Previously in Return to La Plata, Ángel Bastardo ceded some of his power in La Plata.
I have always said that Football Manager gets easier as the in-game seasons drag on. You build a squad, improve it year-on-year and eventually prosper. But what happens when you go beyond that cycle? When the powers of the heroes you once relied on begin to wane? Ángel Bastardo always earmarked 2025 as 'the end', and he intends to honour that. But 2023/24, his penultimate season, was his most difficult in management. Estudiantes de La Plata are clearly not the team they once were, and perhaps it is now Barstardo's powers waning. Too loyal to his warriors, too frugal in the Transfer Market and perhaps too stubborn to change.
We have a few months to fix it, and 'Succession Plan' is in full operation to help us do that. But before we begin Season 8, it's time to reflect on Season 7 and after that we will conclude the "Las Joyas de Bastardo" trilogy: looking at some of the players Bastardo shaped throughout his tenure in La Plata.
It's so painful when you look back at the results in 2024. We just were not good enough. I have said it a few times in my Slack channel and on Twitter, the Argentine Superliga is actually gaining competitiveness year-on-year. Players seem to be prolonging their stay in Argentina longer than in real life, perhaps this is because I don't have any European leagues loaded in the game, so it has resulted in many strong squads. Even Boca Juniors, retaining the title once again, dropped points in 15 of their 38 games.
It's our worst league finish in 5 years, but it's still enough to qualify for the 2025 Copa Libertadores. Looking at the league in isolation, it's clearly not good enough for a trophy laden squad such as ours. Reinforcements needed!
For the sixth year in a row Bastardo’s Estudiantes reach the Knockout Stages of the Copa Libertadores. A scare in the away match Vs Emelec meant topping the group was not a formality going into the final group match. But Emelec’s draw away in Uruguay and our confident 3-0 at home meant Estudiantes once again topped a Copa Libertadores Group Stage. Botafogo up next in the Last 16.
Can we retain it for a third time running (after winning 2022 & 2023 editions)? We're working on it, wins against lower league Guillermo Brown de Puerto Madryn & Liniers de Bahía Blanca see us into the 7th Round.
The 10th trophy arrived with a 2-0 win against Boca Juniors. Maxi Romero coming on in the 60th minute to bag two late goals (79' & 90+4'). In truth, it was a dull affair but made sweeter seeing as I had to give a debut to Newgen Goal Keeper, Darío Cuevas, a Director of Football January signing.
I joked at the time that I was finally fulfilling Bastardo’s 'Décima Dream', an expression made famous by Real Madrid's pursuit of 10 European Cup triumphs. But 10 trophies in seven years is quite an achievement, and something I will look back fondly when returning to re-read these posts in years to come #GraciasBastardo.
Las Joyas de Bastardo: Tercera Parte
Over the previous two posts I’ve introduced 8 youngsters who have passed through the La Plata Academy. You can re-read my previous decision making on them here:
Four of the eight have moved on to Europe: Carlo Lattanzio, Nico Rosales, Carlos Aparicio & Renzo Taborda. The other four have all made 1st appearances and remain tied to Estudiantes, they are: Lucas Pessarini, Mateo Allione, Ignacio Fernández & Kevin Lizaso. We'll start with the former group first and re-cap on their time with Bastardo and what they went on to do in FM18...
Carlo Lattanzio - 26 years old - West Ham United
Lattanzigol's rise surprised me in this save. An injury crisis in early 2019 and a failed loan spell in Argentinos Juniors meant he finally got his chance to shine. To be fair to him, he has never looked back. Now at West Ham, Carlo is lighting up the English Premier League with goals, reaching double figures in his 3 seasons there. The spirit of Mariano Pavone is in him too, his Resolute mentality passed on to young Carlo after successful tutoring in 2018.
Carlo eventually learnt the 'Places Shot' Player Trait with me in his final season (2020/21), something I wanted him to do for many years. At 26 years old he still has so much to do, he is still yet to win a trophy since his 2020 Copa Libertadores title with Estudiantes but maybe West Ham isn't the club to do this at?
Nicolás Rosales - 23 years old - FC Porto
Nicolás Rosales was 19 years old when he made his International debut for Argentina. At that moment in time, he had already made the move over to Europe (to FC Porto). It was a then record sale for Bastardo: €6m, which was made even sweeter by the International cap which earned a further €850k.
You can go and read Part One and see what I did with him in the little time we had together. I think the most satisfying moment was having him learn 'Dictates Tempo' from Walter Erviti, another milestone in successful tutoring in La Plata. Nico was always too good for me, such a composed Deep Lying Playmaker even as a young lad. If he had stayed another 2-3 years, he'd have been as decorated as the likes of Maxi Romero & Fernando Zuqui in my squad. But instead, he found his trophies in Portugal: 3 straight league titles with Porto and 5 domestic cups. Well done Nico.
