Envigado FC had broken all sorts of records as they began the 2037 campaign in sparkling form. It was clear that Robinho Lazaró had established the wonderkid factory as by far and away the dominant club in Colombia. The big question was whether they could compete with South America’s best.
Despite the club’s prodigious youth development driving them to glory over the last 15 years, its academy had yet to deliver what the media might describe as a bonafide “wonderkid.” However, that changed as converted right-back Diego Ceballos saw the moniker attached to his name. And, amid interest from the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool, Lazaró locked him down to a new contract that kept him at Envigado until 2041.
Another Tough Libertadores Draw
Lazaró’s bad luck with Copa Libertadores knockout draws continued as they were paired with Internacional, who defeated them in last season’s semis and were top of Série A, in the second round. The first leg was in Brazil and, despite goals from star men Edisón Borrero and Mateo Acevedo, Internacional’s striker Wilker bagged a hat-trick to earn his side a 4-2 win. But they were lucky to come away with just a two-goal deficit after being battered by 20 shots to seven. However, they were much more convincing back at Polideportivo Sur, racking up 18 shots to 13 and a Cristian Gutiérrez brace had them 2-0 up at the break. Lazaró encouraged los chicos on and they delivered as Acevedo and Gianfranco Bahoque wrapped up an impressive 4-0 success.
Annoyingly, they then got the dominant Flamengo in the quarter-finals. The away leg was up first again so Lazaró went super defensive, which worked as they secured a 0-0 and even got six shots on target to Flamengo’s one. And they yet again came up big in the second leg as Gutiérrez opened the scoring just after an hour then Flamengo immediately equalised. But a quickfire Borrero double sent them into the semis for the second time.
Their reward was yet another Brazilian team in current holders Athletico Paranaense, while Santos and Palmeiras faced off in the other. This time the home leg was up first and Envigado took full advantage of their Polideportivo Sur fortress as Acevedo and centre-back Rodolfo Vega edged a 2-0 win in a very even game. Lazaró took his more defensive approach into the second leg and they still managed to have the better of the game by 20 shots to 16. They made one chance count early on as Borrero scored inside eight minutes but Paranaense came back into it with a goal either side of half-time. But Lazaró’s team held out for a 2-1 defeat. And that meant Envigado were going to their first-ever Copa Libertadores Final!
Targeting A “Triple Double”
Envigado had won the Apertura and Finalización titles in 2035 and 2036 so, with the 2037 Apertura title already wrapped up, Lazaró now had a “triple double” in his sights.
Finalización began at home to América and a dull game was decided in injury time with a delicious volley by holding midfielder Diego Mena. They were much more convincing as Borrero scored twice alongside goals from Bahoque, centre-back Eder Franco and backup striker Jhon Medina in a 5-1 thumping of Expreso Rojo.
The continental concerns saw rotation and a few dropped points but the season ignited with two impressive home performances, beating local rivals Nacional 4-0 then a week later Millonarios 5-1. And a good run of form saw them hit the top of the table one point clear of Millonarios with three games remaining. And they stayed there into the final day with a win at home to Cortuluá then a Gutiérrez brace leading a 3-1 win at 3rd-place Deportivo Cali. But, with the final game played just three days before the big continental cup final, Lazaró had to rest his first 11 and the backups lost 3-1 at Santa Fe. However, Millonarios also lost!
Envigado got a favourable post-season group with Junior, Deportivo Cali and Pereira. They began by hammering Junior 5-1 away led by a Borrero brace then a Baroque double edged a 3-2 win at Cali. Then even a fully rotated side thumped Junior 4-0 led by a Medina brace and centre-back Carlos Aka Ekanza’s first senior goal. A 2-0 win at home to Cali put them close to the Final and they confirmed it as an Acevedo penalty defeated Pereira 1-0. And a fully rotated squad won the final game 2-0 at Pereira to totally dominate the group.
For the sixth time in the last 10 finals, Envigado took on Nacional. The first leg was away and a full affair was decided by Franco heading home a corner. They made a flying start to the return leg as Borrero passed for midfielder Yelkin Montero to drill home then Acevedo teed up Ceballos to score his first senior goal inside 16 minutes. Nacional went down to 10 men for a horror two-footer from behind just after the break and Envigado strolled to an easy 2-0 win.
Envigado won a 6th successive league title and 8th of the last 10!
Furthermore, those two final wins saw Envigado finish with a new league record 42 wins and only missed out on América’s 1997 record points tally of 143 by 6 points. And 43 points has to be the biggest winning margin you’ll ever see on Football Manager!
Copa Libertadores Final
60,235 fans from Santos and Envigado descended on Estadio Centenário in Montevideo for an historic Copa Libertadores Final. The game pitted six-time winners against a team making their first Final appearance, so Santos were 11/10 favorites with Envigado at 9/4. Lazaró was without the suspended centre-back Yaliston Hernández and Mena for the big game, so he lined up:
Mosquera; Ceballos, Franco, Vega, Belalcázar; Trivino; Bahoque, Montero; Acevedo, Gutiérrez; Borrero
The game started pretty slowly before two goals in three minutes. Santos took the lead through a bit of a lucky goal but Envigado immediately responded as Acevedo slid Bahoque in to calmly finish. It continued to be a pretty edgy affair with Gutiérrez going close with a free-kick then Santos hitting the post from a corner. And it looked to be drifting towards extra-time.
But, just as the clock hit 90 minutes, an Envigado attack saw the ball to midfielder Juan Fernando Rivas, whose superb ball found Acevedo in space and he hit an early first-time shot into the bottom corner to send the Colombian fans into raptures. Lazaró went into full defensive mode and his team held on for a monumental victory.
Envigado were Champions of South America!!
Young Colombian Stars Rewarded
Some of Envigado’s young starlets were rewarded with their first Colombia caps this season. Montero and Ceballos made their debuts in a defeat to Brazil in September and the following month Hernández also made his debut. The Colombia squad now contains nine current Envigado players and 13 who’ve come through the club’s academy.
Massive Achievement For Envigado
The 2037 campaign saw Lazaró complete an amazing quadruple, winning the league double of the Apertura and Finalización titles for the third season in a row, plus Súperliga, and crowning the lot by lifting Copa Libertadores. The latter is a massive achievement for a club like Envigado, especially considering the club is built entirely out of homegrown academy products, Lazaró hadn’t spent a single peso on players in 15 years and hadn’t signed any player in 11 years.
Borrero again topped Envigado’s scoring charts with 39 goals in 53 games. But for the first time in a while, he was usurped as their most important player as the more senior Acevedo scored 29 and got 15 assists in 56 games, but most importantly won Envigado a Copa Libertadores with an assist and the winning goal. Gutiérrez was also vital as he assisted a club-high 25 goals alongside scoring 13. Montero got 17 assists and six goals, while Bahoque and Medina both scored 16 goals.
Truth be told, this was likely to be as good as it got for Lazaró and Envigado. Furthermore, the Libertadores success saw Envigado earn £13.9m prize money, which took their bank balance past £50m for the first time. So Envigado was in a very good place.
So much so, that Lazaró considered ending the adventure here. But he decided to continue his job at Envigado and do his best to defend the club’s maiden Libertadores title, with an eye on bringing it to a close upon the expiration of his contract at the end of 2039.
Could Lazaró’s Envigado continue their Colombian domination and mount a defence of their South American crown? Join us on Friday to find out!
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