Previously in Return to La Plata, Ángel Bastardo experienced final day heartbreak to Boca Juniors (again) and paid homage to Medina and Reynoso.
Ángel Bastardo ousted Juan Sebastián Verón in October 2017, during a contentious election campaign that changed the political landscape of Argentine football forever (read about it here). For the first time, a rumoured drug trafficking Manager became bigger than the club and city he resided in. After that infamous melee with Estudiantes' greatest ever player, Bastardo installed puppet President Mariano Del Bono to become the political face of leadership. Del Bono effortlessly served two unchallenged 3-year campaigns (2017-2023), allowing Bastardo complete autonomy in La Plata and free reign in all facets of the club. When Del Bono spoke, it was Bastardo’s words. When Del Bono listened, it was with Bastardo’s blessing. The arrangement signalled Estudiantes return to power: two Copa Libertadores titles, one Superliga and five other domestic and continental titles.
However October 2023 arrived like an ice cold wind. Del Bono had to leave under AFA regulations, and with Bastardo announcing his intention to leave the following season in 2025, the Estudiantes shareholders were quick to relinquish some of Bastardo’s power. A new President came in, Lucas Fischer, whose first act was to grant more power to Director of Football, Daniel Enríquez and his team of Scouts. Bastardo would leave, and Estudiantes would have to find a way to cope. This is la sucesión...
Before we discuss the Estudiantes backroom politics, we first need to discuss what happened in pre-season and the formative months of season 2023/24. In short, we broke our transfer sale record twice: Sandro Acuña (who was clearly too good for Argentine football), departed for Manchester United after only one season in La Plata. €11m the fee. He also continues the rich success I have with developing tidy young playmakers (after Nico Rosales and Raúl Rolón made previous moves to Europe). Acuna's sale was also notable in that it finally allowed me to face-off against Manchester United (read my concept of FM Anti-Destiny). His tribute friendly was played out on 12 August 2023, and for the most part Estudiantes contained the English visitors, who are still managed by José Mourinho. An evenly contested game was ended in the last ten minutes with European class/José mastery eventually rising to the surface. Two late goals from Jorginho 83' & Henrikh Mkhitaryan 90+2' made it Estudiantes 0-2 Man Utd. Despite losing, I am glad I finally found closure with the whole Estudiantes-Man Utd obsession.
Our second major sale was one that cut me deep: homegrown La Plata hotshot Renzo Taborda sealed a dream move to Barcelona for €12.5m. He'd been our top scorer with 31 goals last year (all comps) and for all of his raw ability, he had that devastating concoction of Acceleration/Pace and Finishing. I was gutted to lose him, but to see a homegrown player in the Barcelona jersey is pretty cool. We would move into 2023/24 with two strikers: Maxi Romero and Bolivian Newgen José Velasco and hoped it would be enough in the usual 4141 and panic station 442 systems.
It was another prudent period of business for Bastardo. Four Newgens came in for a combined value of €3.5m, the pick of the bunch was Juan Pablo Mugnaini from San Lorenzo (more on him later). Undoubtedly, the big news in La Plata was the return of 34 year old Pablo Piatti though. Home at last to finish his career in the red & white of Estudiantes, a dream Free Transfer...
So for 2023/24, we'll go with the 4141. We can't change who we are at this stage and it will be the preferred formation I finish up with on this save...
I'll be frank, we had an awful start domestically. Winning just once in the first six games of the season. It has meant that we have always been chasing the leading pack, but a strong run over November and December has seen us climb the table.
Annoyingly it took me a whole month to realise the errors of my ways during that period of appalling form. Placing newboy Mugnaini into midfield and moving the DLP on Support role from DM to MC was a big mistake. It resulted in him clashing with Reynoso (CM-A) far too often and the whole recycling of the ball from defence to midfield was off. Both Mugani and Reynoso would frequently run into the same spaces, resulting in them being too close to one another to create anything meaningful.
I kept it going for around a month because (1) I am a stubborn little bitch and (2) Mugnaini had no knowledge of the DM position whatsoever. But luckily this changed relatively quickly and moving Mugnaini deeper into DM has worked wonders. Suddenly the whole Estudiantes engine was running smoother, despite the drop in numbers from Mugnaini (assists, key passes etc.)...the balance is better. He's now doing the needful, being the link between defence and midfield and keeping it simple.
