Retirements, Rejections and Returns

James Sedor sat in his office with the Director of Football Carlos Rosende and Head Scout Jesús Seba, as they began to strategise for the upcoming La Liga 2 season. The board had allocated €2.1 million with approx. €14k in wages, they had okayed Carlos to adapt these budgets as the recruitment staff wanted. 

“We know that we have one coming in already but I think we’re going to have to add a good 5 or 6 to the squad”. We have a couple of the loanee lads, I’m not sure that we’ll continue with but I could be convinced. We know Adrian is going, as he still won’t discuss a contract, so we’ll need a centreback, I think we’ll let Antonio’s contract run out and if we need to free up wages I wouldn’t be averse to moving on Pablo, I’m not sure we can carry his €10k wage at his age. I don’t see the value in it, despite his flexibility in defence. Sedor laid out his plans, which was greeted by a general silence but some nodding heads. Just at that point, his phone went and his secretary was on the line; 

“James, I have three players here wanting to speak to you”.

“Thanks Maria, I’m in a meeting at the minute, can they wait?” 

“They say it’s important and it might help your meeting”.

“Okay send them up, wait who is it?”

“It’s Alex, Ian and Raúl”.


James contemplated the reasoning for his most experienced team leaders to be requesting a meeting at once, he had a feeling that something was going to happen or had happened. It wasn’t often he felt worried before meeting his players but this was one of those times. There was a knock at the door. 

“Please come in lads, I’ll ask Carlos and Jesús to step out”

“No boss, it’s okay. They can stay” said Álex Bergantiños, club captain and almost 20-year team member (despite some loans away). “We didn’t want to make things awkward but we’ve been talking a lot and”, he paused. 

“To be blunt we’ve taken the decision to retire” Ian continued. 

“What?” exclaimed James. “All three of you?”

“Yeah, listen, I know I’ve played a lot this season but I’m happy to go out with a title win with Depor”, Ian explained.

“I’m the same,” said Alex, “I don’t think I’ll do myself justice next year at the next level and I don’t want to leave, so that leaves me with one option”. 

Raúl echoed “I’m not sure if you guys had planned to continue my contract and sign me after the loan but I’m happy I’ve made it back to Depor and Valladolid aren’t continuing my deal. There isn’t anywhere else I’d want to end my career”. 

“Well thank you for your honesty lads, I would ask you all to sleep on your choices. If not for me, then for yourselves but if you still feel this way in a few days we’ll make the arrangements”. 

The retiring trio were given the best stage to take their final bows, the club had opted for a promotion presentation rather than a bus tour of the city. A sold-out Riazor welcomed the squad and the RFEF Primera Division trophy. Sedor was then given time within his thanking of the staff, squad and fans to celebrate the careers of Mackay, Canero and Bergantiños. The announcements of three of the side’s most experienced players were met with some worry within the fanbase, granted Raul Canero was not a permanent squad member but his influence along with Mackay and Bergantiños had been highlighted as key in the team’s promotion. The trio had all come through the Fabril system having been youth players with the club, Mackay and Canero had left to forge their careers but had returned latterly to end their playing careers with their first side. 

The loss of the retiring trio was accompanied by the side announcing both De la Fuente and Martin would return to their parent clubs at the end of their loans. A further 5 first-team players were announced to have their contracts expiring upon completion and rumours of a €185k deal for Pablo Martinez surfaced, quickly, the completed deal was announced prior to the window opening on the 1st of July. Therefore, the squad had lost 11 players who were recognised first-team players and this left the team with only two recognised centrebacks, one right wing-back, no left wing-back and the most experienced goalkeeper was 21-year-old Pablo Brea (who had played 90 minutes for the first team). 

Some good news was delivered in the midfield with the re-signing of Isi Sanchez (Isi) after a prolonged period of contract negotiations over the second half of the previous season. The club also announced that members of the Fabril squad would be working with the side during pre-season. This included Kevin, who had scored twice last season, Angel Puerto who had a couple of appearances at centreback and Brais Val, the former Valencia man who had spent the second half of the season on loan at Olot having made 7 Depor appearances prior. Further positive news for the club was the re-signing of Ian Mackay and Álex Bergantiños as youth team coaches, which was news greeted warmly at all levels of the club and fanbase. Both men had shown a keen interest in developing as coaches and Depor had snapped them both up for the under-19s. 

The recruitment team had a lot of work to do, thankfully they had been at work already. The team led with Sedor’s experience in analysis had worked to identify talented, interested players. Leaks around the start of the window rumoured that the club’s shortlist was over 50 players long but Sedor knew it had been more extensive throughout the season. One deal had already been agreed the free signing of Alfonso Candelas a left wingback from Linares. He had been identified in the data as a progressive passer (6.26/90), accurate in his passing at 91% successful, capable of winning the ball back 16+/90 and an 81% tackle success rate. 

