The Lever of La Paz – 7 – El fin

This is episode seven of a wider series. To start at episode one, please click here.

Son, you have your reasons.

“Dad?”

It was that time again, as Fernando stared out the apartment window, phone pressed against his temple.

Teixidó Snr was snacking. Teixidó Jnr was struggling with the humidity and altitude. Nothing ever really changes. Or does it?

“Fancy a visitor?”

To the relief of any misophonics within earshot, Teixidó Snr stopped chewing, immediately.

“Really, son?” The Catalonian knew the implication.

“Yeah, it’s time. La Paz is a beautiful place, and this club…” Fernando pauses with a lump in his throat “…this club has been great to me. But it’s time.”

A long silence defines the next ten seconds, both father and son trying to fathom if this was good or bad news.

“It was, well, you know the Copa Liber…”

“Son, you have your reasons. Call me when you get off the plane.”

The receiver lands back on the base with a conclusive click.

El Tigre has roared for the last time.


Oscar Wilde famously said “Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.”

If this is the case, Fernando Teixidó will look back at his experience in Bolivia with a critical eye. The reality is that his record was incredible.

In two and a half seasons, the Peruvian guided Club The Strongest in back to back league and cup doubles. One Copa Libertadores second round and two group stage exits.

Seven defeats in 99 games overall couldn’t provide enough solace for Teixidó to get over a failure to get any further in the Libertadores at the third time of asking.

Despite a historic home victory against Flamengo, three defeats were enough to send the Bolivian champions out, and the manager to seek a new challenge; signalling the end of this journey.

Happier times.

The final game of Teixidó’s reign was quite the send-off. A celebration of domestic dominance embodied in the final match, an emphatic 14-0 destruction of Municipalidad in the Copa Aerosur.

The league was a walk in the park, but the Libertadores was a bridge(stone, whoosh) too far.

Teixidó leaves El Tigre in a strong position. Pun intended.

Offers from Colombia couldn’t keep the save alive, but I’m glad to have spent the best part of three years managing in Bolivia.

In terms of ‘players of the save,’ I have to mention the iconic strikeforce that led the line, Rolando (Blackburn) and Ronaldo (Sánchez). Although Sánchez didn’t truly live up to his early promise, the early impact of this strikeforce was pivotal.

If this save has taught me anything, it’s that the divide between the smaller leagues in South America (like the Boliviano) and the big boys in Argentina and Brazil is a massive chasm, even more so than I already thought, and more so than in Europe.

I would recommend South America to any FMer, but if you pick a small nation, be prepared for a long journey of domestic joy but continental pain.

I reckon if I had stuck with The Strongest I could’ve built a side in time that could’ve won the Libertadores; but given that the league reputation doesn’t rise dynamically in a custom-added league, it would only serve to increase the domestic divide between my side and our competition, namely Bolívar and Jorge Wilstermann.

Given that I was 62 league games into this save and hadn’t lost a single match, this told me that the domestic walkover couldn’t hold my attention forever.

The story of Teixidó may continue, but where? FM21 of course.

Thanks for reading.

FM Stag

The Lever of La Paz – 6 – Fútbol Boliviano

This is episode six of a wider series. To start at episode one, please click here.

I don’t have a crystal ball. I am not in the witches market of La Paz with my tarot cards.

HM: Welcome back to another episode of Fútbol Boliviano, everyone’s favourite English language podcast about Bolivian football. I’m Hugo Montes, and with me today, as ever, is my esteemed co-host; writer for The Athletic and theangrylinesman, Mark Garner. Mark, how are you?

MG: I am great, Hugo. “Everyone’s favourite?” Really?

HM: Well, maybe I should have said the only English language Bolivian football podcast, but let’s not sell ourselves short!

Tonight we have with us a special guest. It’s only the current manager of La Paz’s own The Strongest, Fernando Teixidó!

MG: Fernando, how are you? We at Fútbol Boliviano were so relieved to hear you have recovered from your car crash. That must been a living nightmare!

FT: Thank you guys, I am happy to be here. Both here, on your show, and still here after the crash. I was shaken up and spent a few days in hospital. I had a little surgery. That is all behind me now though, family and football is what matters.

HM: Your Club The Strongest side had another incredible campaign this season. That’s two league titles in two league campaigns where you didn’t lose a single fixture, coupled with two Copa Aerosur wins. I mean, you’ve lost four games in total in your two years here. How has your experience in Bolivia been?

FT: Thank you kindly. I have had great fun here. Altitude and car crash aside [laughs]. Credit has to go to the boys in that team though. Their commitment to my tactical philosophy and commitment to each other is like something I’ve never seen. They are a wonderful group.

