FM 16 Stories – What would happen to Barcelona if you stuck them in League 2? The answer seems simple: they’d steamroll their way through the Football League and remain the dominant force we know them to be, right? Well actually, no. Using the Football Manager 16 Editor tool, I switched Barcelona with AFC Wimbledon, and the rest was history. Before a ball was kicked, there were questions over what would become. It would take three seasons to reach the Premier League, which means Barca would have to win the Champions League three times in a row (or qualify for the Europa League and win that) if they’re to remain amongst Europe’s elite. (If you’d like to skip to my season in the Premier League, click here)
Given that it takes at least three seasons to see if Messi could actually do it on a cold Tuesday night at Stoke, what team would Barcelona have in a few seasons time? Would they be able to keep three of the world’s best players tied down in the Football League for the next few years? Would they even still have a squad of world beaters by the time the 2018/19 season comes about, having played the last 3 years in the lower tiers of English football? Assuming it only takes three seasons to reach the Premier League, this is how old Barcelona’s key players will be:
Will they even be able to hold onto the above players for 3 years? If they won a domestic cup, would the allure of Europa League football be enough to attract the right talent to the Camp Nou (you’re expected to at reach the final of the FA Cup from the get go)? Would I be able to go unbeaten in the league for three whole seasons? Considering Barcelona are under a transfer embargo, they can’t capitalise on the fact they start off the game save playing Champions League football, which means reinforcements will be hard to come by. Here’s what went down…
First Season – 2015/16 – League 1
First half of the season The season started with a flurry of bids for my young stars of the future – Marc Bartra, Rafinha and Sergio Roberto. I managed to make Roberto realise how unprofessional he was being asking for a move to a club not in League 2, and he bought it, eventually signing a new deal. Rafinha was sadly sold because Man Utd met his release clause of £21.5m, and I was powerless to resist. Marc Bartra, who was also subject of a bid of £8.5m from Chelsea (thereby meeting his release clause), signed a new contract, accepting a slightly lower wage in the process. I also won both the Spanish & European Super Cup, and as an added bonus Andres Iniesta got injured for 2-3 months. The injury prevents him from being transferred in this transfer window, which is everything right now, given that Messi has also given early signs of his desires to “one day move abroad”.
I was drawn with Roma, Basel and Viktoria Plzen in the Champions League, and used the gulf in class between me and my opponents to allow some of my youngsters to get a run-out in the game before a European match, just so my main hitters stayed fresh. I steamrolled my way through this group, as expected, and came up against none other than Real Madrid in the next round. I won every single league game between August – January in the league, reached the JPT Final, but exited the League Cup at the quarter-finals. A 1-0 defeat away to Spurs showed me this squad isn’t as deep as I thought, and reinforcements were needed for when key players are injured. Next came the transfer window, and the first opportunity I had to actually buy players.
January Transfer Window
League 2 – 1st (obviously)
League Cup – Knocked out by Spurs in quarter-finals
FA Cup – Qualified for third round
Champions League – In last 16 vs Real Madrid I had to capitalise on the fact that right now I can offer Champions League football, and made some contingency plans accordingly.
The transfer embargo was lifted so I spent as much as I could in order to stockpile on future assets that I wouldn’t be able to buy in future if I wasn’t in the Champions League. I also made the bold move to offload Arda Turan before he’d played a game. The thinking here was that Turan’s only getting older and by the time I reach the Premier League, he’ll virtually be a non-factor, and way too old for my liking, so I needed a few more younger replacements instead. Aware that one of my beloved MSN trio could demand a move away soon, I signed Jordon Ibe and Demarai Gray; two players any Premier League side would love, who are even more perfect for League’s 1 & 2.
Ibe made sure Turan wasn’t missed too much.[/caption] Also aware of Iniesta’s ageing persona and Man City’s increasing interest, I snapped up Dele Alli for £20.5m, and also signed Cheikhou Kouyate on loan, because, well, there was no reason for this, I’m just a big Kouyate fan. I tried to sign a host of other players too, including Breel Donald Embolo, Eder Alvarez Balanta, Lucas Romero and Jorge Mere, but all four deemed themselves to be ‘bigger than Barcelona’, and decided not to join.
