This piece is written by @From_The_Wing (Stuart Reid) who is a set piece analyst and a football coach. He's done some incredible writing over the years about real life football and Football Manager. It's a pleasure for me to be able to host this latest piece. If you're unfamiliar with Stuart's works, you can check out all his football writing here https://wakelet.com/@from_the_wing
Taste The Feeling - 10 Years On
Episode 1 - Choosing a club
Episode 2 - The Philosophy
Episode 3 - Scouting
Episode 4 - Talent ID + Coaching
Episode 5 - Tactics and Q&A
Episode 6 - Beta planning
Episode 7 - It begins
Episode 8 - First season complete
Episode 9 - 17/18 season
Episode 10 - A new club
Episode 11 - 18/19
Episode 12 - Transfers/Tactics update
Episode 13 - 19/20
Episode 14 - Another new club
Episode 15 - Part 1 and Part 2
Episode 16 - Part 1 (Silkeborg), part 2 (Leiria) and part 3 (Antwerp)
Episode 17 - England here we come!
Episode 18 - Part 1 (Silkeborg), Part 2 (Leiria), Part 3 (Antwerp) and Part 4 (Sunderland)
Episode 19 - FM’s biggest scouting network
Episode 20 - Part 1 (Silkeborg), Part 2 (Leiria), Part 3 (Antwerp) and Part 4 (Sunderland)
Episode 21 - Analysis of the model in 23/24
Episode 22 - Conclusion Part 1, part 2 and part 3
You may remember an old FM17 series over at the Higher Tempo Press called Taste The Feeling, if not and you don’t want to read through all the above (I don’t really blame you!) then here’s a quick summary. The set-up was that I was pretending to be Coca Cola who were aiming to get into the football business to form a new revenue stream. They wanted to make money from football, and had developed a model they thought would make them rich(er).
The model would be to start with a cheaply acquired club in a small country. Using their scouting network they would identify cheap, young talents and develop them before selling them on. The profits would be used to buy more young players until there were enough players for another squad - at which point a new club would be “bought” (done by adding a new manager into the game).
This would allow the scouting network to be developed further (due to obviously 2 clubs being allowed more scouts), spreading the scouting reach further, bringing in more youngsters which would lead to then selling more youngsters for more money, allowing for a bigger club to be “bought” up until the youngsters are a suitable ability to “purchase” a side in England. The scouting network would then be bringing in players of varying abilities from all around the world. Their ability would be analysed and a suitable club within my network found for them to join on loan for the season. They’d progress through my network until they were either deemed good enough for the Premier League (therefore joining up with the flagship club) or being sold (with the profits then re-invested into more youngsters).
My model focused on a few key factors that I've dubbed FAPSS (no sniggering please)
- Finances. Obviously the aim is to be as profitable as possible, whilst balancing trying to be successful. Players would ideally be sold in their peak for the most amount of money possible - provided there was a suitable, younger player to take their place.
- Academy. With such a system in place for developing youth players, it was important that each clubs academy had the best facilities - why spend money buying a player if we can develop them for free?
- Philosophy. I identified the style of football that I wanted to play and ensured it was similar throughout each team - this meant players would need little adaptation when moving between my clubs.
- Scouting. Obviously a large and good scouting network was essential. I'll go into this in more detail later on.
- Success. Success brings fans. Fans bring money. Money contributes to developing facilities/scouting network/investing in players which in turn should bring more success and so forth.
The model took heavy influences from clubs around the world that already operate a multi-club system such as Chelsea, The City Football Group, Red Bull and others. Before I go into more detail about each component of FAPSS - I'll remind old and new readers alike of the story so far.
It all started in the summer of 2016 with the acquisition of Belgian 2nd division club Royal Antwerp - using the editor I renamed them Coca Cola Antwerp and changed the stadium name to the Coca Cola Stadium.
I chose Belgium for a few reasons - lax work permit restrictions would be ideal for my approach of buying from the world over. Plenty of European spots was also a pretty big draw, which with not many big clubs (Genk and Anderlecht were the only “guaranteed” clubs to be challenging for Europe) meant the rest of the spots were up for grabs. Belgium is an often scouted and looked at country by clubs in bigger leagues, which meant my players should be getting scouted + bought pretty often, which is how the model would be able to grow and evolve.
