"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.

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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

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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