08|03 RITORNO: JUST RENAME IT THE PARMA CUP!

seasonEight.episodeThree | Ritorno

Lowering your expectations does do wonders for your blood pressure. I should have done this a long time ago. Despite the board still expecting another league title, I am not. Champions League football is the minimum for me, and that it is.

We were in a good position going into the second half of the season, so let’s see how we get on. Starting with my transfer business.

TRANSFER BUSINESS

Scuffet didn’t get the move that he has been chasing. He still has the ass, but fortunately, the players have started to side with me and morale is back to normal. Kante, however, wants to go but his contract expires in the summer so we will keep him around for emergencies. It’s disappointing that his transfer to the club didn’t work out.

Brahian Fernández | Free from Bolivar

Brahian is a free signing. One of the minimal risk players who was rated as a backup player. His acceleration and finishing stood out for me so we will see if we can develop him with a few loan spells and perhaps sell for a profit if it doesn’t work out.

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Rafael Hernández | €19.25m from PSV Eindhoven

A big money signing, smashing the transfer record. Rafael is a strong and physical presence, which is something we don’t quite have. Given I’ve always maintained that in defence is where we need to improve we took a chance on him.

He fits with the new philosophy, and although I’d have rather the Director of Football spending less on fees and wages, he should be a great signing for us.

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THE RESULTS

Remember the young lad, Robert Bronic, who we said wouldn’t play until a season or two, well it turns out he can play… At just 17 years old he is already showing what he is capable of. And you’ll see more of him as the season unfolds.

We started in good form, putting another four goals past Empoli. Bazan and Cristini playing together and having no trouble in front of goal. Chievo are a team who really wind me up and we always seem to struggle, Bazan getting a late goal to secure our route to the next round in the cup.

Fiorentina caught us on a bad day and managed to sneak in a 92nd-minute winner to further dent our hopes of competing for the league, but Cristini got us back on track with a fine performance against Chievo, before he bagged again against Roma in the quarter-final of the cup. Could we have another amazing run!?

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Juventus showed us just why they’re clear favourites for the league, however, it took a late goal from Caldara to put us down. We followed that defeat up with a draw and all of a sudden Juventus has a double-digit lead over us in third. Man United showed why they’re one of the favourites for the Champions League, just too strong for us. We barely registered a shot on goal, so it looks like our dream of going one step further is over for another season.

Victories over Udinese and Spal kept us within touching distance in the league, however, with Bronic scoring and showing his credentials.

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The first leg victory over Udinese in the cup almost certainly guaranteed us our place in the final, our fourth in a row!

Man United put the nail in the coffin to end our Champions League run this season. Disappointingly finishing at the first knockout round. We gave it a go, but in truth, they’re on another level. We bounced back in emphatic fashion, switching away from the 4-4-2 and going back to a 4-2-3-1 system. Registering the biggest victory in Parma and Seria A history. We then took Inter Milan for another three points.

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As the season enters the business end, we dropped yet more points, this time against Sassuolo. Komes grabbing a very late goal to save our blushes. A rotated squad secured our fourth cup final appearance, where we will face AC Milan.

We then made sure of our Champions League position for next season with three further wins in the league. And with that secured, we can play with freedom and reduced pressure…

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However… We’d somehow closed the gap to just five points. I had stopped looking at the league table, given that we were so far behind I didn’t think we’d ever catch Juve, but with just five games to go and five points the difference, everything is to play for!

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We head into the business end of the season in pretty good shape. Champions League qualification in the bag already, we’re playing without fear. And that showed against Brescia, with three goals from our wingers. That trend followed through into the match against Bologna, where 17-year-old Bronic got his first hattrick from the right wing. He is a player who I cannot wait to see develop over the next couple of seasons. Meanwhile, Juventus slipped up against Sassuolo with a 2-2 draw, leaving the gap at just three points.

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Two more victories against Sampdoria and Roma ensured we have every chance in the final game of the season to come away with a win and another league title, however, Juventus are on top and with a home match against Spal, probably have the title in hand, as they avoid defeat they win the league.

