The Journeyman | Vamos Valencia: Part 10 – The Return of King Cohen

Our second season with Valencia CF had gone very well, securing the club’s highest finish in the save thus far by coming in 2nd behind a dominant Real Madrid. But plenty of rebuilding was going to be required during our third summer in Valencia.

The summer of 2027 began with being offered an interview by Liverpool, who’d sacked Diego Simeone after finishing 5th in the Premier League. But they decided to poach Maurizio Sarri from Real Madrid, who in turn then also offered me a job interview but went with Massimiliano Allegri instead.

Summer departures

The main departure of the summer was our top scorer Son Heung-Min, now 35, leaving at the end of his contract. He wanted an outrageous £140k-a-week and it just wasn’t financially viable to keep him, and eventually joined RB Leipzig. Victor Gomez also moved on to Napoli at the end of his contract.

Our first big sale of the summer was backup full-back David van Herreweghe, who’d done very little since signing on a free the previous summer, to Watford for £15 million. And we sold backup goalkeeper David Soria, who was on £100k-a-week and was now 34, to Fiorentina for £2.3 million.

But the big news this summer was Jovane Cabral attracting a load of interest with 12 months remaining on his contract. And, after I’d rejected a couple of offers, he decided he wanted to leave my club for the second time in this save. We eventually managed to get £50 million for him from Arsenal, which is by far the biggest sale so far in this save – both with Sporting and Valencia. Good riddance, Jovane.

Summer signings

We had a bit of a struggle to bring the players in that we needed. But the first arrival was English right winger Raldane Barber, who we’d signed on a pre-contract deal for free from Liverpool.

We also sealed a few useful loan deals, of which two came from Manchester United. We brought midfielder Carlos Dias in for another year on loan and brought in his fellow midfielder Freddie Hicks, who looks like a great player. Next we brought in one of my FM favourites as Josha Vagnoman came in for a year from Bayern Munich. And we signed a backup goalkeeper in Benfica’s Emerson Sanhá.

Our big signing this summer was German centre-back Tim-Sebastian Seegert. He came in for a respectable £15.75 million from Bayern to provide extra defensive strength, especially with Daniele Rugani now 33 and only having 12 months on his contract.

The good news from all of this is that our bank balance has significantly risen to £162 million – up from just £40 million in May. However, this was about to change slightly on deadline day. More on that later…

La Liga resumes

Cabral’s departure, to paraphrase a Football Manager press conference, provided an opportunity for someone else to step up. That was exactly the case for 18-year-old Belgian winger Philippe Marquet and he well and truly seized the opportunity in the season opener – the day after Cabral left.

We opened the season at home to Atletico Madrid and Marquet scored two identical goals in the 14th and 24th minutes – both back-post headers from left-wing crosses. He also laid on Carlos Soler to score a screamer that rounded out an impressive 3-1 opening day win.

We went to Real Zaragoza and drew 0-0 then sneaked past Espanyol with Soler scoring the only goal of the game in the 85th minute.

Huge deadline day signing

Deadline day rolled around the day after Espanyol and our performance, in addition to Vedran Stamenkovic not scoring in any of our 3 games this season, forced me to go and look for a striker. I couldn’t see much out there that was even vaguely reasonably priced until one man stood out.

It would mean raiding our former club Sporting Lisbon but that man was English striker Philip Cohen. I’d signed him for £18 million as a 16-year-old, he went on to score 70 goals for me in Portugal, and he’s scored 35 in 62 league games since I left. He’s already scored 107 goals in 222 league games, and he’s only 22.

I put in a cheeky big of £30 million, they demanded £65 million, so I responded with £40 million up front and £20 million after 50 games. And they accepted. He wanted a lot of money, but we negotiated him down to £200k-a-week with around £40k per appearance and a huge £8 million signing-on fee – but I didn’t want to miss out on him on deadline day. And, he accepted.

Cohen was coming back to his favourite manager and I was getting my favourite striker back!

Cohen’s immediate impact

Cohen picked up a knock in training 2 days before his debut but I decided to risk playing him. And it was lucky I did as he won a penalty in the 7th minute that José Gaya converted to get his goalscoring up and running for the season. We dominated and Marquet stepped up to seal a 2-0 win.

But the English striker was even better as we went away to Dortmund in the first game of our Champions League group. He set up the opener for Vagnoman’s first goal for the club, then scored his first Valencia goal, and won a penalty for Gaya to complete the rout of a strong Dortmund side who were big favourites.

Then my 400th match as a manager came as we took the trip to Real Madrid. And we did superbly to hold them to a 1-1 draw, with youngster Barber surprisingly taking on penalty duties to equalise Erling Haaland’s opening penalty.

Cohen was the main man again as his first league goal for the club was the only goal at home to Osasuna. Then Marquet scored the only goal as we edged past Girona away. So it was safe to say the goals weren’t exactly flowing!

But that came to an end as we put in a dominant display to beat Eibar 3-0 with three first-half goals from the front three of Cohen, Joan Martín Sancho and Marquet. Then we put three past Getafe as Cohen bagged an impressive hat-trick, getting things started with a powerful strike, then turning home from close range after good play by Sancho, and won and converted a second half penalty.

Cohen was on target again as we edged past Athletic Bilbao 1-0, which took us to 10 games unbeaten at the start of the season. On the same day, Real Betis lost for the first time so we climbed above them to go top of La Liga. And, Real drew 0-0 Espanyol which saw them draw their fifth match of the season after just 10 games, which puts us 9 points clear of them.

This latest success saw us set a club record of 13 matches unbeaten this season.

Strong Champions League start

Cohen may have inspired our Champions League opener, but it was Sancho that led us to a win in match two over AC Milan. The visitors had scored with their first attack just before the break, but we stormed back as Sancho and Stamenkovic both scored their first goals of the season on 75 and 78 minutes.

And we strengthened our grip on the group with a 2-0 win at home to Partizan Belgrade, who’d been thumped 8-0 by Milan in their opener in which Patrick Cutrone scored SEVEN! Unsurprisingly, Cohen scored the opener with a piledriver of a volley and Gaya scored a penalty.

We’ve made a great start to the 2027/28 campaign and, with Real Madrid off to a shaky start under Allegri by their standards, there’s suddenly a real opportunity available to us.

Join us next time as we press ahead into Season 3 with Valencia and attempt to keep our good form rolling.

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