Pre-season for Season 4 is a big one. Not least because I made a discovery that happens to me a lot in all football games — without realising it, I have stealthily qualified for the Europa League after all!
I only finished 7th in the table last season, outside the standard qualification spots, but clearly one or more teams above me won the right things to make this possible, and so here I am. I’ll take it.
Very pleased, albeit I’m starting in the qualifying round rather than the competition proper. The Europa League (and its equivalents, e.g. the ‘WEFA Cup’ et al) was always a bit of a bogey competition for me in ‘the other football game’. I’d love the chance — this early chance — to test myself on the FIFA version. As ever in football games I suspect the window of opportunity for me to win the Europa will be rather small. (Famous last words. Cut to me moaning in two months’ time about yet another season of scrapping in the Europa.)
I discovered my surprise Europa fate just as August began. But before August came July, and the European International Cup. I have played in the EIC tournament pre-season every season, and got to the final once (lost it badly). This time my group opponents included the likes of Lecce and Bristol City. I beat both and sailed through to the semis against a tough Parma team. Beat them and turned up for the final against, of all people, my group opponents, the mighty Bristol City. Who gave me a decent match. 1 minute of goals and post-match presentation here:
My very first FIFA trophy.
Around all of these matches I was desperately trying to improve my squad. As it stands I can give most non-elite teams a proper game on Professional level, but a single match played with this squad on World Class showed me that I need better players to compete at a higher level.
Amusingly, it turns out that I remain terrible at club/player transfer negotiations in FIFA Career Mode. I have a comical Carry On-style ability to offend and annoy every player and agent and manager who crosses my path. Mostly this is due to my continuing inability to shake off a slew of bad habits from ‘the other football game’ and its version of Career Mode. Principally, I have an attitude of ‘mañana’ – I’m perfectly happy to let precious time slip by.
And even when I get it to the sit-down stage, I regularly balls it up by offering too little money, even if I think that is more than enough.I offered this bozo 16 grand a week to be a Rotation player in my squad, and he would have got loads of games too, but no, not even a further negotiation, him and his agent got up in a huff and stormed out without any further interaction – upset about the money, not the Rotation aspect.
Of about 8 such negotiations that I have so far conducted in pre-season (which is nowhere near over yet; still 4 virtual weeks to run), I messed up 5 of them.
So far I have signed three new players. A long-term target that my Scouts first reported back on over 2 seasons ago – Zlatanovic, a very nice 24-year-old 74-rated striker with a touch of the Lineker goal-hanger about him. I could never get him before as he always seemed to be out on loan to other clubs when I made enquiries, but this time, he was available and easy to get. £9m to buy and only £12k wages. I’m being very stingy with my budget of £40m transfer and £60k wages.
I needed cover at LB and in my typical cack-handed fashion tried to make sure of getting at least one player in by going for two, then promptly FORGOT that they were both LBs (I thought one of them was an RM), and bought both of them. So I now have 3 LBs at the club.
It’s still only August the 4th and I am about to play that Europa qualifying match. I need to win that and then have a good rest-of-August transfer window. No way am I heading into this season with a fairly decent first-choice XI, but a bench and wider squad that would be mid-table in League 2 at best.
Lifting my first trophy has given me the taste for so much more. Without at least two great new players though, I won’t have the squad to rack the top 6.