Previously in Return to La Plata, Ángel Bastardo became only the 3rd man to win a Copa Libertadores for Estudiantes de La Plata.
It's been a while since I last wrote about Estudiantes de La Plata in FM18, and a lot has happened since. I left you last time a victor: a Copa Libertadores and Copa Argentina Champion. Two live finals played out on Twitch, both of which I won...it felt so easy then!
Fast forward 6 months and FM had brought me back down to Earth. Two more live finals played out on Twitch, both of which I lost 0-1...a Club World Cup Final (Vs Club América) & an Argentina Super Cup (Vs River Plate). There was also heartbreak too in the league, losing out to Boca Juniors on the final day...we would never get so close to the league title without actually winning it!
The hurt I endured has only heightened my desires to challenge again, as I enter my 5th season in La Plata. But before I do this, I would like to freshen up the squad with some more La Plata youngsters, this is the 'segunda parte' to my youth development ramblings. But first, Season 4 in a nutshell...
We were only 11 league games in to Season 4 when I last wrote an update, due to the fixture schedule caused by the Copa Argentina & Libertadores wins. So below is how the remaining 31 games played out.
A strong run in the final 10 games simply wasn't enough to stop the Boca-River stranglehold on this league. That's 5 years in a row now where the Argentine giants have alternated winning the league. Infuriating, but one hell of a challenge to overcome! A challenge that Ángel Bastardo recently acknowledged as 'football heritage':
"I say to the fans that the fans are the fans and have the right to their opinions and reactions but there is something that I used to call 'football heritage' - 'football heritage', what a manager inherits"
"It is something like the last time Estudiantes de La Plata won the Copa Libertadores, which didn't happen a lot of times, was in 2009. In 11 years with seven different managers, they did not win the Copa Libertadores. This is football heritage"
"I understand that 2020 was really hard for the people who don't like me - 'here he is again, here he wins again, Copa Libertadores/Argentina Double' For 6 months I win nothing, I beat Boca, Racing, I draw against River and now is their moment to be happy, wankers" (Source: El Día - La Plata)
2021 Copa Libertadores
We were given a relatively easy Group Stage, which proved no problems. 14 games unbeaten now in the Copa Libertadores over 2020 & 2021, so we’re probably the team everybody wants to avoid at this minute. Up next: Nacional of Uruguay in the Knockout Round.
We’re still going strong in the Copa Argentina, reaching the 7th Round which kicks off again in August. There are also another two finals to look forward to at the turn of the year: Santiago Wanderers of Chile in the Recopa Finals (Winner of Copa Lib Vs Winner of Copa Sud). Another fortuitous chance to win yet another trophy (or lose it)!
Las Joyas de Bastardo: Segunda Parte
Last season I updated you on the healthy financial position that La Plata was finding itself in. Through sensible recruitment, and living within our means, we have now seen this cost-effective Estudiantes team (built on €5.8m if you include real life fees previously made) win South America’s greatest club prize. It's up there as one of my greatest achievements in FM...two Pereiras (Álvaro & Maxi) at Full Back in their mid 30s shuttling between both boxes, players signed on a shoestring with a point to prove (Diego Polenta, Emanuel Reynoso & Alexander Barboza) and an Academy boy becoming the hero of his generation (Carlo Lattanzio). It's the latter that Bastardo perhaps wants to be most remembered for, building a dynasty largely from La Plata. Seeing young Lattanzio shine was a real blessing - he's from the Academy and he loves the club.
Entirely homegrown XIs are a Holy Grail for me in FM…and I am not going to put that expectation on this current save, but we do have a crop of 18-20 year olds (who I will partially introduce you to in a bit) which have a serious chance to shine at Estudiantes in 2021/22. We therefore face a crossroads in my 5th season: this generation will be 23-25 by the time I close out my time in FM18 (around Season 10), so it's now or never to integrate them and build something good. Luckily I have been busy behind the scenes, laying the foundations for this group to come through, working with them on: player trait development, specialised role training & focused attribute development. I alluded to it in my "Las Joyas de Bastardo" post back in Season 3, but it is time to meet more of them this time round from what I call my Category Bs - the Academy Newgens (read more here). This is Las Joyas de Bastardo: Segunda Parte.
So my young guys in La Plata follow a certain pathway for development (with a disclaimer that exceptional guys like Nico Rosales, the original 'jewel of La Plata', slot into the First Team sooner). I usually work on the principal that they sit with me and polish their game via tutoring or individual training until around 17/18. This is usually the time where I am 'done' with them, and a time where they need first team football. So I turn to the loan market. The benefits are twofold (1) they grow at a faster rate when playing and (2) I get to see how they perform within a competitive environment, helpful in gauging their current ability.