HM: It’s funny you should say that, Fernando. How would you respond to those who have said you have ‘ruined’ the Boliviano with your dominance? Or more specifically, by buying up the best talent from your domestic competitors?

FT: Listen. My recruitment team do a wonderful job of identifying key talent and recommending them to Roberto (Sensini, The Strongest director of football) and I. As you know well, the homegrown registration rules here in Bolivia make purchasing the right talent who do not already play in this country an incredibly tough challenge. You will also know that it is a challenge I have not taken lightly. Yes, there have been many players come in from other Bolivian teams, but think of Andile (Jali, South African), Jairo (Concha, Peruvian). Think of Alexis (Aris, Peruvian). Think of Maktom! (Brazilian). Each player at my club fits like a jigsaw piece. If a high number of them need purchased from other sides in our division, then that’s the way it has to be. I will not apologise for this.

HM: You’ve earned a lot of praise for your narrow 4-3-1-2 tactic this season. Something I noticed is that your wingbacks seems to be everywhere. Can you tell us a little bit about your thinking there?

FT: To me, my wide defenders are crucial. I play a narrow system with three deep central midfielders. One stays, one goes, one pivots. I like my two central defenders to do exactly that, defend. I like my number 10 (currently the aforementioned Jairo Concha) to roam and pick holes. With a two striker system, we are always a goal threat, but what I have described so far is relatively static. Our fullbacks are our mobility from back to front. You see?

MG: It is very ‘Carlo Ancelotti in his Milan days’. Is Carlo an inspiration for you?

FT: I take inspiration from everywhere, but I would be lying if I didn’t say his system with Pirlo, Kaka, Cafu and Maldini excited and inspired me. But I think I don’t speak only for me. I think all football fans could and should say this.

HM: You’ve had a challenging time in the Copa Libertadores, Bolivian sides usually do, although reaching the second round matches the furthest The Strongest have ever been in the competition historically. How do you go one step further?

FT: I think a lot about this. Last year we played all six group games and did not lose one. Yes we drew five of six, but we did not lose a game. This year we won five of six and drew the other. This is what I want. No one is more disappointed than my staff, players and I when we are put out from the competition. Our dream is to compete with the best teams in South America, but that is a serious challenge.

MG: Surely Fernando, it’s a challenge due to the massive contrast in the money available in other leagues in the CONMEBOL region. Argentinian and Brazilian clubs have the biggest budgets. I mean, looking at industry papers, your most valuable player is considered to be worth around £200,000. Bahia (second tier club in Brazil who defeated Teixidó’s Strongest to eject them from this year’s competition) have teenage substitutes valued by football’s financial experts at upwards of £5million. How can you possibly compete?

FT: I will not deny that economic factors make our position more difficult, but you will not find me blaming this. I have one more chance to go further, and this year we plan to.

HM: Thanks Fernando. I wanted to ask you abo…

MG: Wait, Hugo. Fernando, you said you have “one more chance.” Is your time at The Strongest drawing to a close?!

FT: I have always said it’s my job to push and help this club achieve the next level of their development. I have a contract which runs until the end of 2021. My targets were to win the Boliviano and Aerosur. I have done this, twice. My current plan is not only to do this for a third time for this club, but to push forward in continental football. This means getting beyond that Libertadores second round. That is my dream. After this, I don’t have a crystal ball. I am not in the witches market of La Paz with my tarot cards. I am a football coach and I want to win. Sometimes it is better to stay and sometimes it is better to leave. Thank you.

HM: Thank you Fernando, that’s quite a headline, and a good place to end our podcast tonight.

MG: Thank you for listening. Tonight we found out that The Lever of La Paz may very well become The Leaver of La Paz!

HM: Sometimes I hate you, Mark.


What a turn of events!

So Teixidó may very well be in his final campaign at The Strongest. Will he make it three titles and three cups from three seasons? What about those Libertadores ambitions? Can The Strongest go further, or is there a ceiling for Bolivian clubs that no amount of climbing will smash?

I’ll keep this short, given that the transcript of the podcast was lengthy. This may read like a series of bullet points, but I don’t want to take up your whole morning / afternoon / night! (delete as appropriate).

26 games. 23 wins. 3 draws. A domestic cup victory and a 2nd round Libertadores exit to a wealthy Bahia side. It was another strong campaign (pun intended).

Oh and only the most insane cup match against our biggest (and stadium-sharing) rivals Bolívar. What a night!

I am proud that the Bolivia national team features mainly players from my club. With Diego Bejarano on that list also joining the club in the downtime between seasons, that is 16 of the current squad currently in our team. Domestic domination is a minimum expectation.

