The Squadfather – Bringing FM20 to a close

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It’s been a while! One last look at FM20.

Welcome to my first post in a very long while about my adventure in FM20. Please refresh yourselves by visiting the previous post .

Palermo, with Jorge Garcia, had won their third title in three years. Top flight football had returned to the capital of Sicily. Yet you join me at the point where I have decided to call this save a day. The in game day and date is Saturday 14th July 2029. (I know, I can hear the groans, how the efff! did I get from July 2022 to July 2029 without so much as a little update in between?

This year has been very tough and time consuming. I have had very little time to play and commentate about the beautiful game. Let’s just say once the bairns went back to school in September I have had a bit more spare time to play again.

Firstly, I would like to remark that this post will not go into an enormous amount of detail covering the save. One of the reasons behind this is that I did not make a save file for each season covered. And I also didn’t take many screenshots during the playing of the game. (Most, if not all screenshots have been taken now right at my end point of the game). It will, hopefully, give a summary of the save and the some reasoning why I went back to my original save, after writing about the Inter save I covered with Dictate the Game.

Season 2022 / 23

Palermo had joined the promised land of Serie A after winning Serie B with an 18 point margin over Parma and Perugia, who finished second and third respectively.

In a nutshell, Palermo finished the campaign in 5th. The unexpected final placement would mean Palermo would see European football during the 2023/24 season.

Final League table of season 2023/24

Sifting through what I could, the two standout players from that season were the loanee duo from the clubs English affiliate Manchester City, Sandro Tonali and Sergio Aguero. The latter would spearhead the attack by contributing with 13 league goals in 29 appearances. Whilst Tonali went on to play in 37 Serie A games, scoring 4 goals and assisting with 9. He also went on to win player of the year along with an average rating of 7.50 for the season.

Another keynote from that season was the increased use of Cesc Franco. Who went on to play in 23 league matches, scoring 1 and assisting 5. Note, Cesc had been dubbed “a very promising young player”, who should go on to have a very successful career. And at this point he was an 18 year old learning his craft.

An early look at Cesc Franco aged 18 yrs old.
Cesc Franco Aged 18 yrs old

Season 2023/24

The difficult second album. Palermo would attack their second season in Serie A like their first, with gusto. And this was done whilst fighting to show how far the club had grown in the Europa League.

The campaign would see Palermo finish 6th in Serie A. The campaign would also see Jorge Garcia and his eagles perform the unexpected in Europe. They would finish second in Group F behind Valencia. Yet, outstanding results like an 8-0 home win against Nice and the 12-0 away win against Astanta would standout as high points for Jorge Garcia’s Palermo.

The final lSerie A table for season 2023/24

When the winter transfer window opened emotions got the better of Garcia and on the 12 of January 2024, with Palermo riding a high in Serie A and in Europe, Jorge Garcia, sealed a move to Everton in the English Premier League. This opened a new and unexpected chapter in the life of the Squadfather.

A midseason change of direction

Everton FC had seen a torrid 12 months prior to Jorge Garcia’s appointment. Abel Ferreira had lost control of the dressing room and results had seen the Toffee’s slip to 17th in December 2023. The surprise appointment of Jorge Garcia brought immediate hope and a much needed boost in the dressing room.

The board backed Garcia and sanctioned the signings of Scott McKenna from Aberdeen for £11.75m, along with Eric Dier from Tottenham for £10.25m and Ismael Bannacer from Milan for £4m. These three signings along with the revival of Billy Gilmour who had been sitting in the reserves waiting for an opportunity to play since his move from Chelsea in the 2019/20 season, would help show what Garcia could do in a short space of time with money to play with. Everton would go on an amazing run of winning 10 matches in the last 18 Premier League matches of the season. Leaving Everton 9th.

The final league table in the EPL for season 2023/24

Yet, the mood in Merseyside had already turned blue well before the end of the season. The reason for this was Marcel Brands, the DoF at Everton, he had been quick to allow some promising young talent to leave Goodison Park. This in turn had given me enough of a nudge to understand that Everton would not be for the long term.

Season 2024/25

May 22nd 2024. is the date Jorge handed a note to Marcel Brands. Inside that note it said the following.

‘Marcel, You’re a coward! You were not man enough to speak me about the future of the boys you have let go. These boys could have learned from me. Instead you have seen the money you could make and cashed them in, like my grandfather would have taken his cattle to market. For this, I can no longer rely on you. And as the board will not let me deal with you the Sicilian way. Good bye and good riddance.’

Garcia left England and waited for the next opportunity. The 7th of July 2024 would see Roberto de Zerbi resign at Fiorentina and move to Real Sociedad. Following this move Jorge Garcia was appointed manager of Fiorentina.

Recruitment. That is the key word I would take from the moment go for Garcia’s time at Fiorentina. The immediate acquisition of centre backs, Gianluca Mancini (out of contract) and Eros Boscolo, (loan from Lazio) were major steps in providing the first team a solid defensive footing to build an attacking tactic upon. Simone Rabbi, who was bought from Bologna for £12m, went on the play in 33 League matches scoring 11 goals and assist with 3 for the La Viola, would prove to be a youthful addition to the clubs forward line up. The line up already included Simeone Zaza and Andrea Belotti, both would contribute but struggle to find consistency in their form.

