Everywhere Else – 9 – Panathinaikos

“If I was having another child, I’d name them Tomas Chory.”

It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

Sometimes it’s hard to know when one of these saves should stop.

With a so-called ‘journeyman,’ is it when you finally win a trophy? Is it when your beloved captain lifts the biggest continental cup? What about when you are offered the national team job? Perhaps when you’ve won x titles in y different countries, like a pentagon, octagon or dodecahedron challenge (hopefully not a thing)?

Maybe it’s when it hits 2137/38 and all the players are androids travelling to training in flying cars.

Sometimes it’s nothing quite as monumental. Sometimes it just feels right.

FM 2137.

Season 2026 / 2027

WE DID IT! The Superleague Interwetten champions for the the third year back-to-back are Panathinaikos. Unbelievably, with a tally of exactly 88 points, for the third season in a row. You couldn’t write this! Although I of course am.

20 points ahead of AEK, I can’t believe Olympiakos trailed by 28 points in the end.
Andrade lifts one of the five trophies he has in a green shirt by the age of 20.
The Panathinaikos club shop are printing #3inarow t-shirts like crazy as we speak.

We also retained the domestic cup, after a lovely comeback brace by club legend Tomas Chory to beat Olympiakos 3-2.

Victory!
Chory was at it again.

What about our second successive year in the UEFA Champions League group stage?

Ouch.

We managed two incredible comeback victories over Ajax. The home game was won in the 96th minute, while the away match was decided in the 90th. Beautiful drama. It’s just a shame about the rest of the group stage results.

Two of the most exciting European ties I’ve ever been involved in.

Our third place finish dropped us into the Europa League where we dismantled Atalanta 8-1 (!) on aggregate, before hitting a mini goal drought and losing 1-0 over two legs to a København side we should really have been beating. Well, I guess you can’t win them all.

8-1!

The Key Players

Or love them intently.
Arguably the most effective playmaker I’ve managed in a long, long time.

Giannis Bouzoukis, in his favoured Deep Lying Playmaker role in the middle of the park had another unbelievable season. 25 assists in 47 games, 8.2 key passes per 90 minutes and an average rating of 7.71 across all competitions. That’s exactly 100 assists in four seasons. Beautiful.

Big Ian.

Markus Eiane has proved to be one of the signings of the save. I brought him to Tromsø from Ranheim for £900k and he scored 34 league goals in 69 league games in Norway, but his best times under the management of Robert Vonsen were still ahead of him. He joined me at Panathinaikos for £2.8million and ended his second season in Greece with 32 goals in all competitions. He has 51 league goals in 65 league games. 71 goals in 94 games for Panathinaikos overall. Incredible numbers.

The man mountain.
Thank God for the ‘Protest Transfer’ button.

Club captain Andrade is a monster. His six foot six stature and tackling ability make him an incredible defensive unit. Throw in 13 vision and 14 passing, and he is capable of playing out from the back like peak Gerard Pique. Every big club in Europe and China has thrown multiple bids our way, but he has remained at Panathinaikos like a loyal soldier. The board almost sold him to Sevilla but thankfully I managed to convince them to say no.

Andrade deserves the captaincy, and his five winners medals. Probably my favourite centre back I’ve managed in FM21.

“18” tackling. Beautiful.
As FM Tahiti pointed out about this clip, I can’t believe Kefalas remained unpunished for his obvious handball as he went down.
An icon.

I often talk about Tomas Chory.

If I was having another child, I’d name them Tomas Chory. I’ve told my wife that her new name is now Tomas Chory and I’ve contacted the local council to officially change my house name to Chory View.

I’ll be honest. Robert Vonsen has watched his Panathinaikos side lift five trophies. He has won nine trophies in total across the three teams he has managed. But the perfect record of Tomas Chory being left undisturbed, and not hanging around to see his inevitable decline now that he is 32 years old is probably the main reason I am happy to call this save a day.

