Envigado FC wrapped up a third-successive Finalización title at the end of the 2031 campaign. But the summer ahead of the 2032 season was set to be one of significant changes and record-breaking sales.
Robinho Lazaró’s 11th season in charge began with captain Juan Manuel Zapata departing for Brazilian side Náutico after a record 444 league games for the club. He wanted ridiculous money to stay and, at 31, Lazaró had no option but to allow him to move on. Lazaró was also forced to sell two more players that began the save at the club as defender Jhon Banguera went to Paranaense and winger Luis Ángel Díaz joined Austin FC. Both were in the final year of their contracts, but the club accrued club-record sales that brought in a total of £8m.
But those deals were quickly usurped. Star striker Francisco Ocampo had long been linked with a move and Lazaró had seen off interest from South America’s finest. But when European clubs came calling and with 24 months on Ocampo’s contract there wasn’t much he could do. The striker joined Club Brugge for £15.75m, which nearly quadrupled the club’s record sale. So the summer saw Envigado’s top three earners depart, leaving Lazaró with a new high of £44m in the bank and a £38m transfer kitty. But £4m of that cash was immediately invested in the club’s training facilities.
However, Lazaró had no intention of using the money for transfers. That’s because, as always, he turned to the club’s prospects to replace the outgoing players. Mateo Acevedo replaces Ocampo, Jaiber Prince, Jonathan Arias and 16-year-old Cristian Gutiérrez are the lead wingers, 20-year-old José Martín Caceres and the retraining Diego Mena will step into Zapata’s shoes, and 16-year-old Eder Franco and Johann Betancurt will compete for Banguera’s position.
Once again, this very young team is boosted by another solid youth intake that produced two players with 5-star potential and a handful more with 4-star potential. The pick of the new bunch is midfielder Gianfranco Bahoque along with striker Jhon Medina, goalkeeper Nicolás Meneses, winger Andrés Hernandez, full-back Javier Gálvez and centre-back Roberto Hurtado.
Seeking 3 Successive Súperligas
Envigado had a chance to win a third Súperliga in a row as they took on last season’s Apertura winners Atlético Nacional. The away leg was up first and an Acevedo goal sealed a solid 1-1. another rdraw followed in the second leg as the sides played out a 0-0 stalemate. That sent the game to penalties and Envigado scored all five of their penalties before player of the match Frank Marimón saved Nacional’s fifth to claim four Súperliga wins on the bounce!
New-Look Envigado Begin Apertura Season 12
Envigado’s expectations have been tempered slightly as they’re now expected to finish 5th with odds of 12/1 to win Liga BetPlay. Millonarios remain 3/1 favourites despite not winning any of the last 10 titles, followed by Nacional (4/1), América de Cali (15/2) and Junior FC (17/2).
You could forgive Envigado fans for asking “Ocampo, Díaz and Banguera who?” after their Apertura season opener. Acevedo scored twice before Prince and Franco’s first goal for the club and Arias got two assists in a brilliant 4-2 win at Expreso Rojo.
They struggled to a draw and defeat but did well to beat Junior 2-1 with goals by Acevedo and midfielder and new captain Ronaldo Bermudez. But they were heavily reliant on Acevedo, who scored the only goal at home to Cúcuta, created two in a 3-1 success at Once Caldas and bagged a brace to defeat Petrolera 3-1. And Envigdo were sitting pretty in 3rd at the halfway mark.
Acevedo began the second half of the league with consecutive braces in wins over Jaguares and Quindío before the customary fixture congestion wreaked havoc on their good run of form. But Acevedo returned with a hat-trick to down Real Santander 3-2. As if one exciting striker prospect wasn’t enough, recent academy graduate 16-year-old Edisón Borrero threw his hat into the ring by scoring his first two Envigado goals as a much-changed side won 4-1 at Orsomarso.
A home win over Quindío was followed by defeat at Nacional, which saw Envigado record a pretty impressive 4th-place finish. They were very much the entertainers of the league, scoring the most with 42 goals and conceding 32, and only finished one point off 2nd place. Acevedo has been the star man so far, topping the goalscoring chart with 16 in just 14 games as well as having the highest average rating (8.00) and most player of the match awards (5).
Tough Copa Libertadores Draw
Lazaró remained baffled at how the Copa Libertadores draw worked as they again found themselves in Pot 3, which delivered a potentially tough draw alongside Flamengo, Vélez and Paraguayan side Olimpia.
First up was Flamengo at home and they came so close to avoiding defeat against them for the first time. The visitors raced into a two-goal lead but Prince and Bermudez dragged Envigado level early in the second half, only for Flamengo to score a late winner.
But the group really hinged on their games against the other two teams. The trip to Argentina saw an impressive defensive effort before a rare goal by improving midfielder Hernán Darío Lugo nicked a 1-0 win in the 84th minute. Then a slightly rotated side picked up a lucky 3-2 win in Paraguay led by an Acevedo brace.
Having won both away games, Envigado should be in a great position to qualify, but Vélez managed to beat Flamengo 1-0! Acevedo and Rodolfo Vega earned a 2-0 win at home to Olimpia while Flamengo beat Vélez 4-1 to move Envigado five points clear of the Argentinians. And a dominant 3-1 win at home to Vélez with goals by Bermudez, Acevedo and Prince confirmed qualification to the second round. That actually took Envigado into the final game at Flamengo level on points with them, so a very unlikely win would claim the group. Lazaró went more defensive and it made no difference as Flamengo ran riot 5-1.
Envigado got an all-green post-season group alongside Nacional, Quindío and Deportivo Cali. They began in Cali and a more cautious approach saw the defence finally sort itself out as Arias scored the only goal. That result repeated itself as Acevedo scored the only goal at home to Nacional, who got revenge three days later with a 2-0 win.
The goals then flew in during a wild 4-3 victory over Quindío thanks to a late brace from another young striker Luis Mendoza before a rotated side lost 3-1 at Quindío. That left Envigado one point clear of Nacional and two clear of Cali going into the final game at home to the latter. However, those plans were scuppered by captain Bermudez not exactly leading by example…
His teammates bailed him out though, as goals from Acevedo and midfielder David Acosta secured a 2-1 victory. And that secured top spot and a sixth successive league stage Final appearance.
For the second league stage in a row, Envigado and Junior FC met in the Final. However, Envigado helpfully had four players away on international duty! First up was the home leg and Bermudez decided to stay out of the local bars and scored the only goal. Replacement goalkeeper Marlon Pérez immediately threw that advantage away by gifting a goal to Junior’s striker, Bermudez quickly restored the lead, then Pérez bizarrely rushed out to leave another open goal to the striker. So Lazaró took him off after half an hour. Nothing happened in the second half so it went to penalties, and Lugo missed the fourth spot kick to hand the title to Junior FC. And Lazaró handed the buffoon Pérez a two-week fine.
Yet Another Academy Product Colombia Call-Up
Acevedo’s stunning form this season earned him a call-up to the Colombia squad for the first time. That means Colombia’s four strikers are all Envigado youth products, with Acevedo joining Marcelo Guzmán, Yaser Asprilla and Ocampo, who’s already scored 9 in 14 for Brugge.
Could Lazaró’s improving young squad compete again in the Finalización stage? And would they finally get a favourable continental draw? Join us on Monday to find out!
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