I gave myself a small £3m budget to make life a little easier and set off. It took a little while for my model to take, but we got promoted after the second season (17/18). The convincing way we won the league made me confident that we’d manage just fine in the Pro League and we had plenty of players coming in, which meant it was time to add another team.
Silkeborg in the Danish 2nd division were chosen for similar reasons to Antwerp - lax work permit restrictions, not much competition for European spots and a region known for undervalued talent - they too were renamed (to Coca Cola Silkeborg). They won promotion into the Superliga in their first season (18/19).
I sat content for a couple of seasons whilst the bank balance and number of players at my disposal grew, until it was time to add a third club. Leiria in the Portuguese second division were chosen for their good facilities and large stadium. They too were renamed to Coca Cola Leiria and also won promotion at the first time of asking in the 20/21 season.
Again a couple of season passed before the target was in sight - an English club. I took control of Sunderland who had recently been relegated into the Championship - they were a prime target with good facilities, large fan base and reputation. I sold a majority of their players and bought in my own recruits and were promoted (via playoffs) back into the Premier League in my first season in charge (22/23).
I later added Coca Cola AZ in the Eredivisie in 26/27 due to simply having too many players for my system to cope with. My last update was just after the 28/29 season had ended and my model was just about to hit peak efficiency.
It is now 10 years on from that point and I have just finished the 38/39 season - taking it to 22 seasons of my Coca Cola model in action. So how has it worked, what have I discovered and was it a success? Below I'll look at each point of my FAPSS model and detail how exactly each point worked, and how successful it was.
Philosophy covers multiple points of my model - namely the scouting of players, the playing style, my transfer style and finally the development of players among other things.
The playing style evolved after a couple of seasons once I found a formation and style I liked, I could then implement it to other clubs.
This was the main formation I'd use, a pretty generic 4-3-3 - I implemented this formation at Sunderland, Silkeborg and AZ.
My reasoning behind having different formations for Leiria and Antwerp was as follows - It allows for more types of midfielders to be developed. By having 2 defensive midfielders at Antwerp, it allowed for 2 defensive midfielders to be developed at a time - compared to just one if I operated the same system as I did at the rest of the clubs, hopefully allowing for more youngsters to challenge further on through the network. The same principle applies for Leiria, by having 5 midfielders of different roles it should hopefully enhance the chances of one of them developing enough to push on for a first team role at Sunderland.
Playing the formations above, essentially any type of player would suit the system, but since making money (along with success) was the name of the game, players under 24 would be the focus of my scouting (due to resale value). A focus on technical ability, along with key mental attributes such as work-rate (needed for the styles of play implemented) and determination (to ensure solid development) would be implemented - I didn’t sign a lot of tasty looking strikers due to poor determination and/or work-rate and I don’t regret it at all.
I would also spread the scouting net far and wide to target countries that I felt were often undervalued when it came to picking up talent - countries in Eastern Europe, Africa and the smaller South American countries would be my hunting grounds - supplemented with the obvious choices such as Brazil and Spain etc to ensure that we had a huge pool of players to scout from.
Players would join a club most suited to them, players from Africa for instance are likely to be very raw due the poor quality of the leagues. So it’d make sense for them to join the weakest club (Silkeborg) to develop at first. I'll cover scouting more later.
In order for players to challenge for a spot in the better teams their development had to be carefully monitored so they were playing for the team at the right level for them to grow. This was always done at the start of the season, and I built myself a sort of flow chart to keep myself aligned with the principles of the save.
- Players would join the network at the end of the season.
- Their abilities would be analysed to determine where they were likely at ability wise.
- A suitable club would be picked for them based on what level I thought they were capable of performing at (obviously Sunderland were the best, followed by Leiria, followed by AZ/Antwerp with Silkeborg the “worst” of the clubs)
- I'd then draw up a shortlist of the candidates for each position at each club.
- A suitable number of players would be chosen for each team + position. The number of players in each first team would be kept low to allow for squad harmony/game-time (with youth team players filling in - in case of injuries/suspensions etc)
- Those not making the cut for any Coca Cola team would be loaned out to an external team or sold (depending on their age and how I thought their potential development could possibly go)
- After a season with their team their development would be analysed again to see whether they were either capable of moving up another level or whether they hadn’t grown very much and would either need another season at that club, a loan outside my network or sold. Those being sold to another Coca Cola club would have a 50% of next sale clause added to help filter money down the line.
