Heart of Football

FM2020 Challenges: (1) Capital city, dominance-breaking and through-the-leagues

After more than two months without football due to global covid-19 pandemic, we at Heart of Football share the frustrations of millions longing for its return. To satisfy your footballing fix during the suspension, why not engage yourself in Football Manager 2020? 

We’ve decided to break down a series of challenges into bite-size chunks to help inspire you. The first installment covers ten challenges to either create championship-winning sides in capital cities, break the dominance of established clubs, re-establish the dominance of an historic club or take a club through the leagues to the top flight.

RCD Espanyol (La Liga)

Our first challenge is RCD Espanyol. One can forget there is another club other than FC Barcelona in Spain’s second biggest city. Barça are of course a dominant force domestically and in Europe, whereas Espanyol are much smaller in terms of stadium capacity, number of supporters and trophies won.

However, in La Liga terms, Los Periquitos (the Budgies) are not a small club. Based on total accumulated statistics such as top-flight seasons, points won and league finishes, Espanyol are surprisingly ranked seventh overall – ahead of previous La Liga winners such as Real Betis, Real Sociedad and Deportivo de la Coruña – despite never having won La Liga. 

For Barça supporters, the derby with Espanyol has always meant much less than El Clásico. Can you now turn Espanyol into a force, usurp Barca in La Liga and put the Barcelona derby up there with El Clásico? Media predictions are a 10th place finish, you have Europa League football to offer in addition to a £4.3 million transfer budget and 14k per week free on your wage budget.

Genclerbirligi SK (Super Lig)

Next we head to Turkey and specifically Genclerbirligi SK. Founded in 1923 in Ankara by high school students (Gencler in Turkish means ‘youth’), Genclerbirligi won Turkish Football Championships in 1941 and 1946. However, the Championship then was a knockout competition just for winners of regional championships. It was only in 1959 that a national league, the Super Lig, was formed.

Genclerbirligi, or Alkaralar (The Red Blacks), have never won a Super Lig title. They have, however, won two Turkish Cups in 1986/87 and 2000/01. In addition, the Ankara outfit impressed in the 2003/04 UEFA Cup. After shock victories over Blackburn Rovers, Sporting CP and Parma FC in the first three rounds, only eventual winners Valencia CF eliminated Gencler in the fourth round.

Can you bring a title to Turkey’s capital? Gencler won promotion back to the top flight for 2019/20 and your transfer budget of just £264,595 means this will be challenging. Your task is to win the club’s first Super Lig title in the 2022/23 campaign. Why this year? It will be the club’s 100th birthday and will also be the 100th anniversary of the proclamation of Ankara as Turkey’s capital.

ADO Den Haag (Eredivisie)

Next we head to The Hague, home of the Netherlands’ seat of the government and the football club ADO Den Haag. The Hague is the third most populous Dutch city, and yet De Ooievaars (The Storks) have never won an Eredivisie title. Their two Dutch championship titles in the 1940s came when the championship was a knockout cup solely between regional league winners.

The club recently made headlines when former West Ham United, Newcastle United and Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew was appointed manager. Upon outbreak of the coronavirus, ADO were in the Eredivisie relegation zone. However, the subsequent cancellation of the season meant ADO avoided relegation to the second tier and Pardew departed, after a brief unsuccessful spell.

ADO is an acronym for “Alles Door Oefening” (Everything Through Practice). Now is the time for practice to become perfect, and a first Eredivisie title to arrive in The Hague. A generous transfer budget of £2,302,964 is available at the start. However, you are nearly maxed out on your wage bill of £65,136 per week and you have to pay £1.03 million per year in stadium rent.

Metalist 1925 Kharkiv (Persha Liha)

Next up is FC Metalist 1925 Kharkiv, a classic ‘break the dominance and establish a new force’ challenge. Kharkiv is Ukraine’s second biggest city behind Kyiv and the city’s original club, FC Metalist Kharkiv, briefly emerged as a force in Ukrainian football in the early 2010s but ran into financial problems and recently folded. FC Metalist 1925 were founded in 2016.

Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukrainian football has been dominated by Dynamo Kyiv and Shakhtar Donetsk. The pair have won all but one (1992) of the 29 Ukrainian championships contested. The old Metalist nearly broke this dominance with a second placed finish in the 2012/13 Ukrainian Premier League.

After the old Metalist came so close to dethroning the dominant duo, can the new Metalist now finally do it? The new club are in the second-tier Persha Liha and own their 41,037 OSC Metalist stadium. However, there is no spare room on the wage budget, no transfer money and the media are only predicting you to finish 4th. Finally, you are only allowed 3 non-Ukrainian players in your squad. A long save this one.

Reggina 1914 (Serie C – Group C)

The next challenge is the first of three through-the-leagues challenges, Reggina 1914. Based in Reggio Calabria, the southernmost point of mainland Italy, Reggina reached Serie A for the first time ever in 1999. Nine of their next 10 seasons were then spent in Serie A, an impressive achievement for a modest club.