Whilst the individuals may have struggled the team as a unit performed out of their skin. Which resulted in Fiorentina winning the Serie A title. The first for Jorge Garcia since the Serie B title back in 2021/22 with Palermo.

Fiorentina are crowned Champions in season 2024/25

Season 2025/26

Fiorentina went on to see the returning goal scoring powers of Andrea Belotti. The form that had been lost during Fiorentina’s title winning side of 2024/25, had been reignited for 2025/26. Belotti went on to score 20 goals in 37 appearances in all competitions. The confidence of winning Serie A also gave Garcia the desire to bleed the next superstars into the La Viola throughout the 2025/26 season.

Youngsters like Lorenzo Mazza, Thomas Etoundi and homegrown superstar in the making Giorgio Carchivi were give there opportunities to play and develop within the the first team environment. This may have been one of the reasons behind Fiorentina missing out on the title to Milan by 1 point.

Fiorentina just miss out in season 2025/26

Season 2026/27

With Garcia’s contract expiring on the 1st of July 2026, both parties had expected an agreement to be reached. Yet surprisingly nothing was delivered to Jorge for him to sign. Without a contract Jorge was once again out of work, but once again, the media hyped up his demand.

By the end of July the Argentine FA had held secret talks with Jorge to take over for the National team on a short term contract.

Three friendly matches were played and won during Garcia’s short tenure with his home nation. Jorge enjoyed the experience but longed for the day to day battle to mould a squad around his footballing ethos.

The New Bielsa?

On the 5th of January 2027 Leeds United had agreed to bring Jorge Garcia back into club football. Leeds, were struggling to see a way out of avoiding relegation from the Premier League. Jorge Garcia came in to the job with an immediate assessment of the squad. The results were not good, some of the existing squad were not good enough. Garcia urged Victor Orta to sell a number of players to generate money that could be used straight away in the winter transfer window.

Players like Alan Ortiz, Ronan Masson and Leonardis Stergiou were moved on. Which meant Leeds were able to bring in Brazilian Goalkeeper Alex Oliviera from Palmeiras, Wonderkid Djilali Mansouri from Saint Etienne and defender John Stones from Tottenham.

The shift in personnel and the change to make Leeds play with a 4231 somehow worked wonders because the the team went on to win 12 of their last 18 matches in the 2026/27 season. This would result in Leeds finishing in 8th place, only 1 point below 7th place Wolves, who managed to qualify for the Europa League.

Leading Leeds Utd from 17th to 8th in season 2026/27

Season 2027/28

The new season saw a change from the 4231 to a 4141. The belief that Kalvin Phillips would be better served as a deep lying playmaker in the holding midfielder position with younger and more athletic midfielders in the more advanced positions.

Victor Orta, went on to spend a small fortune on Dutch wonderkid Tarik Baly from AZ for £63m, he would also over see the purchases of French midfielder Thierry Paris from Le Havre for £9m and Darko Zizic, a beast of a central defender from Partizan (Serbia) for £1.8m.

With the club backing themselves in the transfer market by making transfers like the above the expectation level was raised. The board has risen it from survival to mid table expectations.

Preseason led the Leeds faithful into a false sense of development, as clubs like Schalke, Anderlecht and Wolfsburg were swept aside by a brand of football that appeared tight at the back and potent in attack. But, Football Manager doesn’t always like to let the game become too easy. The Premier League Season started as expected a win against Huddersfield, a draw against Southampton and a narrow loss against Tottenham. This higgledy piggledy form continued and then suddenly all form and fortune sank without trace during the October. The Media were swirling with negativity. And before the daggers were drawn, a ray of light shone like a shiny beacon.

The opportunity to move clubs came at a time when I started to believe something had gone wrong in Leeds. The squad had the potential. And many of the players looked to be happy within the environment that had been created in the dressing room. Yet, it felt like too many changes in a short period of time had derailed the team spirit and togetherness which had seen Leeds perform so well during the back end of season 2026/27.

Bonny Scotland

The 20th November 2027 would see Jorge Garcia take over at Celtic. Who at the time were lying in 3rd place in the SPFL. The request from the board was to make a challenge for the title.

Garcia’s first match in charge was a home match against Dundee Utd. The tactics were quickly pushed in to the game. Which replicated what had been used at Leeds and Fiorentina. An issue with the tactic was soon brought to my attention. That there were not many wingers to really get the tactic working to it’s fullest. So, Garcia had to learn on the job.

After two draws, a win (Aberdeen away) and a narrow loss to Hibernian (away). Garcia decided to try something different. He tried a 3412 (In the mould of 1990’s Parma). The change in tactic saw an immediate change in fortune. Celtic went on a 25 unbeaten streak from December to March in 2028. This would include a big win against Red Bull Salzburg in the Champions League, which put Celtic in the pot for the Europa League 1st Knockout Round.