Happily I received notifications of improvements to our data, youth and training facilities, as well as the pitch being relaid. Sadly, our intake again this year seems poor, although a forward and a defensive midfielder with promise? That’s definitely an improvement.

The next section will cover our mammoth recruitment drive over the past year. I’ll drop a gallery of screenshots of our captures and let you be the judge. Who is the best signing of the below? Who could be a mistake? Answers on a postcard on Twitter via @FM_Stag please. First to comment wins a prize.

I know that’s a lot of new players in a single season, but I am determined to coast the league and cup, and really focus on the Libertadores this year. When I received a notification that our budget had been increased to £4.3million, I knew I had to break from my usual approach and become transfer happy. Fingers crossed this is the group to push us to the next level.

More of this please!

Moving into what could be Teixidó’s final year in Bolivia, it’s continental progress or bust.

Oh, lastly, I have a channel on FM Slack now. Get involved! #fmstag is the channel name. Ping me a message on Twitter if you have any issues joining!

Thanks for reading.

FM Stag

The Lever of La Paz – 5 – Artist in the ambulance

This is episode five of a wider series. To start at episode one, please click here.

Sorry, Melgar. We love you, but not right now.

The streets of La Paz are a vibrant explosion of colour.

The locals move at a frenetic pace, their urgent energy charging around the textile and food markets that line the uneven streets perhaps only matched by the enthusiasm of the traders in the famous witches’ market. Perhaps Fernando Teixidó has visited some of these merchants before. It may explain The Strongest’s magical unbeaten run of form.

Speaking of the Boliviano 2019 champions’ manager, Teixidó is currently driving through La Paz in the old and battered ‘bronze green’ Land Rover the club provided to him to get around the city. Not heading anywhere specific, just driving.

The Peruvian likes to do this from time to time.

Something about the contrast of listening to his favourite jazz album (John Klemmer’s classic ‘Touch’ from 1975, if you are interested) in the serenity of the Land Rover’s cabin, versus the bustling chaos of the streets, keeps him calm and focused.

There’s an old sandy pitch, just off the busiest streets, where the local kids love to play football. As you’d expect, there is, as always, a group of rampaging youngsters, all chasing the same ball in a pack and bickering over who should go in goal next. I am convinced that kids’ early experience of football in the street is the same the world over.

Teixidó is sat at the traffic lights opposite the dusty pitches. ‘Glass Dolphins’ calmly creeps out of the stereo speakers, barely audible above the blasting aircon. Fernando adjusts his sunglasses to see something incredible.

Normally the kids are all wearing one from quite a specific selection of replica shirts as they furiously chase each other (and the old torn ball) in circles. The blue and red of Barcelona with ‘Messi 10’ on the back. A mixture of Real Madrid and Juventus tops with ‘Ronaldo 7’ on them. Occasionally you’ll see a Bolivia national team shirt, but not since the days of Marco Etcheverry has there been a real Bolivian talisman for the youth to idolise.

Etcheverry, Bolivia, FM20
FM20, FM Stag, The Strongest

But times are changing. Teixidó has turned The Strongest into an exciting team to watch. Only 3 matches lost from 62 in charge and the birth of the promising ‘Rolando y Ronaldo’ strike partnership has clearly captured the attention of the younger generation. Four of the cluster of kids playing today all wear the black and yellow stripes of The Strongest.

A smile develops across Teixidó’s face. He removes his sunglasses and looks down at the passenger seat briefly to grab his phone. Assistant Manager Raúl Gutiérrez has to hear about this.

Unbeknown to Fernando, the traffic lights have since turned green and an overly confident young driver in a Honda saloon has come tearing round the corner behind him, with signature La Paz freneticism.

SMASH!

Although the 1993 Land Rover is a tough old beast, it does lack the refined safety features of its modern equivalent.

About a minute passes by. The longest minute of Fernando Teixidó’s life. The 44 year old wearily lifts his head. A solitary claret stripe of blood trickles down his forehead and off the end of his nose.

Outside the car, there is a mixture of smoke and crumpled Honda bodywork. Inside, the relaxing jazz is now the soundtrack to disaster.


Welome back to Bolivia!

Dramatic car crashes aside, the first half of Teixidó’s second season as The Strongest manager could not be going much better.

When we last caught up, a couple of new faces had joined, and the La Palanca 4312 system was almost religiously followed.

The addition of a target man who can dribble (Rolando Sánchez) and a tough-tackling midfielder you haven’t met yet, has led to Teixidó tweaking his system marginally. With new boy Jorge Rojas playing a sort of deep Rino Gattuso-type role in midfield, Teixidó’s Ancelotti influence reaches another level.

