When I reached the end of the last post Modena Man – Walking on Sunshine. We had won Serie A for the third time in a row and had won the Champions League for the first time. 2023 would be a year that would not be toppled.
In reaching such dizzy heights I was about to hit the save button for the last time and look at the blueprints for FM 2019. However, I saw something that I was almost in grasp of with the club, which made me do one more season. This was the notification that the new stadium, that had been requested back in 2019/20, the last season of Hernan Crespo’s reign, would be completed in the Pre season of 2024. So with that news and the fact I had never had a new stadium built during any of my saves in FM 18 I thought I must press on and see this happen. To say I have achieved something new. and to bring true closure to a save.
So How did we fair in the last season?
Ins and outs ~
The transfer dealings for the club were all geared on making sure we met the FFP. Which at the beginning of the transfer window we were not going to pass. Fortunately I had made successful free transfer bids for four players that were out of contract with their clubs.
Jugo Stanojevic a Left back (wonderkid) from Partizan, Nelson Fernandes a central midfielder (wonderkid) from Vitoria de Guimaraes, Phil Foden an Att Mid from Man City and veteran central defender Dejan Lovren from Inter, were the freebies that came through the revolving door.
And we spent a total of £19m on Angel Teran (RB from Sao Paulo) and Jamie Malone (CB from Preston) Jamie would stay at Preston for the 2023/24 season.
The out goings were a mix of me losing contract battles with young players that left the club for nowt and players that had been big for us in the last season but wanted to go to new pastures. I say new pastures, I mean clubs that these individuals deemed bigger than Modena despite the recent success. Steffen Jensen went to Rennes for £39.5m, Thiago Almada went to Chelsea for £90m, Ricky Campos to Valencia for £20m, Pip Melegoni to Bayern for £55m and Pol Lirola to Dortmund for £10m. These were all in the summer of 2023.
The other notable sale was in January when Bayern came in and turned Claudio Gonzalez’s head. He left for a fee of £29.5m rising to £42m with add ons. This was a transfer I would have liked to prevent but Claudio was very keen to move to Germany. Not sure of the Chilean link with Germany???
The Pre Season tour was once again a massive shift in effort due to the scheduling, from four games in the US to three games in Australia, along with local games thrown between the two tours. Thirteen games in total. I was shattered after the tenth! But every single player managed to get good minutes in their respective lockers for the manic season ahead.
Super Cups ~ UEFA and Italian
This season saw us compete in the UEFA Supa Cup for the first time. We were up against Wolfsburg who had won the Europa Cup. We had played them twice in the Champions league group in the previous season, taking away a 12-1 aggregate score line in our favour and beating them twice. So our thoughts were this cup was definitely for the taking.
We managed to win the tie but a lot has to be said about our stuttering start. And flurry of a finish. The opening half was a frustrating time we squandered a number of opportunities, but we got our reward on 41 mins when Pellegri scored from the spot. In true FM fashion we then conceded two minutes later from a thunderbolt shot that looked like it was going wide, but somehow it crept past Donnarumma’s invisible arm!
The second half continued in the same vein. Loads of filler and no thriller. We made the change to put Sancho on the right wing and Chiesa off. However, Wolfsburg took the lead as we made the change. Rodrygo then provided a wonderful cross for Pietro to slot home the equaliser. We then created a victory in the extra time given by the officials, we broke a Wolfsburg move on our left and the ball shifted very quickly to our advanced right. With his brut pace Sancho broke the hearts of the German Car manufacturing capital and brought home a famous win for the Gaillioblu by slotting home a side footed shot past the Wolfsburg goalkeeper.
The Italian Supacoppa, was our second competitive match of the season. We played and won against Empoli who had knocked us out of the TIM cup the previous season. I tried to implement the logic I had learnt from the previous season, which was to not tinker with starting line ups unless necessary. But to also make sure rotation was made where key areas are required.
The opening 50 minutes were the battle we had expected from our rivals. A tough and tight affair with little give between either defence. Federici then provided Klymenko a beauty of a cross from the right for Andryi to head home the opening goal.
New boy Nelson Fernandes then opened his account for the Fenice (phoenix) with a powerful left footed strike from a Phil Foden corner. Could this be a combo that could extend our dominance of Serie A? The early signs were sweet.
Andryi then does the fox in the box thing by being on the end of a scrap for the ball following a corner and slots home his second of the match and our third on 71 mins.
We then see other new boy Jugo Stanojevic show his lack of discipline by getting sent off on 90mins for a second bookable foul. We see out the game and win 3-0.