- Ruthlessness was needed, if I thought a players development had faltered and was unlikely ever to make the step-up to another team higher in the network then they were sold to help balance the books.
Operating like this took an incredible amount of time (1st July of each season took me about 4-6 hours making shortlists and checking each players stats to determine where they should be sent!) but was definitely needed in order for my planned conveyor belt of talent to operate at full efficiency.
The results were highly impressive. Players sent to Silkeborg on loan often developed so much that they were instantly ready for a step-up to Antwerp or AZ (in some cases going straight to Leiria) and we can see how my model worked by looking at the Coca Cola Sunderland team (that has just finished the 38/39 season in which I achieved 2nd place in the Premier League) - out of the 18 first team players in the squad this is the breakdown of how many Coca Clubs they played for:
5 clubs = 1 player
4 clubs = 5 players
3 clubs = 6 players
2 clubs = 4 players
1 club = 2 players (one is an academy player who’s broken through into the first team without ever going out on loan, and the other was a player bought straight for the first team due to a lack of good options at the time)
So incredibly a majority of players played for a minimum of 3 of my clubs before working their way up to the Premier League, with one player playing for every club. That player is Brent De Smedt, and I'll use him as an example to demonstrate my model in action.
He was bought as a 17-year-old for £5m. I deemed him not good enough for any of my teams when he came in, so loaned him back to the club who sold him. He proved himself with 15 goals in 33 appearances so I decided to give him a shot with Silkeborg. 20 goals and 7 assists proved that he was ready for a harder challenge. My Antwerp team was filled with talent so I decided to test him in the Eredivisie with AZ, again he performed brilliantly, netting 25 goals in 34 games. My star striker had left Antwerp, so De Smedt returned to Antwerp, grabbing himself another 18 goals - clearly he had outgrown Antwerp and AZ, so I decided to test him at another level, moving him to Leiria for the season. Another 20 goal season followed and some big clubs were now circling for his signature so he signed for Coca Cola Sunderland for £15m (and 50% of the next transfer fee). He wasn’t an instant starter for Sunderland - making only 7 starts (and 23 appearances off the bench) in his first season, but grew into the role - eventually making the striker spot his own (forcing the sale of an Antwerp academy graduate who had also worked his way through the network in the process).
Overall I'm incredibly happy with the development aspect of my model - it’s hard to see how I could have bettered this, although potentially a club in between Leiria and Sunderland could have been beneficial (a team in La Liga, Ligue 1 or Bundesliga would have been ideal for this) - and might be added if I decide to continue the save any further. That being said, I did make plenty of mistakes - selling players too early, or buying players who never fulfilled what I originally saw in them. But that’s to be expected considering my recruitment model, and worked as expected more times than not - which covered my mistakes up by a long way.
My development model shown above didn’t only focus on players bought in to each club from other clubs. It also had a heavy focus on academy products - as I mentioned above, academy products would often be filling in for the first team as I often only picked 20 players or so to be involved for the first team for each club. Injuries and suspensions are obviously commonplace in football, which will leave the club short on players. Step forward the academies - I put as much money into youth facilities as each board would allow me. The aim was to produce as many world-class players to generate as much money as possible - academy players are free, so why wouldn’t I put a focus on them?
The results were interesting, it obviously took a while for the academies to reach their full potential, but I was pretty pleased with the number of successful academy products to reach their first teams.
During the 38/39 season these were the number of academy products involved in first team duties for each Coca Cola team:
Sunderland: 2 from the Sunderland academy.
Leiria: 3 from the Leiria academy + 1 from the AZ academy.
Antwerp: 4 from the Antwerp academy + 1 from the Silkeborg academy.
AZ: 2 from the AZ academy.
Silkeborg: 1 from the Silkeborg academy + 1 from the AZ academy.
The continued investment in this area has paid off with the facilities currently looking like this:
Obviously for my system to be a success and to sustain a minimum of 5 teams, a massive scouting network was required to bring in the numbers (and the talent) that was required to be competitive. The scouting network has slowly evolved over time into the beast that it now is. Obviously at the beginning with just Antwerp I had to prioritise key markets that I thought would provide me with an immediate increase in quality for the small amount of money I had. As I added more clubs (allowing me more scouts) and started to rake in a decent amount of money from transfers, the scouting network was allowed to grow and I could focus more on the countries that provide quality - but at a price (such as Brazil/Spain/Germany etc).