FM20, FM20 blog, Football Manager blog
Jorge Rojas. Midfielder. Signed from Boliviano rivals Always Ready. £60,000.

The right-sided Segundo Volante is now a Ball-Winning Midfielder on Support, and the second striker now drops a little deeper as a Complete Forward on Support, where he used to be an Advanced Forward. This gets a lot more value out of Ronaldo’s clear strengths, his height and his dribbling ability.

FM20, FM20 blog, Football Manager blog

At the mid-way point of the 2020 campaign, The Strongest are again unbeaten. Undefeated in the Libertadores group stage the second year running, this time it was 5 wins and 1 draw, and not the other way round. So our Bolivian campeones sail through to the second round, for only the fourth time in their history. Going any further would be a monumental achievement for Teixidó and his Stronguistas.

FM20, FM20 blog, Football Manager blog
Four points further ahead than we were at this same half-way point last year.

There is personal and club level progress to report on too. Forgive the onslaught of images, but it’s the easiest way to tell you about them.

FM20, FM20 blog, Football Manager blog
Funding provided for a coaching course.
FM20, FM20 blog, Football Manager blog
More effective data analysis is never a negative.
FM20, FM20 blog, Football Manager blog
With the tight restrictions on how many non-Bolivians we can have in our squad still in place, it’s crucial that we can cast the scouting net as far wide as possible to select only the right individuals to complement the group.
FM20, FM20 blog, Football Manager blog
Improved homegrown youth. A key component in the development of any decent side.
FM20, FM20 blog, Football Manager blog
The Strongest’s facilities as they are today.

In the middle of juggling the Boliviano and Libertadores campaigns, in came a bit of a curveball. Teixidó’s former (and favourite) team from his playing days in his native Peru, FBC Melgar, actually approached us about their managerial vacancy. While tempting, Teixidó remains in the high altitude in Bolivia, ideally until we get somewhere continentally.

FM20, FM20 blog, Football Manager blog
Sorry, Melgar. We love you, but not right now.

With a tweaked 4312 in play, potentially back to back unbeaten domestic campaigns in the pipeline, and the opportunity to go further in the Libertadores than the club ever has before, there is a bright future here in Bolivia. That is, if our beloved manager is still with us…

Thanks for reading.

FM Stag

The Lever of La Paz – 4 – I’m just a happy camper!

This is episode four of a wider series. To start at episode one, please click here.

Take that Carl Hagedorn!

“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!

Click to see the detailed competition view.
Campeones!

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. Defensive midfielder. Signed from Murici in the lower leagues of Brazil. £80,000.

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.

Alexis Arias. Defensive midfielder. Signed from Teixidó’s beloved FBC Melgar in his native Peru. £53,000.

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.

Good luck, Willie.

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.

Ronaldo Sánchez. Striker. Signed from Oriente Petrolero in our division, the Boliviano. £350,000.

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!

I’d definitely buy one. I think.

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.

Lies. All lies.

Lastly, here are the statistics of the first team squad in their entirety and the manager’s history so far.

Specific praise has to go to Blackburn’s 27 goals, captain Bejarano’s 12 assists, keeper Diego Zamora’s tiny number of 5 mistakes in 41 games and José Sagredo averaging one chance created every 90 minutes.
The boys.
The ‘La Palanca’ system and top 11.
A strong start! The screenshot was taken before the £80k from the sale of Willie had been received.

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.

FM Stag

The Lever of La Paz – 3 – Do you know what nemesis means?

This is episode three of a wider series. To start at episode one, please click here.

He’s like if Piers Morgan had a dangerously high BMI and could tell you everything about the Venezuelan third division.

The conference room at Estadio Hernando Siles is as stifling as ever. A small flock of dedicated reporters have gathered to hear The Strongest manager Fernando Teixidó review his team’s performance over the first half of the 2019 Boliviano campaign.

Among the gathering is an uncomfortable looking man in his fifties, sat on a plastic chair which is marginally too small for his hulking frame. He takes a small pencil from behind his ear and starts thumbing through a tiny notepad, awaiting Teixidó’s arrival. He resembles a classic hardboiled private detective, but one who has spent too long staking out the dark streets, and it has visibly taken its toll. He doesn’t wear a black fedora, nor is this New York in the 1930s, but he shares the same cynicism and glowering expression as his noir fiction counterparts.

The man in question is Carl Hagedorn and he is a prickly 53-year old football journalist for theangrylinesmen, a football news and analysis website.

Hagedorn has covered South American football for a number of years, and is known to be a fearless critic of those he aims his laser focus at, but has a warmth and humour in his writing that is not often read.