The loss came against Rangers in the SPFL, a jammy 1-0 loss in an Auld Firm Derby. I won’t go any further with that. As the taught of that loss still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.

Finley ‘Fuckin Burns

Some people say it can take a lot of game play to make a connection with a player in Football Manager. Others will say its just a game stop getting all soft and emotional. But sometimes one unexpected player can just make the moon align for great things to happen.

I have already spoken about a 25 match unbeaten record. This U turn in form was that catalyst for catching and overtaking both Aberdeen and Rangers to the 2027/28 SPFL title. However, I think defender, Finley Burns will probably have a statue erected in his honour for his exploits in the Europa League.

First we overcome Schalke, then Aberdeen in an all Scotland tie. This lead to a “Battle of Britain” tie against Tottenham. We squeaked passed Spurs on away goals to set up a Semi against Italian giants Inter. We then overcame all odds over the two games to beat Inter 3-1 on aggregate. Finlay Burns scored the third to put the game out of reach for the Italian club.

The final of the Europa League was in St Petersburg, 5 days after a cruel defeat against Hearts in the Scottish Cup Final. We lost on penalties 5-4. Callum McGregor missing the only shot from the spot.

Back to the Europa League final, Wolfsburg came with a plan to frustrate attacking midfielder Will Hughes. This was working well for the German’s until the 70th minute. At this point Veteran Playmaker, Hakim Ziyech, came on to replace the tired looking Hughes. And within minutes Ziyech came up with a wonderful cross to Finley Burns’ head. Burns managed to direct the ball goal wards and create history for himself and Celtic. Celtic won 1-0. Needless to say I nearly knocked the laptop over when this goal went in!

That Finley Burns goal!
Celtic win the Europa League final 2028.

With the challenge met and completed. Garcia began look at other challenges but, he had accepted that he might not get the chance to move club so soon after joining Celtic.

SPFL title in season 2027/28

Back to the Start

I never thought I would see the chance to go back to where it all began. Palermo, not Serie D.

After 4 years 121 days Nico Kovac had been sacked. Palermo had finished 8th in Serie A in the 2027/28 campaign and that was deemed not good enough.

Palermo greeted Jorge Garcia with open arms. Like a child to it’s father. To my delight there were still some players at Palermo who were still in the squad from when Garcia last graced the Renzo Barbera. Both Vincenzo Millico and Eddie Nketiah were still leading the attacking line. And that Anthony Angileri had become club captain. The other wonderful sight was to see that the club was still trying to push their own youngsters into the first team.

Garcia came with a plan to produce the same attacking football that had proven to be successful in Scotland and to ditch the WM tactic which had been so successful at Palermo previously. This was based on the thought that the midfield looked strong. And but for one or two additions the midfield could be the foundation on which we could build success.

Season 2028/29

Veteran Attacking Midfielder Paulo Dybala was snapped up due recently being out of contract. We then snapped up a former favourite Sandro Tonali on a season loan from Lyon. Along with the signings of young defender, Michael Baresi from Milan and Goalkeeper Attilo Romagnoli on a free from Lazio. Garcia then left Dof, Antero Henrique, with the task of recruiting young players who could be of use in the under 18’s/under 20’s and if good enough pose as back ups for the first team.

After the shortest of preseason sessions, which consisted of three friendlies. We were up and running in Serie A with the club expecting a mid-table finish.

The opening fixtures looked to be in our favour and the first two results certainly gave Palermo the chance to show their intentions. A 7-1 away win against Perugia with Eddie Nketiah scoring 5. Backed by a 4-0 home win against Crotone, with Eddie getting on the score sheet again was the perfect start to the season. But we then came down with a bump with a 3-1 home defeat to the Sass of Reggio Emilio, Sassuolo, this defeat came due to too much tinkering with the starting eleven and left Garcia frustrated.

We get knocked down, then we get back up again!

The defeat against Sassuolo was an early season wake up call. And boy, did the message get through to Jorge Garcia to not tinker so much. But for injuries and suspensions changes were on the minimum. And this familiarity of role and position of the main playing squad set up a 22 match unbeaten run. This went from August until February. When Roma beat Palermo 1-0 away.

This defeat just acted as a wobble, as Palermo went on to only lose once more all season. This form not only led to securing Palermo’s first Serie A title but a double as the Sicilian’s won the Copa Italia final against a lack lustre Fiorentina.

The holy grail! Palermo win Serie A in season 2028/29
Final League standings in season 2028/29

Aaaaaaaaaand Relax!

With leading Palermo to such a high. The curtain has now been drawn to close the save and work out what to do and who to be in Football Manager 21.

One last thing, just like Columbo! Cesc Franco went on to be a belter! Real picked the lad up on a free in January 2027. He refused to sign a new contract under Kovac’s Palermo. He certainly stand out as being the most developed player I have nurtured in FM20.

The boy wonder, grew in to a man.

Ciao for now!

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Coffee drinker, mug hoarder, Italian Football lover, Football shirt collector.

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