This is episode four of a wider series. To start at episode one, please click here.
“Señor Teixidó, it’s your father! He’s at the hospital!”
Gabriela, the loyal administrator from the small office at Estadio Hernando Siles belonging to Club The Strongest, had burst in the doorway, out of breath and holding a cordless telephone handset in one hand, the mouthpiece being covered by the other. She had clearly sprinted along the long corridor on her way to the manager’s office. Fernando was in the middle of a meeting with captain and left-back Marvin Bejarano, reviewing the season’s performance, now that the 2019 campaign is over.
Carlos Alberto Teixidó is in his seventies now. The number on the other end of the phone belonged to the Hospital de Barcelona. As Fernando reached out his trembling hand to take the telephone from Gabriela, the 44-year old could already feel his stomach sinking.
Fernando placed the phone to his ear, and was greeted by the sound of rustling and other indistinguishable noises. “…Hello, Doctor?” the Peruvian’s voice could just about muster.
Then came the booming response.
“Son, I’m just calling to say congratulations on winning that trophy the other day. The concierge from our building managed to get our TV tuned in to watch a bit of it. Well, truth be told, it was a nightmare at first, but we saw the second half. I tell you what, that Rolando Blackburn is quite a player, isn’t he? Oh, and while I’ve got you, please call your mother, she misses you.”
“Jesus, Dad. What are you doing at the hospital? You had me terrified. I thought something might have, you know, happened to you?”
Relief washes over Teixidó, in an awesome wave.
“To me?! Don’t be so ridiculous, I’m fine. You remember Joe? Josep? Miranda’s husband from the golf club? Well he needed someone to drive him here, as that hip is still giving him issues despite that operation. And his idiot son still works too far away in the city, so here I am.”
By this point, Texidó Snr is clearly also eating his way through a bag of nuts or crisps, the words falling nonchalantly from his mouth along with a deluge of crumbs.
“Dad, thank you for calling. I am delighted for the boys. I am having a meeting just now with Marvin, our captain, I have to go.”
“Remember and call your mother!”
Fernando passes the handset back to Gabriela, who of course has realised that she had made the same distressing assumption as he did when she answered the call. The poor girl mouths “I am so sorry.” as she backs out of the office, awkwardly.
Before The Strongest’s manager gets back to chatting to his captain, he heaves a liberating sigh of relief, swivelling his chair round to look at the makeshift trophy cabinet inconveniently erected smack bang in the middle of his tiny office floor.
Two trophies look back at him, the surface of them like highly polished brass mirrors. One trophy has been reunited with The Strongest after three years apart, the other had been absent for twelve.
It’s been quite the opening year.
I can’t believe that season one is over already.
This is our review of Teixidó’s first campaign in Bolivia, and there’s a lot to cover.
Since we last met, we have been dumped out of the Copa Sudamericana at the very first opportunity since dropping down unbeaten but ultimately eliminated from the Libertadores (1 win and 5 draws). We’ve played the remaining 13 league games to complete the Boliviano and we’ve had a successful Copa Aerosur campaign, which is the Bolivian equivalent of the FA Cup.
The best news? The Strongest are the invincible league champions and domestic cup winners of Bolivia, 2019! Take that Carl Hagedorn!
We didn’t lose a single league game on the way to being crowned champions after the 26 games, and also beat bitter rivals Bolívar in a nail-biting period of extra time to lift the Copa Aerosur.
The three players I teased as potential signings at the end of the last post did indeed join us in La Paz. One was a solid addition with more to come, and the other two were quite the coup for this level.
Maktom has been a solid addition. He has made ten appearances in total, but only started once, grabbing one goal along the way. At only 21, and with his report speaking of his growth potential, leadership qualities and probable social fit, while having no negative mention of injury proneness, big game fear or problems with consistency, the £80k fee was a no-brainer.
The reason I used a screenshot of Alexis Arias from before he completed his move to The Strongest is so that you can notice the calibre of teams who were chasing the Peru cap, prior to his bargain £53k capture. Beating the mighty Milan, Udinese and FC Porto to the punch to sign the deep-lying playmaker I felt was quite the accomplishment. Our new diminuitive midfield lever doesn’t need strength in the air to act as the pivot between defence and attack, whereas his solid technical attributes and outstanding Teamwork, Vision and Work Rate suit the role perfectly. 12 appearances and a 7.24 average rating so far.
Brazilian forward Willie, left The Strongest for Audax Italiano for £80k for two main reasons. He took up one of my four prized foreigner spots in the squad, and with his specific spread of attributes, he was neither a dependable striker, nor a creative number 10. I hope Audax play with wingers, as I think wide right would suit him more than any role I can give him.
So that was the defensive midfield successfully bolstered, and a high-earner on his way out (£1.7k a week in Bolivia!). The third and final move, however, was entirely tactical.
Watching all the games on Comprehensive Highlights made me notice that although I chiefly set the team up to play short passing football down the centre of the pitch, I was actually correct in my post pre-season (writer’s note: “post pre-season”? Really?) prediction that our main counter attacking weapon would be crosses from the marauding wing backs. The challenge was that neither of our two first choice strikers are particularly impressive in the air. Sure, 4.8-5.3 headers won per game from our striking pair is a nice route to goal, but not when that is an average success rate of 58%. I therefore needed a man mountain. Someone aerially powerful, definitely home grown (that damn foreign player limit) and if he had strong attributes in other areas, well that would be a lovely bonus.
Welcome, Ronaldo Sánchez.
The 6 foot 3 frontman dominates the air against the majority of centre backs (Jumping Reach 17 and Heading 16) while his 16 Dribbling and 16 Technique led to some beautiful turns and one touch passes to help with our build up play. Sure, he emptied what was left in the transfer kitty in one swoop with his £350k fee, but his 7 goals in his first 8 appearances I think proved that I made the right choice in opting for a natural target man. Still only 22, I predict Sánchez to be a key man for The Strongest, heading into his first full season with us.
Wait. I just realised that our new first choice strikeforce are called ‘Rolando and Ronaldo.’ I can see the merchandising opportunities already!
So 2019 is over for Teixidó and co in La Paz.
Three signings in, one player out. Two trophies lifted, one mildly irritating father safe and sound.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, our youth intake was so bad that literally none of the prospects were offered a contract. I don’t think I’ve ever had that be the case before. At least María, the club president, has agreed to improve the facilities going forward.
Lastly, here are the statistics of the first team squad in their entirety and the manager’s history so far.
Roll on 2020! Let’s have the same again domestically (please), but with a better showing in continental competition.
None of our players’ contracts expire at the end of the year (not even 41 year old backup goalkeeper Daniel Vaca) so a rebuild between the campaigns won’t be necessary. Although it would be nice to add some new faces if we can pry out some funds.
Thanks for reading.