Río de la Plata - the estuary forming a frontier between Argentina and Uruguay. Literally ‘the river of silver’ in English.
Provincias Unidas del Río de la Plata - The United Provinces of the Río de la Plata formed as a result of the 1810 May Revolution in Argentina. The union, encompassing both Argentina and The Eastern Province (Uruguay), started the revolutionary process from an absolute monarchy (Spain) to separate republics.
South America captivates me. With its rich history, built on immigration, revolutions, wars and a quest to distinguish itself from its colonial founders; I cannot prevent myself from getting sucked in by it all. Even more so it’s football, which originally introduced by the British has morphed into something far beautiful and varied across the continent than my great grandfathers could ever have imagined. I now find myself watching more fútbol than anything else these days, and I have Football Manager to thank for that.
In case you were unaware, I had a great attachment to saves with Estudiantes de La Plata over FM17 & FM18. Many seem to have enjoyed the ride with me too, savouring the highs and lows with the character of Ángel Bastardo I had created. Out of all my characters, Bastardo is the most fun to write. So, it’s little wonder that I kept Bastardo’s story going alongside my Lorient save during FM19; with the eventual aim of ending up, once again, in South America.
It didn’t feel right to go back to Argentina, but it feels right to go to the closest country possible…across the Río de la Plata to Montevideo, Uruguay. Football gave Uruguay a chance to emerge out of the shadows of its big brother across the water: Argentina. World Cup and Olympic wins would see Uruguay take the lead on the International scene and something La Celeste can always refer back to. But the power shift in the domestic club battles of ‘El Fútbol Rioplatenese’ would constantly be changing throughout its 120 year history.
It’s here, at the helm of one of the oldest and greatest platense clubs, where I start my FM20 journey: Club Atlético Peñarol.
Why Peñarol in FM20?
The titular question is one I always try to answer to my readers on the onset of a Football Manager save. Having a free pick of all the Uruguayan clubs meant I could take my time and pick the right one, which I now believe to be Peñarol. As a two-time Libertadores winner himself, Ángel Bastardo would command the lust of Uruguay’s most successful continental champion, who have won the Copa Libertadores five times (1960, 1961, 1966, 1982 & 1987). Furthermore, Peñarol was traditionally the club of the immigrant working-class…something Bastardo would support over the more homogeneous Club Nacional de Football, Peñarol’s fiercest rivals and combatant in El clásico del fútbol uruguayo.
The Estadio Campeon del Siglo is where Bastardo will face-off against Nacional, a 40,000 capacity stadium that sits on the edge of Montevideo. It’s memorable in design, which ticks another box for me. Lastly the club logo (because this is important) acts as a personal reminder to Estudiantes de La Plata. They both have the traditional club crest, a solid (yet simple) colour scheme and stars! I like stars.
To put it simply, Peñarol is an all-round classy club. Widely adored throughout the world due to its rich history and cultural significance. From bringing through the first ever black player to play Internationally (Isabelino Gradín in 1915) or hosting the first ever World Cup match in 1930. Heck, even their club colours have a cool story behind them after being based on Stephenson’s Rocket! These colours continue to resonate with people in football’s modern era. For example, French clubs in Ligue 1 attributing their new 2019/20 colours to Peñarol:
The love doesn’t stop on the other side of the Río de la Plata either. The Argentine love of my life, Estudiantes de La Plata, are affiliate teams with Peñarol, who often wish their platense cousin well from across the river. It’s great to see:
Another attraction to Peñarol is my appreciation for their club philosophies and vision. Peñarol’s youth system is one of the best in South America and shows no sign of slowing down: Gabriel Fernández (to Celta), Darwin Núñez (to UD Almería) & Brian Rodríguez (to Los Angeles FC) are some of the latest youngsters to leave in what was the most lucrative year in terms of transfer outgoings for the club. In Football Manager 2020, I strongly expect that Peñarol will have a ‘Club Culture’ around developing players using their youth system in order to continue this fine work.
In addition to this, Peñarol have always had a culture in signing established names to run alongside the conveyor belt of youth. Recent examples include Diego Forlán, Maxi Rodríguez & current Club Captain Cristian Rodríguez. I quite like how these two cultures complement one another. On one hand I will be expected to develop youth, with a reasonable number of club-developed players being active in the 1st team. On the other hand, a reasonable percentage of first team signings must have equal, or more, reputation than Peñarol. It’s really the best of both worlds for me, which leads me on to my next section: the FM20 checklist…
My FM20 Checklist
Peñarol’s illustrious history as a continental super club is enough to grab my initial interest, but it’s my FM20 checklist that’s going to ensure that interest remains long-term. When combined with my Uruguayan National Team duties you can see there is so much to do…
Trophies (Aims 1 & 2)
Despite winning 12 trophies in 8 seasons in FM18 with Estudiantes, FM19 was not so lucrative in terms of silverware. Zero trophies last year have made me crave glory once again. Winning a Libertadores will be harder this time round though, but a Peñarol title isn’t beyond the realms of absurdity.
