Epilogue: "Heist" - Return to La Plata #FM18 #WeAreTheCommunity


EdLP Flag.jpg

Ángel Bastardo trusted few men, but the four he had tasked to carry out one last job were part of this select group.  Mariano Andújar, Diego Polenta, Emanuel Reynoso & Fernando Zuqui were to hit La Plata’s Central Bank at midday.  The prize: $19.2m US dollars.

At the same time, Bastardo himself had made his way to his Estudiantes office...where it all started for him as a powdered dream.  The target was the cash reserves hidden away from the annual accounting.  He had paid La Plata’s best financial firm and lawyers handsomely for such a disguise, and in 8 years it had never been questioned by the three presidents that served Bastardo.  Verón, Del Bono & Fischer were none the wiser, Bastardo was sitting on a small fortune.

Combined with the bank job, and years of cocaine dealing, the monies would see Bastardo finally have his ‘out’ from La Plata.  He had plans, and they were global.

The silence in the office was suddenly halted when the phone rang.  The noise echoed around the post-modern style bureau.  Bastardo allowed the phone to ring twice, before calmly placing it to his ear.  His long Argentine jet-black hair combed tidily back, to avoid getting in the way.  It was Uruguayan bastard, Diego Polenta...”It’s done Boss, Montevideo still the meet?” he asked hurriedly.

“Sí” replied Bastardo, as he coolly hung up the phone.  He needed to be quick, so there was no time for small talk, but he took solace knowing that his boys had once again delivered and were safe.  The share for them was $2m each, but there was also an invitation to be part of the ‘next step’.  An opportunity of a lifetime.

The safe opened and the cash was there: $5m US dollars.  The shiny green Abraham Lincolns would never see America though. They were to be loaded on a private jet along with the bank heist money towards Montevideo, Uruguay.  From there, all members of the Bastardo Cartel would head to an unknown destination.

Nobody knew where they would ultimately end up, except Ángel Bastardo: Future War Lord and ex-Football Manager.

 Bastardo's Calling Card(s) for President Fischer & La Platanese police.

Bastardo's Calling Card(s) for President Fischer & La Platanese police.


Q&A

Do you like Ángel Bastardo?

I adore him.  I think he is flawed, with his fair share of demons during FM17 & FM18.  I’ve enjoyed writing a character that is neither good or bad, he is out in his own: Team Bastardo.  He’s bigger than Estudiantes de La Plata, Inter Milan and Argentina.

Is this the end of him?

I killed Ángel off in FM17 and vowed not do it this time round.  There will [possibly] be a follow up post, it remains to be seen as to whether it’s the end or the start of something else entirely.  Hopefully people will like his progression from Football Manager to something far greater.

Does true anti-fútbol exist in FM?

Definitely not.  It’s a real shame the game can’t replicate the “whatever it takes to win” South American mentality.  I get why, we’re enrolled into thinking like Europeans.  We believe the game should be played in a certain way and this translates into Football Manager.

How do you physically write your blogs?

I lost a lot of freedom to do what I wanted when my eldest was born in 2014.  It took a good year for my life to settle down after that shitstorm as my wife was also poorly.  So that’s when I took up blogging.  On a desktop first before going mobile with a laptop and also mobile app.  I now write what I can whenever/wherever I can: in the living room, on the train, in a park.  I love it.

Silence or music? If music, what kind?

Silence for sure.  I only ever start listening to music when I am proof reading or making short tweaks.  To truly get inside the tortured mind of Ángel Bastardo, you need silence.

Any clues about your next FM character?

I have a character in mind, and he’s not going to be a polar opposite to Bastardo. That would be too predictable and something I always try to avoid being with regards to myself and FM content.  The manger in mind is older and wiser than Bastardo, but just as cold, bitter and resentful.  He’s had to watch people in similar circumstances to him go on and achieve worldwide fame, whilst his life has been on hold.  FM19 sees him at last gain control over his destiny. It’s time for him to make a stand.


Until next time, thanks for reading/sharing/caring,

FM Grasshopper & Ángel Bastardo

"Gracias Bastardo" - Return to La Plata #FM18 #WeAreTheCommunity

Previously in Return to La Plata, Ángel Bastardo counted the money for one last time.