Domestic Cup ~
TIM Cup ~ A domestic competition I have generally used to expose youth players to competitive football matches. We managed to get to the Semi final yet again.
The Lazio game was a free for all. Neither side showed any signs of defensive capabilities. We were fortunate that our fire power is stronger than most in Italy.
Then came the Semi final double bill against…….. Empoli.
Our kryptonite to our usually super cool and dominance in Italy. It was 1-1 at the half time interval in the first leg. Empoli then showed us how to play football by scoring the next two. Grifoni then clawed one back for us for Empoli to go again with a further two goals. Andrea Pinamonti being the main nub of kryptonite scoring a brace and having a hand in two of the others. Foden and Reiss (Sicknote) Nelson eventually show up and bag a goal a piece for us to not be too far behind for the second leg.
The second leg started how the first leg finished. We pressed from the off and Giorgio Addressi gives us the lead and the edge on away goals. For Empoli to find their “Modena” performance. They score to bring the game back into their hands. At half time I tell the boys (youth players) to throw everything they have into the game and it should be enough. We score courtesy of an own goal, but Pinamonti scores once again to deflate my bubble. Rodrygo then scores a wondergoal to take the game to ahead on the night and away goals advantage to us. Could we see out the final 15-20 minutes and seal a first final in the TIM cup? In short no. We couldn’t do it. It’s Empoli! They somehow always find a way through. There right back Bryan Dabo scores and kick us in the nuts on 94 minutes with seconds left on the clock. A sickening blow but we then use this energy for the other competitions.
Another new piece of silverware to play for ~
FIFA World Club Cup ~
As you will know if you win a premium continental competition you get entered in to the FIFA World Club Cup. A new competition for the club. And due to us being in Europe we seem to get a bye to the Semi final.
The opening game for Modena was a semi final tie against Mexican team Club Leon. We absolutely out classed our South American opposition. We won 8-0. 8-0 which would put this game in our record books. They were awful but a hattrick for Sancho and a brace for the assist king Gagliardi meant we would put ourselves on the brink of a new final.
The final was played against Brazilian side Flamengo. Federici (our right back) opened the scoring for Danilo to equalise for the red and black stripes. Our combination on the right hand side was what won this game. Federici would remain strong in the back four and provide a great foil for right winger Claudio Gonzalez to utilise his pace and pounce on the ball in space. It has Gonzalez who provided two assists in the second half for both Klymenko goals, and Rodrygo rounded the game off with the fourth.
Domestic Dominance (Serie A) ~ The previous couple of seasons in Serie A had been won at a canter. In 2021/22 Napoli had pushed us for a while but then let us slip to ten points a head by the end of the season. In 2022/23 Inter dared to push us despite our supremacy, which left them red-faced and twelve points shy. 2023/24 was different from the off.
We got off to the grand start you would expect, by winning away to Lazio and winning at home to Brescia. The September internationals then messed with our flow. Our return match after the break was an away fixture to Juventus. From nowhere they brought the game to us and we suffered for it by losing 5-3. The only players I blamed for this result were the veteran left back Jordi Alba and J.Lo our previously ever dependable goalkeeper who had made the previous 18 months difficult for Gigi Donnarumma to cement a guaranteed starting place. However, the gaffs he made in this match were beyond apology. This was the sword that would kill J.Lo’s Modena career.
We then licked our wounds and started again with a home match against Pro Vercelli. The 1-0 win would start us off on a 22 match unbeaten run in all comps, 13 games unbeaten in the league. This saw us through the tough league games between each Champions league match and the matches around the other cup competitions. The most notable result was the 11-1 win against Cagliari which was played the weekend after the FIFA World Club Cup final. The energy from that competition must have rubbed off as the team smashed five goals in by half time and were unusually hungry enough to go and smash a further six in the second half! I have never seen a match like it.
I would have a You Tube video here of the highlights package of the Cagliari match if FM18 hadn’t crash dumped my multiple attempts to record the video…..Let try this??? The recording may or may not work this is an FMBrooklyn exclusive……
The run came to an end in the league match after this colossus victory. Away to Inter who won 3-1 in a game that we strangely had no huff or puff at all to be able to respond. It was at this point I had realised that Inter were going toe to toe with us in at the top of the table and that the loss would mean Inter were now level on points. Despite the thought that our phenomenal form would be record breaking, I suddenly realised I needed to make sure we found our form again in the very next match due to Inter playing as strongly as us.