The Club World Cup title was the one trophy that remained elusive two years ago, winning this would surely be the pinnacle of my save. It’s much harder for non-European clubs, so I haven’t stipulated that it must be with Peñarol. In fact, I can see myself moving clubs on in this save should I ever realise Aim 1.
Youth Development (Aim 3)
I wish to fully immerse myself in youth development this year for FM20, handling the training at both youth and senior levels in order to meet the aforementioned academy club culture. Creating a pathway into the Peñarol First Team will be a focus of mine, but I’ll also have additional responsibility of moving the highly rated Peñarol youngsters into the Uruguay U20 setup. The eventual aim would be to see 5 Academy players (Newgen/Non-Newgen) capped in the Senior National Team. This is a nice segue into my international aims…
Uruguay National Team (Aims 4 & 5)
I have followed some great Club & Country saves in the past, most notably Diego Mendoza’s Venezuela and Keysi Rensie’s Hungary. I wanted to begin my journey slightly differently to those guys by starting out at a youth level on Day 1 of my save, with the eventual aim of securing the top job with La Celeste.
Starting out with the under 20 squad will allow me to integrate a few Peñarol youth players and also integrate the brand of football that Bastardo is known for (more on this in a subsequent blog).
Obviously I cannot achieve aim 5 without first securing aim 4, so these international ambitions may be a non-starter if El Maestro (Óscar Tabárez) continues in his role as Uruguayan Manager.
Sustainable transfer policy (Aim 6)
Despite being one of the wealthiest clubs in Uruguay, Peñarol are still considerably poor when compared to the heavyweight teams from Argentina and Brazil. But that never stopped Bastardo’s Estudiantes; and I took the upmost satisfaction from seeing my side, built on just €5.8m, win the Libertadores.
I’m hoping it won’t stop Peñarol either, we’ll use our academy to develop and sell players in order to fund spending on some golden oldies (and potentially meeting the 2nd club culture around signing more reputable players). But from season 3 onwards, I would hope to be self-sustaining and certainty by seasons 7-10 well into profit. Again, this is all dependant on the intakes and the volatile transfer market, which is another reason I haven't put a precise target of how much $ I wish to make.
Fibra (Aim 7)
Last year I didn’t restrict myself on signing ‘fibra’, but I found myself naturally gravitating towards recruiting mentally strong players anyway. For the Estudiantes save the year before, I placed a restriction on over 25s: only those with a bit of fight can arrive. With Peñarol I would love to be that strict again, however I am well aware that the pool of available players open to me is considerably less compared to what I had at Estudiantes.
It is for this reason that my Fibra recruitment policy has to be flexible. I will certainly do my upmost in favouring the brave, placing great importance on Aggression, Bravery, Determination, Teamwork & Work Rate (which I interpret to encapsulate fibra):
Aggression - the willingness to immerse themselves in the physical battle, I always imagine a high rating here is like having the ‘Get Stuck In’ team instruction permanently on. Highly aggressive players just love to get involved.
Bravery - the willingness to put his body on the line for his team. In the match engine, this is often demonstrated as a goal saving block or that ridiculous defensive recovery. But it can also be the desire to get on the end of an offensive chance.
Determination - The desire to dig deep, even in the face of initial setbacks. A high determined set of players will increase the chances of turning a losing position into a draw or a win.
Teamwork - to work within a tactical system and style of play. Any style, anywhere, is benefited by having players that follow suit.
Work Rate - Like the above, any team is benefited from having players who give their absolute everything. It’s no good having a Ferrari-Maserati engine…to only drive it in 2nd gear.
I hope to find a tactical system that fully utilises this player DNA too, and hopefully it’s something I will find time to write about during FM20’s life cycle.
So, that’s my reasons ‘Why’. I hope you can join me once again, for what I hope will be another special Football Manager save. I am probably looking to blog twice per season. Given the nature of the Opening/Apertura & Closing/Clausura Uruguayan format, I am likely to blog during January/February in-game; which rounds up the calendar year. Then a blog around July/August in-game which rounds up the Apertura & Intermedio tournaments; before looking ahead to the Closing/Clausura stage.
I will have a guide out shortly that will detail exactly how the Uruguayan league is structured, however I will make a conscious effort to lay it out in simple terms for those unfamiliar during the Río de la Plata series.
As always, thanks for reading/sharing/caring.