Aventuras Américas | Part 60 | Sporting #1: A Manager In High Demand

Just discovering our Aventuras Américas series? Go back to the start of the journey in the job hunt stage or pick it up at club 1 Puerto Montt, club 2 Universidad Católica, club 3 New York Red Bulls, club 4 River Plate Montevideo, club 5 América de Cali, club 6 Alianza Lima, club 7 Puebla FC, club 8 Palmeiras, club 9 FC Edmonton, club 10 Newell’s Old Boys, club 11 Godoy Cruz, club 12 Flamengo and international teams Brazil and Colombia. Or dip into the start of the European leg of the journey at club 13 Wolfsburg, then club 14 Liverpool or club 15 Barcelona.

You know that feeling when you know you’ve done something wrong but no-one knows about it and you dread them finding out about it? That was pretty much how prolific title specialist Robinho Lazaró felt every day in his tenure at FC Barcelona.

Lazaró made so many promises to young players about their futures at the club and was having to horrendously overpay completely average players that he felt guilty about the pain he was inflicting on every Barcelona supporter. Sure, this was a great club with great fans and, arguably, the greatest football stadium in the world. But the glaring truth was that the Catalan side had been a shambles for over 30 years and it wasn’t changing anytime soon.

So the relief that Lazaró felt upon leaving Camp Nou was immeasurable. Upon his resignation, on 26 May 2053, many jobs were available – including Man UFC, who offered him an interview. But Lazaró had no desire to return to England and especially not with that scummy club.

In truth, Lazaró was fed up with managing “big clubs” like Liverpool and Barcelona, and was keen to return to his roots of taking on a slightly less fancied force and building them to glory. With that in mind, he applied for several jobs that were available at the end of the season.

The first job interview came from Auxerre, who were apparently concerned by the relegation Lazaró suffered with Deportes Puerto Montt 29 years ago! Les gars… 23 league titles and 15 cups should probably outweigh that! That was followed by interviews and subsequent offers from Portimonense, Strasbourg, Inter Milan and Sporting.

But, in Lazaró’s opinion, none of those options were more appealing than Sporting Clube de Portugal, whose offer he accepted on 10 July 2053.

Sporting CP in 2053

Sporting Clube de Lisbon haven’t been Portuguese champions since 2027, which is their only success of this entire save. They’ve only won the league once since 2021 and only finished second two times since 2030! Last season (2052/53), they finished down in 5th a huge 19 points behind winners Porto, but qualified for the Europa League thanks to winning Taca de Portugal Placard. So clearly, this was a club in serious need of a shake-up.

Lazaró walked into yet another club filled with old, awful players that he immediately set about selling. He flogged 20 players – including all three of last season’s first-team goalkeepers! – for a profit of £51 million, set about replacing them with exciting prospects, and promoted a host of youngsters.

The best player of those remaining is right-back Milton followed by the centre-back partnership of 20-year-old Angelo Aires, despite his worrying 9 tackling, and 23-year-old Angolan José Pereira. Pushing them close are strikers Goncalo Mesquita and Paolo Flores and 5ft 5in left-back Adulai Djaló.

The best prospect currently in the first-team is 19-year-old Cape Verde international attacking midfielder Romário de Conceicao. Other hot prospects include 17-year-old centre-back Vítor Veríssimo, Colombian goalkeeper Danover Viáfara, Ecuadorian left-back Edwin Armas and winger Nélson Luz. And the best prospect at the club is winger Jorge Machado.

One of Lazaró’s first moves in the market was to beat the likes of Liverpool and Chelsea to Danish wonderkid striker Anders Lassen for £3.5 million from AaB. Another exciting signing was attacking midfielder Gerard Comamala, who arrived for £5 million from Espanyol. He also snapped up 17-year-old midfielder Jan Mares for just £100,000 from Viktoria Plzen, 19-year-old fellow Colombian goalkeeper Jonathan Caballero for £1.1 million from Junior FC, and Croatian midfielder Eugen Simunovic for £1.5 million from Dinamo Zagreb. And he went back to Barcelona to loan striker Guy Mpondo.

With those new players in, Lazaró decided his new side was strongest through the middle and lacked ability in the wing positions. So he opted to go back to the narrow 4-3-1-2 he used at Puebla in México.

Getting started in Portugal

The Portuguese media predict Sporting to finish third at 14/1 for the title, some way back from Porto (5/6) and Benfica (2/1). While Lazaró’s board wants him to qualify for the Europa League for the next five years.

Lazaró was still reworking the Sporting squad as the season kicked off in early August. But his makeshift side picked up an opening day 2-0 win at Belenenses thanks to a debut penalty by Simunovic and a Mesquita strike. And his first game at Estádio José Alvalade was equally dominant with a 3-0 win over led by a brace from the impressive Mesquita and Luz scoring a beautiful debut goal off the bench. The good start continued with Comamala scoring on his debut in a 2-0 win at Estoril Praia.

Lazaró’s first Clássico da 2a Circular Derby followed as his new club hosted city rivals Benfica. Sporting dominated the game and Mesquita had a goal dubiously disallowed just before the break. But despite racking up 16 shots to six, Lazaró’s side couldn’t find a goal against a negative Benfica.

Mesquita’s good start continued with both goals in a 2-2 at early leaders Boavista then both in a 2-0 win over Marítimo. And Sporting hit the top with a 3-1 win at home to Famalicao led by Comamala’s first for the club then Mesquita and Flores strikes. Mares and Aires both bagged their first Sporting goals in a 2-0 win at Feirense before Mares bagged a brace in a 4-1 thrashing of Santa Clara. But a strong start came to an end with an unlucky 1-0 loss at Braga.

But they bounced back to thump bottom side Pacos de Ferreira 5-0 led by two assists from the increasingly impressive Mares. That took them into a tricky December, which began with a 4-2 win at Porto led by another Mesquita brace. However, they then suffered back-to-back 1-0 defeats at home to surprise leaders Nacional, who finished ninth last season, and at fourth-place Vitória. But the year ended well with a 4-1 thumping of fifth-place Rio Ave, thanks to another Mesquita double, thrashing Belenenses 4-0 then a Mares goal nicking a 1-0 win over Tondela in their game in hand on New Year’s Eve.

That saw Sporting hit the top of the league heading into 2054, but it looks like being a really exciting title battle with the top four separated by just two points! Mesquita tops the goalscoring chart with 15 goals in 18 games and Mares has the top average rating of 7.60 in 12 games.

Europa League group

Sporting got an interesting group alongside Alavés, Atalanta and Brondby. They opened up with a 1-0 win at home to Alavés decided by Djalo’s strike. That was followed by a dominant performance in Denmark as Mesquita scored twice and Lasssen got his first Sporting goal in a 5-1 thumping, before a ridiculous at home to Atalanta, who had one shot, then a solid 1-1 in Italy.

Progression as group winners was confirmed with another annihilation of Brondby. Mesquita bagged five and created the other for Flores in a 6-0 thumping!

Sporting are definitely looking in a stronger place now than when Lazaró took charge in the summer. Whether they’re quite ready for a tilt at the title remains to be seen, but they should certainly be closer to it than they were last season. And if you were in any doubt as to the power of the Sporting youth academy in 2053, then the club has produced more footballers playing in top-flight European leagues.

However, things were about to get a bit weird as the incumbent President won the annual election and decided to go out and buy a random Brazilian striker for £12 million to celebrate his victory!

Join us next time to discover if said striker is any good and whether Robinho Lazaró’s Sporting side can maintain their title bid!

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