How’s it going guys? It feels good to be back! As you might have read, I was experiencing some light health problems and some burnout. Not to worry, nothing serious, I just needed some time off to blow some steam. How are things were you’re from? Around here the quarantine is slowly coming to an end, not so much cause things are getting better but simply cause people can’t stand it anymore, physically, emotionally and particularly psychologically.
In any case, I took this free time to finally get the SAJ back on track. A lot of news for this new monday recap so lets get to it!
The Nacional Report
The first thing I did after I took the Nacional job was taking a look at the state of the club. As my Livorno save has taught me, big clubs have a lot of areas to look over and if left unchecked things can spiral out of control.
The economy was fairly solid. The club was selling solidly, turning a profit every summer. No sale however explains the huge pike at March 2021, so I can only guess it’s due to some international football payment. I would love the Economy menu to give you some more detailed information but hey! It’s all we’ve got. Wage-wise we’re also on the good side, with only a few outliers, mostly old geezers imported from european clubs like Claudio Yacob (who’s luckily out on loan) and bizarre acquisition Oscar de Marcos (yes, THAT Oscar de Marcos).
Paulo Castolo probably passed out after catching the dizzying heights of Nacional bank account after living in a permanent red number during his time at Confiança. Thanks to @FMRensie for the great backgrounds edition of his FM skin.
Next stop: the Staff. I had some empty spots as I had preventively fired some of the previous staff before signing, mostly due to salary and tactical preference issues, as well as some people that simply should not have been working at a club like Nacional. I also had brought some of my staff at Confiança with me, particularly coach Geraldo who annoyingly is still a coach after I selected him to be my assistant.
As much as I tried to keep Nacional very much an uruguayan club, I was surprised at how few quality staff from within the country I could encounter. In the end I settled for the best I could find, which means the first team staff turned out to be quite the United Nations comitee…
Club Nacional de Football? More like Internacional de Montevideo…
Last but not least, the Squad. I found a quite competent squad, although not perfectly fit for the Castolo bielsista style, but with of tweaking we’ll get there. Let’s take a look at the key players:
Undoubtedly the top man is attacking midfielder Santiago Rodriguez. A player of great technique, dribbling ability and flair, getting the best out of him will be key to this first season. He was unhappy when I arrived, wanting to set for pastures new, and my refusing to put on sale most assuredly hasn’t helped matters, but I trust we’ll be able to get something good before the inevitable bid from an european side comes.
Next up we have midfield dynamo Agustín Gonzalez, who will probably serve the same role Danilo Pires had at Confiança, a mobile creative midfielder with decent overall quality. At 25 he’s unlikely to improve, which is a shame as some of his attributes could use a bit of an upgrade, but he’ll have to do. With that high determination he’ll soon enough be transitioning to a mentoring role.
With 12 marking and 11 tackling I was amazed that Barcia had never been played as a WB, but that’s the position he’ll be playing for us, becoming Castolo’s second ever transformed wingback after Confiança’s Reis. Good crossing and decent enough pace should facilitate the transtion.
Finally, big man Corujo will be key to any defensive efforts. Great in the air and decent enough with the ball at his feet, Nacional’s flimsy defense quickly drops off in quality after this one-club man, so him staying healthy will be vital for us.
Getting spanked by the invisible hand of the market
We arrived in the uruguayan capital with little over a week before the first match, an away affair vs Liverpool de Montevideo, so mantaining whatever qualities the squad had was key to making any progress this first part of the season, or at least until we were able to get a scouting structure going. Soon, however, I’d be made to understand the perils of running a much more reputable club.
Whilst selling players as Confiança proved tricky and mostly fruitless, Nacional is a much bigger shop window and with less than a week for the Deadline Day offers started coming. Players pressed to be allowed to move, and with the deals looking quite profitable, negotiations had to begin.
First to leave the nest was striker Guillermo May, who after a failed stint with Deportivo La Coruña set sail for his second european adventure. The bid came as a bit of a surprise since I wasn’t expecting to lose anyone, but once a €700k bid (I believe it was €500k + instalments) was negotiated with Bordeaux, we accepted. Not a day went by that a €750k bid from Sassuolo arrived, which we eventually managed to turn into a €1.1M (€850k + instalments) and the striker departed for Italy.
A day or so after that, Luis Enrique led Real
Sociedad San Sebastián came looking for Agustín Tejera. He was one of the most interesting players in the squad, a fairly talented striker with enough crossing skills and speed to play on the wings. Once again, I was a bit surprised but after having looked for replacements for May I was slightly less concerned so a decent enough bid was negotiated (€750k + €250k in instalments) and young Tejera went on his merry way straight to a starting spot on Luis Enrique’s loan list.
This prompted one of my least favourite moments in FM, a player’s meeting to discuss the issue. Luckily it was a quick affair as all they wanted was the club to reinforce the attack after May’s exit and that was something I was planning on doing.
First to sign was striker Joaquín Zeballos, for €300k. Not exactly a world-beater, but he was cheap and quite in the May mould. He arrived with a few weeks of injury so there might be a couple of matches until we get to see what he can do, but selling a player for over a million and finding suitable replacement for less than half? I’ll take that piece of business every day of the week.
Next up comes one of my best signings in FM20, brazilian Joao Victor, out of Internacional de Porto Alegre. I had set my mind on him whilst still in Brazil, but he was a bit (a lot) out of my price range back then, so the slow wait for an expiring deal was on. Here in Uruguay it wasn’t necessary. Arrived for €1.1M, no instalments, no bonuses, no funny business. Tried to spread out the payments a bit Inter was having none of that, so I took advantage of us simply… having the money, and splashed it. Pound for pound a great replacement of Tejera, he’s a bit more suited for the role I was envisioning him at, a False 9, plus much more solid at the mentals department.
Apart from the HoYD trying so sign a couple of kids (one quite decent who was signed, one absolutely terrible I vetoed), that was all of our movement in the market. Not bad for a single week of preparation.
I had been thinking about the tactics I was gonna employ from the moment I signed. Was I gonna try and perpetuate Castolo’s pholosophy of early-Bielsismo with it’s high-press, back fives and relatively long-passish play? Or was it moment to let it go and find new roads to walk, new paths to tread?
As soon as I did my analysis of the roster, I was sure some compromise was gonna be in place. But since compromise was the name of the game, I staunchly stood by Castolo’s principles, at least on some issues. Else it would not have been a compromise…
Bielsistas aren’t particularly known for their ability to compromise, other than regarding seat options and translators.
I stuck with the back 5 even though it was probably the hardest of the parts to shoehorn in. Main issue was the lack of a suitable libero, and the abundance of wingers. Solutions for both problems are still on the works. As I pointed out earlier, Barcia is being retrained to play wingback, though an incursion into the market is gonna be required to fill the left wing position, with all current options ranging from lackluster to absolutely horrible.
Then was the issue of Rodriguez. Were we to hold on to him, he had to be made the central part of the tactic, or at the very least be put in a position that suited his talents and quality, none of which was available in my latest iteration of the Dragão 5-3-2.
This is what I settled for in the end. As you can see it’s still a work in progress. Rodriguez started as an Enganche but I felt his attacking potential was wasted, and as a Trequartista he’s been a bit more incisive.
The other issue is we haven’t had much time to see it in action, with only two matches played so far, a 2-1 win vs. Liverpool and a 1-1 draw Fenix salvaged at the eleventh hours. As games start coming our way and players begin feeling comfortable in their roles we’ll be able to do a more accurate judgement.
Until then, Castolo marches on.Thanks for reading!