Ángel Bastardo inspired a generation in La Plata.  From humble beginnings, political scandals and Copa Libertadores triumphs, this save had it all.  The highs and lows of club management, captured over at fmgrasshopper.com/fm18 for all to read and re-read for years to come. 

But today’s post takes a retrospective look back on this 8 year journey, it’s been one hell of a ride; ‘Gracias Bastardo’.


Season 2024/25

Argentina Superliga

Firstly, let’s take a look at the climax of Season 8.  A better second half to the season and not much in the way of anybody else challenging Boca, meant Bastardo’s Estudiantes finished a respectable 2nd place.

My FM18 save has seen Argentina remain strong, especially the two Superclassico clubs.  Players have hardly moved on to Europe, and with incredible wealth both Boca and River have assembled some God-like Newgens.  I managed to break the sequence just once in Season 5 (2021/22):

2025 Copa Libertadores

Bastardo has also provided the next Estudiantes manager the perfect gift: knockout continental football in the 2025 Copa Libertadores. We worryingly managed to draw against each team at some point during the Group Stages, but it’s an unbeaten campaign nevertheless.

Supercopa Argentina

The 12th and final trophy of this stunning save arrived in February 2025. A dramatic penalty shootout win Vs Boca ensured that this save still ends on a relative high. You can re-live that win by following the usual Twitter thread:


Return to La Plata

Last year for FM17, I summarised my ‘Inter Is Coming’ series with a short video…but personally it felt right this time round to recap on past events with words. I have been consistent this year with blogging, each season has had a mid-point and end-point post…I will link you to each one below.

Vote Bastardo.png

Season 1 - 2017/18

Blog Posts: "Ángels & Demons" & "Straight Outta La Plata"

This save could not have started any worse. I genuinely believed I would be a casualty of El Presidente Juan Sebastián Verón’s ruthlessness, after winning once in my first 7 games (all comps)! I have learnt my lesson in FM Blogging, the first aim of any save should be to avoid the sack. Note to self for FM19.

Form did pick up though, adopting a 4141 with Abel Aguilar pulling the strings at DM and Mariano Pavone making the difference in a number of games upfront as a Complete Forward. A 6th place league finish and an unbeaten 2018 Copa Libertadores Group Stage run was enough for the Estudiantes Board to give Bastardo a 2 year deal.

And Verón? Well, let’s just say he was a casualty of Bastardo’s wrath.

League Finish: 6th

Continental Finish: CONMEBOL Sudamericana 3rd Round

Stats [Goals/Assists/Av.Rating]: Mariano Pavone (14 goals), Sebastián Dubarbier (12 assists), Fernando Zuqui (7.75)

MVP: Mariano Pavone - who led the line at 35 years of age. Sadly it was to be his final season in La Plata, retiring from the game just as things were starting to get good with him and Bastardo.


Season 2 - 2018/19

Blog Posts: "Innocence Lost" & "Emanuel In Space"

After losing Mariano Pavone to retirement, Bastardo turned to July 2019 signing Maxi Romero to lead the line as his No.9 Centre Forward. However, it was another mixed start to the domestic season: 6 wins, 1 draw and 5 loses in the 1st half of the season saw us mid-table. There was also a comprehensive defeat to Brazilian giants Santos in the Copa Libertadores 2nd Round.

However, the January signing of Emanuel Reynoso re-energised Estudiantes' 4141, and an unlikely hero emerged in the figure of homegrown Striker Carlo Lattanzio. Between Carlo and Emanuel, they notched up 13 goals and 9 assists in the 2nd half of the season…9 wins in the last 12 league games meant a 5th place finish. The Bastardo machine was [finally] starting to purr.

League Finish: 5th

Continental Finish: CONMEBOL Libertadores 2nd Round

Stats [Goals/Assists/Av.Rating]: Maxi Romero (11 goals), Lucas Rodríguez (12 assists), Emanuel Reynoso (7.85)

MVP: Emanuel Reynoso - The number 10 that I had waited 18 months to find, worth every euro of the €1.3m I paid to Talleres de Córdoba. Emanuel saved our season.