However, the 2010s saw the club plagued with financial problems and after declaring bankruptcy at the end of the 2014/15 Serie C season, the club reformed under its current name in Serie D in time for 2015/16. The new club were promoted to Serie C at the first time of asking, and have remained there ever since.

Big southern Italian clubs such as Napoli and Palermo struggle against the northern powerhouses, so imagine how tough it is for Reggio Calabria and Reggina. However, in FM2020 the impossible becomes possible. You are predicted to come 1st in Serie C Group C, but  a transfer budget of £275,619 and over £13,000 per week wage room should help. Can you return Reggina to Serie A?

Red Star FC (Championnat National)

Next up is Parisian club Red Star FC. Founded in 1897, Red Star are the second oldest football club in France, with only Le Havre being older. They are most famous for their five Coupe de France victories, four of which came in the 1920s.

This famous club, co-founded by Jules Rimet, have played across the top seven different levels of French football throughout their history. After 13 seasons between 2002 and 2015 at a semi-professional level, Red Star became a professional club again with promotion to Ligue 2 for 2015/16. Since then the club have yo-yoed between Ligue 2 and their current division, the third-tier Championnat National. 

Can you bring back the glory days? A promotion to Ligue 1 would bring PSG themselves to your Stade Bauer stadium. Could you even dethrone PSG’s hegemony in Paris and across French football? A first-place finish in the third tier is predicted, however you have no spare room for wages and no transfer budget available.

Notts County FC (National League)

The final through-the-leagues challenge takes place in England with Notts County FC. Founded in 1862, The Magpies are English football’s oldest professional club. However, last season the club dropped into non-league football for the first time ever. 

Dropping out of the Football League was the final insult to years of injury. The last three decades have been disastrous for Notts County. Relegation from the top tier of English football in 1991/92, a year before the foundation of the Premier League, saw the club miss out on millions. Changes of ownership brought no change in fortunes before the sad loss of their Football League status.

Now owned by Danish businessmen Alexander & Christoffer Reedtz, Notts County must rebuild in England’s fifth-tier National League. A transfer budget of £60,866 is available, but you are nearly at your wage budget limit and the media are predicting you to win the league. Neil Warnock and Sam Allardyce enhanced their managerial reputations here, but can you follow in their footsteps and get Notts County back to the top?

Argentinos Juniors (Primera División)

Diego Maradona was one of football’s greatest ever players and Argentinos Juniors was where it all began for him in 1976. Based in the La Paternal neighbourhood of Buenos Aires, they are the most centrally-located of the six current top-flight teams from Argentina’s capital city. 

However, from a trophy perspective, Argentinos Juniors are Buenos Aires’ poor relations. The club have won only three Argentine championships in their history compared to Huracán’s 8, Vélez Sarsfield’s 10, San Lorenzo’s 15, Boca Juniors’ 34 and River Plate’s 36. In addition, Argentinos Juniors have only won one Copa Libertadores title in 1985.

Can you turn Argentine football on its head and dominate Boca and River with Argentinos Juniors? You have only £90,983 for transfers and barely any spare wage space, however media predictions are only to finish 12th. Unearthing and nurturing potential future Maradonas in your academy might be necessary!

Torino FC (Serie A)

Back to Europe, and a challenge to both break a dominant streak and re-establish a famous name. Torino FC were founded in 1906, nine years after their fierce rivals Juventus FC. Il Toro (The Bull) came to the attention of the world much sooner than their Turin rivals thanks to amazing feats of their greatest team, Il Grande Torino.

A remarkable run of five consecutive Serie A titles between 1945 and 1949 was tragically cut short by the Superga Air Disaster of 1949 which saw the vast majority of this team lose their lives. One can only wonder how much more success was to come. The European Cup started in the mid-1950s and  Il Grande Torino could have easily rivalled the Real Madrid side who dominated the competition in its early years.

Since the Superga tragedy, Torino have won only one Serie A title in 1975/76 compared to Juve’s 28. Can you now build a new Grande Torino and re-establish them as Turin and Italy’s dominant club? Over £8.5 million is available for transfers and there is around 10k per week spare on your wage budget. Renting your Stadio Olimpico stadium costs £176,000 per season.

Royale Union Saint-Gilloise (Belgian First Division B)

Our final destination is Belgium. Brussels-based Anderlecht are the country’s most successful club with 34 titles. However, a different club in Belgium’s capital dominated long before Anderlecht won their first title in 1946/47; Royale Union Saint-Gilloise. Drawing supporters from Brussels municipalities Saint-Gilles and Forest, Royale Union won 11 Belgian First Division titles between 1904 and 1935.

However,  the once dominant club have struggled recently, even spending two seasons in the fourth tier. They are currently in the second-tier Belgian First Division B; far cry from Anderlecht, who were last outside of Belgium’s top tier in 1934/35.

Can you re-establish Royale Union as a top force? You are predicted to finish 4th, have £18,948 for transfers and £24,000 per week spare on your wage budget. Brighton & Hove Albion owner Tony Bloom has been Royale Union’s majority shareholder since 2018. Raiding Brighton for a few players on loan may be your first port of call.

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