Welcome to Football Manager Stories where we look back at the saves that made us love Sports Interactive’s management sim. Up first is Eion Smith with a FM2008 save entitled “Spain” which begins with a national team’s dominance before some strange pit stops in Argentina and Korea on the road to Valencia…
Searching for a save and fancying some international management, I decided to see how much fun a Spain save would be. This was pre-Euro 2008 Spain, pre-tiki taka Spain. They were not massive favourites for the Euros and only months before had been put to the sword by a David Healy hat-trick at Windsor Park so there was room to improve. And improvements looked to be easy to come by as we pummeled the puny Danes 5-1 thanks to a David Villa quadruple. This was gonna be easy, right? Nope. Iceland turned us over 2-0 and everything was already not good. The team needed a fresh kick. Something to spark it into life. A man who could lead us through qualification and onto European glory. Then one day, out of nowhere, an email arrived…
The Baiano Days
A Brazilian striker by the name of Fernando Baiano had just gotten Spanish citizenship and I, the manager of Spain, was being informed of this. Being a novice of FM at the time, I just naturally assumed that he was the greatest player of all time and picked him for my next squad. And boy was I rewarded. Not with fountains of goals (he did weigh in with 4 in 7) but with consistent performances. He was a nightmare – big and strong, drawing defenders so Torres or Villa could grab goals all while giving an outlet to Xavi, Alonso and Alberto Zapater on the right of the very basic 4-4-2. Baiano lead us to Euro 2008 and through to a tense final against the Portuguese. Baiano scored before David Silva got a second and despite constant Portuguese pressure, we held on for the 2-1 win and the European Championships. Oh to be Spanish…
del Bosque Squad Selection
We won Euro 2008 with a good squad and had a core of outstanding players – Casillas, Puyol, Ramos, Alonso, Xavi, Villa, Torres and one of the players of Euro 2008: Pablo Ibanez (that guy who played for Birmingham). So we moved forward, looking towards 2010 and the World Cup where we wanted to win. Qualifying was a breeze and the team was humming nicely. Baiano was getting on a bit and his form wasn’t as good but I didn’t care. We were winning. Spurred on by my random selections and hunting, I made my second bold choice – a call-up for second tier right back Manuel Ruz. The same Manuel Ruz who hadn’t even played for the Under 21s. The same Manuel Ruz who could barely get a game in the second tier. Made total sense. Still, it was roughly the same team every game barring injuries or suspension which caused Guti to refuse a call-up and Andres Iniesta to rot on the bench with Cesc Fabregas. Still winning though…
Confederations Cup 2009
We headed to South Africa full of hope and expectation, buoyed by the fact we were Europe’s finest. The group stage pitted us against Brazil and after an opening game victory, we faced the mighty Brazilians. A tight and tense game sat at 1-1 when, in stoppage time, nobody right back Manuel Ruz pops up on the edge of the area and pings one in the bottom corner to send us through. Cue jubilation in game and in real life as my boy had scored the goal of dreams. After making it 3 from 3 in the groups, we edged past Argentina 4-2 before we beat the Brazilians again to lift our second trophy in two years. No mean feat and better than the Spanish did in real life. Missing some Manuel Ruz…
World Cup 2010
With qualification sorted early, pointless friendlies were organised to give garbage players caps – ex-West Ham striker Kepa scored a bunch of goals in those games while Dani Pacheco got 2 against Djibouti despite playing zero games of senior football. Still, we made it to the World Cup with ease sans Andres Iniesta whom had dropped out of the squad due to injury then simply been forgotten about (not even kidding either). Still, we cruised through to the final where the Dutch awaited. A tight game ended 2-1 to the Spaniards and the success continued onwards. But glances were being made elsewhere post-tournament…
Moving Into Clubs
Towards the end of 2010, Boca Juniors sacked their boss and without a thought, I stuck my name in the hat. And instantly got the job. And success was easy to come by early on. With Juan Riquelme still at a ridiculous level and a solid spine, we were able to climb the table and finish third overall behind only River (who had kept Falcao and Diego Buonnanotte) and San Lorenzo (who scored a million goals). Strengthened by the summer signings of Gustavo Oberman for an extortionate fee and an Uzbeki goalkeeper because I could, we romped to the top of the table and secured the Apertura title with a game to spare, undefeated. Then, we played the last game before the break at River. And lost 1-0. Falcao. Then we sold our midfield enforcer Pablo Ledesma for nearly £8 million to PSV and immediately started dropping points. Oberman didn’t produce and was gone by the end of the season and we finished third overall. Reinforcements were needed especially since star centre back Gustavo Cabral was looking to leave so my main signing was naturally Victor Anichebe. The Copa Sudamericana was won too but domestically, the campaign was mixed and by the start of the following season (after some awful business), I left.
