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I am sat in the board room opposite Joseph DaGrosa, the Bordeaux owner and president. We’ve not long left the Brasserie St Once after a delicious lunch, I’ve managed my first ten or so games here in the south of France and the 2022/23 campaign has just finished.
Mr DaGrosa invites me to the Grand Théâtre later, for a low key celebration of how things have gone so far. To get dressed up in black tie attire to see Tosca, The Rite of Spring, or something else that sounds overly long. Perhaps we’d discuss next season’s transfer budget? Maybe we would chat for a while about that ambitious club vision I hear so many whispers about?
Of course I have to go. I don’t really have a choice.
Normally I’d be quite excited and overwhelmed by all this corporate extravagance, but I had a prior commitment this evening! The manager of Peñarol is only in town for a few more days.
“Who’s that?” I hear you wonder. We met on a coaching course, we stayed in touch, you know how it goes. We get on well and occasionally compare notes. I did that thing where I said he should “drop in” if he’s “ever in the area.” Oddly, he always does. The travelling all the way from Uruguay must be a nightmare, but despite my three jobs in three different countries, he always appears at my door, one way or another.
This time; somehow he’s got tickets to see the RnB singer The Weeknd at Le Krakatoa tonight, and wonders if I can join him. I’m a fan and he knows it.
I toy with the idea of dressing up my young PA Eric in a tuxedo and have him pretend to be me at the opera or ballet, but something tells me Mr DaGrosa will see through the disguise pretty quickly. Probably when he realises that Eric is a slim French chap of about 20, and not a bearded Scotsman in his mid 30s, with a penchant for pommes frites and beer.
I guess I’ll just need to see the Starboy another time. Both him and the guy that sang that song from Fifty Shades of Grey.
So, back to business. It feels like I’ve kept the ship steady since Thierry Henry’s departure for another spell at Monaco, but how have results been so far?
Very, very good! 11 games into my spell here and it’s either the incredible wine talking or I am finally getting the hang of this. Highlights have to be the 5-2 drubbing of Marseille in my first game in charge, and the shock 2-0 away win at PSG on the day they were finally mathematically uncatchable in Ligue Un, and crowned champions. Again.
It’s only been 11 games, but my thoughts mirror those I had when I first arrived. I want to stick with the double Segundo Volante pivot 4-3-3 system, a solid midfield owning the middle of the park, and deadly hitman Efe Kolouris putting chances away at the top end of the pitch.
I take in The Damnation of Faust with our president, smoke some very expensive cigars, and agree on some figures for the season ahead. This is where the real challenge begins. An entire transfer window and whole season with me at the helm, are coming soon.
Later, I take a deep breath and finish listening to the end of a podcast about aged number 10s in the Audi. It’s me in the Audi, not the aged number 10s. I park the car at the apartment and give Franck a wave as I head for the lift.
Some players will have to go. I’ve already identified those I think we can lose, without compromising the integrity or personality of a squad who are just starting to get to grips with my tactical ideas.
Six players leave for money, which significantly adds to our available transfer budget. A combined £18.75million is generated as Yassine Benrahou and Moussa Doumbia head for Turkey to Antalyaspor and Gaziantep respctively, fan-favourite Adama Diakhaby opts for Italy with Spezia and Kader Bamba heads for Guimarães in Portugal. Ex Bournemouth left-back Brad Smith returned from his loan spell at Qarabağ to leave us permanently for SPAL. Full back Marc Navarro heads to Dynamo Moscow.
A further 13 players leave Bordeaux with our blessing at the end of their contracts. The most notable are 33-year old Younousse Sankharé, who played over 120 times in 7 years with the club and 32-year old striker Nicolas De Préville, who scored 18 goals in 104 league appearances. We are sad to see them go, but these are the right decisions at the right time. Josh Maja, now 24, also leaves having never really hit the heights predicted for him, back when he broke through at Sunderland in 2018.
The rest of the squad enjoy their summer break, as I take time to strategise about who to bring in as replacements.
Some new faces join us here at the Matmut Antlantique. I’ll introduce you now.
Kévin is not only the most expensive player I have bought for Bordeaux so far this summer, but the most money I have spent on any player in my career so far. £2.1million is a lot of pennies, but for someone of N’Doram’s quality and character, I reckon it’s worth it. A fit, well-balanced, hard-working team player, N’Doram had been at Monaco for 11 years! That’s quite a footballing education. Sick of all the loan deals out, the now 27-year old needed a more permanent home, and I was happy to provide him one here in Bordeaux.
In the one move you already knew about, Real Madrid’s promising striker Vassi, joins us on a free transfer. The move had been arranged by my managerial predecessor, Mr Va Va Voom himself.
I wanted another midfielder who could bring some more grit to the middle of the park. Other than last season’s ill-fated 3 appearance stint in Belgium, Belkebla has spent his whole career playing here in France. A brave and athletic hard-working defensive midfielder, Haris typifies the profile of players I like to have as an option in the engine room.
Caneca is a promising Portuguese youngster capable of covering multiple positions. He is far from the finished article, but his incredible tackling, technique, aggression and anticipation had me sold.
For the last three signings (so far), you’ll either shriek with delight or smirk in disgust.
Last year at Lillestrøm, there were certain players who made that club feel like home. Certain players that defined that spell of my career and left it all out there on the pitch for me. I just had to bring three of them here to France.
Despite filling one of my coveted ‘non EU’ registration slots as a Englishman in a post-Brexit mess of a world, Perry had to come over. A solid right back and centre back, Ng played incredibly for me last season over in Norway, even notching up 9 assists from a defensive position. The ex-Crewe defender probably won’t be first choice here in the south of France, but represents a determined and hard working rotational option. Always the joker, Perry tells Eric that he simply “hopped on a cable car from Fjord to vineyard” to get here, instead of flying. For two hours, poor Eric believed him.
Despite continuing to look exactly like a 7-year old Will Poulter, the left winger I trained to become an effective target man has packed his bags and is preparing to play his club football outside of the Norwegian leagues for the first time ever. Still only 21, Nordås has already played in over 100 professional league games, scoring and assisting 20+ of each. I think he still has room to grow as a footballer, and I believe I am the right manager to keep improving him.
It had to happen!
When I needed another rotational striking option to come in after the exits, there was only one man for the job. I almost choked when the men in charge at my former club were willing to accept little over £1million for the powerhouse who scored 30 goals in 33 starts for me last season in Norway. He historically couldn’t do it when he left Scandanavia the first time in his career for Brighton, but could I be the manager to help him unlock his true potential and carry on for me in France where he left off in Norway? I believe so.
Well the good news for him is that #InViktorWeTrust. We never, ever lost hope.
I reckon our Boreaux are in pretty good shape going into pre-season!
What could we achieve with a whole season ahead of us in our beautiful new surroundings?
Would The Weeknd come back and play Le Krakatoa again before the end of 2023?
Most importantly, what’s your favourite beer to have with chips?
I can’t wait to find out.
All shocked and amazed comments about our transfer activity are most welcome!
A bit of a spanner in the works as Krasnodar structure a £19million package for my first choice number 10. We can’t turn that kind of money down, so I don’t even argue when Joe decides on our behalf to accept the offer. The question is, who do I replace him with, in time for the 23/24 season kicking off!?
Thanks for reading.