Crazy Gang | Part 21 | Elite Winger Goes Out On A High

The Crazy Gang supporters had a summer to remember in 2037 as their heroes Eli, Rodolfo Díaz, Andrés Araújo, Valentin Schumann-Blaschke, Alan Kardec, Javier Santamaría, Theo Hernández and Vinícius Júnior and co paraded the Premier League and Champions League trophies around the streets of South London.

Two of those heroes departed Plough Lane on a high as 39-year-old Hernández joined Saint-Étienne and 36-year-old Viní Jr. moved to Palmeiras at the end of their contracts. Hernández scored 22 goals and got 15 assists in 164 games in 4 seasons at the club while Viní scored 12 and got 15 assists in 99 games over the last 3 seasons. They’ve been a vital part of our success, bringing much-needed experience. We also saw academy product striker Fatih Dogan join Galatasaray for £7m and winger Luciano Da Luz moved to Shakhtar for £23.5m.

However, we locked down our key players as club record goalscorer and best player in the world Eli, Díaz Kardec, Araújo, Santamaría, VSB, Daniel Pacheco and Diogo Augusto all signed new contracts until 2042.

I decided we needed an experienced big-name player to replace Viní Jr. so signed 34-year-old Harvey Elliott for £20m from PSG, and he scored a hat-trick on his friendly debut. Joining him was wonderkid midfielder Gonzalo Santos, for whom we met the £64m minimum fee release clause from Athletic Bilbao. We also snapped up one of the hottest prospects in England with 16-year-old Marcus Palmer joining for £7m from Blackpool.

Glorified summer friendlies

This summer marked our first trip to the Club World Cup, for which we got an interesting draw alongside Qatari side Al-Sadd and Palmeiras. First up on 23 June was Al-Sadd and we had 8 players on international duty and the 14 available and registered players were knackered. What is the point of this competition?!

Nevertheless, we beat Al-Sadd 2-0 thanks to Augusto and VSB, despite racking up 28 shots to 5 and 4.33 xG, then VSB nicked a 1-0 win over Palmeiras before getting injured. Ridiculously, 2 days later we had to play PSG, who had a 5 day rest, in the quarter-final and we unsurprisingly lost 2-1. This competition is unfair and totally pointless.

Speaking of glorified summer friendlies brings us to 2 more opportunities for silverware. Liverpool won the CWC and were our opponents in the Charity Shield. Eli was injured but no concerns as we defended our crown with the strikeforce of Kardec and Díaz sealing a 2-1 win.

Another familiar foe followed in the UEFA Super Cup as we faced Man UFC. Nothing happened under striker André Hampf, who played well on loan at Swansea last season, came off the bench to score with his first touch on 74 minutes then Díaz volleyed home a VSB cross to confirm the win. And UFC, who just signed our old midfielder Lei Wang, were inept as we added our 6th cup success of the save.

Second straight title defence begins

After 2 titles in a row and 3 in 4 years, the media have finally made us favourites at 5/2 followed by Liverpool (7/2), Man UFC (6/1) and Chelsea (7/1). Our big-money contract renewals have pushed us up to having the 4th-highest wage spend in the league of £3.4m-per-week, well behind Chelsea’s £5m.

We began our title defence with a trip to Anfield and started poorly, not even mustering a shot on target and losing 1-0 to a Moukoko strike. But Eli returned to open the scoring at home to Arsenal before Kardec, who went on to score on his Brazil debut, replaced him to nick an 89th-minute winner and there was an unlikely hero as Augusto bagged a brace to defeat Norwich 3-1 away. And we maintained our solid record against Man City as an Eli brace led a 3-1 home victory.

We had a solid start, including Elliott getting his first goal for the club in a 2-1 win over Southampton. And the former Liverpool player hit the ground running, earning player of the match awards in all of his first 4 league starts – scoring 3 with 5 assists – and 7 of his first 9 as he bagged a brace in a 2-1 win over Villa, a goal and 2 assists in a 5-2 thumping of Spurs and a goal and 3 assists as we smashed Leeds 5-0. But his former club Liverpool started the season in outrageous form, winning their first 9 matches and 12 of their first 13.

Eli also enjoyed a strong start to the season with 12 goals in 15 games and confirmed his status as the best player in the world by winning the Goal 50 award on top of his Ballon d’Or last year. His teammates Elliott (12), Harrison Fuller (15), Santamaría and Díaz (29) were also named in the list. Other notable names 16 years into the future were Musiala (8), Moukoko (10), Haaland (13, Adeyemi (14), Camavinga (18), Pino (23), Fati (27), Pedri (31), Gavi (35), Ricci (36), Gvardiol (38), Donnarumma (48) and Kaide Gordon (49).