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Before our final league match against AC Milan, however, we have the Coppa Italia final against the same team, AC Milan could really put a spanner in the works for our season.

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The cup final team picks itself. Scuffet, despite his continued protests about wanting to leave starts between the sticks.

Vargas, who has attracted the interests of Man City recently starts on the right with Hegedüs on the opposite flank. Dossena and Nuñez partner up in central defence.

Outgoing Kanté gets a start alongside Michelli in the middle with 17-year-old Robert Bronic earning a spot on the right wing. On-loan Ballester starts on the left and Komes keeps his spot in the Shadow Striker role.

Cristini keeps his position up front, with 26 goals in 34 games it was an easy decision.

AC Milan will also start with a 4-2-3-1 system, and with both teams being evenly matched, it’s a tough one to call. I assertively tell the guys to do this for the fans and off they go. I’ve done what I can, it’s over to them.

It’s a dreadful start as Zito gives Milan the lead in the 8th minute. Beating Scuffet at his near post. Dreadful start!

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I give the lads a bollocking from the sidelines, and it doesn’t take much longer after this for us to hit back, Shadow Striker Dalibor Komes running the length of the pitch before smashing the ball into the next from the penalty spot, despite being surrounded by Milan players.

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Despite absolutely hammering Milan, they get a quick break on 42 minutes and an unmarked Pucas smashing home to make it 2-1 to AC Milan. A stupid goal and we have it all to do now. Despite the lions share of possession and double the shots, we’re somehow behind!

It doesn’t last long, however, as Bronic plays a fantastic cross-field pass to Ballister, who heads it down for Cristini to get his 27th goal of the season. Superb stuff right before half-time and no less than we deserve. 2-2

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An absolutely thrilling half of football for the neutral. Not so much for the supporters.

At halftime, I send the lads out there with the instruction to get the winning goal that we need. I don’t get much of a reaction. Bronic is looking nervous and hasn’t been at his best, he has 10 minutes to sort it out before I make a change.

Bronic doesn’t convince me to keep him on and I replace him on 56 minutes with Atuna, and with that change, I drop the team mentality down from Control to Standard to try to keep things a little more secure and calm. And on 69 minutes we finally take the lead. Komes pumps the ball into the box from a corner and Advanced Playmaker Michelli slots it home.

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On the 80th minute, I switch to Contain and bring on Escandar, my penalty taker, for Kanté. Without wanting to tempt fate, I want to plan for a possible shootout.

With 92 minutes on the clock, Ødegaard comes on for Ballester, but we shouldn’t need penalties. There’s a minute to go…

But it’s not needed. We’ve scrapped by and won the Parma cup for the fourth time in a row! Ridiculous achievement, no idea how we keep doing it, but we’ve done it again and I’m delighted, especially considering the changes to the squad this season.

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Celebrations are kept to a minimum, however, since we have Milan again in four days time in the final game of the season.

It was a thoroughly professional job, with a 2-1 victory. However, Juventus battered Spal 4-0 to regain the Serie A title. A difficult one to take, considering how close we came after seemingly being out of the race at the half-way point, but an easy one to swallow considering the squad we had this season. We finished with just two points less than last season, too.

I expect more of the same next year, Champions League qualification the minimum requirements yet again.

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A second-placed finish earns us a cool €3.86m in prize money and after the squad bonus payout of €5m that actually leaves us needing our sponsorship money more than ever. Although these days €4m doesn’t go far in Serie A.

We did win the fair play award, for what it’s worth. Another award I will take. However, the big award I do want is the award of my job for another season. The board expected a league win. I’m hoping I don’t receive a phone call in the next couple of days.

There was no manager of the year awards this year, either. But that’s okay. We’re in this for the team, not me.

The press thinks we’ve had a bad season. I guess I should take that as a compliment for how far we have come.

PLAYER STATS

Losing Mboula to United was a huge loss, and one I didn’t think I could cope with, however, the players I’ve had at my disposal have stepped up and pulled together. Andoni Ballester, on loan from Dortmund, has been a revelation, smashing the assists record for the season with 23 in total.

