The final stand. The easiest, yet hardest yards the club have covered. The last hurrah. Bundesliga champions and, given where Mr Alonso has taken them this year, the last time that the first can ever be accomplished on an FM game. To win the title with a Jordan Bangura strike against Stuttgart, meaning htat Bayern Munich – in what I can only imagine to be a raucous Allianz Arena – were forced into the guard of honour must have only rubbed salt into the wounds of a division that has seen us, essentially, rip it to shreds. Towards the end of the season, Arkine found the scoring boots that he’d mislaid for the majority of the season whilst Nikolic and Sarier continue to develop a partnership that will strike fear into any opposition for, at least, the next decade.

Our league stats show that we were simply the best team in the division and the tactical fluidity was the key to ensuring we coped best against the multitude of styles and shapes we faced. The Neverkusen tag is gone and, along with it, a huge sense of pride  at the development work put into the club over the last decade, as five of my six best performers, below, are academy graduates:

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Simo has been a phenomenon between the sticks this season after returning from a loan spell in Sweden at Elfsborg, my old side. He’s played every single minute this season, keeping a record number of clean sheets in the Bundesliga as well as keeping us in games with seven Player of the Match performances. For a keeper, his statistical outputs match what I want from our team as he keeps the ball well but is also not scared to progress it from outside of his box. Ahead of him is Maik Vogel, who is simply an outstanding player. Able to fulfil several roles across the backline, his versatility – in addition to his quality – made him a regular at a really young age and he’s never looked back. Able to win defensive battles but also progress the ball and deliver assists and create chances means that I’m unlikely to see a better all-round defender ever.

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Archie – the club captain and youth graduate – is the heartbeat of the team and does everything pretty well from his Volante role. Sixteen goal contributions this season and a cemented spot in the middle of the national team midfield is a lot of pressure put on the shoulders of a 23-year old, but he’s always there: Mr Consistent and just a pleasure to watch on the ball. Next is Bangura – the most undervalued player I think I’ve ever seen. Not recognised internationally and barely rated above a ‘backup’ by my staff – Jordan is a real game changer and has proved that with fourteen contributions this season and a progressive masterclass. What he also offers is an enthusiasm and drive to win the ball back higher up the pitch, allowing us to counter press, where a lot of his scoring action has come from. He’s Bayer through and through and, whilst he’s not the best, he’s certainly a player I’ve really enjoyed trying to improve game by game and season by season.

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The only signing on this list – Ozguneri Sarier – who cost a measly €12m from Kasimpasa, has put on a creative masterclass and, honestly, his fifteen goal contributions do not do his season justice, especially when looking at the minutes he’s played after a significant injury at the start of the season. His unpredictability on the ball and his ability to move into spaces, carrying the ball short distances and then moving it on, almost feels Ronaldinho-esque. In our style and, especially now that we are facing more defensive sides, a player like our Turk is just irreplaceable. Cementing himself as a top striker this year, Noa finished as top scorer and, had we not tried to become as offensive fluid and chaotic as possible, instead feeding him the ball to shoot, I think he could’ve had a hatful. Eighteen goals and four assists is a strong return for a player really developing his playmaking side and I think he’ll go on to become a top striker.



With the longest, most successful tenure here and with an announcement of a new stadium I think that the right time has come for the below decision to be made. I’ve said it a few times and also felt it at Elfsborg – the joy of actually winning is often less fun to me than the quest to win. This season hasn’t been as challenging as I wanted; despite some beautiful football, I haven’t had to think too hard about shapes, styles, player development and even things like squad rotation.


Whilst I’m not at the Fergie levels, I’ve decided that I’m going to help out with the hiring process, ‘promoting’ my HoYD Jorgensen to the Bayer hot seat. I’m sure he’ll sign a load of players, allow my promising youngsters to fade into nothingness (despite having a fantastic relationship with them) and slowly dismantle all of my hard work, falling, once again, behind Bayern and Dortmund but – for me – there are changes that I need to make to my FM experience that will ensure I see this game through until FM25. I’ve got a copy of the file before resignation and Torbjorn will be on long term holiday in case things don’t turn out too well or I want to change the narrative into chapters going forward.

But, in the short term, it’s goodbye to Leverkusen. Goodbye to Archie Reckert. Goodbye to Jakub Jakusch and the rest of the all-conquering youth side. Goodbye to the backroom team I’ve painstakingly recruited and put time into developing. Bayer has become a favourite, just like Atalanta (how weird that I watched them play each other in the Conference League!) and I’ll keep an eye on them across the future of this save and, probably, across the next few years in real life, too.

There’ll be more on my future plans soon…

Die Werkself!


  • Ben

    Ben has been a long time contributor to the FM community previously on The Dugout and the SI Forums. He is known for his great in-depth tactical analysis and an increasing level of understanding of data led recruitment. His FM saves are always in-depth and he delivers both his knowledge of the game and great storytelling including a talent for squad building, progressing youth players and finding diamonds in the rough. His saves are really popular within the blogging community. He is also the creator of the popular skin “Statman”

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