We went into 2038 sitting 2nd on goal difference, as Liverpool finally lost for the first time in the final game of the year at home to Man UFC – who are only out of the relegation zone on goal difference! We’re both 12 points clear of Chelsea, so it looks like an exciting title battle could be on the cards. Eli is the top scorer in the league with 14 goals despite only starting 14 games, while Elliott has the best average rating (7.91) and the most assists (11) and player of the match awards (8).

First-ever Champions League defence

We got a slightly easier Champions League group alongside Ajax, Galatasaray and Villarreal. We began our defence with a 2-1 win at home to Ajax then couldn’t finish our chances in a 0-0 at Villarreal. But we certainly did in Turkey as we ran riot on 10-man Galatasaray, thumping them 6-0 with 5 second half goals including braces for Kardec and Díaz.

Díaz and a brace by Augusto, who already has more goals this season than his previous 3 at the club combined, earned a 3-0 home win over Galatasaray and qualification with 2 games to spare. Then Díaz and Kardec wrapped up the group at home to Villarreal before a fully rotated side only lost 3-2 at Ajax.

Celebrating more major honours

The incredible Eli defended his Ballon d’Or, Best Men’s Player and FIFPro Player of the Year award wins at the end of 2037, after scoring 34 goals in 40 matches with a 7.49 average rating. His new teammate Elliot came 2nd in all 3 awards, after 14 goals and 19 assists this year – of which 10 and 14 were for us! While Andrés Araújo claimed the World Golden Glove and Best Men’s Goalkeeper awards for the first time after conceding just 41 and keeping 22 clean sheets in 54 games. And Araújo, both full-backs Nelson Pareja and Santamaría. both wingers VSB and Elliott and striker Eli made the FIFPro Team of the Year. And Elliott picked up the England Player of the Year, which I’d never heard of before!

Keeping pace with Liverpool

We began 2038 by selling Dan Grayson, who was poor last season and worse this, to Barcelona for £54m. But we finally welcomed exciting 19-year-old goalkeeper Julian, who signed a year ago for £3m from America Mineiro then impressed back on loan and has the potential to be an absolute superstar. We also welcomed 2 more South Americans in Argentinian winger Daniel Ferreyra, who signed from Talleres for £3m in the summer and went back on loan, and right-back Ernesto De Mello for £2.5m from Nacional.

Ourselves and Liverpool were on superb form heading into the new year and continued it in January, including a Díaz brace leading a 5-1 hammering of whipping boys Ipswich. But our winning streak continued with a 3-0 win at Newcastle while Liverpool drew 3-3 at Spurs to take us top for the first time this season in early February. Then Pacheco (a centre-back!) scored a hat-trick to be Sheffield United 3-1 with Elliott assisting all 3.

Our strong form ended with a 2-0 loss at Arsenal, which moved Liverpool a point clear. And that teed up a top-of-the-table clash with Liverpool that predictably finished in a dire 0-0. But Liverpool lost at Fulham while we defeated Leicester to move top of the pile heading into the final stretch.

Champions League knockouts

The first knockout round served up a repeat of last year’s final as we took on Atlético Madrid. Eli scored early in the away leg before we conceded twice from set-pieces to Tanguy Nianzou. But Eli and Kardec sealed a 2-0 win at Plough Lane to take us through.

The quarter-final was a London derby with Arsenal, who we beat 2-0 at home through Pacheco and a late Díaz strike. And a 1-1 draw at the Emirates eased us through to the semis, where we faced Real Madrid for the 2nd season in a row.

We went into the home leg without Elliott, Eli and Díaz through injury. We weren’t at our best without them but the excellent Fuller gave us the lead just before half-time. Madrid had a player sent off and I made a triple sub of midfielders to freshen things up. That helped us take control as Hampf tapped home, academy product winger Joe Pearce scored a delicious chip and Kardec headed home a 4th! And we again won at the Bernabéu as VSB scored the only goal of the game to send us to back-to-back Champions League Finals!

Tasty title battle

We led Liverpool by just 2 points with 10 games remaining, streaking away from the rest of the league. However, we lost one of our star performers Elliott for up to 3 months with a hip injury.

We began with legendary Araújo becoming AFC Wimbledon’s all-time record league appearances holder. He surpassed Alphonso Cadogan’s 322 games in a 2-1 win at Spurs with first-half goals by VSB and midfielder Gary Bazerque. While Liverpool lost 1-0 again at home to Southampton.

Díaz and Fuller scored in a 2-1 win over Brighton, who scored their only shot on target, then both teams won and drew before we drew with Man UFC before Liverpool lost 2-1 at Chelsea. That took us 9 points clear with 5 games remaining – and on the verge of a 3rd title on the bounce.

