Apertura 2025/2026 with Celaya – the 1st place doesn’t mean you’re the champions
The first part of the 2025/2026 season in my FM20 save is over and I decided to put together some words about what happened during the Apertura with Celaya FC in Mexico.
We had a chance to play the Club World Cup but I also wrote about some transfers and how they affected the financial side of the club and the squad management too.
The Club World Cup experience
As the current CONCACAF Champions League winners we were able to enter the Club World Cup 2025 tournament.
The format was not how you know it from the past. There were 8 groups with 3 teams in each from all continents. It was also the first CWC tournament in my save since 2021. Not sure why.
We were in group H with Gremio and Lokomotiv Moscow. There were also Monterrey and Tigres as two other Mexican teams.
A great timing
We played the last match of the previous season on May 25. Players had holiday until Monday, June 16, when the pre-season started.
That meant we had only 8 days of pre-season before the first group stage match against Gremio including travelling from Mexico to Russia where the final tournament took a place.
The first match against Gremio was played in Rostov on Don what meant to travel over 11.5k kilometres from Celaya. The second match against Lokomotiv Moscow took place in Sochi, only around 400 kilometres from Rostov.
We didn’t play some friendlies before the tournament started as I felt it would be even counterproductive.
I decided to use Pre-season – tactical – early training schedule and modified the end of it. Monday – Thursday training sessions were more demanding with some overall physical training.
The end of the week contained set pieces and some technical sessions before the match against Gremio.
I didn’t count with the success in the group. Mainly because I didn’t know what to expect from my own players after the between-seasons break and also because I didn’t play against European or South American teams in this save.
The training for the third week in the picture above was not adjusted in terms of match/matches as I didn’t expect to make it from the group. And the potential quarter-final was scheduled for Sunday, June 29, so we would be at home right to be able to set the training…
But we won the group...
I decided to try the 4-1-3-2 formation without AMR/L players and it looked quite good before Gremio switched to 4-4-2.
I decided to change back to 4-3-3 with DM and Gilberto Errick Serrano scored the winning goal in the 89th minute after we took back our domination in the match.
The second group stage match was against Lokomotiv Moscow and we outplayed the Russian side.
Serrano, played as CM(A), was in a perfect form at the beginning of the new season and he opened the score after a throw-in routine. Dojaquez scored a brace and Ozuna scored once. Who would thought it was the last two goals for Dojaquez in our shirt…
We won 4-0 and won the group with two wins from two matches.
We moved from Sochi to Moscow for the quarter-final against Juventus (about 1360 kilometres) to play at Luzhniki stadium.
I had to improvise as three key players – Josué Infante, Gilberto Erick Serrano and Josué Manuel Dojaquez left the squad to join Mexican national team to play the Gold Cup 2025.
In summer bought 19 years old Julio Jesús Loreto made his debut as the central defender as a cover of Josué Infante
Pogba, De Light, Rabiot, Dybala, Jota and co against our small and weaker Mexican side.
Dybala put them in front thanks to a penalty kick but we levelled the score in 64th minute as Cantú was successful with the header at the far post after the free kick.
Moussa Dembelé scored the second goal for Juventus in 82nd minute and I thought it’s over.
But our central defender José María Franco scored our second after the near post corner kick routine to make it 2-2.
The match went to penalties, it was 4-3 for Juventus when the debutant Loreto missed and Rabiot won it for Juventus with the last penalty kick.
It was not mean to win this competition. Even the fact we made it to the quarter final I consider as a great success.
The fact we were able to hold Juventus without three key players is a great sign for the future. I don’t think I will be able to keep these three players in the club forever.
Atlético de Madrid (without @JimG_FM) won the tournament as they beat Santos in the final thanks to goals by Morata and Brekalo.
Financial security squad management
We earned €15.75M in the previous season thanks to outgoing transfers and I thought it was a high number. But we already doubled it.
I’m not sure if you remember it but when this save started there were 14 foreign players in the club. The number increased to 15 between 2021 – 2024 but it was reduced to 9 in the last season.
We now have only 7 foreign players in the 2025/2026 season as I decided to sell some of the non-Mexican players.
Lionel Laborda was one of my favourite midfielders but I decided it’s time. I bought him for just €400k and when PSV Eindhoven came with such a big bid, it was easy decision.
Colombian midfielder José Preciado moved to América de Cali. He was one of the Colombian players I signed when the club board was not willing to remove Sign Colombian Players policy from the club vision but it didn’t work and he didn’t convince me to keep him.
The last foreign players who left our club was Jamaican defender/midfielder Christopher Hardware. I signed him for €575 in 2022 from Harbour View. He developed in a solid right defender but when experienced Edson Gutiérrez played better and more consistent, I decided to sell Hardware too.
You can also see the departure of José Manuel Dojaquez for €10.75M to Shakhtar. This Mexican striker was signed from Cimarrones in 2022 for €70k as one of the best players from the first youth intake in this save.
During his five seasons with us he became our first choice striker and he was wanted by several clubs across Europe or China. And in the end, he also wanted to move elsewhere.
He is currently the only newgen in the Mexican national team starting XI in 2025/2026 season.
New youth blood
With all departures and the thinking behind the squad management, there had to be also some incoming transfers.
Mainly as the preparation for the departure of the experienced key players like Emiliano Ozuna and Sebastian Osorio who are our first choices for both AMR/AML positions almost from the start of the save. They can’t be here forever.
I invested €8.25M in new youngsters, mainly from the Mexican clubs. Only one foreign player was added as I bought Colombian Juan Henríquez last year and he arrived now after he reached 18 years of his life.
Probably the highlight of our transfers is the striker Víctor Ríos from Pachuca as we bought him just for €950k and I’m sure he can become our first choice striker soon.
I’m also looking to play with young Fernando Robledo in the centre of our midfield or try to make the most from Julio Jesús Loreto (I mentioned Loreto in the previous post about the Coach reports) or other young players.
As I mentioned Colombian Sebastián Osorio, who plays mainly as IF(A) on the right side of the pitch. I signed Adolfo Osorio in winter 2025. Yes, it’s a potential replacement of the older Osorio.
I’m old man, I can’t afford to get used to another last name…
The investment of €4.6M to young midfielder Fernando Robledo was our highest fee spent within this save. The fee received for Lionel Laborda was also the highest received fee.
We moved up in terms of finances as we have around €50M in the bank at the start of the new year. We have over €30M in the transfer budget and we still keep the wage budget very strict as we are currently spending around €690k per month from the €1.8M budget.
That means we really are financially secured. Just compare it to the start of the save in 2019 when the club had €2M in the bank at the end of the first season.
Apertura 2025/2026 results
The Club World Cup was mentioned in the beginning of this post but we played also the Mexican league. Of course.
Our results were really good and we ended the opening stage at the first place of the table. We won 12 matches, drew 6 and lost one. It was against Santos Laguna and their 4-2-3-1 system.
We scored 31 goals and conceded only 7. Our starting position before the play-off was good. Until I realised we will play Santos Laguna as they finished 8th.
And yes, we lost to this team 2-3 on aggregate as we lost 0-2 in the first away leg and a 2-1 home win was not enough.
That means our domestic season ended sooner than someone expects after previous triumphs. But as we talked in the FMSlack, it’s just a beauty of these league systems.
CF Pachuca (finished 6th in the opening stage) beat Santos Laguna in the final to became Apertura champions. All other teams had to prepare better for the Clausura matches. And we are no exception.
The start to the Clausura was very good. But will it be enough?
Thanks for reading.
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