At the end of the 38/39 season I currently have 86 scouts split between the clubs scouring the world for potential wonderkids. They are split as follows:
Sunderland = 26 scouts
Antwerp = 22 scouts
Leiria = 15 scouts
Silkeborg = 13 scouts
AZ = 10 scouts
The next step was to identify which countries and regions I wanted to scout. I decided this by a few factors: World ranking was one, with the logic being that the best countries produce the best players. There’d be little point scouting The Cook Islands or Malta for regens if they’re one of the lowest ranked countries in the world, but if they become one of the top 50 countries in the world - then they’re obviously doing something right and is worth some attention. Population also factored in to my search - the larger the country (combined with world ranking) the better the chance of finding a diamond.
This obviously needed a bit of tweaking as the game went on (as the world rankings changed quite significantly), and I usually checked every 3-4 seasons to make sure my network was still current.
When it came to giving assignments out I had a few rules I followed. If a scout was scouting a specific country - he’d be set on a one month assignment. This would build their knowledge (if they weren’t very knowledgeable on a country) quicker than leaving it open-ended. Scouts scouting a region would be set on a 3 month cycle to ensure good coverage of the region.
It didn’t quite plan out like that though, but I got pretty damn close and I distributed my scouts as follows:
Scout 1: Scouting Belgium + Holland for hot prospects (1 month each)
Scout 2: Scouting England for hot prospects (1 month)
Scout 3: Scouting Ireland/Scotland/Wales for hot prospects (1 month each)
Scout 4: Scouting France for hot prospects (1 month)
Scout 5: Scouting Germany for hot prospects (1 month)
Scout 6: Scouting Spain for hot prospects (1 month)
Scout 7: Scouting Portugal for hot prospects (1 month)
Scout 8: Scouting Italy for hot prospects (1 month)
Scout 9: Scouting Brazil for hot prospects (1 month)
Scout 10: Scouting Argentina for hot prospects (1 month)
Scout 11: Scouting Norway + Sweden for hot prospects (1 month each)
Scout 12: Scouting worldwide for hot prospects (6 months)
Scout 13: Scouting Central Europe for hot prospects (3 months)
Scout 14: Scouting Eastern Europe for hot prospects (3 months)
Scout 15: Scouting South Europe for hot prospects (3 months)
Scout 16: Scouting Austria and Switzerland for hot prospects (1 month each)
Scout 17: Scouting Mexico for hot prospects (1 month)
Scout 18: Scouting Denmark and Finland for hot prospects (1 month each)
Scout 19: Scouting Czech Republic and Poland for hot prospects (1 month each)
Scout 20: Scouting Greece and Turkey for hot prospects (1 month each)
Scout 21: Scouting Croatia and Bosnia for hot prospects (1 month each)
Scout 22: Scouting South America for hot prospects (3 month)
Scout 23: Scouting North Africa for hot prospects (3 months)
Scout 24: Scouting Central America for hot prospects (3 months)
Scout 25: Scouting Scandinavia for hot prospects (3 months)
Scout 26: Scouting Worldwide for first teamers (3 months)
As the above shows, my scouting focus for Sunderland mostly focused on Europe - largely due to how hard it is for non-European to get a work permit - especially when my focus was on players under the age of 19 (meaning they’re unlikely to have played international football, making a work permit hard to gain). Some exceptions were made with several South American countries such as Brazil and Argentina focused on - this was due to the higher transfer fees these countries command, although a majority of players had no problem gaining a work permit when they were ready for the Premier League as they had worked their way through my system and earned themselves new contracts in the process - often then qualifying for a permit based on the big hefty contract (or by making international appearances earned from their time at the other Coca Cola clubs).