Alfonso Candelas had proven an all round player from LWB

Ahead of the pre-season friendly against West Ham, Sedor and the recruitment team were again sat in his office discussing if any further business was required. The summer of recruitment had been both frustrating whilst ultimately it seemed successful on paper. Lessons had been learned by Sedor in particular, who had garnered a lesson in his first full season in control of transfers rather than analysing deals on paper. Multiple of the identified primary targets had been negotiated with yet ultimately chosen to join other clubs; Adrià Altimira had shone on loan at Cordoba as an attacking RWB but he had opted for German side Hoffenheim, Àlex Carbonell had been identified as an ideal defensive playmaker (and was offered wages to make him the clubs highest earner) but he opted to join La Liga 2 rivals Leganés, the same side also convinced attacking midfielder Chema Núñez that a move closer to Madrid was preferable and Víctor Pastrana who was also highly regarded by Sedor opted to leave A. Baleares and move to Malaga rather than Galicia. These dealings led to a wry slogan for the recruitment team “Our scouting is so good, we do everyone elses”, this phrase was never uttered out with the privacy of recruitment meetings as the ability to adapt to these setbacks and identify multiple players was key. 

Sedor examined the data comparing his signings to last season’s first-team squad, whilst pondering the 25-man squad limit they now had as part of La Liga 2. He felt happy with the balance of his side, an injury crisis may force a change in the system but he was confident with his players. Outwith the 25-man side, he could opt for players 18 or younger on 01.01.24, which allowed both David Mella and Kevin to provide depth in attacking areas, this allowed first-team squad players Kuki Zalazar and Max Svensson to have loan deals for more regular game-time. He sighed and contemplated further. Were there any players with value to sell who could be replaced quickly? There were 2 weeks before the start of the season and didn’t want many players missing most of pre-season. No, he reasoned, I’ve planned for the team to play our way and that has taken time for the lads to adapt to, unless there is a need I don’t think we should add more disruption. There’s been a big number of changes in the squad, enough change, maybe too much. Only time will tell if they had chosen the correct option, the overall aim had been to reduce the age of the squad which meant losing a lot of experience with younger players identified (for the most part), which ideally would mean greater sell on values and further improvements as players progressed through their time at the club. He was content with his squad, and now he had West Ham to play, 15 days before Depor returned officially to the second flight; the minimum achievement was safety but the aim was midtable security. Could he achieve either? He suddenly felt nervous. Just then a knock at the door. 

“James, time to get the lads on the pitch and running drills?” Elías Martí, the assistant manager asked as he stuck his head into the office. 

“Yes, get them going. I’m just coming”. He closed his laptop, thanked the recruitment team for their time and explained his thinking. “If anything special comes up though, let me know”. With that he headed out onto the pitch at Riazor to continue his pre-season work.

If we break from the narrative to examine the reasoning behind the signings made in the summer. I am playing FM this year without attributes and therefore relying on statistics. The base for the statistical analysis comes from SteinkelssonFM and the great work from FMStag

If we examine the goalkeeping situation, you can see the players in red have left the side. Those in the second table are our signings, what has highlighted these players as targets was primarily their xGP/90 as both players have prevented 0.31 goals per 90 minutes. Suggesting that they are performing well but are in front of weaker defences, highlighted by Juan’s 1.07 conceded/90, they also both mirror our current ‘keepers save % and hold a good number of their saves. 

The centrebacks again were an area we lost a lot of our depth, the main issue was the loss of Lapena who played as our covering centre-back and from the data, you can see the amount of the ball he sees, defensively he performed wonderfully with a high number of headers won and scores high for interceptions. We have then identified Caro as his replacement and you can see how they compare. Ramon’s stats are based on his half-season on loan at Alcorcon, the Castilla loanee has played in a back 3 in a high possession team so he should fit in well as our right wide/ball-playing centre-back. Mutilva was scouted based on his statistics, unfortunately, his stats had glitched due to his loan and return to his parent club, he did profile similar to Ramon as a ball-playing option, he is capable of playing in both DM and CB.

Our wingbacks are vital for the system we have developed, with our width primarily coming from them. I had agreed on a deal for Linares wingback Candelas already who has performed well all around, Varela was primarily identified on his chance creation whilst his statistics suggest some limitations. With Trilli playing well at RWB we initially identified other targets but Iago Lopez seems to provide some defensive depth along with solid possession and ball progression. Lopez is also a HG player having been a Deportivo Fabril player initially.

Mario Martin is the only loss in DM, the deep-lying playmaker was a good addition in January but due to the wage rules, he would prove ineligible in La Liga 2 for a further loan. He is also limited in defensive situations which may leave us open at a higher level. I identified Gelardo from Villareal B (on loan at Linares) as an option on loan, he provides a level of passing and chance creation with some good ball-winning ability. 

We retained most of our depth in AM, however, I chose to move both Zalazar and Svensson onto loans, Svensson for possible development and Zalazar had played poorly and demanded a new bumper contract with it due to expire in 12 months. I identified Fermin who can play in a range of positions and statistically performs well over most metrics, whilst having room to develop. He had performed very well on loan at (you’ve guessed it, Linares). 

In attack, we lost depth with the loans highlighted above and the expiry of Santamaria’s contract. Again, he wanted a large wage packet for a new deal and I didn’t want to pay it for a rotation/backup. I wanted a depth option who could possibly play in either an advanced or deep-lying position, Kun Temenuzhkov was the strongest option we could recruit. The former Leeds and Barcelona player had played well in the fourth level of Spanish football, so he will have to step up. 

The statistical analysis is certainly an area I can improve on, and this is not a true Moneyball approach but I do aim to take statistics and younger players to develop players, sell on and build the side.

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