Rumour has it that new, yet ubiquitous talent-hoovers The Athletic tried to recruit the experienced Englishman, but he chose to remain with the smaller online publication. Only he could tell you why.

Not Carl Hagedorn.

The Strongest manager Fernando Teixidó arrives and confidently struts towards the long table at the front of the room. The Peruvian seems in good spirits, and rightly so. His team are sat top of the Bolivian league, unbeaten in the opening 13 games.

He has not yet met his nemesis, however…

“Hi Fernando, Carl Hagedorn from theangrylinesmen here. I hope you are well.”

The pleasantries did not last.

“How did it feel to be dumped out of the Libertadores despite not losing a group stage game?”

Wow. What an opener.

Nikão, the breaker of Bolivian hearts in the 95th minute of the final group game.

“Well….Carl, is it? How I feel is irrelevant. My players performed admirably. They gave me everything. We were 40 seconds away from topping the group. This is life sometimes.”

The manager’s back is up. This is not the welcome he expected.

Carl continues.

“Surely you have to take a large portion of the blame as manager? Winning one and drawing five surely suggests you can’t instil a killer instinct in this group of players? An ability to actually win football matches instead of just avoiding defeat?”

Fernando is certainly taken aback, angrily yet slowly taking a sip of water and leaning back, thinking carefully before responding.

“Do you work for Bolívar, Carl. Is that it?

A few chuckles emanate from different corners of the room before an awkward silence.

In typical football manager fashion (in more ways than one), Teixidó looks Hagedorn right in the eye and replies…

“Surely you have something more pertinent to ask me about?”

“Ok then, Fernando.” Carl leafs through his small notepad, each page covered in scrawling notes. “What about your team receiving 14 more yellow cards than any other team in the league so far? Sounds like poor disclipine to me. No?

The English writer really knows how to get under the skin of those in the spotlight. In fact, he’s made a career out of it.

He’s like if Piers Morgan had a dangerously high BMI and could tell you everything about the Venezuelan third division.

Also not Carl Hagedorn.

“What is this?”

The Strongest manager looks around the room in disbelief, like he expects Ashton Kutcher or Jeremy Beadle to pop out and tell him that the line of questioning is for humour and drama alone.

Ok, I’ll bite, Mr Hagedorn.”

I am proud of the way my team plays. Yes, they pick up a lot of cards but that’s because every one of those boys leaves 100% of themselves out there on the pitch, every single game. Do you understand? 14 more yellow cards than any other team you say? Do you think I haven’t seen the data? That I do not study it and know it inside out?”

Teixidó is on a roll.

“What about the 13 league games without defeat? What about more successful dribbles (12 per 90 mins), chances created (43), shots on target (53%), crosses completed (31%) and goals scored (32) than any other club in the top division? How much do I know, to talk out of turn though…Carl?”

Teixidó is so angry, his father’s Dylanisms are even leaking out.

“This press conference is over.”

And so it was.

In a flash Teixidó was gone. Carl Hagedorn added some more scribbles to his tiny notepad, a wry smile creeping across his face.

The Strongest’s press officer nervously shuffled papers still sat at the table on his own for a further, silent minute. He did not look up or make eye contact with Hagedorn, nor any of the other journalists in attendance. He then suddenly stood up before announcing “Thanks. That will be all today,” and exited promptly.

That was intense.


Welcome back! We are officially half way through season one!

Last time I promised to have a look at some goals for this save. For context, here are some facts about The Strongest’s historic success. As always, most images are clickable.

In short, domestically very strong (pun intended) but useless in continental competitions, if that’s not too harsh.

The Sudamericana and Libertadores are in my sights as goals for this save, but for now, we are a long way off being good enough.

That being said, performances have been impressive so far. Sitting on top of the table undefeated is no mean feat, especially when the bookies have us finishing 3rd this year.

Bolivia has some of the best team names on the planet. Blooming, Sport Boys, Destroyers, Always Ready and of course The Strongest. It’s incredible.

As expected, striker Rolando Blackburn has been in inspired form, and has bagged 13 goals so far in all competitions.

Wálter Veizaga has been explosive in the Segundo Volante role driving from deep. The 30 year old has been with the The Strongest since 2012, and is my key man in midfield.

Surprise package has to be 34-year old Colombian striker Jair Reinoso, who has notched 5 goals. His 19 vision attribute has proved an interesting weapon too, as he has also contributed 3 assists, while deployed as an Advanced Forward.

Now we know that Teixidó plays his Ancelotti-inspired 4-3-1-2 the vast majority of the time, but what about when protecting a lead?

A switch to this 5-3-2 system is not only solid defensively, but retains the opportunity to counter attack when required.