Season 3 - 2019/20

Blog Posts: "Las Joyas de Bastardo" & "A Fistful of Dollars"

We came up short against Corinthians in the 2019 Copa Libertadores Semi Finals, even though we did not expect to be there in the first place. FM18 for some reason handing 6th place Estudiantes the final continental spot and not losing Copa Argentina finalists Aldovisi. But anyway, a 10 month campaign that started with qualifiers in Paraguay & Colombia ended in São Paulo against Corinthians.

There was progress in the league too this year. 4th place leaving no doubt on Estudiantes continental duties in 2020. Maxi Romero, Emanuel Reynoso and Carlo Lattanzio the standout attacking players.

League Finish: 4th

Continental Finish: CONMEBOL Libertadores Semi Finals

Stats [Goals/Assists/Av.Rating]: Maxi Romero (27 goals), Emanuel Reynoso (18 assists), Carlo Lattanzio (7.43)

MVP: Mariano Andújar - Seasons in South America can be quite arduous, but not for 36 year old Club Captain Mariano Andújar who played every second of Estudiantes’ 60 game season. He kept 29 clean sheets in the process. Icon.


Season 4 - 2020/21

Blog Posts: "Bastardo-ball" & "Las Joyas de Bastardo: Segunda Parte"

You always remember your first time trophy wins in Football Manager. Season 4 started like the flurry at the end of a firework display, a Copa Libertadores win in an all Argentine final against Boca Juniors and a Copa Argentina Final comeback win against Racing Club. It was dreamy. There's no need to cover the game-by-game history on it, go read "Bastardo-ball" for that...personally the most enjoyable part of 'Return to La Plata' to write.

Season 2020/21 was a huge vindication for the way I have approached FM18. A team assembled on the principles of 'fibra', brought together with a combined budget of €5m, went all the way to win the greatest club prize in South America. The style of football was often explosive, raw and untamed. The wins kick-started 5 years of continued silverware for Bastardo & Estudiantes, but I often think back to how sweet those first two trophy wins were.

There were low moments though, probably the most disappointing way to finish a gruelling 42-game domestic season is losing out on the title on the final day in front of your own fans. That's exactly was happened. A boring 0-0 draw Vs River Plate preventing Bastardo's Estudiantes from claiming an incredible Treble and a 1st league title. The trophy once again going to Boca Juniors. 1 point the difference. Heartbreak too in the FIFA Club World Cup, a 1-0 loss against Club América in the final and a 1-0 loss to River Plate in the Supercopa Argentina. Life was not always perfect in La Plata.

League Finish: 2nd

Continental Finish: CONMEBOL Libertadores Winners

Trophies: 2 (Copa Libertadores & Copa Argentina)

Stats [Goals/Assists/Av.Rating]: Carlo Lattanzio (30 goals), Carlo Lattanzio (12 assists), Emanuel Reynoso (7.47)

MVP: Carlo Lattanzio - The boy from La Plata truly became a man in 2020/21. Carlo headed up the goal and assist charts in a season where we won the Copa Libertadores and Copa Argentina cup double. He made a huge contribution in those finals, which caught the interest of West Ham United. His signature was secured in July 2021. The 57 goal love affair was brief, but Carlo Lattanzio remains a treasured alumni of La Plata.


Season 5 - 2021/22

Blog Posts: "Anti-Destiny" & "For a Few Dollars More"

‘L'art est un anti-destin’. I was creating my own Anti-Destiny with this save. A consecutive Copa Libertadores arrived at the end of 2021, a wonderful 5-2 2nd leg victory against Grêmio. Bastardo’s stock had never been higher, and his legend only increased with a league title win. Finishing 14 points above Boca Juniors and River Plate.