January – End of the season My dominance in League 2 only got stronger, and by March, I had already secured promotion, with 15 games to spare:
I’d lost the first leg of ‘El Classico’ 2-1 away at the Bernabeu (in the Champions League last 16), so the second leg was without a doubt the biggest game of the season. I knew that if I lost this, things could get extremely difficult from hereon in. I headed into half-time of the Classico 1-0 down and now 3-1 down on aggregate. Messi’s looking at me in the changing room as if I’m a joke, Suarez is throwing a strop and Jordi Alba still doesn’t know my name after 7 months. I had to take a breather to compose myself, before giving the team-talk of a lifetime and turning this disaster into a win. We ended up winning 3-1 and thus 4-3 on aggregate, and if they didn’t know who I was before, they damn sure they know now (they probably still don’t know, but still, it’s a start). Following that came a 6-0 aggregate demolition of Roma, meaning I headed into mid-April with a few exciting semi-finals on the horizon. An encounter with Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup semi’s awaited me, as did a two-legged battle with Man City; a battle that looked a step too far for me given that Neymar, Messi, Iniesta and Pique would miss both legs. I trounced Sheffield Wednesday, but across two-legs, lost to Man City 4-3 in the Champions League semi’s, meaning I now condemned myself to at least three years without Champions League football (which also secretly makes things a lot more fun). So the season ended, and here are a few quite frankly ridiculous screenshots from the season:
Between Suarez, Messi and Neymar, my beloved MSN trio scored 148 goals between them and recorded 16, 36, and 24 assists respectively. Youngsters Sandro and Munir also chipped in with 15 goals a piece, and got 14 assists betweeen them. Overall, there were 12 people who scored 5 or more goals, and as expected, I absolutely demolished League 2:
The season culminated with me seeing off QPR in the FA Cup Final, meaning I secured another season of European football for the boys, a feature of my tenure I’m hoping will be enough to keep my star players buying into the Barcelona-vision for another season.
League 2 – 1st (obviously)
League Cup – Knocked out by Spurs in quarter-finals
FA Cup – Winners vs QPR
Champions League – Semi-finals (lost to Man City 4-3 on aggregate)
Now, promotion has been secured, League 1 awaited me. Would I even be able to keep hold of every one of my stars going into League 1? I’m no longer apart of the Champions League and two divisions away from where every player in my squad would be hoping to play. As soon as the season ended, Ivan Rakitic piped up asking me if I’ll let him move to Man City and at least 5 key players are all ‘wanted’ by clubs in the Champions League. But hey, it’s not all bad, I sourced out a hidden gem in Alex Grimaldo, who made the step-up from Barcelona ‘B’ expertly. What would become? Stay tuned for my League 1 season coming soon…
Part 2 – League 1 Campaign
First half of the season My second season began with an unwanted dose of transfer chaos, as it marked the end of the infamous MSN trio. Luis Suarez demanded a move elsewhere, and even took to Twitter to retweet funny memes about my receding hairline. I had no choice, he had to go. Before you knew it, he was unveiled as a Man City player after agreeing a £61m move to the Etihad. I played down the loss of Suarez to the press and my players, reassuring the lads that I’d bring in a quality replacement. So I signed Anthony Martial for £33m, who for some reason, traded in Champions League football to join my Football League crusade. Gone were the days of ‘MSN’, as now, it was time for a new faction to rise; MNM – Messi, Neymar & Martial.
Turns out this Martial kid is quite the player…
The next to fall was Marc Bartra and his transfer was an interesting one. The season before, I rejected an offer of £8.5m for Bartra, who after staying on at Barca for another season, increased his value to £33m. What this revealed is that a player’s value in FM increases relative to their average performance rating, regardless of the league they play in. I’m certainly not complaining that the value of my players increases every time I stuff a team like Plymouth 4-0, so that end, Bartra was sold for £45m to Man Utd. For just £6.5m, I then signed Joe Gomez, a like-for-like wonderkid defender who’s been brilliant since signing. Then again, I’m using Barcelona in League 1, but still, Gomez has been impressive. Everything was as expected to start the season, as I won every game until I faced Man Utd in the League Cup quarter-finals away at Old Trafford. The lads had a bad day at the office and I crashed out of the cup 2-0. Oh, and that smug cash-cow Bartra scored the second to rub salt in the wound.
January transfer window Heading into January, I was top of the league with 10 games in hand, had found safe passage to the FA Cup Third Round, reached the next stage of the Europa League and had also reached the final of the Johnstone Paint Trophy North.
