Football Manager 2020 ‘The Pilgrimage’ #19 – The Master Plan

Previously, we ended our second season in the Premier League with a record 8th place finish and set out our goals to progress as a club.


Summer Transfer Window 2024

As far as the upcoming transfer window was concerned, we’d already made some big progress towards working out specific targets to bring in, as well as departures to make room for newer signings. If Kamara, Moltenis and Ndong were to leave, we would need replacements up front, in the centre of midfield and in the centre if defence. In terms of the finance side of things, we were provided by Argyle owner Simon Hallett with a transfer budget of just under £60m and a wage budget of £950k p/w. I always like to be a bit frugal, and decided to set myself some limits of not spending any more than £20m on one signing and no players should be on more than £100k p/w. Likewise with youth players, I have opted not to spend more than £10m on a single player. Finally, the last bit of new we received before the window opened was that one of our best strikers, Jan Mlakar, picked up a cruciate ligament injury on international duty and would be out for potentially the whole season. S*!t. We’d now need another striker.

Let’s see how the window goes…


June 2024

1st June 2024 – OUT – Retained List

This season’s Retained List, flanked by Boris Moltenis

First of all in the window was our retained list, where shockingly only one ‘senior’ player was to be released: Adam Burton. Burton had a rocky few seasons on loan in the EFL before eventually finding form last year at Doncaster Rovers, scoring 15 goals in 51 appearances. Despite his potential, this was not enough to make it at Argyle and it was only right that I let him go and forge his career in the lower leagues.

Secondly, it is the first time that I formally announced that a number of players in the first team and U23s were to be transfer listed as they did not have a future at the club: Boris Moltenis, Kyle Horne, Jaume Jardi, Dario Milic and Rodri were told to try and find a new club.

10th June 2024 – IN – Joey Hermans – sc Heerenveen – £10.25m (£11.25m)

Joey Hermans, a 21-year-old Dutch centre-back from Heerenveen, had been on the radar of my scouting team for over a year. The young Dutchman had a stellar 4 seasons at the Eredivisie side, breaking into the first team in 2020 at the tender age of 17 and scoring his first goal and being made Heerenveen vice-captain in 2022. Hermans was a player that I almost signed in the January transfer window last year, but we instead chose to bring in Marek Vagner due to Hermans’ wage demands. The club is in a far better place financially now and we are very excited for the young defender to be a constant in our back line.

11th June 2024 – OUT – Boris Moltenis – FK Rostov – £5.25m

Boris Moltenis had always been a bit of a strange one; the young French defender had come from the prestigious FCSM academy and showed a lot of promise in terms of potential ability. Joining the Pilgrims in 2021 while we were in the Championship, he was part of a defence that won promotion to the Premier League and was part of our supposed ‘best XI’ in the 2022/23 and 2023/24 seasons. Moltenis only really ended up being a rotation/backup option for us – and considering he only had 1 year left on his contract – I decided to sell him to Russian Premier League side Rostov for a profit of £5.25m (we signed him on a free transfer).

15th June 2024 – IN – Pedro Luis Molina – Córdoba – £350k (£475k)

As we were looking to get rid of Kyle Horne, I wanted another strong all-rounder in midfield to join our U23 squad and Pedro Luis Molina answered my call. The Spanish midfielder is very capable in central and attacking midfield and is a player that I sent straight back out on loan to get EFL experience. Even if Molina does not make it, the relatively low transfer fee should guarantee us a profit in the future.

15th June 2024 – IN – Francisco Javier – Sanluqueño – £15.25k

Another Spanish player to join the U23 squad, Francisco Javier comes in from Spanish Third Division side Sanluqueño for just £15.25k compensation. Although Javier is a little bit older, he already has proven quality and will be heading straight back out on loan (like his fellow countryman Molina) to Championship side Nottingham Forest to get some football league experience.