League Finish: 1st

Continental Finish: CONMEBOL Libertadores Winners

Trophies: 3 (Copa Libertadores, South American Recopa & Argentina Superliga)

Stats [Goals/Assists/Av.Rating]: Renzo Taborda (28 goals), Jesús Medina (21 assists), Jesús Medina (7.65)

MVP: Jesús Medina - 2021/22 is notable for the rise of Renzo Taborda, a Newgen Striker replacing Carlo Lattanzio as the pacey hitman in the Estudiantes 4141. However, Season 5 was the year of Jesús Medina: 14 goals and 21 assists in all competitions, he owned the left side of the pitch.


Season 6 - 2022/23

Blog Posts: "Better than Zubeldía?" & "Zone 13.5"

We’d been here before. A win on the final day of the league season would seal the title, at Boca’s expense. But like Season 4 two years ago…Estudiantes drew (2-2 away at Sarmiento de Junín) and Boca won (1-0 away at Vélez Sarsfield). There would be no title defence, and this really irritated me. No Copa Libertadores hat-trick either, a Semi Final battering against eventual winners Corinthians. Another demonstration of the highs and lows of this save.

But highs did keep coming. Bastardo kept winning: 3 trophies in the form of the South American Recopa, Copa Argentina and Supercopa Argentina. 8 trophies in 3 years, could we keep this up?

League Finish: 2nd

Continental Finish: CONMEBOL Libertadores Semi Final

Trophies: 3 (South American Recopa, Copa Argentina & Supercopa Argentina)

Stats [Goals/Assists/Av.Rating]: Renzo Taborda (31 goals), Carlos Auzqui (16 assists), Santiago Vergara (7.80)

MVP: Renzo Taborda - 31 goals and 9 assists in all competitions meant Carlo Lattanzio was a distant memory. Scoring in both of the Recopa final legs and a hat-trick in the Supercopa Argentina, Renzo was a kid for the big occasion. 59 goals in two seasons saw him attract the interest of Barcelona, and that was that. €12.5m the fee.


Season 7 - 2023/24

Blog Posts: "La Sucesión" & "Las Joyas de Bastardo: Tercera Parte"

Ángel Bastardo announced to a mourning La Plata that it was the beginning of the end, worse than a No Deal Brexit…Bastardo would be gone by July 2025 and the countdown was on. Unsure if La Plata would ever be ready, Daniel Enríquez was given command of player contracts and transfer dealings whilst Bastardo concentrated on footballing matters.

A disappointed 4th place finish in the league and a Quarter Final exit to Vasco da Gama in the Copa Libertadores highlighted the brief decline in competitiveness. However, the trophies kept coming in: a Copa Argentina & Supercopa Argentina Double.

League Finish: 5th

Continental Finish: CONMEBOL Libertadores Quarter Final

Trophies: 2 (Copa Argentina & Supercopa Argentina)

Stats [Goals/Assists/Av.Rating]: Maxi Romero (23 goals), Jesús Medina (8 assists), Jesús Medina (7.40)

MVP: Maxi Romero - Not his most prolific season, but neither was the 2023 Estudiantes team. 23 goals meant that this was his 5th season in a row with 20 goals or more. ‘Golmero’.


Season 8 - 2024/25

Blog Posts: "The Ecstasy Of Silver"

A move to a 433 to accommodate Daniel Enríquez’s attacking signings created real instability in the first half of 2024/25. A few tweaks got it partially firing, the main man benefiting from this was Maxi Romero who scored 33 goals in all competitions.

However, it was the return to a 4141 in the final few months of the seasons that built proper momentum. Momentum that ensured Bastardo walked away with his head held high. Trophies 11 and 12 were won (Copa Argentina & Supercopa Argentina) and a 2nd place league finish…behind nemesis Boca Juniors.

An incredible save, in an incredible era for La Plata. Gracias Bastardo.

League Finish: 2nd

Continental Finish: CONMEBOL Libertadores Quarter Final

Trophies: 2 (Copa Argentina & Supercopa Argentina)

Stats [Goals/Assists/Av.Rating]: Maxi Romero (33 goals), Jesús Medina (21 assists), Jorge Mesa (7.44)

MVP: Maxi Romero - His most prolific season, 33 goals in Season 8 taking his total to 170 goals in 285 games (all comps). Also a mention should go to the guys that were still loyal to Bastardo: Alexander Barboza, Jesús Medina, Emanuel Reynoso & Fernando Zuqui all survived to be there for the end. Bastardo’s Bastards.


