Today’s post is from guest @colin_sisson who shared with us his FM24 save introduction.
The Malaga Manifesto
We’ve all heard about sleeping giants. Unlike their sleepy canine companions, you don’t want to let them lie. But how on earth do you wake them? Malaga is one of the purest definitions of a sleeping giant. Quarter-finalists in the Champions League just over ten years ago, they can now only lay in the gutter and look up at the stars following relegation to Spain’s third tier.
I was lucky to visit La Rosaleda last year and was taken aback by a stadium that seemed undeserving of its (then) second-tier status…thoughts that turned out to be both perfectly prophetic and absolutely wrong, as they fell to the third tier at the end of that same season.
No, this isn’t Pep but me during the stadium tour, which perhaps was more revealing than it intended. A media room that once saw Pellegrini face questions on the availability of Roque Santa Cruz or the potential of Isco now comes with chairs without seats, possibly explaining my Mona Lisa-esque grimace and why Malaga has yet to retain a head coach for longer than two seasons since Pellegrini’s departure.
So clearly Point 1 of this FM24 manifesto is staying at Malaga in the long term (with perhaps Point 1.5 being replacing the chairs at the local IKEA). But the thing about sleeping giants is that they will inevitably need solid foundations before they can consider standing on their own two feet.
Making maximum use of these impressive facilities certainly needs to be Point 2. When I think of my most enjoyable FM saves at Red Bull Salzburg (FM 23, 22), Spartak Moscow (FM 21), and Ajax (FM 20, FM 19), the role youth recruitment and the related facilities play in the longevity of my games cannot be ignored and is a tantalizing aspect of this prospective project. With FOUR sides to oversee (the first team, Malaga B, Malaga C, and U19) there is certainly room to plan a model of progressive steps for players with potential despite it being absolutely nowhere near to a reality as the save starts.
In fact, due to the perilous position the club finds itself in financially because of underinvestment and underwhelming performances, there’s a very real temptation to cut club costs and work on a two-team model in the initial stages, thus informing Point 3. Anyone below first-team standard but over 19 doesn’t have a future at a side with such ambitious aspirations, so will find themselves providing a small but significant source of income with either a fee for transfers or loan exits. Any permanent deal is likely to fetch very little from fellow sides in the third tier, so an insistence on sell-on clauses makes perfect sense to ensure that revenue streams continue to find their way back to La Roselada.
But those that do have the potential need to be given a clear and supportive pathway, particularly given the recent recruitment focus the club seems to have taken with regional talents such as Juande, Dioni, Kevin Villodres, and Roberto Fernández. Given the ability of these players in comparison to the level at which the save starts, the insistence on having at least one player with a local connection (either by birth or through academy development) may not seem like such a challenge. But by making it Point 4 of this manifesto, I am ensuring that I maintain this culture from the third tier and above.
That’s not to say I’m against talent from beyond the limits of Andalusia, and an enticing aspect of this save is to overcome the lack of financial muscle and low ranking with early talent identification. I plan to load Portugal, Argentina, and Brazil alongside the Spanish leagues as markets I intend to exploit (particularly Brazil, having read Daniel Williamson’s brilliant “Phenomenon” about the rise and fall of Ronaldo) with the added benefit of MLS. I load MLS in almost every save now, simply as they benefit from a youth intake window on Day 1 of your save, and it offers the tantalizing prospect of unearthing starlets from a range of backgrounds, including those with European dual nationality.
With near-empty squads for Malaga B and Malaga C (and no active competition to play in), Point 5 is to bring a dash of Brentford to the Costa del Sol. Fed up with facing competition from more attractive academies in a hotly contested area of London, Brentford took to innovation. Reducing their traditional academy to Category 4, Brentford focused their attention on providing opportunities for older players released by some of the biggest providers of talent in Europe (until Brexit stumbled in) and created their own competitive calendar, outside of the usual fixtures, where they could field trialists and nurse first-team players back to full fitness away from the limitations of league legislation. Despite Brentford’s rise to becoming an established Premier League outfit leading to the return to a traditional academy model, Malaga B and C will be my Brentford, playing games for a rotating army of trialists to try and earn the opportunity to develop in some superb surroundings and join us on our journey. And the MLS youth intake window will be the first destination to provide potential players. By identifying profitable friendlies for both B and C sides, another steady income stream can be secured and swell the coffers in preparation for contracts being handed out.
Despite all this fluidity, Malaga will need a consistent tactical approach across all sides—one that can follow us through the leagues—and become a blueprint for future success. Confession: I’ve never been won over by wingers, despite the improvements made to the intelligence of this role over time on FM, and this has led to a fairly ingrained tactical approach that I’m pretty unapologetic in applying to this (and almost every other) FM save in Point 6 of the Malaga Manifesto:
A Mezzala-inspired Malaga will be expected to be fluid in possession, with combinations between them and the overlapping wingbacks creating overloads in the attacking third. By asking both wingbacks to cross less, I found, in FM23 certainly, that the cutback to these midfield orchestrators often unlocked the most stubborn defensive lines, rather than the predictable (and often wayward) cross. Lurking behind but equally important is a cultured Deep-Lying Playmaker who, once secure in the skill of switching play to either flank, becomes the quarterback and heartbeat of my sides.
Scouting to source players for this demanding and high-energy approach starts with some absolute fundamentals: pace, stamina, work rate, determination, and first touch on all prerequisites before applying the position-specific requirements. Securing scouts from the loaded focus leagues I’ve previously mentioned needs to be done for Point 7 as quickly as possible, with Spain and Portugal being the early areas to understand and exploit. If my plans to sell anyone outside of the main squad and U19s, as well as letting Malaga B and C tour Europe for financial gain, prove profitable then the expansion of my scouting network is one of the first costs I’m willing to encounter in the hope of securing Malaga’s next magnificos.
Because waking a sleeping giant is one thing. Getting him prepared for a football landscape where being a colossus is commonplace is quite another.