chepiga’s Anzhi. There’s no doubting their work ethic and commitment for the shirt…but they have to be more clinical in future skirmishes. South American flair triumphant this time round: FC Anzhi Makhachkala 1-2 América de Cali.
The Gentleman of Cali
The day's events involving assassination plots, political intrigue and spectating football had left its toll on Ángel Bastardo, he was tired and weary. Yet he could not sleep. Wars would do that to a man. The battles might be over but Ángel would revist them over-and-over again, the men he had killed would be there in the dreams to keep him awake at night. He knew their faces as well as his own.
The silence in the room was broken however, with a deftly whisper…crisp and sharp like the deadliest of blades.
“Ángel” whispered Bastardo’s squire, Pablo Rodríguez, a young man who has made the trip down to Bastardo’s bed chambers late at night. He continued worriedly, ”Libya has fallen. All of the Maghreb has fallen”.
Ángel Bastardo’s pause was long and solemn, the anguish in his voice was clear as he grated out the words “El Diego?”
“Mendoza is in Arabia now. He’s held up there, it’s where we should go. The UN and the América are coming for La Plata. It’s only a matter of time before...”
As if by magic, and before Pablo Rodríguez could finish his sentence, Ruslan Chepiga emerged from the shadows in the room. His voice as cold as the night breeze hitting the window pane: "Sympathetic allies around the world are important for a burgeoning dictatorship my friends. Should you fall on hard times, you have my word, Mike According will help you. Do not hesitate to go back to Colombia with him at this very instance"
Bastardo turned to reach his gun, using the cocking handle as his aim met with Ruslan's eyes.
”Yes, Ruslan. I’ll go to Colombia, with The Gentleman of Cali.”
Pablo & Ruslan nodded as Bastardo holstered the gun onto his hip before careful placing the silkskin blazer onto his broad frame. All-out war had begun, Africa may fall and many will perish, but Ángel Bastardo had never looked so cool.
Note from the Editor - huge thanks to both Ruslan and Mike for coming on-board the Bastardo bandwagon and moving the story forward. It was great capturing their match and I hope others find it equally entertaining. If you do not already, go check out their work. They are two great FM storytellers who always make time to chat FM and are good guys:
As always, thanks for reading/sharing and caring.