"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