Things were becoming grinding with Spain too as qualification was too easy and there was too much of a legacy to lose if we messed up the Euros. Plus, Puyol and Xavi had retired which meant the side showed a couple of weaknesses it hadn’t before. Still, we cruised to the final where France waited and another tight victory was secured but it was all over for me as I quit not long after the win. It was club management for me now. Big mistake…
The Down Years
I applied for every job after leaving Boca. A short stint at Recreativo was frustrating as the players did not perform for me while a 39 day stint with Jeju United was notable for the signing of an Uzbeki defender (wooo Uzbekistan). Then there was Atletico Madrid who in true Atleti style managed to be consistently inconsistent despite having Jovetic, Reyes, Banega and Quagliarella amongst their ranks. There was also a dour spell as Argentina boss where a number of players were given games and nobody performed. Fortunately, it all was turned around by a small club struggling…
Coming off the Atletico job, I thought the save had run its course. Nothing to do. A total mess. Write it off and keep the memories. Fortunately, I found the perfect job just in time. Elche were struggling near the foot of La Liga and needed me to save the day with a few months to go. I did, thanks in part to Abel Aguilar (who was wanting to leave but still performed) and the magic combination of Neymar and Johan Vonlanthen up front. A 5-4 derby win over Valencia was remarkable considering the only signings I could make were a Greek winger on a free and Denis Cherysev who was garbage. Still, we made it and the future looked promising with the signings of Lauturo Acosta, Jonathan Reis, Portuguese winger Hugo Monteiro and a number of others on pre-contracts to rebuild a side lacking in masses of quality. And it worked for what I was trying to achieve. Every player contributed something with Acosta the star man as we stayed comfortably just above the relegation zone. However, despite achieving everything asked of me and winning every derby I was involved in, I still didn’t get to see the season out as I was sacked – 16th deemed not good enough for a side tipped for the drop. Still, my reputation had been repaired somewhat and a new challenge awaited…
Valencia came at the beginning of the 2016/17 season, boasting an under performing squad littered with name players like Silva, Cavani, Navas, Veloso and goal scoring machine Daniel Novak (a Czech regen who gets injured a lot). It was a solid squad that needed a little bit more so a quick trip to Italy saw attacking midfielder Roberto Cocco brought in from Champions League chasing Empoli alongside young Italian playmaker Gaetano Coccia from Elche (whom I had picked up in my spell at the club). They were the stand out signings in an average season, finishing fifth in a hugely competitive league where Getafe dominated led by Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting and Samuel. Player performance was good with Cocco coming up with 18 assists in the league alone and a smattering of excellent wins over Barcelona and Real Madrid while right back Saad Al-Inezi was sold in January for £30,000,000 to Manchester United. The 2017/18 season looks promising with a solid start at home and in Europe as the new signings bed in well – Aussie Branko Wells is an excellent solution at right back while Coutinho offers midfield depth, Ulises Davila versatility and Imanol Mendez gives us some exciting potential for only £4 million (and a winning goal against his old club Real Madrid). The future looks good in Valencia… if only Getafe weren’t so bloody good.
A brute. Goalscoring brute. He only got 16 caps for Spain but got nine goals and was the difference maker at Euro 2008. His memory is ruined by the fact that I signed him right before I left Boca when he was 35 and past it.
The Cinderella story of this save as Ruz was plucked from Granada to play for Spain and score the winner against Brazil (his only international goal too). Got 25 caps for Spain in total and earned a move to Villarreal in the process. He’s retired in real life at just 28 but in FM, he’s my cult hero.
A free agent in the summer of 2011 and willing to join Boca, Anichebe was the best thing to happen to the club. Lacking consistent strikers was letting us down and with River and San Lorenzo boasting Falcao and Barrales respectively, I needed goals. Fortunately, Anichebe provided them and in a big way with his number never dropping below 15 in the league.
Juan Roman Riquelme
The difference maker in so many Boca games, Riquelme was a class above the Argentinean league and saved us on multiple occasions. Without him, who knows how bad the slump would have been?
Playmaking machine and already a hero in my eyes, Cocco was totally worth the £18,000,000 I paid. Amazing regen.
So that is the story of my “Spain” save. A rollercoaster that has featured World Cups and skint Korean clubs but is still going strong with plenty more to do.
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