We go again! If you missed chapter 4 then please click here to catch up before we dive into chapter 5.
I’ll start off by updating you on what went on at the Qatar World Cup. To say it was a total disaster for England would be an understatement, the Three Lions didn’t even manage to score a goal. A 2-0 defeat against South Korea where Reece James was sent off was followed up by successive 0-0 draws against Sweden and Uruguay. Against the latter Luis Suárez was given his marching orders with over 60 minutes to play but even against 10 men England still couldn’t break them down. Gareth Southgate was immediately sacked and rather than returning home he has gone into hiding fearing for his own safety.
It was Belgium who triumphed, beating Italy 1-0 in the final thanks to a goal from Spurs man Thorgan Hazard. I must also give a notable shout out to Jamaica and Algeria who both unexpectantly made the second round.
As part of this challenge I need international success as well as at club level by ticking off the World Cup and European Championships. This means that at some point I need to get an international job along side my club one. The end of an international competition is the perfect opportunity to do this as its when a lot of managers tend to get the sack which can be illustrated by the long list of available roles following the Qatar World Cup:
There are a few that really catch the eye but realistically why would a side with championship winning credentials employ me when I haven’t won anything yet? With Leverkusen I chose to take a challenge on but that is with the caveat of knowing that I can sign new players, at international level you can’t do that, you have to work with what you’ve got. My take is that there is no point in getting an international role unless its a really good one. Realistically out of the better nations, I currently have most chance of getting the England and Germany roles based on the fact that I’m English and manage in Germany. Despite it only being a slim chance I decide to apply for both as you never know what can happen! As expected I don’t get either but there is still plenty of time for me get one in the future.
Being overlooked for the German one is completely understandable as they go for Thomas Tuchel, who is not only a top manager but a German manager and therefore perfect to manage Germany. Being overlooked for the England one however p*ssed me right off! The reason for that is who they decide to appoint instead….Marco Silva??? The bloke who flopped at Everton despite spending a shed load of cash so had to go manage in the Championship? He’s not even English, surely if you go for a foreign manager you go for one with an impeccable CV?? Absolutely fuming! Anyway rant over, I’ll continue to focus on Leverkusen for the time being and by the time Euro 2024 comes around hopefully I’ll have more on my CV! Actually that probably should say hopefully I’ll have something on my CV but lets gloss over that right now…
Back to Leverkusen and you’ll remember I had no money to spend and we were approaching the January transfer window so it was looking like it was going to be a quiet month. The board then decided to give me £13.25m to spend, not loads but enough to get the man I’d identified as my number 1 target Mady Camara of Olympiakos. Before the window was open the deal was arranged, £10m up front and a further £3m over the next 12 months. This meant the declining Charles Aránguiz was able to leave for £450k to Zenit, a small fee but his contract was up in the summer and he was on £82k a week, Camara will be on exactly half of that and is an upgrade.
There was some more good news before the window opened. At the end of the last post I mentioned that I had a potential dilemma of whether or not to sell my goal scoring central midfielder Kerem Demirbay as he was constantly in a mood and only had 18 months left on his contract. Bayern had turned their interest elsewhere and he came back like dog with its tail between its legs. Yes it still shows he’s bit of a d*ck but he’s a cracking player and he’s signed a new long term contract so I’m absolutely buzzing.
As the window opened we had £3.5m left in the bank with no wage budget available so there was only going to be business done if someone went out the door. To bring to life my thoughts I’m going to do another quick squad review, this time anyone in green I am not willing to sell, anyone in black I’m not looking to sell but would consider an offer for. There is no one in red this time as there isn’t anyone I’m actively looking to get rid of. This is because when you actively look to sell someone you get less than you would if a club shows an active interest, my squad is in better shape than it was, its just a case of some players being better than others. We are at the point now where I don’t want to go bargain hunting anymore, we just need to bring in top quality and to do that you usually need to spend big.
|Position/Role||1st choice||2nd choice||3rd choice|
|GK – SK||Dominik Livaković||Sam Johnstone||Niklas Lomb|
|RB – WB||Jeremie Frimpong||Adam Marušić|
|RCB – BPD||Jonathan Tah||James Tarkowski|
|LCB – BPD||Edmond Tapsoba||Odilon Kossounou|
|LB – WB||Marc Cucurella||Luca Pellegrini|
|CM – BWM||Mady Camara||Robert Andrich|
|CM- CM (A)||Kerem Demirbay||Nicolae Stanciu|
|RW – IW||Adnan Januzaj||Moussa Diaby|
|AM – AP||Donny van de Beek||Florian Wirtz||Paulinho (Utility man)|
|LW – IW||Khvicha Kvaratskhelia||Andreas Schjelderup|
|ST – AF/PF||Andrea Belotti||Patrik Schick||Iker Bravo|
As you can see there are a lot of players I’d be willing to do a deal for but it will depend if any bids come in. You may be surprised to see Schick on there and I can explain why. I didn’t mention this in the last post but I had to leave a couple of back up players out of the Champions League squad because we didn’t have enough homegrown players. Young German forward Karim Adeyemi has a £14.25m release clause so if someone wanted to pay silly money for Schick I would listen, providing that I could get Adeyemi in. The main area that I am wanting to receive bids for is my wide men as none of them have been good enough so far this season.