Lesson learned: place a player straight into the position that suits your system, regardless of his supposedly lack of knowledge there. Sink or swim, it's not worth upsetting your whole tactic. It only took Mugnaini about 3 months of playing there to become accomplished in the DM position:
For the first time in 5 years we failed to reach a Copa Libertadores Semi Final, which shows how consistent we have been in South America's elite club competition (until now *cries*). It also shows that we are perhaps not quite the team we were 2-3 years ago (when Estudiantes won back-to-back titles in 2020 & 2021). In all honesty, neither team deserved to go through and it feels like an opportunity missed for Estudiantes after getting such a positive result away in Brazil. Grrrr.
However a resilient team is one that responds to disappointment, which is exactly what Bastardo's Estudiantes did in the 2023 Copa Argentina. We had an easy run towards the showpiece final against River Plate who hardly threatened us on the day. The pivotal moment occurred when Maxi Romero played in Jesús Medina who weaved his way into the penalty area to cross deep, there was only one outcome: a Fernando Zuqui goal on 33 minutes. Our club captain winning his 9th trophy, who has been with Bastardo through it all. Final score: Estudiantes 1-0 River Plate.
La sucesión de Bastardo
So now let’s talk about the succession planning for when Bastardo leaves Estudiantes (in 18 month’s time). Thematically (in my warped mind) I’ve twisted the relinquishment of Bastardo’s power to be a shareholder decision. In actual fact, I just want to play about with the Director of Football (DoF) functionality in FM18.
Now I must apologise to people like Oliver Jensen, James and even my beloved podcasting co-host, Dan Gear, here. I laughed off ever using this playstyle, for the apparent absurdity of giving away a vital part of the transfer and contract negotiations process. But it does add realism, those bastards are probably right...and it’s something I want to use in FM19 more. So what better way than to try it out for my last season and a half in FM18?
Here are my staffing responsibilities going forward:
Ángel Bastardo - The Boss
- All aspects of staff recruitment
- Finalising all incoming transfers
- All aspects of player sales
- All aspects of training
- Capable of hiring/firing the DoF
Daniel Enríquez - Director of Football
- All aspects of player and non-player staff retention (except for himself)
- Bidding for players and their subsequent contract offers
Victor de los Santos - Chief Scout
- All aspects of scouting
- Handles scouting meetings
Anybody using the 'DoF mode' can tailor and shape how the backroom staff support them, which can actually streamline the gameplay quite nicely. So for the remainder of my save, I still want Bastardo to oversee the sale of players in order to conclude my Dollars Trilogy next season (read Part 1 and Part 2). I aim to make as much money as I can, whilst doing my best to remain competitive...I simply do not trust the AI to do this. So these responsibilities remain with me.
It is not my favourite part of the game but it certainly makes sense for me to also oversee the backroom staff recruitment. I want to leave this club with the best personnel in place to continue to push Boca & River year on year, and our growing reputation in South America may mean that I can pluck a few good coaches in my last year or two.
I've left it up to Uruguayan DoF Daniel Enríquez to go and find players. He will go and negotiate with clubs and then, if successful, offer contracts. He has Judging Player Ability of 15 and Potential of 17, so I am confident he will make good decisions. But on the safe side, I am ensuring Bastardo has the final say on whether or not we sign players. I will also set up a few lists too via Transfers/Create New Group and add players to these lists based on Position. Oliver Jensen does something similar, so without repeating this methodology, I'll just point you in his direction here.
Another Uruguayan, Chief Scout Victor de los Santos, heads up all facets of Scouting. He is strong in Judging Ability & Potential (17 for both) and can just be left to 'get on with it'. Here are the two amigos:
The succession plan will hopefully be a real insight into the workings of the DoF and ensure that I will use it in a way that's right for me on Day 1 of my FM19 save. Additionally, if anybody else is using the DoF with added responsibilities, I'd be keen to hear your testimonials. What you like/dislike about it etc.
The Beginning Of The End
Now that succession is sorted, it really does feel like the beginning of the end now for Bastardo & Estudiantes in FM18. We've won 9 trophies and the 10th, if I can do it, will feel extra special. The next opportunity to reach 10 trophies is actually quite soon: the Argentine Supercopa in February 2024. The opponents? Boca Juniors of course.
As always stay updated on the progress of Season 7 via the snippets of info I post over on my Twitter feed or here on the blog where I recap whatever goes down in 2024.
Thanks for reading/sharing & caring.