Tomas Chory was signed for just £55k from Viktoria Plzeň ahead of the 24/25 campaign and has been easily my favourite player in FM21 so far. I can’t believe he has never been capped, despite being called up to the Czech squad for the last World Cup.

His absurd record is 136 goals in 144 appearances in all competitions. Though when the last league game had finished and I noticed his league record, I knew this was too perfect to carry on and risk ruining.

A perfect centurion.

Finishing the season on his perfect 100-100 league record plus bagging a double in the cup final to come back from 2-1 to beat Olympiakos 3-2 is pure football poetry.

The moment Chory bagged his 100th league goal for Panathinaikos.
Media player controls left in the gif for #realism / by mistake.

What about this season’s signings?

Real footage.
Carlos Silva – Porto – Free
Nedzad Heric – Basel – Free
Aaron Valverde – River Plate – Free

I covered the three guys above in the last post. All three were solid. Most notably Nedzad Heric, who after just 45 appearances in a Panathinaikos shirt at right-back, is a man in demand.

I smell P R O F I T.

Lino Costa broke into the first team and is now being chased by Milan. Einar Pétursson who followed me from Tromsø was a capable option from the bench.

Thorn Lindbøl – Strømsgodset – £3million
Andrés Hernández – Deportivo Cali – £1.4million
Drazen Vrbnjak – Varaždin – £9k

Our other three signings this year were a success too.

Lindbøl slotted in directly on the left side of midfield and was industrious and occasionally spectacular. The £3m price tag may seem steep (although I don’t think so), first choice left midfielder Nikola Jambor had just suffered a five month injury so timing was everything.

On-loan Barcelona defender Pedro, who used to be ours before the Catalan giants took him from us, only to loan him back a year later, also suffered a serious injury. So £9k teenager Vrbnjak stepped into the first team like a seasoned veteran. I’d originally bought the big Croatian to develop him in the under 19s, but needs must, and he’s a much better player for the opportunity. Drazen is definitely ready to contend for a starting spot, even when everyone is fit.

The kids!

Last but not least, the two young strikers above are not signings, but instead homegrown academy players. Both had to be called upon towards the end of the campaign as Robert Vonsen did his best Marcelo Bielsa impression. I.E. Running all of the players into the ground so extensive rotation was certainly required. Both are very strong prospects.

The Never-Ending Story

Robert Vonsen on his way to the stadium.

Robert Vonsen, now 46 years old, has gone from unemployed and barely a coach, to a fully qualified manager, winning nine trophies in three countries over seven years and leading Panathinaikos in the UEFA Champions League.

Humble beginnings.
A lot can change in seven years, just not the German’s penchant for 4-4-2.
The end of an era.

311 games managed, 204 wins, 64 draws and 43 defeats. Only £16.5million spent in seven years. Nine trophies.

We left U Craiova mid-season in 22/23, and arrived in Tromsø with only a handful of 2022 games left to play.
Similarly we arrived at Panathinaikos in the 23/24 season with only 15 games remaining with the team sat in 7th.

Incredibly, in every season where Vonsen managed the club from start to finish, he saw his side lift the league trophy. From Romania’s second tier for U Craiova 1948 to the most recent Panathinaikos title win via glory at Tromsø, times have been good.

My end goal was to be in charge of one of the top playable sides in this save universe.

With none of the big European leagues available (no England, Spain, Italy, France, Germany etc), the top playable division reputationally ended up being the Greek Superleague, which I’ve just won three times in a row.

Greece is the top league reputationally of ‘everywhere else.’

The two biggest playable teams in the save were RB Salzburg and Shakhtar from the beginning, but with their respective 2020 managers still in charge in 2027, with at least three years left each on their contracts, those jobs were never really going to come up.

Progress.

As the only manager of a top 10 playable team in Europe with an ‘untouchable’ job status, having worked our way up from unemployed to nine trophies, I am happy to close the story here.

Lovely stuff.

Anything else?

Not this time. This is the end, I’m afraid.

Not Robert Vonsen.

End of season review

Thanks for reading.

FM Stag

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