The Journeyman | Saving Sporting: Part 1 – A New Start in FM20

You may have noticed that our Football Manager blog updates have been away for a while. I took some time out to go travelling and now, with Coronavirus sticking around, I thought it’d be fun to get back to the Football Manager blogging game!

I’ve dabbled a little in YouTube creation since I got back, but my laptop isn’t anywhere near good enough to create good video content. So that’s on hold for now and I’m putting all my efforts back into creating FM Stories.

So, where to start? Well, I thought I’d go back to one of my old favourites on Football Manager. A team that I once established as one of the best teams in Europe on an old version of the game – FM17, if I remember rightly – but have now fallen on some pretty tough times.

I am, of course, talking about Sporting Lisbon.

The Sporting tale

Sporting Clube de Portugal, commonly known as Sporting Lisbon or Sporting CP, are one third of the Três Grandes who, along with Benfica and FC Porto, have never been relegated from the Portuguese top flight.

The club is the third most decorated in Portugal with 50 trophies to its name. It’s most prestigious success was the 1963/64 European Cup Winners’ Cup, along with 18 Premiera Liga titles and 17 Taça de Portugal wins.

Sporting CP was founded on 1 July 1906 but didn’t win the Portuguese title until 1941, which sparked a golden era for the club. It won the league title 10 times between 1941 and 1958, then on a further 7 occasions between 1962 and 1982. However, since then it has only been Portuguese champion twice, in 2000 and 2002.

The club is perhaps best renowned for its youth academy, which has produced the likes of Luis Figo and Cristiano Ronaldo. More recent graduates include Rui Patricio, now with Wolverhampton Wanderers, William Carvalho and, one of my favourite players on my previous save as Sporting, Adrien Silva.

Sporting made headlines for the wrong reasons in May 2018, when players and coaches were attacked by around 50 supporters at the club’s training ground. Five days later they lost in the Portuguese Cup Final, nine players walked out on the club, several more threatened to do the same and, eventually, president Bruno de Carvalho was forced out by club members.

The current Sporting situation

We walked into the doors of Estádio José Alvalade to a squad that doesn’t really have the quality we’d hoped for. I swiftly set about getting rid of some of the players that weren’t good enough for the squad. And sold our current vice-captain Jeremy Mathieu, partly because he was 35 and Lille offered us £800k and partly because I just don’t like him as a player on FM.

Of those that remain, the best is possibly left winger / left-back Marcos Acuna, followed by former Liverpool centre-back Sebastian Coates. He’s not the only Premier League cast-off in the squad, as he’s joined by former Fulham winger/striker Luciano Vietto, ex-Stoke City failure Jesé, and Everton flop Yannick Bolasie, who’ll be a backup winger for us.

Other players to keep an eye out for include Slovenian striker Andraz Sporar, who’s just joined the club for £5.25 million from Slovan Bratislava, and two 5-star potential 21-year-olds in Portuguese winger Jovane Cabral, who is natural on both flanks, and Brazilian central midfielder Wendel.

There isn’t a huge amount of quality in the squad, but I’m hopeful we have enough to challenge for second place. Although I suspect third is our limit for the first campaign and the media agree, placing us in third and fail to include any of our players in their pre-season Dream Team, which is made up of seven players from FC Porto and four from Benfica.

Our non-playing staff was in an even worse state, so I sacked a couple of excess fitness coaches and goalkeeping coaches and replaced them with Ivan Cordoba to improve defending coaching. I also sacked my assistant manager, who was terrible, and am currently in the process of advertising for a replacement.

The other major concern is the club’s finances. We started out with just £5 million in the bank balance, a transfer budget of £1.72 million and, even more worryingly, an outstanding debt of £138 million.

One of our Club Culture targets is to sell young players for a profit, so let’s hope some of the youngsters mentioned below become seriously good.

Lots of youth potential

One saving grace, in true Sporting style, is the quality of young players coming through the ranks. No fewer than 11 players in our Under 23s squad have 4.5 or 5-star potential, which is pleasing to see.

However, the pick of all the youngsters at the club could well be 15-year-old central midfielder Renato Veiga, who we’ll keep in the Under 19s squad for now.

That said, there were only three players in the first team under the age of 21 – which will change dramatically over the next few years given my preference for developing young players. We’ve already made a start with that by promoting 17-year-old defender Eduardo Quaresma, who appears to have great potential.

It’s great to be back blogging about Football Manager! Join us in Part 2 of Saving Sporting as we get through pre-season and kick-off Liga NOS (as the Portugese League is now known on FM 20) with two home games against Gil Vicente and Vitoria de Guimaraes.

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