I am really enjoying my time managing in Bolivia, apart from realising that this custom database has a frustrating detail that I am fairly sure is an error.

This makes ‘Get Stuck In’ a difficult inclusion, despite being a hallmark of the way I like to play. I haven’t yet decided whether to tweak my approach, or just live with the constant suspensions.

Especially when you select your first choice 11, and are presented with this…

I always keep the first transfer window closed in a save (realism innit?), so given that we are now half way through the first campaign, I decided to approach the board to ask for some funds. Some of the players are complaining about a lack of depth in defensive midfield.

They may have a point. I play three of them in every game, and two of the five players I have in the squad who I deploy there are a natural centre back and left back respectively, training for the new position.

So an entirely unexpected negotiation occurred, when I thought president María Quispe would simply throw me out of her office.

Let me be clear, £550k is a lot of spending money in Bolivia. I can really improve the squad with that kind of dough.

So much so, that I have at least three targets in mind already. Three players I have been scouting who I think are affordable, and can add something to the team. A promising Brazilian, an established Peruvian, and maybe even a home-grown targetman. But more on that next time!

Thanks for reading.

FM Stag

The Lever of La Paz – 2 – The Italian Job

This is episode two of a wider series. To start at episode one, please click here.

The old CRT TV in the bar happened to be showing grainy Serie A highlights. They each sipped a Cusqueña, putting the world to rights, as only a father and son can do. Starting with football, of course.

“The air is so thin here, do you know that? I thought home was bad, but I can barely breathe. I can’t bear it!”

It’s fair to say that Fernando Teixidó has yet to adjust to the notorious altitude and temperate climate in mountainous Bolivia.

The 43 year old coach takes an ill-advised giant draw from a toro cigar, followed by an awkward cough, mid-rant. Shifting his considerable weight from foot to foot uneasily, the mobile phone he is shouting into is pressed against his sweating temple.

The new Club The Strongest manager peers out of his temporary apartment’s living room window, as he kicks a clearly delapidated fan into life, trying to circulate what little air hangs in the room.

The sun is rising over the crammed La Paz skyline as the tenderfoot tactician continues to harangue his father, Carlos, over the phone; like this is his fault.

Carlos is some 6,000 miles away at his home in Barcelona, but his response is well-intentioned.

“Son. You know it was tough when I left Peru after so long too. Always remember, I’m here for you. It’s strange how people who suffer together, have stronger connections than people who are most content.”

“…Dad. As beautiful a sentiment as that is, I know you are quoting Bob Dylan again.”

Once a Dylanista, always a Dylanista. It was Teixido Snr’s signature trait.

His football manager son says his goodbyes (or did he just say “fare thee well?”), promising to call back in a couple of days, just like he always does.

The corners of Fernando’s mouth upturn as he throws the mobile phone on his interim kitchen worktop, casting his mind back to the last time he sat in a bar in Arequipa with his father. It was nearly twenty years ago.

That night, the old CRT TV in the bar happened to be showing grainy Serie A highlights. They each sipped a Cusqueña, putting the world to rights, as only a father and son can do. Starting with football, of course.

Something about that night stuck in Teixidó’s head. What was it?

Not the humidity of the bar on that summer’s night. Not Mr Teixidó Snr’s endless Dylanisms, no. It was something affecting. Something critical to Fernando’s dogmatic footballing philosophy and career pivot to become a manager in the first place.

Wait a second.

The commitment to playing out from the back. Short, yet counter-attacking passing. Aggressive pressing and tackling. A narrow network of passes flanked by marauding full backs.

Yeah, that was it. The highlights playing on that old, battered TV in the bar that evening.

It was the era of prime AC Milan. It was arguably the zenith of Carlo Ancelotti’s managerial career, and it undoubtedly represents the derivation of Teixidó’s tactical ideology.

Those were the days.

An absolutely incredible team.

Fernando Teixidó might be a Peruvian in Bolivia with a Catalan father, but it’s an iconic Italian who represents the biggest footballing influence on the rookie manager. How would that manifest itself in Teixidó’s The Strongest team?

Pre-season has come and gone.

It’s time for Teixidó to put down the cigars and put on his matchday suit.

It’s time for the Stronguistas to take to the stands of the Estadio Hernando Siles.

It’s time for El Tigre to roar…


So here we are!

As promised, we’ll have a quick overview of pre-season results, a bit of a look into who could be key players for The Strongest this season, and also touch on how I set up training to maintain and develop my players.

Lastly, a bit of analysis on Teixidó’s preferred tactical setup, the 4312.

I’ve put in 8.5 hours into this save so far, prior to a ball being kicked in anger. I don’t normally spend that long at this stage, but I’ve been granular in my approach to most elements of setting this side up.

