The answer to the blog post's title question.
Last year in FM17 I posed a similar question to myself when Inter Milan boss . At that time I was comparing the exploits of Ángel Bastardo to José Mourinho's two year stay with Internazionale. A lot has changed for Bastardo since then: a stabbing, a resurrection, a hacked election and two consecutive Copa Libertadores titles with Estudiantes de La Plata.
I never thought for a second that I could get close to repeating the successes of Estudiantes legend Osvaldo Zubeldía: a three time Copa Libertadores winner in 1968, 1969 & 1970. But there I was going into a Libertadores Semi Final Vs Corinthians, dreaming of a emulating that golden Estudiantes team of old. However, we've already seen that this save does not behave (read all about the concept of Anti-Destiny here). Ángel Bastardo's continental run ended unambiguously in a 5-2 aggregate loss, Corinthians the worthy champions this time round in 2022.
I will therefore never replicate the feat of winning three-straight Libertadores titles with Estudiantes in FM18, this is clearly reserved for Zubeldía, but Bastardo can still be a great. Here is my latest update as we move forward in Season 6…
Like the season previous, another big name left La Plata. This time: Raúl Rolón, one of the best Newgens I have had in FM18 departed for Sevilla. The €10m deal is a record sale for Estudiantes, surpassing the €7.7m deal that Bayern Munich paid for José Sosa in 2007:
Around 20% of that fee was re-invested into the 1st team, bringing in Left Back Emanuel Insúa (€1m) & Goalkeeper Jorge 'Fatu' Broun (€160k). Following them were Midfield Newgens Elvis Sosa (€700k) & Sandro Acuña (Free Transfer). The later causing real excitement in La Plata. I was after Acuña since 2018, who joins from Defensor Sporting. A club that ALWAYS appears to develop the best Uruguayans in my saves.
Acuña's arrival and current ability has encouraged me to give him the No.7 shirt right away. But it does force a change in my 4141 slightly, the playmaking efforts are now passed over to Acuña in the MC slot as a Deep Lying Playmaker on Support. Meaning that my 5 changes from a DLP-D to a more traditional Argentine 5: a Defensive Midfielder on Defend.
The other noticeable amendment to my squad numbers is the absence of Mariano Andújar who retires after being my No.1 for 5 years. In comes Axel Werner, who has played his fair share of games in an Estudiantes de La Plata shirt already (including the 2021 Copa Libertadores winning campaign).
So for the 1st time in this save, we started the domestic season as Champions, going 12 games unbeaten until we met Boca Juniors away. It now looks to be a two-way battle this year and another David & Goliath story. Note: Boca Juniors are clearly the Gloiath here. Spending €15m more than me in 2022 and whose wage bill is now more than double mine at €24m per annum!
My introduction has already touched upon my exit from the 2022 Copa Libertadores. We always seemed a bit fragile during the knockout rounds, and I believe we really felt the absence of Rolón's playmaking abilities. It was a calamitous home leg Vs Corinthians too, who were inspired by Pedrinho - quite simply the best player I have seen in FM18's match engine. Go check him out!
South American Recopa & Copa Argentina
Despite the Copa Lib heartbreak, it is not all doom and gloom in La Plata. We won trophies 6 and 7 at the tail end of 2022. The South American Recopa was retained with a 4-0 aggregate win Vs Independiente. We then won an explosive clash Vs River Plate on penalties (3-3 at FT) to win my second Copa Argentina title. Read the drama from the Twitter thread of that fateful night...
The FM18 Checklist
My saved game date is 31 December 2022 which is exactly 2,000 days since Ángel Bastardo took charge of Estudiantes. 293 games have been played and we’ve had our ups and downs, but have I achieved all that I wanted? Let's break it down:
(1) Copa Libertadores - I am like a broken record, I know, but back-to-back wins in 2021 & 2022 saw me win the greatest South American club prize.
(2) Domestic dominance - I am currently the holder of the Argentine Superliga...so I want to retain the trophy more than ever to achieve item 2 on my checklist.
(3) Club World Cup - I have had two cracks at this...and failed. Both times a Mexican club has knocked me out. I'd need a third Copa Libertadores win to have another chance. Easier said than done, and I only have two more cracks to do this (2023 and 2024) as I will end my La Plata journey in July 2025. Note- the continental campaign runs in the calendar year, with the Club World Cup taking place in December each year.
(4) Clean Sheets - As mentioned above, I've only played 293 games. So by default I am short of reaching 250 clean sheets in this save. Over the six and a half years, Bastardo's Estudiantes have made 142 clean sheets in all competitions...so that's 48% of games. This is behind my target of a 55% clean sheet record (read more here) mentioned back in one of my introductory posts. Bastardo is going to have to dig deep in order to increase that % of cleansheets, however the good news is that year-on-year we are improving.
Clean Sheets 2017-2022 [all comps]
(5) International Intakes - I saw a La Plata Newgen meet this aim back in 2020 (Nico Rosales), and since then I have seen another break into the Argentina squad. He needs no introduction: Renzo Taborda, who replaced Pablo Dybala as a 2nd half substitute in November's friendly Vs Australia.
(6) & (7) Transfers - Taking prize money and increased revenue aside, my transfer policy is nothing but sustainable. A net transfer fee profit of +€16m has helped us reach an operating cash balance of €25-30m throughout season 6. It might look 'slim pickings' to those managing in more lucrative leagues/continents...but this is Argentina and selling players is hard. Fibra - One minor failure is that I broke my Fibra Policy once in order to sign a 33 year old Éver Banega last season. There were only two attributes in it, and I figured I needed a bit of flair at DM. Sorry, not sorry.
The Road To 2025
In summary, I want more green ticks on my checklist before I wrap up this save in July 2025. Retaining the league has to be the No.1 target, and rotating squads for the relatively easier Copa Libertadores Group Stage is a must. We'll then focus taking back our Libertadores crown at the end of 2023 (hopefully).
Thank you for continually showing and interest in my save by reading along, I believe I have sizable chunks of content to write about between now and the end of my Estudiantes journey. I also have the monumental task of wrapping up the Bastardo narrative in all its glory, saying goodbye to friends and foe.
Ángel Bastardo may never be better than Osvaldo Zubeldía, but he deserves the best ending, so let's try to make it happen.
Thanks for reading/sharing/caring.