A NEW HOPE.

Domination – “A dominating or being dominated; rule; control; ascendancy.”

The Primeira Liga (Liga Portugal 1) was founded in 1934, in that time over 70 clubs have competed, shockingly only five of these clubs have ever been crowned champions (as a contrast, whilst over a larger period of time since 1892, 20 clubs have won the English top flight).  Even more depressingly, in all but two seasons one of either Benfica (37 titles), Porto (30 titles) and Sporting CP (19 titles) have claimed the league title, with the monopoly briefly broken in 1945/46 by Belenses, and more recently Boavista at the turn of the century in 2000/01.
(Incidentally, Belenses are currently located in the third tier of Portuguese football and whilst not quite a fallen giant also have the makings of a fun FM save).

The idea of a save in Portugal first manifested in my head in the early Summer when out for a lunchtime run (when I do most of my best thinking), however I was deep into my save with Hibernian and the time didn’t feel right.  Whilst it doesn’t taken the biggest football brain to know that Benfica, Porto and Sporting are dominant, I was still surprised to read it was to such an extent and I wanted to put an end to this dominance.

So who would I opt for to do so?  Best placed to challenge Braga?  Vitória de Guimarães with impressive youth facilities, and a 30,000 capacity stadium? Newly promoted Rio Ave?  Initially, and for a while I settled on Famalicão, a perennial mid-table side who had the infrastructure to go after the big three within a couple of seasons.  Whilst this is usually the type of save I live for, (trying to overthrow two – three clubs who dominate a country) having done this on the last few iterations of Football Manager (Hibernian on FM22, Groningen in Holland on ’21, Motherwell on FM20, Dundee United FM ’19 etc.) I felt I needed a change…
…It was around this time that I had just come back from a holiday to Albufeira on the Southern coast of Portugal in the Algarve, and decided to mentally return here for inspiration.  Again, I initially started in the top two tiers of Portuguese football, but the more I thought about it, the further down the pyramid I wanted to go and the research process began.

Eventually I narrowed it down to a handful of clubs, all based in the Algarve; Moncarapachense, Olhanense, Imortal (Albufeira), Ferreiras and Esperança de (Lagos).  I was immediately drawn to Lagos.  Perhaps it was their bright yellow kit paired with royal blue shorts (very Brazil-esque), or their 4,600 capacity stadium (with one seated stand which appears miles away from the pitch, in the centre of the athletics track), or the fact they were formed 110 years ago and have never risen beyond the second tier (briefly) of Portuguese football.  Whatever it was, Esperança de Lagos it was.

Brief History of Esperança de Lagos and Club Overview.
Esperança de Lagos was founded on the 20th of September, 1912 and are currently considered semi-professional.  Club founder José Victor Adragão chose the name Esperança after his girlfriend of the time, which fittingly translates to ‘Hope’ (A New Hope, get it?!).  As mentioned above the club has never risen above the second tier of Portuguese football, despite being one of the oldest clubs.  Recently they have spent almost as much in the Algarve Championships (fifth tier), as they have in the National Championship structure (tier four and above).

Again, briefly mentioned above, Esperança de Lagos are based at the adventurously named Municipal de Lagos, which was opened in 1989.  The ‘stadium’ is also used for local athletics competitions and Lagos have played their homes games there since it was opened.  It has one stand fitted with seats, with terraces on the other side which appear to have not been touched since it was first built, and can hold 4,600 spectators.

Estádio Municipal de Lagos

Initially I was tempted to download an updated database for FM22 to have a look at what sort of squad I might be greeted with upon arrival in Lagos.  However, I resisted the temptation and decided upon a visit to Transfermarkt which suggests that I will be dealing with a small squad of around 20, which at first glance appears pretty balanced.

Current squad according to Transfermarkt.

As expected in the fourth tier the annual squad turnover is high, with 11 players leaving in the Summer and 9 new arrivals.
Upon full release I intend to release a detailed post outlining the strengths and weaknesses of the squad once I reviewed them in game.

Save Plans and Objectives.
The save has one formal objective, and that is to become champions of Portugal, ideally the sixth club to do so, but for at least a few seasons this will be out of my control.  However, I don’t believe it is unrealistic to believe that Porto, Benfica and Sporting go unchallenged whilst we scrap our way to the Primeira Liga.
Whilst I’d love to say I am planning to do this completely with academy players or just those of Portuguese origin, this incredibly unlikely.  Of course, like most Football Manager players out there I will focus on bringing youth through, giving them a chance where it is the right thing to do.  Additionally, we will be looking to picki up talent released from the bigger clubs in Portugal and giving them a second chance in the game.  Based on Portugal’s proximity to Spain I will also be targeting players from across the border, again, particularly those looking for a way back into football.
On the subject of recruitment, an additional focus will be on Brazil due to it’s Portuguese history (Brazilian wonderkids – they’re a thing © 5 star podcast) as well from Africa, particularly from those countries of Portuguese a colonial heritage; Angola, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique and Cape Verde.  Sao Tome and Principe is also originally a Portuguese colony, however it is hardly a hot bed of footballing talent and therefore won’t be added at the start of the game.

I’m not someone who plays particularly quickly or racks up thousands of hours. I like to immerse myself in the game, planning all training sessions throughout the club, pretty much looking after all aspects of the club where possible and with that in mind I am looking to complete around ten to twelve seasons.

I won’t just be tracking our performance on the pitch, as with all saves of this nature I’ll be focusing on growing the club off it too.  I’ve a raft of metrics which I’ll talk through in more detail in future posts, but will include various financials, average attendance and club facilities amongst others.
Once the game has been released and I’ve played through pre-season I’ll provide more details on the club (from a Football Manager perspective), give an overview of the metrics I’ll be tracking, a squad overview, first tactical thoughts and any transfer activity.  After this I’ll be hoping to release season review posts where we’ll look at performance both on and off the pitch, as well as how the squad is developing, how the club is progressing and any tactical developments.

This is a save I’ve been looking forward to for sometime which I hope I can do justice to (and it survives longer then one season and two posts that Anderlecht did!)

Phil.

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