After a spectacular first season, Leicester City fell back to reality and were relegated at the end of season 14. While most would be disheartened, I believe that this was for the best for myself and Leicester, as it now gives me and the team time with less pressure.
Despite managing Atletico Madrid and Arsenal, Espanyol will always be the team I look back on most fondly, and with Leicester I am hoping to repeat the success I found there, and in a similar fashion too; Starting from the bottom!
Recap – Seasons 13 & 14
I arrived at Leicester after they finished 4th in D4, missing automatic promotion on goal difference and not making it in the playoffs. It was immediately clear that the team was built to “win now”, with strong players such as Dimitri Payet and Max Kruse leading the team. However, the success wasn’t sustainable, and with me a new transfer policy arrived. Out went the old guard and in came fresh new faces such as Douglas Luiz (86), Yangel Herrera (85) and Nicolas Gonzalez (85) who would take Leicester into the future. Of course this came at the expense of the league position and I fully expected relegation in my first campaign. To the surprise of myself (and many others) we finished 8th, despite being ranked 20th on the pre season ratings. The jump was largely down to the heroics of Oussama Idrissi who netted 9 goals and assisted 15 more. Despite the success, I knew that wasn’t an accurate reflection of the squad and readied for season 14 to bring a more realistic league position.
As expected, season14 saw us relegated. But throughout the season the team was strengthened massively. Rick Karsdorp, Robin Knoche Ezri Konsa, Ben White, Axel Disasi and Federico Dimarco all joined to solidify the defence, which up until then had no clear future starters other than Faitout Maouassa. We also made moves to solidify our youth at defence too with the signings of Oscar Mingueza and Kik Pierie. Further up the pitch the likes of Gaetan Laborde, Luis Suarez and Romaine Faivre were added, with youth additions too. However, as mentioned we were relegated. And now, in D5, I really have the opportunity to focus fully on building through youngsters or obscure risers. And with that plan, we have already made wholesale changes in the start of Season 15!
Now – Season 15
After last season I was looking to make changes and made a lot of players available. However, it started off tricky to get anything agreed. After long negotiations I got 2 deals sorted and this past week several more deals have been made. So here’s what we’ve done
Pre-Agreed – these signings were waiting to be completed from deals last season.
– Fillipo Romagna – 23, 86, CB
Romagna is another great young addition to our centre back group adding a cup option with potential to push for a staring spot. The ex-Juventus youth spent the 19/20 season on loan at Sassuolo who had an option to make it permanent. This option was taken up, despite a serious patella rupture which has seen Romagna out for 397 days and counting. The fact that Sassuolo signed him anyway shows a huge amount of faith in the 23-year-old, and hopefully he can return and pick up where he left off.
– Ivan Toney – 25, 85, CF
I had Toney before, but due to squad space he was released (a poor decision). However, we wont dwell on that, the Championship lead scorer is now back and will likely be a cup option for us. He has 28 goal and 9 assists in 38 league games for 3rd place Brentford this season. He has also been heavily linked to West Ham who are fighting for Champions League football. It’s an exciting addition and I’m hopeful that he can maintain his form at the next level, whether that’s with Brentford (if they get promoted) or elsewhere.
– Aleksa Terzic – 21, 76, LB
Left back is always a tough position to fill, so the addition of Terzic is a nice boost. He’s not a well known prospect or an incredibly young one, but at 21 he is the starting left back for Empoli, who are top of Serie B and have 2 games in hand. On top of that, he is already contracted to Serie A side Fiorentina so will have the chance to push into a top division side if he continues to impress.
Senior Team Signings – Despite the struggle at the start, we did get 3 senior options in ahead of this season.
– Gaetan Larsonneur – 24, 86, GK (cost – Hannes Delcroix + Igor Rabello)
Our current number 1 is Marco Silvestri, who I like a lot. But the opportunity to bring in a younger keeper was too tempting. We already have exciting prospects in Hugo Souza, 22, and Ersin Destanoglu, 20, but neither are that close to a staring rating in game. Larsonneur is young and rated close enough to compete now. He has also been linked with Marseille recently, a move that would certainly boost his value and potential. Rabello was unneeded following other defensive signings and, despite being a Belgium international, Delcroix was also surplus to requirements, especially following his season ending injury.