FM18 Checklist

It’s been about 3 seasons since we last looked over my FM18 checklist, something I set out in my intro blog…way back in October 2017.

Since that last post, I’ve ticked off (4) despite not actually reaching 250 clean sheets. This is on the basis that I have ended on 201 clean sheets two seasons too early. Averaging 25.125 clean sheets per season, when 25 would get me to the magic number of 250 if I played 10 seasons.

I’ve also achieved (6) as mentioned last time out in my financial update (read here). Estudiantes are rich, all due to the sustainable transfer policy in place.

Point (7) is a controversial one. I signed Éver Banega two attributes short of the fibra policy. It’s a minor blemish in an otherwise perfect recruitment plan. We signed fibra, grew it, nurtured it and we sold it on to Europe.

The things I didn’t do still hurt me. As mentioned in my seasonal reviews above…we lost out on the final day of two domestic campaigns, either side of the Season 5 Superliga win. A single goal in either of the last league games of Season 4 and 6 would have seen me achieve (2). Damn.

Point (3) is also a killer. I have had two cracks at this...and failed. Both times a Mexican club has knocked me out. The closest was the 2020 Club World Cup Runners Up place after losing to Club América 1-0 in the final.


Gracias Bastardo

I think the highs and lows are what has made this save personally special to me. Every one of those 8 seasons had good and bad moments, but make no mistake the highs were unbelievable. There are too many good players to specifically mention, but the great ones I have fallen in love with are:

Goalkeepers Mariano Andújar & Axel Werner

Defenders Alexander Barboza & Diego Polenta

Midfielders Carlos Auzqui, Emanuel Reynoso, Jesús Medina & Fernando Zuqui

Strikers Carlo Lattanzio, Maxi Romero & Renzo Taborda

Bastardo de La Plata.png

I am fortunate enough to find the time and the enjoyment in writing about Football Manager, the fact that others have found similar enjoyment from reading it is an extra plus. So thanks to those who have read the journey, interacted with me on it or shared it with others. It’s appreciated :-)

This is not the end of Ángel Bastardo, just yet. An Epilogue will sow the seeds for the next part of his adventure (out on Friday 05 October)…before we wrap up FM18 writing on Friday 12 October with what I think will be adequate closure to the Bastardo-era.

Thank you for reading/sharing/caring.

FM Grasshopper

"The Ecstasy Of Silver" - Return to La Plata #FM18 #WeAreTheCommunity


Football Manager 2017 was a fairy-tale ending.  Ángel Bastardo winning a European Cup with Inter Milan, a comeback win against Paris Saint Germain with goals on 86', 88' and 90+2' that overturned a losing position to win 4-2.  Simply magical.

Football Manager 2018 will sadly not finish on these heights, the Copa Libertadores run is over once again at the Quarter Final stage.  Bastardo’s Estudiantes led River Plate for 147 minutes over the two legs.  But an 89th minute River equaliser in the 2nd leg killed the party.  5-4 on penalties to River Plate and a bittersweet end to continental knockout football for the man who had won the ultimate prize. Twice.

However, I don’t want today’s post to be all doom-and-gloom.  Estudiantes de La Plata have made enormous strides off the pitch in the Bastardo era.  This is my conclusion to the ‘Dollars Trilogy’, a financial summary on the millions that have passed through the club between 2017-2024. You can read the previous parts here:

Part One: “A Fistful of Dollars”

Part Two: “For a Few Dollars More”


Season 2024/25

For the 2nd time in 6 months, Daniel Enríquez broke the Estudiantes transfer record.  Title winner Nicolás Reyes arriving from Boca Juniors for €5m.  The DoF also renewed deals for some core players, Axel Werner and Alexander Barboza becoming top earners in excess of €100k per month.