Carlos Aparicio - 22 years old - Benfica
Carlos Aparicio was introduced in Part Two of my youth development posts. He was recruited from 2nd Division Peruvian team Sport Loreto on a Free Transfer. After spending 6 months in my Academy and u20s, he was quickly loaned out to Newell's Old Boys for 1st team football. He did well in Rosario, so I slotted him straight into the Estudiantes 1st team from 2021/22, replacing his previous tutor, Maxi Pereira, who altered his personality to Fairly Professional.
He was quite reliable and steady at Right Back so I had no hesitation starting him in the 2021 victorious Copa Libertadores Finals against Grêmio. He then went on to win a further 5 trophies in our club's golden period.
He asked to leave for Benfica in January 2024, and I simply couldn't say no. €8m straight up cash later and he was with the Portuguese giants.
Renzo Taborda - 22 years old - FC Barcelona
The last of our alumni overseas is a big one, Renzo Taborda rocking the blaugrana colours of FC Barcelona. Not only is he just there, he's their Number 10 and boasting a '1 in 2 record' for goals in his 1st season. Ladies & Gentlemen we created a worldie talent! A record sale in a deal rising to €12.5m, Renzo never looked out of place in the Estudiantes team after his loan deal at Temperley. He went on to score 61 goals in the La Plata shirt and surpassed everything that Carlo Lattanzio did before him. Trained as an Advanced Forward from the day he entered in the Academy, we added a few Player Traits to help his game.
At 22 he is unstoppable. I dread to think what he will be like after a few more years at Barcelona's training facilities.
Now on to those Academy players that remained in La Plata: Lucas Pessarini, Mateo Allione, Ignacio Fernández & Kevin Lizaso. I won't post their career stats, seeing that they all remain with Estudiantes...
Lucas Pessarini - 24 years old
Despite me noting down 4 seasons ago in Part One, that Lucas would likely be sold on....he is still here! The only clubs to come in for him made loan offers, so instead he has carved out a career as Estudiantes' 4th choice Centre Back. Lucas has played 63 times for Bastardo's Estudiantes after a year on loan with Huracán in the Argentine Superliga. I suppose there is realism here, Lucas clearly isn't quite good enough for a move away to Europe but he's a handy guy to have called upon over the years and proven value for the Free Transfer 6 years ago.
Mateo Allione - 23 years old
Like Lucas Pessarini, Mateo Allione was another 18-year-old freebie from the lower leagues of Argentina. I was naturally drawn to his high fibra scores in Aggression, Bravery, Teamwork & Work Rate. His Potential Ability is probably quite low, or he is close to reaching it...as I haven't seen significant gains in his attributes over the last 12 months. But believe me this guy has been extremely reliable at Full Back, amassing 106 Estudiantes appearances and not really putting a foot wrong. He has been the undisputed No.1 Left Back for the last 2 seasons and is supporting evidence for the need to find the right player-type for your system. The only wish I had was that he had more of an output offensively, just the one assist in the 2023/24 season.
Ignacio Fernández - 21 years old
Now on to a true Homegrown player, coming into the Estudiantes setup in the 2018/19 intake. Ignacio Fernández has only managed 10 appearances in the Estudiantes shirt, being loaned out to Defensa y Justicia, Banfield & Newell's Old Boys (on 2 occasions). His last spell at Newell's Old Boys has been his most productive, playing 39 games (all comps) as a DLP in Newell's successful season, finishing 3rd in the Superliga and reaching the Last 16 of the Copa Libertadores.
I expect Newell's to be in contact about extending this loan for the remainder of their Copa Libertadores campaign, but Bastardo needs him. I fully expect him to come into the side now and compete.
Kevin Lizaso - 22 years old
Kevin Lizaso had two disappointing loan spells with Independiente Rivadavia & Colón over the last few years (and 13 Estudiantes appearances sandwiched in between), but his 2023/24 loan with San Lorenzo has been a big surprise. Kevin has been ever present with El Ciclón: 44 appearances (all comps). He now has one final pre-season to impress Bastardo with his lovely physicals and two footedness.
My favourite FM18 Youngster...
Despite all the incredible Newgens above (and some non-Newgens), there's one guy that stands out from the rest. He came between the two Youth Development posts and slotted straight into the 1st team for season 2020/21. I never thought of myself as developing him in any way, he simply turned up and started dreamweaving. His name is Raúl Rolón.
Raúl joined for a then club record transfer fee of €3m from Libertad, Paraguay. He was the replacement to Nico Rosales at DM and quickly became a key component of my 4141: as a Deep Lying Playmaker. We added some Player Traits to help him flourish and in turn we got back-to-back Copa Libertadores titles and a 2022 Superliga title.
It was not long before a European Club came in for him...and in July 2022 he made the move to La Liga with Sevilla. His only piece of silverware there so far is a European Super Cup.
There are so many other players who have been sold that I could have written about today, either those originally from the Academy or those stopping by for 1-2 seasons. We’ll likely mention them at some point next time out, as I plan to conclude my ‘Dollars Trilogy’. A post about the financial gains the clubs has made during the Bastardo-era. Look out for that during September, but until then...
Thanks for reading/sharing/caring. It seems crazy that we’re already embarking on our final season, FM18 has been a blast!