This episode (along with the first that you’ve read already) is a wee bit longer than the ones to come in this series, but early on I like to set the scene.

Pre-Season Friendlies

This was our form in pre-season.

A brilliant start. Yes the opposition weren’t of the highest quality, but sides like San Marcos and Teixidó’s beloved Melgar should be no pushovers.

The Key Players

Rolando Blackburn smashed in eight goals in four starts in the friendlies, and I will be looking to Rolando to lead the line this season. An early candidate to be a real talisman of this Strongest side. A real number 9.

Great finishing and heading should lead to goals, as his pre-season form suggests.

The first choice wing backs Carlos Añez and Marvin Bejarano notched up 11 assists and 18 chances created between them across the 5 games where they played together. This is by a good margin a far more prolific supply route than from anywhere else on the pitch.

Añez’ 20 for natural fitness means he should play consistently without issue. He also has brilliant tackling and a great first touch. This is key in a short passing system.
Captain Belgrano is a more than solid all-rounder at this level, with his excellent balance a standout attribute alongside his leadership qualities.

An honourable mention goes to Rudy Cardozo, who will be our first choice number 10 behind the strikers.

Hard working, strong mentally and physically, decent first touch, dribbling, passing and finishing, along with a deadly cross for when he naturally drifts out to the channels looking for space.

Training

This is a straightforward one. I built three simple custom team training schedules (General, Defending and Attacking), and will rotate them all year-round. This may not be the optimum way to schedule team sessions, but I find I get a nice balance of steady improvement of those players with potential, suitable match preparation ahead of any fixtures, and not too much physical impact on the legs and lungs of the team.

I couple this with role-specific training, double intensity sessions where physical condition allows, focus on training specific player traits over the ‘additional focus’ function, and track the player’s workload, happiness, performance and progress on my custom training squad view, like below.

Tactics

Two of the three defensive midfielders join the wing backs in pushing forward. The deep lying playmaker, or lever, collects the ball from very deep and always looks to trigger counter attacks.

Like Teixidó himself realised above, a 4312 with a ‘lever’ or pivot defensive midfielder (here it is Diego Wayar), marauding wing backs and a creative 10 behind two strikers, is very much influenced by how Carlo Ancelotti tended to set up his incredible Milan side earlier this century.

The wing backs provide the width by running tirelessly (admittedly Carlos Añez is unfortunately no Cafu), and the DLP-D is the key pivot or lever, triggering short passing counter attacks, Players press aggressively and tackle hard.

There are two deliberately and noticeably conflicting elements in this tactic. The first is using a Trequartista as an absolute luxury, to provide an alternative approach when the committed, physical strategy doesn’t break the opposition down. The other is coupling a very short passing system with ‘hits early crosses.’ The theory here is that although the team primarily focus on playing small tiki-taka esque triangles as they move up the pitch, using wing backs that love to get forward (think Klopp’s Liverpool) along with the floating number 10, the defensive midfield line should occasionally be looking up and unlocking the opposition with a quick, longer ball/cross (think Kevin De Bruyne, but Bolivian and on much less money) to get the ball quickly in behind, causing overloads. Especially when we also play with two out and out strikers.

When it works, it’s a beautiful thing.

Here’s Wálter Veizaga giving it a go. I would suggest clicking on the word YouTube in the bottom right when the video starts playing. It opens it up in a new window. Saves you getting the binoculars out to watch a video the size of a postage stamp.

So what is our first competitive match? It’s only against the 11 times champions of Venezuela, Caracas; who visit the Hernano Siles for a crucial 2nd round qualifying playoff for the Copa Libertadores. Wish me luck!

Next time we will have played a good chunk of the first season and also have a look at some of the overall goals for this FM journey.

Until next time.

Thanks for reading.

FM Stag

The Lever of La Paz -1 – Fernando Teixidó

This is episode one of a wider series.

Sometimes the magnitude of the iconic black and yellow Tigre shirt weighs too heavy on a player. Sometimes the fans’ expectations weigh too heavily on the coach.

blog, FM20, Football Manger

The press officer of Bolivia’s Club The Strongest takes a deep breath, nervously looking down at his notepad covered in scribbles.

He loudly clears his throat and shushes the congregation of reporters assembled in the media room at Estadio Hernando Siles.

The silence eventually fills the room more conscpicuously than the cacophony of voices did.

Mauricio Soria was dismissed as The Strongest manager just 48 hours or so ago. His third spell as manager of the La Paz club was ultimately short and unsuccessful, amid rumours of a split dressing room and training session in-fighting. Sometimes the magnitude of the iconic black and yellow Tigre shirt weighs too heavy on a player. Sometimes the fans’ expectations weigh too heavily on the coach. Speculation is rife about who his replacement could be.

