With the combination of last season being an absolute walkover at AC Milan, and my personal Football Manager history of never managing to get the Barcelona job, when it became I available I had to apply.
And it turns out my record and interview were enough to seal the deal. Today’s post will be a quick intro on where Barcelona stand in the save, the tactics and first team that I’ve settled upon, and I’ll touch on a few aims.
Barcelona and Me:
Barcelona have had an unremarkable eight seasons during the save, only winning La Liga once (in 2021) and winning the Copa del Rey three times, including last season.
Despite this, I’m only their third manager in this time after Ernesto Valverde and Luis Enrique, the latter of whom wasn’t fired for performing poorly, but instead left to join Liverpool.
Managerial Merry-Go-Round Interlude:
Luis Enrique: Barcelona to Liverpool
FEO: Milan to Barcelona
Carlo Ancelotti: Real Madrid to Milan
Jurgen Klopp: Frankfurt to Real Madrid
Rafa Benitez: Man City to Frankfurt
Pep Guardiola: to Man City (recently fired by Liverpool)
Real Madrid have dominated Spanish football in this time, winning all but that one league title, and look to be comfortably the strongest team going in to this season. Barcelona were left in the wake of both Madrid clubs last year, languishing in third position.
And so, here I am, all £19.25m of me:
This time I’ve brought 23 members of staff over with me! It helped that a number of them hadn’t had their contracts renewed yet, and so were very cheap to bring along…
I suspected they’d be minted, but…
After signing literally no-one last season, there is a fantastic amount of money to work with.
As you would expect at a club like this, expectations are high:
Finishing top four in the league should be a piece of cake, but that Champions League aim could be a tough ask.
A club with philosophies:
In past incarnations of FM, I’ve found it relatively difficult to successfully play both attacking and possession football, so this adds a new dimension to my short-term aims.
Signing high profile players looks like it could be tougher than I would’ve expected, as many of them are simply not interested in joining Barcelona at this time.
Developing young players is no problem at all. With all that cash, I can sign plenty of young players to train up.
A few tweaks to my usual style of play, to take into account the board’s philosophies:
A number of the differences from my previous tactics in an attempt to play possession football. Even at their mercurial best, my Milan side weren’t known for hogging the ball, instead attacking at pace. There were plenty of occasions in which we stuffed opponents whilst only having possession in the upper-30s percentage wise.
So, I’ll be attempting to play at a slower tempo, shorten the passing even more and will be using “Work Ball Into Box” and “Play Out Of Defence”, which I have used previously. I’ll also be starting with a “Positive” rather than “Attacking” mentality in order to be more patient on the ball. Whether I can find a good balance between attacking and possession football, whilst still obtaining the necessary results is the big question for the start of this season.
Using two playmakers is not something I’ve tried before, but as Barcelona have tonnes of them, I thought I’d give it a bash.
Truthfully, playing possession football isn’t something I particularly want to do, and if in the future I’m doing well enough that I can drop it, a change of tactics will be on the cards.
I’m going to quickly run you through what I regard as the first XI here, which features just the one new signing from me. After giving the squad the once over, it was pretty clear that the first team was strong, although with a need for a left winger. Where the squad was weak was in terms of depth, and there will be plenty of new signings to deal with that.
In goal, Marc-André ter Stegen remains at the club, and still looks a class ‘keeper:
His distribution skills are particularly great, and hopefully he can help us to keep possession. Which should please the board.
The back four:
Almamy Touré was one of three players on the transfer list when I arrived, and unlike the other two, he will be a part of my plans. The coaching staff don’t rate him all that highly, but he looks very good to me.
In the other full back spot, Aarón Martin looks very good too, although not as much of a physical beast as I would like from a wing back.
In the centre of defence, Adílson Soares Mota looks like he could become one of the great CB’s, and even at the tender age of 21 is likely to feature prominently.
Next to him is Carlos Eduardo, who is also excellent, although the £113m Barcelona spent to bring him in from Juventus a couple of years back looks a little much to me. Still, I’ve inherited a solid defensive unit, albeit not a patch on the Milan back five I’ve just left behind.
When it comes to creative central midfielders, Barcelona are drowning in them:
These are the three dudes that will be starting in central midfield. Ifeanyi Babalola can basically do it all, and therefore will be asked to slot into the more defensive role at first. It may be a waste of his considerable talents, but his role may change depending on how the season starts off.
Lluís Reig will take on the deep-lying playmaker role. He looks talented and will be leading the squad as a very gifted captain.
Old favourite of mine Sergio Gómez has come on even more whilst at Barcelona. He was great for me at Frankfurt, mostly coming in off of the left flank. Now I’ll be trying to play him in his preferred central role and we’ll see quite how much he’s capable of. He’ll also be taking most of the free kicks and penalties.
What have we got up top, and who’s the new fella?
Chardonie Banza is a magnificent looking winger. Fast, skillful and crossing 19! I’d be in love if it wasn’t for the fact that he’s agitating for a move to the Premier League. I’ve managed to convince him that he’s going nowhere unless we get a bid of £100m plus, and we didn’t get one before the window closed. But if we get one in January, I’ll have to let him go…
Willem Geubbels is the big new signing, and I spent a whopping £90m (potentially £110m) to bring him in from PSG’s bench (last season he only started four games, coming off of the bench thirty times). He can play all across the front line, and I’ll be starting him off as the Inside Forward on the left.
The spearhead of the attack, and also capable of playing all across the front, is Alfussene Cassamá. He’s a brilliant striker, and has just won the 2026 World Cup with Portugal, so should be a happy chap. Most of the top six of the Premier League are after him too, although he’s kept his head down so far…
I’m not going to pretend to be in this job for the long haul (at the moment at least). It’s very much satisfying a personal itch of mine to manage Barcelona, and once I’ve achieved some success, I’ll be on the move I imagine.
Possession football is not really something that I aim for, and I’ll be looking to have that removed from the club philosophies sooner rather than later. Attacking football and developing young players are very much in my wheelhouse, so I’ll be striving towards those, and I’ll see how we can get on with signing high profile players once some are willing to join…
I expect we can overtake Real Madrid in the first year or two, and it’ll take maybe three seasons at a push to achieve Champions League success, at which point I’ll probably look for a more longer term project to see me through perhaps the rest of the FM19 cycle. But things can change fast in Football Manager, so I’ll keep an open mind.
Next time, I’ll run you through the rest of our transfer signings and sales, before chronicling possibly as much as the first half of the season.
Thanks for reading!