– Mattia Zaccagni – 25, 87, CM (cost – Nayef Aguerd + Kevin Denkey)
After months of trying I was finally able to land Zaccagni. The midfielder is exactly the type of starting player I wanted as he is still young and has a bright future. 5 goals and 5 assists this season have helped Hellas Verona to 8th in the league and a 7.05 average rating. These performances have also earned him links to Napoli, AC Milan and more. I am hopeful that there rumours result in a move and that he can continue his impressive form to a new team. Similarly to Rabello, Aguerd was surplus to requirements despite his impressive season. Denkey was also never a long term option for me.
– Marcus Edwards – 22, 85, Wing (cost – Dennis Geiger)
This was a quickly agreed deal and it could go either way. Edwards had a huge amount of hype when he was younger but strayed from his projected path. In 2019, though, he joined Vitoria de Guimaraes and has since scored 12 goals and assisted 6 more. He still has a long way to go and a lot to prove, but he seems to be back on the correct path. While Geiger is a player I have always loved, his injury record was too worrying for me as he has missed over 50 games (and counting) since 2019 with injury.
Youth Additions – After some thought, I decided to sell some of my higher players for youth prospects
– Sepp van den Berg – 19, 78, CB (cost – 1 of 3 who arrived for Enes Unal)
The excitement around van den Berg when he joined Liverpool was high, but as with any youngster he certainly needed time. He has made 4 cup appearances for Liverpool, but the bulk of his senior game time has come on loan at Preston since joining in January. He has made 10 appearances, with 9 of those being starts at right back. Despite playing out of position, and just a few weeks to settle, the 19-year-old has been impressive with a 6.9 average. Frankie McAvoy has said that he is playing at right back to adjust to the league, so it can be expected that he will get opportunities in the middle moving forward. Preston also have first refusal on van den Berg next season.
– Jacob Ramsey – 19, 76, CAM (cost – 1 of 3 who arrived for Enes Unal)
After a couple of cup appearances off the bench last season, Ramsey has forced himself into first team contention at Aston Villa this season. He has started 4 league games with another 10 appearances off the bench as well as a handful of cup games too. While he still has a lot to improve on, a 19-year-old premier league started is a quality pick up, and is someone I expect a lot from.
– Check Diakite – 18, 74, CM (cost – 1 of 3 who arrived for Unal)
Diakite was the “sweetener” in this deal to get it over the line, but might be one of the most exciting players coming to Leicester this season. Despite being 18, Diakite has been a regular for Paris FC in Ligue 2 this season, starting 44% of games, despite not making his full league debut until game 16. His versatility is a big bonus too, with him being deployed at DM, CM, AM, RM and LM this season already. While it is nothing crazy, he does have a 6.74 average which is solid for such a young player. Paris have a strong history of youth production, with their players often feeding into the top leagues. However, this season they are fighting to get into Ligue 1, as they currently sit 5th, just 4 points behind an automatic promotion spot.
– Owen Otasowie – 20, 73, CM (cost – 1 of 3 who arrived for Ignacio Pussetto)
Despite making 5 appearances for Wolves this season, Otasowie was not someone I knew of until taking a look at Celtic after the enquired about Pussetto. However, what I saw was quite interesting. The midfielder stands at 188cm making him a dominant presence and Nuno Espirito Santo has said that he has big plans for Otasowie. The 20-year-old also made his USA debut in November, adding an extra boost to a positive season.
– Marcelo Pitaluga – 18, 70, GK (cost – 1 of 3 who arrived for Ignacio Pussetto)
Another one who I didn’t know too much about was Pitaluga, but upon looking into him he was somewon I wanted immediately. He adds a long term youth keeper option and will have amazing opportunities to develop since joining Liverpool in September. On top of that, while my ability to look into him was limited, I trust the scouts of Liverpool. Whether his future is at Liverpool or elsewhere, he is a very promising option and hopefully can get a loan move to pick up senior game time.