The La Plata XI for 2024/25 looks like this: 

You will note from the above graphic that we are going with a 433, mainly for three reasons.  (1) I thought I would trial a new system based on the DoF's recruitment over the last 6 months.  He has broken the transfer record twice by bringing in some outstanding attacking flair and guile in Gudio Pellegrino & the aforementioned Nicolás Reyes, who are both natural strikers.  (2) I also wanted to maximise my use out of Maxi Romero, who with all due respect, sometimes struggled in a 4141.  Mainly because my system always needed an extra explosion of pace due to the mentality and team instructions I have previously employed (see Carlo Lattanzio & Renzo Taborda from past years).  (3) Lastly, because creating tactics and starting again after 7 years of the same tactics is 'fun'.  I've always liked a 433 and some of the play you can create from it is quite rewarding.

433 “Bastardo’s Revenge”

The 4141

[Panic Stations] 442

The football was at times a lot sexier, I'm not here to slate the 4141 (ps. I still love it) but I noticed that the 433 supplied some intricate team moves (see below).  The person benefiting most from this change was Maxi Romero.  In the Complete Forward role, he has scored 26 goals in 25 starts (all comps) and has now surpassed 150 goals under Bastardo.

Pellegrino Vs Velez.png

Guido Pellegrino

Vs Vélez Sarsfield 02/10/2024

Medina Vs N.Chicago.png

Jesús Medina

Vs Nueva Chicago 22/10/2024

I now rotate the three formations, either starting with 433 or 4141 and having the “panic stations” 442 to fall back on. The results are far from perfect, but we’re in a state of transition, as results have shown…

Argentine Superliga

Maybe this is how Brian Clough felt in his last season at Nottingham Forest.  Bastardo’s Estudiantes have really struggled in the league.  A dismal December meant we had a stretch of 5 games without winning, the worst run of form in this save to date!

We remain in a Copa Libertadores spot for now, but we’ll need to see an improvement in 2025!

Copa Libertadores

As mentioned in my introduction, at no point were we losing to River Plate in that Quarter Final.  But we threw away a 2-0 lead to face the lottery of penalties.  River converted all 5 penalties after Maxi Romero missed the first of the night.  Gutting to go out in this way, doubly gutting seeing River Plate go on to win the trophy.

If this wasn’t enough heartache, River’s winning penalty was scored by Estudiantes academy graduate Juan Bautista Cascini.  The guy I sold to River Plate before the 2018/19 season for €4m.

Copa Argentina

Some good news!  Trophy number 11 arrived in November 2024, a third straight Copa Argentina success and a 4th win in 6 years. 

The 443 was very dominant in this game, only allowing Lanús two shots at goal in the 90 minutes. Goals from Pellegrino, Medina and Romero secured the trophy.

Despite a little dip in fortunes over the last few years, the 11th trophy has earned Ángel Bastardo a place in the Estudinates’ club legends list.  It’s hugely satisfying to see Ángel Bastardo join the likes of Carlos Bilardo & Osvaldo Zubeldía as a club legend.


The Ecstasy Of Silver

Now for the latest financial statement, which details finances up to June 2024 (end of Season 7):

From the above, you can see how our competition performance has affected us in terms of prize money.  Playing in the FIFA Club World Cup in seasons 4 & 5 was incredibly lucrative, and seasons 6 & 7 were never going to match that kind of income.  We have however offset that with huge increases in player sales over the last two years.

Prize Money (€m) - Seasons 1-7 under Bastardo

The rise and fall of prize money income from Seasons 1-7

Wages 2018-2024

We’ve also seen record expenditure in La Plata over the last two years, one of these areas is player wages.  The DoF’s handling of player contracts has seen the end of the Marxist wage structure I put in place for 6 years.  Bumper deals to keep stalwart players like Axel Werner mean revenue costs are going to be high for the next few years at least.  However, it’s the next manager’s problem, not mine…right?

Estudiantes Top Earner - Seasons 1-7 under Bastardo

Highest earner at Estudiantes from Seasons 1-7

Transfer Dealings

During the last Dollars post I mentioned that it would be great to exceed an overall cash balance of €30m.  Well, we did this last season, mainly due to the surge in Player Sales. 