21st June 2024 – IN – Boyan Kyuchukov – Ludogorets Razgrad – £1m (£1.3m)

Young left wing-back Boyan Kyuchukov joins from Bulgarian giants Ludogorets for an initial fee of £1m. Unlike Molina and Javier, Kyuchukov comes in to fill a gap in the left wing-back/left midfield position in the youth team following last year’s disappointing academy intake. Hopefully some decent mentoring should be able to adapt his ‘temperamental’ personality as Boyan looks like a player with good potential.

26th June 2024 – OUT – Aboubakar Kamara – Rangers – £12m

As much as I had already outlined that I was planning to sell Kamara previously, I was very surprised to receive a bid as much as £12m from Rangers for the Senegalese striker. After bringing Abou in on a free transfer from Fulham upon joining the Premier League in 2022, Kamara surprised me by bagging 19 goals in 62 appearances – often from the bench. His RPW DNA total always made him a bit of a workhorse and a formidable force up front, but to keep progressing we had to get rid of him. Kamara becomes our new record sale as well, which is lovely!

28th June 2024 – IN – Raul Paulino Paradas – TSG 1899 Hoffenheim – £1.5m (£1.7m)

Another player to join the U18 squad alongside Kyuchukov is the (suspiciously Spanish sounding) German goalkeeper Raul Paulino Paradas. We’ve plundered Germany for many a young talent over the last few years and Paradas looks like a prospect that could really make it to the top of the game: a professional personality and 5 star potential already make him one to watch; his high attributes at such a young age contribute to a signing I am very excited about.


July 2024

3rd July 2024 – IN – Juan Diego Franganillo – Elche – Loan Fee £10.75k p/m

Now for this window’s ‘Best Name for a Signing award’, Juan Diego Franganillo. What a name. Rolls off of the tongue. Surprisingly, Spanish 2nd division side Elche opted to loan the young striker to me when he is clearly a huge prospect, and he joins the club to play across the two positions in the Argyle front line. A tiny loan fee of £10.75k a month is an absolute steal as well for a forward that scored 16 goals in 65 appearances at such a young age.

6th July 2024 – IN – Renato Moretti – US Sassuolo – £6m (£6.25m)

To start off a string of transfers to contribute to and improve our U18 squad, in comes striker Renato Moretti from Serie A side Sassuolo. Another amazing prospect with 5 star potential and some incredible attributes for such a young age, I expected to pay above the odds for the young Italian. Maybe not as much as £6m, but as long as I was not paying more than £10m for a youth player then I feel like I am not taking liberties with my transfer budget.

6th July 2024 – IN – Christian M’Barga – FC St. Pauli – £2.6m (£3.7m)

German✔
5 star potential ✔
Ridiculous attributes for his age ✔
What more can I say about Christian M’Barga? The St. Pauli academy graduate joins for an initial fee of £2.6m and is already arguably good enough to play for our U23 squad on occasions.

7th July 2024 – OUT – Jaume Jardi – Dundalk – £675k (£850k)

The signing of talented forward Jaume Jardi for a fee of £775k in 2022 seemed like a bit of a coup considering he was a graduate of the famous La Masia academy, however Jardi never really hit the heights I expected from him. Age was not on his side too: most players I brought in averaged at age 18 for youth squads and Jardi was 20 at the time of signing. A mediocre loan spell at League 1 Southend United followed last season before I knew his time was up: Dundalk – who were runners up in the Irish top tier last season – offered me an initial fee of £675k for the striker and I was happy to take the £100k loss to get the Spaniard off our books.

7th July 2024 – IN – Alex Farrell – Burnley – £7m (£8.75m)

Alongside Moretti and later signing Gabrieli, Alex Farrell was a player that I arguably paid over the odds for to secure his services. The ex-Burnley striker offers a range of options in terms of roles at the top of the U18 squad, although it is unfortunate that he is another player where we will need to try and mould his personality to get him to fit into the club. The fact that we initially paid £7m was probably due to the fact that he is a home-grown English player; despite this we could still probably make a large profit later on down the line for bigger clubs that will consistently qualify for continental football.