– Lasse Gunther – 18, 67, Wing (cost – 1 of 3 who arrived for Ignacio Pussetto)
Similar to the previous 2, Gunther isn’t someone that I knew much of before researching him for this deal. He has been at Bayern since 2016 picking up 15 goals and 11 assists in 50 youth games. From these performances he has been likened to Arjen Robben, which is strong praise. His contract is up this summer, so it will be interesting to see if he stays at Bayern, or looks elsewhere to potentially move into a senior set up. However, at 18 there is no real rush.
– Alessandro Buongiorno – 21, 80, CB (cost – 1 of 2 who arrived for Barberan Maycon)
After a decent loan at Carpi FC last season, Buongiorno has been in and around the 1st team at Torino. He has made 8 appearances, including 7 starts for the Serie A side. While, this isn’t a huge amount of game time it is certainly something to build on. He already has a solid in game rating and can hopefully earn increased game time, especially after impressive displays against Fiorentina and Juventus.
– Sontje Hansen – 18, 75, CF (cost – 1 of 2 who arrived for Barberan Maycon)
I wasn’t too sure what position to put for Hansen as he has featured as a CF, RW, LW and CAM this season alone. Any youth out of Ajax is exciting, but that excitement is enhanced when the player is included on the NXGN 2021 Wonderkids list. Since arriving at Ajax in 2013 Hansen has scored 30 goals with 28 assists throughout the U17, U19 and U21 levels. He has also already made his Eredivisie debut, albeit off the bench. Hansen immediately becomes one of our most promising prospects.
– Matteo Ruggeri – 18, 76, LB (cost – Niklas Dorsch + Christian Lenz)
OUCH! That was a lot to pay for Ruggeri, I know! But I believe he has outstanding potential. Atalanta are a team that I love and have a great attacking style of play. At 18, Ruggeri is already a genuine senior option, making 8 appearances this season, including 2 in the Champions League. With Atalanta 3rd in the table, many top clubs will be circling to pick up their stars. This is likely to pave a way for their youngsters to step up and take starting roles, and if that is to be the case its hard to look further than Ruggeri. He could be the left back of our future, even with the likes of Maouassa and Dimarco here already.
– Soumaila Coulibaly – 17, 70, CB (cost – £599k, free agent acquisition)
After winning Shola Shoretire in February I thought my free agent luck was all used up, however, we somehow managed to win highly sought after Soumaila Coulibaly, despite over 25 other bids. Coulibaly is a long term PSG youth who joined the growing list of teenagers departing the French club in hopes of accelerating their careers. Despite the efforts of PSG to tie him down to a long term contract, and the efforts of Manchester United to bring him to England, Coulibaly opted to sign for Dortmund, following in the footsteps of Dan-Axel Zagadou. Dortmund have been happy to hand opportunities to players who deserve them, regardless of age. They currently have just Akanji, Zagadou and Hummels listed as their senior centre backs, with Balerdi out on loan. If Dortmund don’t sign an extra CB, Coulibaly may well be hopeful that he will get senior opportunities. He also referenced the fact that he will be training with the senior team as one of the key factors in his decision.
So there we have it! All of our business up until now. I am still hoping to get another deal done for squad cap purposes, but nothing has yet been agreed.
This season I will be playing with a formation which accommodates as many of my “key” players as possible, even if it is limited by the SM match engine. This is to keep them all happy as the team grows. Iliax Moriba and Oscar Mingueza are likely to be 2 players who I structure my team around as we move forward with others slotting into my “untouchable” slots when they prove themselves.
We have a long way to go, and as of now many things could go wrong, but I believe that this is an extremely promising team with great starting and back up options across the pitch, as well as a handful of youth gems.
I am already looking forward to the end of season reviews and summer transfer window as I think there will be lots of rating movement and transfer movement for my guys!