So did any bids come in?
Yes, just a day into the window and Bayern bid £22m up front followed by a further £22m over 12 months for my goal scoring machine Andrea Belotti. My response was simple, f*ck right off!
Belotti wasn’t happy though, so I promised him we’d challenge for the Champions League and he calmed down. I should’ve told him gullible had been taken out of the dictionary whilst I was at it.
The next player to have an offer made for him was Odilon Kossounou, our young centre back. He’s a good player and I like him but he’s not irreplaceable. He plays really well against lesser sides but when I have injuries and he has had to step up in big games he hasn’t delivered. Sevilla bid £13m up front with a further £5.25m after 6 months which wasn’t enough. He was valued between £21m and £23m so I wanted a bit more. I asked for £25m up front with 20% of profit from next sale and to my surprise they said yes. I accepted the bid and off he went, if it was a one club save I’d have kept him for development as I do think he’ll come good but that isn’t what I’m looking for at the moment. His replacement was Nico Schlotterbeck for £17m from Freiburg, not an upgrade but a similar standard of player. I don’t have any left footed centre backs so he ticks that box, I also needed more homegrown players and he is German so he ticks that box to. I’ve made £8m profit as well so despite not improving the squad I’m happy with this piece of business.
I’d mentioned that I was eying up Karim Adeyemi if an offer for Schick came in. I wasn’t the only one eying him up, Inter, Bayern, Chelsea, AC Milan and Juventus all met his £14m minimum fee release clause and he opted to join Inter. This meant that Schick was no longer someone I would be considering bids for.
No more bids came in for any of my players frustratingly so I was stuck with the same wide men for the second part of the season. To add to my frustration Dortmund held onto Haaland whilst Bayern added Darwin Núñez to their squad.
With Aránguiz leaving it meant that I needed a new captain and having made him stay in January I made Belotti feel more at home by making him the clubs skipper. He couldn’t have taken the responsibility on any better, zero sulking he just went out onto the pitch and lead by example. So much so that the rotation between him and Schick stopped and it became a case of if Belotti is fit, Belotti starts. He had an absolutely incredible season scoring 49 goals in 36 games in all competitions. I feel slightly sorry for Schick as he didn’t do anything wrong, Belotti just reached a whole new level. Now you may be wondering if those goals fired us back into the title race? They didn’t. I’d said that if Dortmund kept hold of Haaland I thought they’d win the league and I wasn’t wrong. They were crowned champions, Bayern finished 2nd and again we finished 3rd. We gained 6 more points than last season showing that we’d improved but Dortmund and Bayern had increased their points total to. We were getting better but so were our rivals, we’d have to continue to do so next year and hope that they stuttered if we were to win the league. Haaland scored an incredible 66 goals in 38 games in all competitions, he also got 10 assists. He made Belotti look average. Liverpool have to sign him in the summer or I really think we are screwed.
Our reward for running away with our Champions League group was a last 16 match against Barcelona. Since the start of the save they haven’t made any signings but they’ve kept hold of all of their stars except for Frankie De Jong who has joined Man City. Taking that into consideration you’d probably think that they are quite beatable however they came a very credible 2nd last season and at the time of playing them this year they were top of La Liga. The first leg was in the Camp Nou and it went the home sides way, a 59th minute Memphis Depay goal the difference. With home advantage in the second leg I fancied us to get back into the tie but for once Belotti just couldn’t score. We dominated but couldn’t break them down before they countered twice to secure a 2-0 win through goals from Griezmann and Araújo. I hadn’t expected us to win the tie but to have not scored over 180 minutes was disappointing to say the least.
After last seasons disappointment in the DFB-Pokal I’ve already mentioned that this year I wanted to make up for it and see us go all the way. With both Bayern and Dortmund knocked out in the 2nd round we’d have no better opportunity to do so.
Hertha Berlin at home made for a tricky 3rd round match, we started well going 2-0 up within half an hour thanks to goals from Belotti and Tapsoba. Dodi Lukebakio pulled one back for Hertha before half time setting up a tense second half. We couldn’t get a third but more importantly they couldn’t get a second meaning we were through 2-1 to the quarter final.
Another home draw, this time against Eintracht Frankfurt where again we started well but this time had 3 in the first half hour. Schjelderup, Schlotterbeck and that man Belotti with the goals, Akman bagged a consolation for them but that’s all it was and we were through to our first semi final since I had taken charge.
The draw fell kind again giving us a home tie against the only Bundesliga 2 side left in the competition Augsburg. Having gone out to a side from that division last season I was more than aware not to underestimate them and we didn’t. A comfortable 3-0 win booked us a place in the final and an opportunity to tick off the first piece of silverware in the Glory Hunter challenge. The goals came from Tapsoba, Diaby and Kvaratskhelia.
Stuttgart awaited in the final, could we beat them? You’ll have to wait for next time where we’ll have a focus on the final, a season review and a look at the summer transfer activity.
Thanks for reading,
The Last Throw.
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