7th July 2024 – IN – Rémi Pelletier-Tousart – LOSC Lille – £4m (£4.7m)

Possibly the most French sounding player in Rémi Pelletier-Tousart joins for an initial £4m from Valon Behrami’s LOSC Lille in the French top flight. The centre-back (who can also play at right-back) adds even more quality to an U18 team back line that already boasts Christian M’Barga and youth academy product Marko Sarac. I expect to make a large profit from my investment in Pelletier-Tousart; whether that be in terms of monetary value or a potential first-teamer.

10th July 2024 – IN – Alan Carlos – Atlético Mineiro – £18.5m

I’ve not really had the opportunity to go for the classic strategy of ‘find a great South American newgen and let him drag your team to glory’ yet in this save but when my scouts found 20-year-old Brazilian striker Alan Carlos – who could be signed for a fee of just £18.5m – I could not resist. The only risk in this transfer is that the forward has only made 53 first team appearances so far at his native Atlético Mineiro and in a loan spell at Gil Vicente. In that time, Carlos managed to bag 13 goals, and I am hoping that through playing alongside talents such as Dawid Kownacki should improve the Brazilian’s game.

11th July 2024 – OUT – Dario Milic – Sunderland – £325k

This is a transfer I’m a little bit sad about; Dario Milic was a player that we brought in early in the save as a potential prospect that unfortunately suffered due to the club’s success. If we were still in League One or the Championship, Milic would be getting first team games left, right and centre. Unfortunately, he started to look unlikely to make the grade and therefore I sold him to Championship side Sunderland for a fee of £325k. This may not seem like much, but considering I brought him to Argyle for just £95k, we made a decent profit on the one-time Slovenian international.

28th July 2024 – IN – Paolo Cassano – Chievo – £2.4m (2.8m)

Forward planning meant that I completely forgot about this signing! My scouts spotted Italian striker Paolo Cassano as a 15-year-old playing for Chievo Verona’s academy side and he came highly recommended. As a result of this, I decided to buy him early and wait for his transfer the following season (which is this one!) For a 17-year-old, Cassano has amazing mental and physical attributes. If his technical skills can meet the already high ceiling of his other attributes, we should have a force in our hands.


August 2024

8th August 2024 – IN – Pierluigi Gabrieli – Inter Milan – £5.5m (£6.5m)

As previously mentioned, Gabrieli is one of three signings that I may have paid more than I would have liked to to bring to the club. We initially made the move for the Inter right midfielder at the start of the window but could not agree on terms for the move, however just before the transfer deadline his agent reconsidered. A versatile wide player, I aim to train Gabrieli at right wing-back as well as his favoured position as his attributes should make him a bit of an all-rounder in the U18 squad.

LOAN SUMMARY

As many a player went out on loan to clubs in the EFL, I thought it would be easier to see where players plied their trade in the image above. Special ones to watch are Josh Arnold and Enrico Ambrosious; two talented centre-backs that are close to first team action at Home Park. New signings Molina and Cassano go straight back out on loan after signing for the Pilgrims.


Pre-Season

Pre-season was probably our busiest and best yet. While playing our regular matches against affiliate clubs Botev Plovdiv, Cambridge United, Gyori ETO and Sedan Ardennes, we went on a tour of China for a training camp where we met our affiliate HB China Fortune as well as giants Guangzhou Evergrande. Throughout pre-season, we continued to play ONLY our 3-1-4-2 formation, choosing our classic 5-1-2-2- to close games out on the counter attack.


Best XI

In terms of my starting 11 and squad depth, not much had changed. Franganillo and Carlos improve our strike force and Hermans brings more guile to our defence. Should we feel the need to, I will probably need to improve our midfield: Ndong is someone I’ve wanted to get rid of for a while and Trybull is getting old and is on the decline.


So, we have our squad assembled ready for our next charge upon the Premier League. We need to start picking up more points against middle-of-the-table and bottom feeders and resist drubbings from the ‘big six’. I stated in the last edition of ‘The Pilgrimage’ that I’d like Argyle to really push on now and stop looking down at the potential of relegation and instead look up towards the possibility of European football at Home Park. Next time, we cover the first half of the 2024/25 Premier League season and see if we can exceed our 8th place finish last year.