League 1 – 1st FA Cup – 3rd Round (vs Hull)
League Cup – Quarter Finals (knocked out vs Man Utd)
Europa League – 1st Knockout round (vs Basel)
January – End of the season
There were no transfers in or out in January because I liked the squad I was building, but there’s was one niggling issue to deal with. At the start of the season, I’d rejected bids of over £30m for Iniesta, and regard them now (in January) as deals I wish I took more seriously. His time at the club looked to be up as his performances were declining, but given his legendary status, I decided to give him some more time. Being top of League 1 was great, as was being in the latter stages of the FA Cup & Europa League, but the fixtures were piling up. With just 30 games gone (2/3 of the season), I had already secured a play-off spot, and was 16 points clear at the top with 8 games in hand:
In won my next three games and became champions of League 1 with 15 games to spare. I also won the Johnstone Paint Trophy for a second successive season, a feat both Pep Guardiola & Jose Mourinho are yet to achieve, but that’s neither here nor there. The Europa League threw up few shocks, as I overcame Basel, Monaco, Mainz and then Spurs to reach the final, while in the FA Cup, I crushed Liverpool 4-1 to reach my second final in two years. I came up against Spurs once again, and lost the first leg 2-1 at White Hart Lane. It was here I realised Iniesta had to go, and his average rating of 6.2 in a game of such importance was the tip of the iceberg for me. I won the second leg 4-3 but lost the tie on away goals.
Now, my task was simple – beat Man Utd in the FA Cup Final and qualify for the Europa League, or risk my squad finding any excuse for European football they can to force through a move. LVG’s United won 2-1, and I knew the following summer would be a real test of my mettle, but all in all, it had been a decent season. My new ‘MNM’ trio scored 115 goals between them. Messi (57 goals, 21 assists), Neymar (26 goals, 26 assists), Martial (32 goals, 14 assists). Munir continued his growth with 26 goals and 12 assists, Demarai Gray chipped in with 24 goals of his own, to go along with 11 assists. If that wasn’t enough, there were 8 players in total who scored more than 10 goals. But then I realised I’m Barcelona in League 1 and none of this mattered. I had lost the FA Cup Final and not been able to secure European football. This is how the league table looked at the end of the year:
League 1 – 1st
FA Cup – Final (lost vs Man Utd)
League Cup – Quarter-finals (lost vs Man Utd)
Europa League – Semi-finals (lost vs Spurs)
I must also pay homage to the surprises of the season, who out-performed any expectation I had of them in pre-season, who were none other than Demarai Gray:
I knew that now I had no European football to offer, so only the most loyal would remain. Already bids came in for Neymar, Grimaldo and Rakitic, but I wasn’t having any of it. All were rejected as I was determined to keep my best players. However, as you will learn in Part 3, hanging onto ageing stars can prove problematic, even if you keep hold of them. In part 3 I will tackle the Championship. So far, I’d played 102 games in English football and won 96 of them, losing none. Would that continue in the Championship? Is my hairline as bad as Suarez’ retweets suggested? Would I be able to keep hold of Neymar? Stay tuned for part 3…
Part 3 – Championship Campaign
First half of the season
Last season, I only kept Iniesta & Mascherano in order try and win a major trophy (FA Cup/Europa League), and seeing as they didn’t play their part, they had to go. Wanna know something annoying? Last season, I had bids for Mascherano of £37m, while Iniesta could’ve netted me a cool sum of £34m. A season later, the pair are worth a combined £4.9m. I could’ve got over £70m, but now, I had to settle for just under £5m. What a sick joke. To make matters worse, just as I realised how pointless selling Iniesta would be, he forced through a move to play Champions League football. I won’t lie and pretend I knew both their values would skydive by £30m in just one season, but alas they did, and now I have to accept what has become. This was the summer I had feared; as at least 10 first-team players wanted out, so I had to overhaul the squad of all the ageing and unhappy players. Iniesta and Mascherano were just two of many superstars to severe their ties with Barca that summer:
The additions of Balanta, Mere, Van Dijk Trippier & Smalling fill the holes left by Pique, Dani Alves, Vermaelen, Mascherano and Montoya. Embolo & Tielemans turn into two of the best in their positions on FM16, and as I’ve wrote about here, and here, Callum Wilson is an absolute animal on FM 16. Plus, the loan signings of Iturbe and Wilshere mean I have a strong second-unit for when the first-team need a breather. But anyway, with the transfer window done, it was time to get down to business. I had set myself the target of trying to have a better goal difference than I had points. E.g. in the last season, I secured 130 points but could ‘only’ boast a goal difference of 118 (141 scored, 23 conceded).
