The Leaping Tower of Pisa (Pt. 3) - Centinaio
January is the month where seasons go to die. A bad transfer window, tough run of games or maybe even a bad cold going round the squad, it can all go to pot after Christmas if you’re not careful. Coming off a winter break, we win our first two games back, comfortable victories over Lecce and Brescia take us to the end of the month and our last chance to do any transfer business.
Do I need any players? No, not really. Do I want some? Of course, this is Football Manager, frugality is for losers like Brentford. Having sold a couple of fringe players, there’s enough loose change to bring in a decent loanee, perhaps an out of form Serie A player on reasonable wages. As the player search page opens and I expect nothing but mediocrity in the loan section but a name appears that nobody saw coming. Giacomo Raspadori, yes, the very one. Sassuolo’s wonderkid, Italy’s Euro 2020 bolter and worth more than my whole squad, and probably the club’s entire assets.
But there he is, available for loan…surely, there must be a catch? A poor 1 goal in 21 games seems to be the only issue, but that’s in Serie A and he’s still inexperienced. For £3k a week wages, it’s a no brainer and he’s happily accepted the loan. Straight in the squad, stick him alongside Lucca and watch us run even further away with the Serie B title.
The plan now is pretty simple, keep it between the hedges and don’t do anything stupid. Get promoted ASAP, so I can work out what sort of miniscule budget they expect me to keep this team afloat with. With the transfer window closed and Nerazzurri 17 points clear of Monza, the final thirteen games will come thick and fast with few interruptions, but for the annual youth intake, the FM nerd’s Christmas. First up, lowly Vicenza at home and they are brutally swept aside after a hat-trick of headers from big Lorenzo Lucca form part of a 6–0 win.
Three more wins follow, but Lucca goals so not really much worth talking about. It all sets up a colossal tie with Cremonese in Week 30 as we are on the cusp of both being promoted and winning the league with eight games to spare, with Monza 23 points behind in second. One up and cruising, we conspire to let Grigiorossi back into it, as they end up taking the lead in the 93rd minute. An injury time equaliser from Siega helps retain some semblance of respect, but the show goes on. One more week, no promotion in February. Oh, the agony.
A trip to Frosinone is our next chance to finish the league off, just a week later. In true FM style, the big game starts terribly as the algorithm decides to be a bastard and have one of my players sent off early on. Alright, I had Get Stuck In turned on, but that’s not the point. Not to worry, we get in front and end up nursing a lead after 60 minutes, where you’d be tempted to shut up shop. But not me, oh no, I’m sticking to the one plan I know because I’m not tactically astute enough to successfully change it. It pays off, as Lucca predictably heads home from a corner before giving us a glimpse of the total footballing beast the man is, running onto the end of a punt upfield before lofting it over the keeper into the top corner. 3–0, game over, get the chianti out. The boys are having a promotion party!
The celebrations are great, even if promotion had felt more like a requirement than a welcome surprise. Lifting a trophy in March, this must be what being Manchester City feels like. I’ve got nothing to concentrate on, no young players to give minutes to or disgruntled squad players to placate. Well, I have a few of the latter, but I don’t care for them. Or about them.
All there is to do now is try to reach 100 points, help Lucca score as many goals as possible and maybe start scouting players ahead of the summer. After all, we’re a Serie A club now so it’s time to spend some money, right? Right? What do you mean the budget’s only £1.5m? That just about covers the wage increases and loan fees. Change of plan then, sack off the big summer spend and regroup. Extend any loan I possibly can, raid the free agent market and sell every ounce of dead wood possible. Promotion has also forced us into activating the option to buy George Puscas for £2.1m, a player who has barely kicked a ball and was there when I got here, perhaps explaining why the transfer budget is quite so miserly.
The final seven games are a laugh, six wins and a draw takes us to 100 points and Lorenzo Lucca bags another 11 goals, taking his total to 36 in just 31 games. It’s not quite so blissful for Raspadori, who suffered a calf strain late February and never really got up and running in the Nerazzurri, scoring just once in eight games and dropping 6.4s like they’re going out of fashion. However, his loan is extended, which still feels like a no-brainer when you consider his potential.
It’s Qatar World Cup year this year, so the season begins on the ungodly date of 24 July, meaning we’ll be two weeks into pre-season before any signings arrive. Not ideal for a team that needs vast improvement and depth to thrive in Serie A, but I’m sure we’ll manage.
All in all, season one went reasonably well as we achieved what was expected and did it in the way we wanted, by pumping crosses, free kicks and corners on to the head of our titanic centre forward, while the mere mortals in the rest of the team watched on in awe. It was a great year for wing backs, whose 48 assists, 27 of which were from Donnarumma, the corner taker, contributed to our 103 goal league campaign. Defensively, things could have been better, conceding 37 goals but it’s only the Serie A, how tough could it be, eh? Once we’ve worked out transfers, we’ll worry about going to Turin, Milan, Rome and Bergamo, and more.