Game 1 – Chelsea (3rd, home): We started poorly, losing 1-0 to a Yeremy Pino while Liverpool beat Leicester 1-0 to close the gap to 6 points.

Game 2 – Norwich (16th, home): Liverpool won 2-1 at Man City while we had a weekend off. But a week later we hammered Norwich 4-0 led by a Fuller brace and goals by VSB and Díaz, while Liverpool nicked a 1-0 win over Palace with an injury-time goal. That kept us 3 points clear with a game in hand.

Game 3 – Man City (10th, away): 3 days later, Liverpool threw away a 2-goal lead to draw 2-2 at Leeds – with our former striker Jamie Donley scoring the equaliser. That gave us a chance to wrap up the title at City the next evening. Fuller stepped up yet again with the opener just before the break then hit the post just after it. City levelled only for Fuller to go down the other end to restore our lead. And City equalised again before forcing a brilliant double save out of Araújo. Pacheco headed against the post in injury-time but we settled for a highly entertaining point.

Game 4 – Palace (15th, away): A point from our last 2 games would confirm another title. We started poorly at Palace, who forced some good saves out of Araújo ibn the first half and rarely threatened them throughout. But we had the defence to thank for a 0-0 that was enough for a third title in a row.

AFC Wimbledon were Champions of England!

We finished the season at home to West Ham. I rested the first-team for the Champions League Final 6 days later and we were unlucky to lose 2-1. That saw us win the league by 4 points, finishing on 88 points with 4 defeats, scoring 78 and conceding just 28. Elliott had the most assists in the league with 17 in just 19 starts, the best average rating (7.80) and the most player of the match awards (10). Somehow, he didn’t win Player of the Year but Fuller was named Player’s Young Player of the Year.

Champions League Final

The 2038 Champions League Final saw 76,000 English fans descend on Turkey as we took on our closest league rivals Liverpool. Unusually, we had a clean bill of health so we lined up:

Araújo; Santamaría, Pacheco, Augusto, Pareja; Elliott, Santos, Papargyriou, VSB; Eli, Díaz
Subs: Kardec, Julian, González, Bazerque, Fuller, Hampf, Sirin, Ploem, Helmes, José, Pearce, Losada

We thought we’d gotten off to a flyer as Eli tapped home from a corner inside 2 minutes but it was dubiously ruled offside. Liverpool had the better of the first half and hit the bar just before the break, but we went in at 0-0. I gave the lads a stern talking to and Pacheco hit the bar 2 minutes after he break then Liverpool swiftly hit the post. They were by far the better team with 22 shots to 10 but only hit the target 6 times and we went to extra-time.

Liverpool scored from an indirect free-kick 3 minutes into extra-time so I made a triple change. And that worked superbly as Kardec tucked home from Diaz’s parried shot. They retook the lead from another indirect free-kick but we equalised a minute later as Díaz scored the scrappiest goal ever. And for a second year in a row we went to penalties!

Díaz tucked away the first penalty and Araújo saved their first. All penalties were scored until Kardec had the chance to win it for us with our 5th – but the keeper saved. But not to worry as Araújo was yet again the hero as he saved the decisive spot-kick. In truth, we didn’t deserve it, but we yet again succeeded on the lottery of penalties.

AFC Wimbledon were Champions of Europe again!!

Season Review

This has been another amazing season in a series of brilliant seasons in charge of AFC Wimbledon. We’ve developed this club into easily the best team in Europe, reflected by an amazing quadruple.

The star man this season has probably been Elliott, who had an amazing debut campaign. He topped our assists chart with 20, scored 10 and got an outrageous new club-record 7.64 average rating in 33 games. And he decided to go out on a high by announcing his retirement at the end of the season and after World Cup 2038.

Díaz pushed him close, top scoring with 23 goals in 49 games and a 7.42 average rating. Ballon d’Or Eli struggled a little after injuries but still scored 20 and got 11 assists in 42 games and Kardec scored 15 and got 6 assists in 37 games. While Pacheco scored 12 and Fuller scored 9 and got 7 assists. A special mention has to go to Araújo, who is now the club’s record appearances holder, set a new club record 24 clean sheets and yet again won us the Champions League. Although my assistant Ruud van Nistelrooij is repeatedly telling me to drop him for Julian!

For the first time in a while, we also had a solid youth intake that produced two potentially exceptional players. The pick of them is German attacking midfielder Patryk Jurczak along with winger Byron Coles.

What’s next for AFC Wimbledon after back-to-back league and European titles? We still have a ridiculous young team that can go and dominate even further, considering the squad’s average age is 23.2 and only Araújo (30) and Elliott (35) are aged over 27.

Join us next Wednesday as we seek even further glory with the Crazy Gang!

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