GD = 118, Points = 130, Target = Failed
As the opposition got slightly harder
/not at all harder compared to Barca’s standards in the Championship, my team’s performances increased. I won 20 of my first 21 games, a run which also included my revenge against the Barta-led Man Utd in the League Cup. I came up against the Red Devils in the quarter finals once again, this time seeing them off , courtesy of goals from Messi & Martial. In the semi finals we drew Spurs, and it seemed only too fitting that I’d come up against both the teams that had knocked me out recently in the same year.
January transfer window
Championship – 1st
FA Cup – 3rd Round (vs Cardiff)
League Cup – Semi-finals (vs Spurs)
From the off (Jan 1st) there were bids coming in left right and centre. Sergio Busquets had been bitching throughout the season about his lack of first team football, and I feared making the Iniesta/Mascherano mistake again, so he was sold. A long and arduous negotiation with Man City resulted him being sold for £33m. Ter Stegen had the cheek to come to my office and demand an explanation as to why I sold Busquets, so I reminded him we have the likes of Dele Alli, Youri Tielemans, Sergio Roberto and Ivan Rakitic to compensate. He bought It, piped down, but then a bid for Joe Gomez came in, giving way to a new wave of bitching. Gomez’ was unhappy I didn’t let Spurs buy him for some rip off price, so I assured him I’d ‘buy a better replacement’. When I saw that Aymeric Laporte was transfer-listed, it was a no brainer, so he was signed for £44m. I also had the small issue of a two-legged Capital One Cup semi-final to contest with Spurs. The first leg was ours, as we won 2-0. The second leg? Pure chaos. Utter chaos. After 60 minutes, I was 4-1 up on aggregate (2-1 up on the night), but out of nowhere, Spurs came back, and the match ended 5-3. How did I manage to concede 5 in 30 minutes? Who knows, but it happened, forcing the game into extra-time. Both of us scored a goal apiece in extra-time, which meant I won the 6-6 on away goals.
January transfer window – End of season
I won every game between the Spurs game and the final, resting my starting XI in the game before the final against Man City. And then it was cup final day. With that came the return of Suarez. Would he come back to haunt me? Would he bite Neymar? The build-up was tense. Cagey press conferences from both managers spoke volumes of the (major) trophy drought each side was going through. The match itself ended 2-2, then went all the way to penalties, which I won. Suarez by the way, did jack shit throughout, vindicating my decision to offload him and bring in Martial, who at this point, scored in the final which took his goal tally to 28 goals in 30 games, to go with 16 assists, very Thierry Henry like.
In the game after, I had secured promotion courtesy of a 2-1 win over Wigan. Then, in the next game, I secured the title at the end of February), and this how the table looked:
With the league decided as early as March, it became all about my FA Cup bid. I was hoping to secure a domestic treble, but faced a few obstacles to reach that point. In FA Cup 6th round, I came up against none other than Chelsea, who I comfortably saw off 4-1, which was followed by two questionable draws in my next three games. Things were as normal until semi-final day came around, against Man Utd once again. On the bus to Wembley, Neymar was Snapchatting a bunch of cocky trash talk about how this was a dead certain win for us. Whilst I appreciated his confidence, there’s no place for egotistical public declarations in my team, so I threw his iPhone out the window en route to the stadium to keep the lads focused. The match itself was easy enough, as a Callum Wilson goal in the second half was enough to us through to the final. I bought Neymar a new iPhone after but banned him from Snapchat, and the team was firmly focused on another Wembley encounter coming up in a few short weeks. Then came the final; our first ever FA Cup Final against Liverpool, which we won 2-1. My ‘treble’ was secured and we headed into the Premier League with European football under our belts for next year. Here’s the quite frankly insane goalscorers chart from the Championship:
5 out of the top 7 were Barca players…
Championship – 1st (Winners)
FA Cup – Winners
League Cup – Winners
5 players in my team had scored over 22 goals, whilst a further 8 players registered at least 10 assists, with Messi leading the way with 26. Ter Stegen kept 28 clean sheets in 46 games, the defence were immaculate, and Martial had the season of his life:
Now I had reached the Premier League, this is where things got really interesting. Would a title push be a realistic expectation for the first season? Would my ‘MNM’ trio be equally as devastating in the big time, as they were in the Football League? Here’s a summary of how each player performed in the Football League:
How Barca’s forwards did in the Football League
I knew it would be a busy summer ahead, but the lads were buzzing to finally tackle the Premier League. What would become? Would we instantly be a dominant force? Is Neymar still pissed I threw his iPhone out the window?
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