Scout 1: Scouting Paraguay + Uruguay for hot prospects (1 month each)
Scout 2: Scouting Nigeria + Cameroon for hot prospects (1 month each)
Scout 3: Scouting Guinea + Senegal for hot prospects (1 month each)
Scout 4: Scouting France for hot prospects (1 month)
Scout 5: Scouting Ecuador for hot prospects (1 month)
Scout 6: Scouting Scandinavia for hot prospects (3 months)
Scout 7: Scouting Portugal for hot prospects (1 month)
Scout 8: Scouting Southern Africa for hot prospects (3 months)
Scout 9: Scouting Eastern Europe for hot prospects (3 months)
Scout 10: Scouting North Africa for hot prospects (3 month)
Scout 11: Scouting Poland + Croatia for hot prospects (1 month each)
Scout 12: Scouting Scouting Range for hot prospects (3 months)
Scout 13: Scouting Mexico + USA for hot prospects (1 month each)
Scout 14: Scouting Russia and Ukraine for hot prospects (1 months each)
Scout 15: Scouting Slovakia and Slovenia for hot prospects (1 month each)
Leirias approach was slightly more mixed, giving coverage of a fair bit of Africa (2 African regions scouted + 4 countries) and a bigger presence in South America. The board wouldn’t let me have any more scouts than 15 sadly, not sure why considering the success that those scouts bought them....
Scout 1: Scouting Belgium for hot prospects (1 month)
Scout 2: Scouting Algeria + Morocco for hot prospects (1 month each)
Scout 3: Scouting Egypt + Tunisia for hot prospects (1 month each)
Scout 4: Scouting Bulgaria + Hungary for hot prospects (1 month each)
Scout 5: Scouting Ivory Coast + Ghana for hot prospects (1 month)
Scout 6: Scouting South Africa for hot prospects (1 month)
Scout 7: Scouting USA for hot prospects (1 month)
Scout 8: Scouting Colombia + Venezuela for hot prospects (1 month each)
Scout 9: Scouting France for hot prospects (1 month)
Scout 10: Scouting Norway + Sweden for hot prospects (1 month each)
Scout 11: Scouting Norway + Sweden for hot prospects (1 month each)
Scout 12: Scouting Romania + Serbia for hot prospects (1 month each)
Scout 13: Scouting Japan + South Korea for hot prospects (1 month each)
Scout 14: Scouting Chile + Peru for hot prospects (1 month each)
Scout 15: Scouting China for hot prospects (1 month)
Scout 16: Scouting Australia for hot prospects (1 month)
Scout 17: Scouting Scandinavia for hot prospects (3 months)
Scout 18: Scouting North Africa for hot prospects (3 months)
Scout 19: Scouting France for hot prospects (1 month)
Scout 20: Scouting Eastern Europe for hot prospects (3 months)
Scout 21: Scouting South America for hot prospects (3 months)
Scout 22: Scouting Worldwide for hot prospects (3 months)
The Antwerp board allowed me to basically request whatever I wanted due to the reputation my manager earned in his time there, so I asked for scouts, lots of scouts. This let me detail plenty of specific countries to ensure that no talent went unscouted.
Scout 1:Scouting DR Congo for hot prospects (1 month)
Scout 2:Scouting Mali + Burkina Faso for hot prospects (1 month each)
Scout 3:Scouting Costa Rica + Jamaica for hot prospects (1 month each)
Scout 4:Scouting Paraguay + Uruguay for hot prospects (1 month each)
Scout 5:Scouting Denmark for hot prospects (1 month)
Scout 6:Scouting Iraq + Qatar for hot prospects (1 month each)
Scout 7:Scouting Iran for hot prospects (1 month)
Scout 8:Scouting Norway/Sweden/Finland for hot prospects (1 month each)
Scout 9:Scouting South Africa for hot prospects (1 month)
Scout 10:Scouting Scandinavia for hot prospects (3 months)
Scout 11:Scouting West Africa for hot prospects (3 months)
Scout 12: Scouting East Africa for hot prospects (3 months)
Scout 13: Scouting Central Africa for hot prospects (3 months)
Again a slight switch in scouting policy - as Silkeborg were playing in the worst league out of my teams, they were the first step on the ladder for many of my players. Therefore it made sense for Silkeborg to scout areas not renowned as being a hotbed of talent, and areas where potential talent could be snapped up for bargain prices such as some of the less renowned South American and African countries.