The below graphic conveys my typical pathway approach:
Let’s begin with the Full Backs, as this is a position that will need cover as the Perieras see out, what I imagine will be, their final year in La Plata. We'll start with Mateo Allione (Left Back) and Carlos Aparicio (Right Back) - who entered the Academy externally after being poached by Bastardo. They both have spent a number of months in the Academy being tutored and mixing in with the U20 team, before being loaned out in 2020/21:
Mateo Allione - Defensa y Justica (Primera B) - 30 games, 3 goals, 3 assists, 7.04 Av Rating (all comps)
Bastardo's reflection: A-
Despite Mateo Allione playing in the league beneath us, he performed well and was Defensa's 1st choice Left Back all season. This suggests that he could probably now cope with a few Superliga games in 2021/22, Mateo is already mentally strong and physically ready for the Full Back - Support role.
Carlos Appachio - Newell's Old Boys (Argentina Superliga) - 14 games, 2 assists, 7.08 Av Rating (all comps)
Bastardo's reflection: B
Carlos Aparicio's loan was shorter in length, covering the final 6 months of the 2020/21 season. But he played a few games and was a starter in the Copa Libertadores Group Stage. This is a great test for him, playing at the highest level in South America! The aim for 2021/22 will be to get Carlos tutored with a more senior pro, but gametime will certainly be available following the end of Emanuel Brítez's two year loan from Unión de Santa Fe. It opens up a place, and I hope he can take it.
Another two guys who spent last season on loan are central midfielders: Ignacio Fernández & Kevin Lizaso...who have both featured for the Argentina U20 squad. Both Ignacio and Kevin came from the Estudiantes youth system and have the club in their hearts.
Ignacio Fernández - Defensa y Justica (Primera B) - 32 games, 6 assists, 6.90 Av Rating (all comps)
Bastardo's reflection: B
Ignacio has 23 U20 caps and is usually their go-to playmaker, at just 18. A Deep Lying Playmaker for Defensa's 3rd place league finish in Primera B, he's been steadily getting the minutes in at a competitive level. I am not too worried about his 6.90 average rating...after all, the withdrawn passers do not really get the average rating they sometimes deserve in FM (in my opinion). I am probably going to get some Player Traits in there to refrain him from tackling, that's his greatest weakness, whilst trying to also boost his already high Passing and Balance.
Kevin Lizaso - Independiente Rivadavia (Primera B) - 12 games, 1 assist, 6.82 Av Rating (all comps)
Bastardo's reflection: C-
Another short 6 month loan, this time for Kevin Lizaso. I am taking his loan stats less seriously, due to the AI playing him out of position as a Winger...despite agreeing with Independiente Rivadavia that he'd play centrally. (Note- you can check what role your loaned player is regularly used in via Reports/Form in the Player Screen). It was really too late in the day to recall, so I left him fighting it out on the wings. I still see some minutes for Kevin in 2021/22, but I may have to consider a similar 6 months loan in December 2021 if I fall short of that promise.
I have a number of upcoming Platense strikers coming through, but there's only one forward to talk about today...and it's not Carlo Lattanzio (for a change)! Meet Renzo Taborda, who came through the youth intake a few years ago and has been developing at an insane rate. We had already given him 2 loans prior to sending him off to Temperley for the 2020/21 season. The results are pretty conclusive:
Renzo Taborda - Temperley (Argentina Superliga) - 22 games, 18 goals, 4 assist, 7.52 Av Rating (all comps)
Bastardo's reflection: A+
It's a perfect loan to be honest. Renzo played his games in the Advanced Forward role, as requested by me (thanks AI). It's clear he is capable at my level, moreover I now know that he can play the Advanced Forward role effectively. This is useful knowledge as I look to interchange him with current Advanced Forward Carlo Lattanzio in the first team. Could 2021/22 be the year of Renzo Taborda? Quite possibly, look at that quickness!!!
So today I have outlined how I manage my academy prospects, specifically loaning out young players in FM18, and the kind of review system I undertake after each spell. There is one thing however, that I wish we had in FM18: the ability to ask the AI to match certain senior pros with the loaned youngster for player tutoring. In my view, it would add an interesting dynamic to the loan process, and an added incentive to choose the right loan for a player. I'd be keen to hear reader's thoughts on this, so do reach out in the usual places if you have an opinion: @FM_Grasshopper on Twitter or my Slack channel #fmgrasshopper.
As always, thank you for reading/sharing/caring. We'll now start playing Season 5 in La Plata, vamos!