Our next league game was a home match against a struggling Napoli which was just what the doctor ordered. We ran out 6-0 winners. This kick started another unbeaten run, one that would see us remain unbeaten in the league for the rest of the season.
I kept a closer eye on Inter who kept up with our form until a 2-2 draw with Milan. This was just a minor blip and they picked themselves up to remain close with us until they got the jitters in April. They had a five game spell where they won one drew three and lost 1-0 to Brescia. This loss was the game we needed to creep away from Inter in our bid to be come champions. That and the fact we won the league a game before we were due to play Inter in the return fixture of the league season was a real bonus. We drew that match 0-0 and won the final game of the season 4-0 against Napoli.
The final table should show that we won quite comfortably and despite the two horse race for the majority of the season we improved on the previous seasons stats for goals scored, goals against, goal difference and points attained compared to previous seasons.
Europe Elite (The Champions League) ~ As reigning Champions we were well seeded for the group stages of this season’s competition. We were drawn against Atletico Madrid, Red Bull Leipzig and Zenit. We had anticipated being drawn against Barcelona, again, but thankfully not this season.
It all kicked off with a trip to Madrid. We were awful for the majority of this match. This was the immediate hangover after losing to Juventus in the league. Correa put them ahead and Von Bronckhorst’s side were strong in defensive shape. But by playing a centre back at left back they were always going to tire of our pace in transition. And in the end we scored two goals in the last eight minutes to take home the spoils. Phil Foden was key to this victory by scoring the winner and providing the assist to equalise.
Victory against RB Leipzig and back to back victories against Zenit put us on course to top the group. The home match and subsequent victory against Atletico ensured that we did top the group. Which meant the away draw against RB was relatively unnoticed.
The first round draw put us up against last season’s first round opponents, Valencia. Last season we won both legs in a 8-3 aggregate score. This season saw us show our class as we ran them ragged in both legs this time winning both with an aggregate score of 10-0.
Our quarter final opponents were Liverpool, a team we had last played in 2020/21 in the group stages of the Champions League. We had won the home tie but lost the away tie in a painful manner. Anfield would see the first leg between Pep’s Liverpool and my Phoenix club. We looked to take the game to them knowing that there strength lay in there attack not there defence. Klymenko put us a head on 27 mins for Woodburn then Keita to score for the Reds before half time. The talk was a rallying one, I also took left winger Grifoni off and put left inside forward Jadon Sancho on. The half began with Modena taking control of possession. We then scored to equalise on 60 mins, which then opened the floodgates for us as we scored a further three goals without reply.
The second leg was not as exciting as the first but we still needed to do a professional job. And we did we won 3-1 in the end. Sobotka proving to be a key playmaker in the centre of our midfield.
The Semi final saw us put up against the same team as last years Semi final. Groundhog day, was my initial thought. Atletico Madrid, A team we had beaten twice earlier in the competition and had beaten at the same stage last season. The first leg at home was a solid performance the back four were tight. Gagliardi was once again on song and the return of Pellegri proved to be key in deciding the first leg. We won 2-0.
The second leg was a tense affair. Correa broke the deadlock on 21 mins and Griezmann scored from the spot on 25 mins to make the tie a wideopen occasion. We tried and tried to find an opening but nothing was coming off. I yelled instructions for us to just pump the ball forward, and in the dying minutes of the game Rodrygo pounced on the end of a long ball. He then dribbled through a gap in the Madrid defence and put us through to the final!!!!!
The final would continue the groundhog theme. Manchester United. This final was an awful first half with little product from either side. The second half saw Phil Foden come to life. And on 57 mins he slotted home a shot from outside of the area. In a bid for more and an improvement of balance we put Sancho on but after coming on he received a knock so Rodrygo came on, He provided the cross for Klymenko to seal the victory and make use champions two seasons on the bounce.
In Summary ~ I started this “club” save due to reading a few bits on the t’internet about Modena who had been in financial trouble, were liquidated and were extinct. My cogs whirred and I thought, Happy days! I could add them back into the game and see where the save would take me. Initially the story was based around the Hernan Crespo tale, but then I lost interest in that side of things and just wanted to play the damn game. So I came up with the bridge of moving Crespo on and maintained the club with Franco Baresi. This lasted one season. I then had the platform to put myself in the game as Manager of Modena. And from there I have played in that way until today.
There were small targets set from the off. The main one was to better the club’s official highest finishing place in Serie A. We did that and better. by winning the league a few times and winning the Champions League. And the final aim was to see the new stadium come into the game. I think I can say mission accomplished. And have a breather before looking at FM19.
Thank you for your time. See you in the next game.