Scout 1:Scouting North America for hot prospects (3 months)
Scout 2:Scouting Scandinavia for hot prospects (3 months)
Scout 3:Scouting West Africa for hot prospects (3 months)
Scout 4:Scouting East Africa for hot prospects (3 months)
Scout 5:Scouting South America for hot prospects (3 months)
Scout 6:Scouting Eastern Europe for hot prospects (3 months)
Scout 7:Scouting Central Africa for hot prospects (3 months)
Scout 8:Scouting South Asia for hot prospects (3 months)
Scout 9:Scouting worldwide for hot prospects (3 months)
Scout 10:Scouting Holland for hot prospects (3 months)
As my scouting network was pretty much perfected when I added AZ, I decided that I'd just be a bit more general in my search and scout for regions (other than the scout in Holland) - to hopefully ensure that no players slipped through the net.
To further add more depth to my scouting network, I pestered the board to allow me affiliate clubs whenever possible. This would mean I would have first refusal on any players that the affiliate was selling - often giving me a heads-up to potential talents that my scouts may have missed. I opted for a similar set-up as with my scouting network - a diverse range of clubs from all around the world.
The affiliate system ended up working pretty well, although I was disappointed with the amount of players it bought in: These were the results of the affiliate club system (obviously discounting the Coca Cola clubs that I added as affiliates to making loaning players easier)
Emmanuel Asamoah - Bought from Asante Kotoko in 24/25 for £245k. Sold in 28/29 for £240k.
Pascal Wijnterp - Bought from Heracles in 25/26 for £7.5m. Sold in 31/32 for £2.5m (and earnt £8.2m in loan fees).
Eric Sauvage - Bought from Strasbourg in 26/27 for £3.6m. Sold for £7.75m in 31/32.
Enrique Rebollo - Bought from San Lorenzo in 27/28 for £4.8m. Sold for £13m in 36/37.
Jordan Jones - Bought from Birmingham in 31/32 for £725k. Released in 37/38.
Harrison Cornes - Bought from Birmingham in 32/33 for £1m. Released in 38/39.
Okyere Addo - Bought from Asante Kotoko in 33/34 for £625k. Sold for £1.8m in 35/36.
Matthew Gibbons - Bought from Birmingham in 33/34 for £2.8m. Still at the club and valued at £3.5m.
Alejo Vega - Bought from San Lorenzo in 37/38 for £6m. Still at the club and valued at 6.5m.
Trevor Craddock - Bought from Birmingham in 37/38 for £6.5m. Still at the club (and only 18) and valued at £1.8m.
Pierre Atangana - Bought from Auxerre in 37/38 for £7m. Still at the club and valued at £12.75m.
So for players who have completely severed ties with my network the results weren’t too impressive - with a total of £18.5m spent and £25m earnt (not including loan fees). However you can see above that I've highlighted one player in particular which shows that this approach is definitely one worth taking when looking for potential talents. As the above shows, I was not using this method often when recruiting - but using it more to hopefully spot a once in a generation talent. And I believe I've found it. Doing my seasonal checks of each affiliated clubs teams - I spotted Pierre Atangana, a then 16-year-old in Auxerres U18 team. His stats were INSANE, so I snapped him up there and then. It took a couple of seasons until he could, but I'm excited as to what this kid does in the future.
The overall results of my scouting network were impressive - I didn’t have to dip into the loan market (other than for players from my sister clubs of course!) other than during my first couple of seasons and it now brings in a staggering amount of players each season - with an incredible 44 players joining the Coca Cola network of clubs during the 38/39 season alone!
The main aim of the save was to make as much profit as possible - but not at the cost of success. Success would bring more fans. More fans would mean bigger stadiums. Bigger stadiums would mean even more fans, which would ultimately mean more money from sponsorship and ticket sales.
The development and scouting model I developed also had one eye on success - the better the players coming in would most likely end up in a better league position, and a bigger chance of making either the Europa or the Champions League. This would give plenty of valuable experience to my flock of youngsters, meaning quicker development and a better chance of making the Sunderland first team - or getting sold for more profit that would let me invest in even more players.
So how did my model measure up success wise?
First let’s look at the first step in the ladder for many of the players - Silkeborg
Overall for a team looking to develop players rather than win trophies, the results were very encouraging with 4 league titles, 7 cups and being European regulars (albeit not making it very far!) to show for 21 seasons in charge. Going from the Danish 2nd division into European competition regulars obviously saw a sharp uptake in Silkeborgs reputation - which saw crowds flock to the stadium. Silkeborg soon outgrew their old stadium (despite constant improvements to increase the size) and in 2032 moved to the newly built Coca Cola Silkeborg stadium.