Estudiantes are in a commanding position for years to come, who now sit as one of the wealthiest clubs in South America.  I’m sure there are others who could have bought/sold more often and ended up with a much higher balance in 7 years, but the enjoyment for me in FM18 has come from building modestly and playing more realistically with wage structures in place.  (The 2020 Copa Libertadores triumph built on €5m of transfer fees is still the most rewarding milestone for me in FM18).

Players Bought Vs Players Sold (€m)

€25m bought / €73m sold - Seasons 1-7 under Bastardo

The players that have been sold for large values have generally been younger guys who have either come through via the Youth Academy or plucked from smaller South American leagues.  Estudiantes de La Plata has been their stepping stone to greater things in Europe and I’m completely fine with this.  It’s what I expect from managing in Argentina.

Top 5 Player Sales under Bastardo:

  1. Renzo Taborda (€12.5m) - Barcelona (ESP) - Came through via the Youth Academy

  2. Sandro Acuña (€11m) - Man United (ENG) - Signed from Defensor Sporting (URU) for €0m

  3. Raúl Rolón (€10m) - Sevilla (ESP) - Signed from Libertad (PRA) for €2m

  4. Carlos Aparicio (€8m) - Benfica (POR) - Signed from Sport Loreto (PER) for €0m

  5. José Velasco* (€6.75m) - Stoke (ENG) - Signed from The Strongest (BOL) for €750k

Note - special mention must go to Homegrown Academy players Nicolás Rosales (€6m to FC Porto) and Carlo Lattanzio (€4.5m to West Ham United) who have made good careers in Europe so far, despite not making the top 5 sales.  See my previous blog post about their careers to date.

*José Velasco left Estudiantes in the Season 8 accounting, and whose fee is not included in the above pie chart (Bought Vs Sold) or the financial statement issued above.


The End

My next post will be my final save update, which will also recap each Bastardo season. We’ll be leaving FM18 Estudiantes in a robust financial position as shown above, but there is also a chance to sign off with a 12th trophy in February 2025: the Supercopa Argentina Vs Boca Juniors. I really hope there is one last fight in us! Vamos Estudiantes!

Thanks for reading/sharing/caring,

FM Grasshopper

"Las Joyas de Bastardo: Tercera Parte" - Return to La Plata #FM18 #WeAreTheCommunity

Previously in Return to La Plata, Ángel Bastardo ceded some of his power in La Plata.


Intro

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.


Season 2023/24

Argentine Superliga

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!

Copa Libertadores

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.

Copa Argentina

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 MadrynLiniers de Bahía Blanca see us into the 7th Round.

Supercopa Argentina

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: 

Part One

Part Two

Four of the eight have moved on to Europe: Carlo LattanzioNico RosalesCarlos AparicioRenzo Taborda.  The other four have all made 1st appearances and remain tied to Estudiantes, they are: Lucas Pessarini, Mateo AllioneIgnacio FernándezKevin 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 RivadaviaColón 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.


Spoiler: the 2024/25 Estudiantes home shirt as designed by Keysi Rensie #GraciasBastardo

Closing Comments

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!

Vamos.

FM Grasshopper

"La Sucesión" - Return to La Plata #FM18 #WeAreTheCommunity


Intro

Badge.jpg

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...


Season 2023/24

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.

Sandro Acuña at Manchester United.

Renzo Taborda at Barcelona.

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...

15 years away from La Plata, the boy wonder returns.

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...

Season 7 squad numbers.

Argentine Superliga

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:

Mugnaini July 2023.

Mugnaini December 2023.

Copa Libertadores

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.

Copa Argentina

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.

Zuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuqui.


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

  1. All aspects of staff recruitment
  2. Finalising all incoming transfers
  3. All aspects of player sales
  4. All aspects of training
  5. Capable of hiring/firing the DoF

Daniel Enríquez - Director of Football

  1. All aspects of player and non-player staff retention (except for himself)
  2. Bidding for players and their subsequent contract offers

Victor de los Santos - Chief Scout

  1. All aspects of scouting
  2. Handles scouting meetings

Staffing responsibilities from 2024: Board, Transfers, Contracts & Scouting areas.

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.

FM Grasshopper