The conference room door swings open and as camera shutters click and flash, numerous microphones and smartphones pop up in front of the black and yellow-draped table top, keen to capture Soria’s replacement in action. In walks a sharply dressed gentleman in a simple grey two piece suit. His hairline slightly receeding, the creases around his eyes almost giving a DeNiro-esque charm to his grin. He has the typical overweight frame of a man in his mid 40s, but his square shoulders and the assured confidence in his walk suggest a man of substance.

The man in question is Fernando Teixidó.

“Who?” you may be forgiven for asking.

As quickly as the less-informed journalists in the room can open up the Wikipedia app to research him, Teixidó beams a confident smile, adjusts his wristwatch, takes a sip of water and begins to answer some pointed questions.


Born 4 June 1975 in Arequipa, Peru, football manager and former professional footballer Fernando Marcelo Teixidó played for Peruvian sides FBC Melgar and Sporting Cristal in a relatively unspectacular playing career between 1996 and 2005. An unfortunate knee injury from an innocuous tackle ended his career prematurely at 30 years of age.

Teixidó played as a defensive midfield enforcer, but was able to tidily carry the ball out of defence in a counter attacking system most notably deployed in the late part of the 1990s by then Melgar manager and Teixidó-mentor Freddy Ternero. It was this pivoting, counter-attacking habit that earned him his nickname, ‘La Palanca,’ or ‘the lever’ in English. Despite his relative competency on the pitch, his stock didn’t rise high enough outside of Peru for the rest of the footballing world to pay any attention.

Upon hanging up his boots, the Peruvian showed no signs of wishing to put his feet up with them. Between meeting and marrying his Portuguese wife Andreia, and regularly visiting his elderly father, Carlos Alberto Teixidó, in his native Catalonia, Teixidó earned a degree in data science from the National University of Saint Augustine in 2009.

Teixidó then undertook some relatively minor roles at football clubs, most notably in a spell as a data analyst for former club Melgar, and briefly as a youth coach for Argentinian side Talleres de Córdoba, while undertaking his coaching qualifications.

The combination of Fernando Teixidó’s hard-tackling approach and intellectual leaning towards statistics will surely prove central to how he will perform in La Paz. Only time will tell, however.


blog, FM20, Football Manger

Welcome to my new FM20 series! I am trying a new writing format that will hopefully make it a slightly different read from what you are used to seeing from me. The first half of posts will be narrative, like the manager unveiling and (fictional) Wiki article above; telling the story of Fernando Teixidó as he manages in Bolivia, as it unfolds.

The second half will be more FM-centric and ‘save update’-like. So you can read in a bit more detail than usual which tactics I employ, changes I make and the results on the pitch.

I liked the idea of using the contrasting approaches in the same post, so please let me know if you like the new format!

blog, FM20, Football Manger
blog, FM20, Football Manger

So what’s this series all about?

The Strongest play in the top division of Bolivian domestic football, the Liga de Fútbol Profesional Boliviano.

Formed in 1908, El Tigre play in the city of La Paz, famous for it’s hypoxia-inducing altitude, situated some 12,000 feet above sea level.

Away teams face a considerable challenge playing at Estadio Hernando Siles, as Argentina’s Lionel Messi and co can attest to. La Albiceleste lost 6-1 to Bolivia in the stadium during the qualification campaign of World Cup 2010. Some players even vomited on the pitch and required oxygen to continue playing. I wonder if or how this effect/advantage will be replicated in Football Manager.

blog, FM20, Football Manger
Ángel Di María struggles with the altitude, back in 2010.
blog, FM20, Football Manger
Estadio Hernando Siles.

The 41,000 seater stadium is home not just to The Strongest, but also bitter city rivals Bolívar and a number of lower league teams from the surrounding area. As you’d expect, the Clásico Boliviano derby is a passionate affair.

The club’s history is punctuated by 1969’s Viloco tragedy, in which many beloved players and staff sadly died in a plane crash. Iconic club chairman Rafael Mendoza helped to rebuild the club then, and the great work he started continues today under the direction of club president María Quispe.

Continental success has been hard to come by for the 12-time Bolivian league champions, and that’s what Teixidó is here to try and change.

For now, I’ll leave this post here before it gets too long. In the next ‘episode’ though, we’ll have a look at Fernando Teixidó’s tactical plans, the current Club The Strongest playing squad, and the team’s performance in what will undoubtedly be a punishing pre-season schedule.

Until next time.

Thanks for reading.

FM Stag