My model ended up taking the Pro League by storm, with an incredible 9 titles in 21 seasons spent in the top division - including a fantastic run of 6 titles in a row. As you’d expect, Antwerp fared better in Europe than Silkeborg (due to being further on in the development chain) and were regulars in the Champions League, although they often failed to make it outside of the group stages. European glory did however come to Antwerp in 30/31 as incredibly we beat Man Utd 2-0 in the Europa League final (due to 2 goals from a winger who has since progressed to my Sunderland side). A little more domestic cup glory wouldn’t go amiss but I'm not too fussed about that!
The newest team to join the empire, success didn’t come easy to AZ, with only 2 league titles to their name (which is a surprise considering they joined when my model had pretty much achieved maximum efficiency). They didn’t have much luck in Europe either, pretty much never making it past the first couple of knockout rounds. Oddly the Dutch cup was bugged in my game and has never been played, no idea why!
I was very very impressed with Leiria, I thought it would be hard to break into the top 3 of the league with such strong sides as Porto, Benfica and Sporting all dominating the league, but it turned out easier than I thought - culminating in 11 successive top 3 finishes including 2 league titles. The success in the domestic cups were also a pleasant surprise with an incredible 11 cups won!
The flagship side. Success for Sunderland was essential - as they were the final piece of the jigsaw, success in the Premier League would prove that my scouting and development model was viable and would likely be the main source of funds for the network (as proven players in the Premier League would sell for an obscene amount of money). I think I can count what I've achieved with Sunderland as a success. I've successfully cracked the top 4 with 7 successive top 4 finishes - including one historic Premier League title. Sunderland were somewhat jinxed when it came to cups however - taking part in 10 finals winning half of them (although 3 of the wins were in the League Cup which is less impressive!). The icing on the cake however was the 3-1 victory over Real Madrid in the Champions League final during my last season, a poignant finish!
The final part of my model was to be financially profitable, we’ve seen that the scouting network and the development model worked and developed talent - but what about the finances?
The finances simply blew my mind. Between all the teams through all the seasons I spent a staggering £2.54 BILLION on transfers, selling a total of £5.5 billion worth of players for a total profit of £2.96 billion. This is simply incredible, my model has turned 5 teams from 2nd division teams into teams competing for each countries title WHILST turning a profit of almost £3 billion on player sales alone.
Having a recruitment and scouting model like the one I've deployed has obviously been central to the financial success of the Coca Cola group that I'll cover later on - but firstly I'd like to look attendances. Increasing the attendances was a key part of my model - the more people you get through the door = the more money you get in both ticket sales and sponsorship. Success was obviously crucial to this (which we semi achieved) - let’s look at how it affected attendances.
We can see from the above average attendance of Antwerp that fans flocked to see the team in action (linked to the increase in reputation from qualifying for Europe plenty of times and the league titles I won) increasing from an average crowd of just 12,183 in the first season to almost crowds of 50,000 - an increase of over 300%! Even this stadium is now too small for Antwerp and a new stadium is currently being built (due to be completed by the end of next season). Antwerps current stadium is already the biggest in the league and has the highest average attendance which should ensure a further financial grasp over the league - hopefully helping to ensure further success.
Leirias growth was staggering - an average of just 569 fans watched the promotion season, which jumped quite considerably once I'd gained Primeira Liga status. This growth continued as we kept our Primeira Liga spot, but at a much slower rate than I'd anticipated, especially since Leiria were solidified as one of the top 4 clubs in Portugal. That being said, crowds averaged nearly 23,000 by the end of the save which has resulted in a new stadium being built which will seat when 31,000 when finished.
Less than 3000 fans on average watched Silkeborg’s debut season under the Coca Cola ownership. 10 seasons on and that number has increased by over 1000% to almost 40,000 average attendance. Silkeborg are still growing in stature and are having an extra 13,000 seats added (hence the dip in average attendance for this season), increasing the capacity to almost 50,000 which will ready for the 39/40 season.
