12 in-game months have passed since I wrote Part 9 and it feels like quite a lot has happened. I’ve been enjoying the save as much as I have at any point which is great. So let me fill you in.
My last post spoke about how I felt about my save, potential FFP repercussions and how I’d dug myself out of a hole of my own making. In this piece the title may give away some context (I know, awesome title right?) but I’ll take you through the methods to my madness and how AZ have fared these past 12 months. We’ll get to Edwin Angarita soon.
The Champions League trophy is my Holy Grail. I’m desperate to win it and relishing the challenge each year. This season (2027/28) we made it all the way to our first ever European Final, but ultimately fell at the final hurdle to a very strong PSG side.
Our away performances in Munich and Manchester were fantastic, but our best performance was easily the 2nd leg at home to Barca to turn around a one-goal deficit from the 1st leg. Alas, PSG were too strong for us in the end so we’ll have to try again next season.
Come July 2028 we moved into the brand-new, aptly named ‘AZ Stadium’ – with a capacity of 43,000, it’s a 13,000 seat increase on our original stadium. Something we very much needed. Jumping ahead slightly and come August 2029 this will be increased further to 48,500. Happy days.
The summer brought with it tough decisions but also some exciting news which is where we’ll start. Neymar hung up his boots after 2 very good seasons with us, 48 appearances, 8 goals and 15 assists was a lovely return and he was a great squad player. With his departure there was room for a ageing superstar to make the trip to Alkmaar.
For those of you that have followed previous saves of mine across other FMs you will know of my love affair with Dybala. Just my favourite player on FM by a mile. Such a dreamboat. He joins on a free transfer.
Also joining on a free is Calvin Stengs, former AZ wonderkid who unfortunately only had one season with us before frigging off to Bayern – he was bloody awesome that first season too. Free signing, former player, still only 30, plays a variety of positions, Dutch – ticks a lot of boxes.
The most notable outgoing of the summer was for a gargantuan, the best Asian striker to have ever lived – it’s Wu Lang. 3 brilliant seasons with us when purchased for £87m from Inter (you can see why FFP was an issue) he joins Liverpool for £125m – he justifies the price tag.
Coming on to the elephant in the room, or the Edwin in the room, Angarita has been the darling of AZ for years now, but I felt time running short. With 12 months left on his contract I had been trying to renew his contract for at least 18 months to no avail.
He was never willing to discuss a new contract ‘while a number of teams were interested’ – 20 teams to be exact for the most part. I felt like a parting of ways was inevitable and I’d be damned if I was going to let him go for free – I’m not going to make the same mistake Wenger did with RVP, Ramsey, Welbeck, Alexis…Angarita would have to go. Oh, it is painful. But it is the right thing to do.
I offered him out all summer – I had a few derisory bids I naturally told to bugger off. Still with a market value of around £70m I was keen for at least £100m.
Days and weeks past and despite the enormous interest and newspaper speculation, no bids were forthcoming. Knowing his departure was a matter of when not if I decided to bring in another striker (seeing as Wu Lang left as well) and brought in a young Brazilian from Santos for £16.75m – I have high hopes.
Want-away Angarita was consigned to the bench; I’ve always been a stickler for not playing those players who want to leave – no matter how good they are – in favour of developing those who will still be here after said players are gone. So Manoel was giving his starting berth from the off and hasn’t looked back.
Phenomenal start. One game stands out to me because it’s gotta be some kind of crazy record for all FMs ever and any FM players ever who have ever played any FM ever…
Never seen anything like it. 3 goals before the 3rd minute ticks over. All 3 goals from Manoel. What makes it even better? It was a perfect hat-trick too. Right foot, header, left foot. Good luck topping that world population.
Our domestic season ticked over as expected bar a 0-4 loss away at NAC, our biggest domestic defeat of the save across 9 seasons. We were terrible – but it was a blip. One draw but otherwise 20 wins and we top the table by 8 points come January 2029. We went into the winter break off the back of a pretty good win…
Dybala got 6 assists this game by the way.
So we’ve got to January 2029 – 12 months on from Part 9. Dybala has been brilliant (playing mostly as DLF-A), Manoel is sensational (AF-A), Stengs has been fantastic from either wing, my other strikers Buchinhoren (academy grad) and Langais (poached on a free from PSG in the summer too) have chipped in when called upon. Imanol Martin and Barrera’s beasts at right-wing.
We finish top of our CL group and have Schalke to face in February’s knockout round. But what happens in January? Angarita would have 6 months left on his deal? Not on my watch.
£84m for a player with 7 months left on his deal is bloody great business, though it was a sad, cold, wintery day that the deal was struck. An end of an era…
Angarita By Numbers
- 7.5 seasons for AZ
- 205 league games
- 213 league goals
- 38 PoMs
- All the domestic trophies
- Leaves us a Club Legend at the tender age of 25
- He’ll be back one day…
Alongside the departure of one Colombian in Angarita was another; centre back Cristian Varon was subject to a huge £107m bid from PSG – he’d come on leaps and bounds the last few seasons but that’s a whole lotta wonga.
I swiftly moved to replace Varon with a 23yr old CB from Porto for his release clause of £53m – half the price of a Varon. But the real star that joined AZ in January was yet another Colombian (I think the 9th one I’ve signed), introducing star of the future Yimmi Sandoval.
This save has taken many twists and turns over the seasons and I’m absolutely loving it.
The constant requirement to replace high-value assets is a joy and I can’t see myself splurging £200m-£300m in a season as I did before.
I have some more want-away stars so the summer could see more change…I’ve been a stalwart 4-4-2 user for about 4 seasons now but looking ahead to next season I’m tempted to move to a narrow 4-3-1-2 system depending on outgoings.
I’ll be fighting tooth and nail for that Champions League trophy again this season. Incredibly Barcelona finished 3rd in their group (oh dear Angarita) so that’s one big threat out of the competition already. PSG are huge favourites again.
We’ve some cracking young talent and have made shrewd signings of late for minimal outlay. We’re in a new stadium and the value of the club has now topped £2bn. We are ‘only’ the 28th most reputable club so we’ll continue to struggle to hold onto our best players – but there’s always another wonderkid to find isn’t there?
Until next time!