I make my first move for a goalkeeper, targeting FC Metz backup Oumar Sissoko. Unfortunately, I've got loose lips in camp, and Hertha BSC jump in when our interest is made public. I immediately up my offer with only the faintest of hopes. In the meantime, Berg's had offers come in from a couple of Danish teams and Xerez in Spain. I accept them, and he decides to move to Danish league big boys København.
Metz accept my improved offer for Sissoko, and, miracle of miracles, Hertha back down. I offer him a relatively hefty contract, though it's still less than Berg is making, so it should be a wash on the wage bill and still allow me some wiggle room in the budget to sign a defender. Speaking of defenders, Arzumanyan has agreed terms with the Dutch side RKC, meaning I might have some cash to splash on the midfield as well as defense.
Unfortunately, Sissoko decides that Randers would be a step backward in his career. Bastard. I was offering him 3 times what he makes now and a guaranteed starting spot on a team gunning for Europe when he's not getting any looks at Metz. Time for Plan B. Only problem? The options for Plan B are either ancient (and expensive!) or little improvement on what I already have.
The transfer window opens and Berg and Arzumanyan move on. With some of their transfer fees made available to me, I have just under $500k available to go shopping. I'm also $13.5k under my salary budget, which should be enough to net at least two pretty good players.
Bad karma? Just noticed that Sissoko, who rejected the offer to be my starter in net, just tore a groin muscle and is out 2-3 months. I really shouldn't enjoy that quite so much...but I do.
Silly season gets rolling in earnest as a handful of clubs battle me for the signature of Chema Antón, a Real Madrid reserve left/center back. Real accept a bid of $160k. He doesn't ask for much when we chat about salaries, but I offer the moon, wary of what others may be offering him. I also make an offer of $30k for Niek Ripson, a Dutch defender of more athletic than playing ability. If I can land him, maybe he can bang bodies with some of the physical specimens that have been giving me trouble in the league. Once again, the news of my bid for Ripson leaks. Heads are going to roll in the front office!
Despite the FO shenanigans, I land both Antón and Ripson, bolstering my defensive corps, though I suspect that I'm paying them both a little too much. I still have about $5k under the salary budget, which is enough for a starting-quality player. I'm thinking of offloading one of my excess fullbacks and going hunting for a blazing right winger, because the pickings at goalkeeper are pretty damn slim. That said, I may go after an EU-national backup, because having an Aussie as backup means that if he gets the call, I have to sacrifice one of Zhou, Movsisyan, or Gray from the starting lineup. With that in mind, I table a free transfer bid for a young Dutch keeper who's deep, deep, deep on his club's depth chart and has thus wound up on the transfer list. The scouts think he's a bit behind our current backup, but not by much.
My hunt for a speedy young winger goes continent-wide, but finally returns to Denmark, where I step up the chase for FC Midtjylland's Christian Sivebæk, a raw but talented and extremely athletic 21 year old (I picture him as a Danish Brek Shea, which probably shouldn't be much of a mental stretch). My bids for both players are accepted, and the contracts are presented, both slightly higher than requested, but not obscenely so. We also put the word out that right back Olesen is on sale for cheap, and the offers start to trickle in.
I'm a bit worried that the kids I've offered contracts to are taking their time considering while Olesen jumps at the chance to get out the door, signing for Blackpool within days. Interest is suddenly hot with some of my better performers, and Odense are making bids for left back Krol. I turn them down with a sneer.
The young Dutch goalkeeper, van Duin, finally signs on, and, surprise, surprise, my coaching staff think the kid is better than my scouts indicated, at least the equal of our current backup. Plus, he's younger and an EU-national to boot. Unsurprisingly, the Aussie GK, Coe, gets shopped.
The right winger Sivebæk finally accepts my terms to end my winter shopping spree. I think we're pretty set for depth in the Spring campaign, which is going to be a testing one with 15 league matches and at least 2 cup matches packed into just over 2 months. Unless we get a can't miss offer in the final 10 days of the transfer window, my team is finalized for the run in. I schedule six friendlies in February to get the guys back up to speed before we return to league action in March.
My name is also being linked with potential vacancies in the German second division after the early season news was all about MLS clubs wanting to bring me back Stateside. Hmmm.
As the window creeps towards its conclusion, keeper Nathan Coe moves to Zenit St. Petersburg on loan with an option to buy at the end of the season. More importantly, they're paying his salary. Sadly, our stalwart center back, Ahmed, is getting delusions of grandeur with the interest being shown in him. Three days before the window slams shut, he's telling the media it's time to move on. Fine, I tell him in private; I share your ambition, but I don't have time to find a replacement, so I'll let you go at the end of the season. The ungrateful wretch says "screw that" and hands in his transfer request. I reject it.
And thus the window closes...
The Danish media notes that we were the most active team in the transfer window. To summarize:
IN: Chema Antón (DL/C, Real Madrid, $160k), Niek Ripson (D/DMC, FC Emmen [NED], $30k), Marco van Duin (GK, Volendam [NED], free), Christian Sivebæk (MR/FC Midtjylland, $190k)
OUT: Søren Berg (AMR/ST, FC København, $300k), Robert Arzumanyan (DC, RKC [NED], $75k), Allan Olesen (DR, Blackpool, $35k), Nathan Coe (GK, Zenit [RUS], loan [$8k fee + option to buy for $45k]
So I spent $380k while taking in $418k and shed about $4k in salaries, upgrading or getting younger pretty much everywhere that I lost players. Not a bad patch of business if we get significant contributions from any of our signings, since only Berg had minutes worth mentioning among those departing.
In our first pair of warm-up matches against no-name competition, we run out 6-0 and 4-1 winners. The only significant thing of note from the matches is the number of chances my new-look 4-2-3-1 formation creates. I'm not sure it'll work against level or better opposition, but against cannon-fodder it works quite well. More significant tests await in the form of Horsens and Viborg, both teams that gave us trouble in the cup.
In the meantime, my scouts have have alerted me to a young French keeper out of favor at Villareal and available for peanuts. Though the transfer window is closed, I make an offer. Villareal want a little more, and I'm not bothered about offering $14k for a possible future starter. He's initially not keen, but I offer him double what he's asking (still not much) and heavy performance incentives. Despite not wanting to join us, he finds the offer too good to refuse. Come July we'll have a guy that we might mold into a starter given a couple of years.
In the "tactics tester" friendlies, I'm confronted with some poor showings in the 4-2-3-1, resulting in switches to more traditional 2-forward alignments to come from behind. Both results are scoring draws that we have the better of, but I'm not pleased with what I'm seeing. Likewise, the "confidence builders" against minnows result in some less than stellar displays. Worrying stuff as we head into the Spring season.
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For more Yanked Abroad and other FM stories, visit the FM Tales page.