Despite only being in charge for 13 seasons at AZ (and purchasing them whilst they were already an Eredivisie side), growth has been rapid, with the average attendance growing by over 50% since I took charge.
Sunderland’s massive success, from going from the Championship to winning the Champions League has seen attendances almost double (with the help of some expansion to the stadium) to attendances of over 60,000 - helping to establish our foothold on the English market.
The impact from player sales, regularly featuring in the Champions and Europa league and more ticket sales has seen the finances available for each club grow massively, easily fulfilling my initial aim of being profitable as you can see from the results below:
Nothing to shout home about finance wise for AZ, they’re healthily run and have very little outgoings due to not actually owning many players of their own (6 first team players - the rest of the squad are loanees which are signed on favourable deals). This also has the effect of not actually having much income from player sales though. This will increase as they gradually start to increase the amount of players they directly own.
Wow. This is simply an incredible financial position to be in for a Belgian club to be in. Despite being tempted to spend all the money available to me on an incredible team, I stuck true to the model and have continued to try to make a profit wherever possible, keeping my ruthless streak when it comes to selling players who I don’t think will make the cut, which in turn (helped by the sell on fees from Sunderland players) has helped see huge profits year on year - the total profits for Antwerp for the 38/39 season including everything (wages, tickets, sales etc) were an astonishing £182m.
Whilst not as impressive as Antwerps finances, Leiria are certainly in a healthy position. They spent a long time in a similar position to AZ (not having many players of their own) so have only really started to benefit from player sales over the last few seasons, although still only have 7 players out of their squad of 19 that are actually theirs. Having plenty of loan players from sister clubs on relatively lax terms has certainly helped them turn a profit, in fact their salary is the 10th highest in the Primera Liga, despite regular top 4 finishes.
Again, whilst not super rich, Silkeborg still have a huge amount of money available for a Superliga side. As the players they sell on aren’t going to another Coca Cola club for huge amounts (somewhat helped by my sell on clause rule) it would take a huge volume of players to earn the mega bucks. As the first in the chain, Silkeborg also took a fair hit of losses on gambles on youngsters who didn’t make the grade which also impacted long-term profits.
The apple of my eye, as you can see companies were queuing up to sponsor Sunderland for obscene amounts of money, which combined with huge amounts of player sales saw some fantastic profit find its way into the bank, with a total of £122m profit for the 38/39 season. The downside was the constant battle with the wage bill FFP requirement each summer due to the huge amount of players at the club, that always sorted itself out by the end of the transfer window when all the players had been loaned out - Sunderland alone had 53 players out on loan at the end of the 38/39 season which in terms of wages, adds a hefty amount onto the wage bill!
One interesting thing I noticed when writing this piece that I hadn’t really paid attention to is that my model was so successful, that not one manager got sacked over the course of the save. To honour that, here’s each managers profile page with their statistics over the save (check out the players bought/sold!)
Jan Beekmans - Coca Cola Antwerp
Vicente Simoes - Coca Cola Leiria
So there we have it. The finale to the most crazy thing I’ve ever done on FM, or any game. It’s been one hell of a ride and I’ve enjoyed absolutely every second, going from the first episodes where I was planning my model before the beta version had even been released, to finishing this off almost 2 years later.
Evaluating the save as a whole, I was super impressed as to how the multi-club scouting system worked and would highly recommend that, I would have liked to have more control over matches and the finer details (when I added Sunderland into the mix, I set it to holiday mode and came back every fortnight to check scout reports and make sure none of the players were moaning) - but that was a time issue as it would have taken forever to play it normally.
Looking back on things, there’s not really a lot I would’ve done differently other than add more clubs, it was highly tempting to add in a Spanish team for ease of getting European work permits for some of the transfers, plus I wanted to experiment with adding satellite clubs (smaller clubs in far-flung regions used for really specific scouting and development of very very raw players), but again time was the main factor here!
Something that surprised me was the sheer number of players my scouts turned out that I ended up taking punts on, at the end of the 38/39 season I had over 320 players in total (including youth teams). Obviously the number of scouts helped play a part in that success, but it was a crucial part of my model so glad it all worked out well!
If you’ve managed to read to the end of this, you have my thanks as it’s not a short read, particularly if you’ve read every episode beforehand - so thanks for reading and giving me the motivation to continue!