Season 15 – River Plate, Primera División, Argentina
Media Prediction: 1st from 20
Board Expectations: Challenge for the title
At the start of this season Aston Villa tested my resolve by placing a £16.25m bid for my star striker. He’s 28 years old, and although the focal point of my team, I felt we had young players coming through to replace him and accepted.
I bought no new players as my scouts seem totally devoid of any sense of footballing talent.
Defending the trophy we won last season was looking like a straightforward task as we progressed to the semi final with the minimum of fuss. After holding Palmeires to a 0-0 draw away, I was confident we would march on to our second successive final. That’s when 8 international call ups scuppered us and we had to field a severely weakened team. Still, the young boys drew 0-0 and only lost 4-3 on penalties, so some good signs there for the future.
CableVision Primera – Opening Stage
We took charge of the opening stage from the very first match, and managed to win it for the second year running.
Position – 1st (20)
P:19, W:14, D:4, L:1, F:46, A:16, Pts:46
In the winter break I took the opportunity of snapping up 4 young players of huge potential to try and safeguard River’s future. Due to South American rules though, 3 of them can’t join until they are 18 as they are from other countries. European clubs began to make bids for my new star striker, so I signed him up to a long term contract.
CableVision Primera – Closing Stage
I was determined to win a closing stage for the first time since moving to South America, and we finally managed it when a 2-0 away win on the last game of the season confirmed our place 2 points clear of Gimnasia (LP). Velez and Gimnasia are definitely getting closer to us though, so I may need to splash some cash in the summer.
Position 1st (20)
P:19, W:13, D:5, L:1, F:45, A:13, Pts:44
We were drawn in a tough group containing Santa Fe (Colombia), America (Mexico) and The Strongest (Bolivia). The Bolivians became the groups whipping boys as the rest of us beat each other, all finishing on 12 points.
Fortunately we scraped into the second round on goal difference, where we were to face El Nacional of Ecuador. A comfortable 7-1 aggregate win was followed by an equally impressive 5-1 aggregate win against Mexicans Atlas and we were into the semi finals, along with 3 other Argentinean teams.
The semi final draw pitted Velez against Gimnasia (LP), and us against San Lorenzo, who were the only team to beat us in the closing stage of the league season. The first leg saw us beat San Lorenzo 4-0 at our place, before a 2-1 away win set up a final against Gimnasia.
The first leg at home went exactly to plan, with 2 early goals setting up a 2-0 win. We squandered some early chances in the second leg before taking the lead in the 21st minute, and it stayed 1-0 until half time. I was confident that we had done enough by grabbing the away goal, but a 48th minute equaliser made me nervous.
Gimnasia kept huffing and puffing, but they couldn’t blow our house down. The game ended 1-1 and River Plate have won the Copa Libertadores for the first time since 2013, with my 21 year old keeper getting the man of the match award. \o/
Season 16 – River Plate, Primera División, Argentina
Media Prediction: 1st from 20
Board Expectations: Win title
An exciting striker joined our under 20s squad this summer, and as soon as I saw his attributes I offered him a decent contract for a 16 year old lad. Valencia then offered the £20m to trigger my star strikers minimum release clause, while Porto made an offer I felt I couldn’t refuse for my best midfielder. £4.5m for a 31 year old isn’t so bad, plus he’s been a good servant to River and deserves a shot at European football. Losing those two players did leave a huge void in our squad though, and with the 3 young players I bought over the winter break not joining until 2025 I needed to spend.
In came a 20 year old striker from Central for £12.5m, and a few of my young players who returned from loans looked to have developed well, so I was hopeful that we wouldn’t have too much of a transitional season.
CableVision Primera – Opening Stage
With a much smaller squad than I have had before, and an average age of just 22 years old, I was hoping more than knowing that we wouldn’t slip too far back from the leading clubs. As it turned out, this was a bunch of talented youngsters and with only 1 defeat to Boca being a blip we had an excellent record. In early November a bolt from the blue; Villareal had sacked their manager and offered me their job. It was actually a tougher decision than I thought it would be, because I had become quite attached to River during my time there.
After reading through all the information available, I found that Villareal have been consistently challenging around the top 6 for the last few years, but this season had slipped to 14th in the table. A Copa del Rey defeat to Alicante of the Liga Adelante seemingly the final nail in the previous manager’s coffin. I decided to accept the offer, especially as they had 2 and 3 games in hand on the teams around them.
When I left River, we were in this position:
League Position – 1st (20)
P:14, W:13, D:0, L:1, F:30, A:11, Pts:39
We breezed into the semi finals of this tournament, before I accepted the Villareal job on the day of the first leg away at San Lorenzo. We lost the game 1-0, but the squad went on to win the second leg 3-1, and then the final against Atletico Mineiro 5-2 on aggregate.
Season 17 – Villareal, Primera División, Spain
Media Prediction: 6th from 20
Board Expectations: Continental qualification
When I took over at Villareal, I hadn’t realised just how bad a state the finances were in. Also, the previous manager had a serious penchant for wingers, in particular left wingers.
The squad was huge, but lacked quality apart from a keeper, a centre midfielder and a striker who I want to build my team around. Sadly the striker wouldn’t sign a new contract, so he is off in the summer.
With Villareal down in 14th place I had a way to go to match the boards expectations, but with games in hand on everyone else I felt confident that we could climb the table. For the most part we were excellent, although injuries to my better players were a small factor.
I began a clearance sale by offering 5 of the wingers to clubs. 2 went in January and another 3 will go in the summer. On the last day of the season we managed to draw to with runaway champions Real Madrid to confirm 3rd place.
Champions League football next season! I must admit, though, that I am concerned as the finances really are in a dire state, and with a lot of older players retiring and my star striker not signing a contract, we will need to bring in some new faces.
League Position – 3rd (20)
P:38, W:21, D:10, L:7, F:78, A:50, Pts:73
Villareal had already won 3 of their 4 matches in the Europa League group F, so when we held group leaders Hertha Berlin to a 1-1 draw we qualified for the next round. After defeating FC Twente in the first round, we lost to FC Bayern 4-2 in the 2nd.