From Friday 04 November 2016 I will be managing Estudiantes de La Plata (EdlP) in the Argentine Primera División. I am making the 11,300 km journey from Zürich to La Plata and there are so many reasons why I am looking forward to my EdlP adventure. Today's short blog details four of these reasons, whilst additionally highlighting some aspirations I have for FM2017...
(1) Reunion with a CM legend: El Presidente
When choosing a team in Football Manager, I often check to see what past CM/FM legends are up to in the World of Football. After all, deciding to manage Grasshopper Club Zürich (GCZ) in FM16 was made that much easier by the presence of CM legend Kim Källström.
This time the CM legend isn't going to be my Captain...instead he is going to be my Boss! EdlP Club Chairman Juan Sebastián Verón is often used in England as an example of an expensive transfer flop: a player who never lived up to their reputation. But if you look deeper, his career should in no way be considered a failure. With an International career spanning 14 years that included three World Cup appearances (1998, 2002 & 2010) and a trophy haul in both Europe and South America...Juan Sebastián Verón's career was very special. His legendary status in the South American game was cemented in 2009 when he captained his boyhood club (EdlP) to Copa Libertadores success - ending their 39 year wait for a Continental trophy.
Born 09 March 1975, the same day as EdlP drew 3-3 with their cross city rivals, Club de Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata, Verón's affiliation to EdlP was never in question. This Derby draw was noteworthy for the fact that Verón's father decided to play in that game. Juan Ramón Verón, or La Bruja (the Witch) as he is known, played in what's arguably EdlP's greatest ever team: winning three straight Copa Libertadores (1968, 1969 & 1970). To this day, that EdlP team are the only true 'tricampeon' of the Copa Libertadores.
EdlP simply resides in the Verón bloodline. Having a Chairman like Verón, who loves the Club, is always a bonus. As I already experienced, from my 10 year spell at GCZ, the difficulty of working with owners who are Businessman as opposed to fans of the club .
 I had two owners during my time at GCZ (Stephan Anliker and Franco Soldati), both whom never really gave me their full backing.
(2) Utter Unpredictability
It's hard to escape the term 'Big 5' when reading anything on Argentine football. The Big 5 refers to the five most supported clubs in Argentina, they are: Boca Juniors, Independiente, Racing Club, River Plate and San Lorenzo de Almagro. Between them, they represent around 80% of the footballing fan-base in Argentina. Furthermore, for over 30 years no team outside of the Big 5 won the league, until that golden EdlP team won the league in 1967.
The modern era is a direct contrast, with 12 different teams winning the last 20 Championships. One of the big factors for this unpredictability is the Big 5 (or any club for that matter) not being able to hold onto their star players - as European Clubs can cherry pick who they want from South America. Just as Boca's Fernando Gago made his switch to Real Madrid for €20.4m in 2007, Éver Banega stepped up...only to be moved over to Spain a year later (this time to Valencia CF) for €20m.
The unpredictability of the league attracts me. During FM16 I've been fighting off FC Basel (and only FC Basel) whilst on my way to 10 consecutive league titles. To fight off a whole load of teams is much more satisfying (admittedly more terrifying as well).
(3) The Homegrown XI v2
One of my major aims in FM16 was to develop a successful Homegrown XI (a successful 1st team full of Academy educated players), in the 10 years of management at GCZ I came close...but I was ultimately unsuccessful. It was ridiculously difficult to keep hold of my talents - the European Heavyweights' interference persisted. Despite the challenges, I consider Youth Development to be the most satisfying aspect within FM and I want revisit this again for FM17.
You're therefore probably questioning why I am choosing Argentina, after drawing upon the Banega/Gago example above (and my own difficulties of keeping Academy products away from the like of Barcelona & Bayern). But what if the Homegrown XI is NOT a concurrent First X1 at EdlP? Rather my challenge is to produce a Homegrown XI that IS exported to Europe's top 5 leagues: England, France, Germany, Italy & Spain.
With this in mind, I wish to produce eleven Academy players to make the circa 12,000 km trip from La Plata to Europe within a classic 4-4-2 formation: x1 GK, x2 Full Backs, x2 Central Defenders, x2 Central Midfielders, x2 Wingers and x2 Attackers. By putting them into a formation, I am encouraging myself to produce players of all positions - making it a bit more challenging. As and when this happens in my save, I will update the below graphic with the <Player Name> and <European Club> in their respective position:
(4) A return to '1 y 57'
During the finale of the 2004/05 season, EdlP waved goodbye to the Estadio Jorge Luis Hirschi stadium, affectionately known as 1 y 57 (due it being located on 1st Avenue between 55th-57th streets in La Plata). Since then the Club has used La Plata's 53,000 seater Estadio Único, which is owned by the Province of Buenos Aires, and administered jointly by the provincial government, the Municipality of La Plata. However, El Presidente Veron has made it his personal mission to see EdlP return home to 1 y 57 once again. The new 1 y 57 is to hold 23,000 fans and 'should' be delivered in 2017 (although the relocation is already 3-4 years delayed).
It will be interesting to see if this stadium move has been included in the Day 1 FM17 Database. In my opinion it certainly should be, seeing as that seats are already in place and EdlP actively selling Season Ticket places. It's something to see once FM17 Beta launches.
Seeing EdlP return home has some romance to it. It's would also address another failure of mine in FM16, as I was never able to end GCZ's awful ground-share arrangement with bitter rivals FC Zürich.
Raring to go...
So that's my four main reasons for managing EdlP in FM17: a CM legend, an unpredictable league, a new homegrown project and a potential new stadium. This post could also have been so much longer. For instance, I've not yet mentioned Martín Palermo - who started at EdlP before becoming another cult CM hero of mine whilst playing for Boca Juniors. Or why EdlP are known as 'Los Pincharratas' (The Rat Stabbers). But I plan to blog a bit more in the coming weeks in order to alleviate some of the pain of not playing FM regularly.
I patiently wait for Beta, where I can really get to grips about how EdlP set up tactically and review the current playing squad. I am raring to go, hope you guys are too.
Thanks for reading.