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He was voted the fans player of the season, and it’s easy to see why. He also contributed 13 goals. At 24 years old he goes against the rule of signing youth, but I’m going to see if we can do a deal with Dortmund to bring him here permanently.

Alberto Dossena was again the stand out defender, with 4.62 interceptions/90 which was an increase on his 3.92 last season. Perhaps a sign that he was having to deal with more as we got a little more adventurous up front. He will be a key player for us again next season and fully deserves his new deal.

Komes showed his creative side ones more from the Shadow Striker role, with 2.20 key passes/90 and 1.42 chances created/90. I’m pleased that the interest in him seems to have gone. I would like to start next season with him still in the side.

Komes, Antuna and Ballester all had over 0.50 assists/90 so very much the attacking midfield being the supply into the finishers.

A special mention for Robert Bronic, who managed five goals and three assists at the tender age of 17. I’m looking forward to more starts from him next season.

Finally, Mario Bazan and Piercarlo Cristini. My two strikers who seemed capable of sharing the goals with 50 between them, despite one starting at a time for most of the season. Bazan finished as the best striker at hitting the target for Serie A with 61% hitting their intended destination.

As a team, we hit the best average possession and passes completed. Included the best tackles won. It’s just a shame that didn’t amount to more as far as the league is concerned.

FINANCIAL RESULTS

Financially we’ve had a bit of a disaster. I’ve not managed this side of the club too well and the mid-season wasn’t looking too healthy with losses being made monthly. I’ll be keeping a closer eye on this now since we’re moving to a new model of youth recruitment. I want to improve what we have in-house, from the facilities to the players.

A massive thanks to fmadventure for the template for the financial analysis. A few amends to suit my agenda, but thanks for the starting point. You can check his blog out here: http://fmadventure.co.uk/fm18/

Income analysis

We still rely a huge amount on TV Revenue from the Champions League and from selling players and this season was no different.

Prize money was half of what it was on the previous season based on Champions League exit at the first knockout round, however, a huge player sale propped up the balance sheet (more to be revealed soon). Playing fewer home games also resulted in lower gate receipts.

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I would like to try to reduce the reliance on Prize and TV Income if possible. I would like this to come more from player sales, marketing and match income. I don’t want to miss a Champions league season and be in the shit for cash. However, a 21% increase in revenue is a welcome increase considering the season before we were Champions League finalists.

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Expenditure analysis

Player wages got out of control this season. We had to give new contracts to a lot of players, who, after the successes recently increased their demands. We’re going to be selling a few of the high earners and bringing in younger players with smaller wages to really bring this down next season. I certainly don’t want wages to be more than 30% of total expenditure.

We also had a huge season for transfers, 472% increase in spending over the previous season, helped in part by some player sales giving increased transfer revenue.

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Most clubs will show wages to be their biggest expenditure, and we’re no different in that respect. However, at just 30% of costs, I think we’re in a good position. A 48% increase in costs is a little alarming, so I’m hoping this reverts to a negative at the end of next season.

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A bumper new stadium sponsor helped with the finances, but the competition prize money was down as previously discussed. Broadcasting revenues continue to grow and we need to be competing at the top levels to grab a share of that.

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I will be looking to reduce the wages, but transfer spend is expected to grow as we invest in youth with a view to both develop for the first team and sell on for profit.

PLANS FOR NEXT SEASON

What a difference a year makes. I have a plan and a new acceptance that we’re not the biggest club in the world so our players are going to want to leave us. So with that, when reasonable bids come in above a players value then they will be accepted. I’ll make sure I always have at least one youth player who can step in. However, this might hamper our chances of continental qualification so we need to make sure there’s quality there.

The board have also agreed to improve the training and youth facilities once more and they’ve also informed me that they’re looking to take us out of Ennio Tardini and move us into a new home.

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We’re moving into a new era at Parma Calcio! Gone are the day of debt and worry. The fans can look forward to successes and a financially stable club, for as long as I’m around!

Much of the same next season. Champions League progress beyond the group stages and a push for Champions League qualification for the following season.

Until next time, arrivederci.

O.Jensen

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