I said that last season felt like it should be a pivotal one and it definitely was! Disappointingly we finished 3rd in the league again, 9 points off top, but we were involved in the title race right the way through the season until the final games. We couldn’t get ourselves beyond the Quarter Final of the Coppa Italia but we made up for it by somehow progressing all the way to the big stage of the Champions League – losing out narrowly to Liverpool.
It’s a lot to live up to for this coming season. I don’t expect to match our exploits in the Champions League but we should at least look to be competitive in the knockout rounds now. My main hope is to find success in the Coppa Italia and run closer in the title race – to finish 2nd would be great. To win it? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Following on from my post about my new recruitment strategy, this will be the quietest pre-season since the first season!
ONE IN, ONE OUT… SORT OF
Sergio Aguero’s brief stint in Italy is over. He managed 3 goals in his 21 appearances (9 starts) before making his move to Boca Juniors – a surprise choice from the former Independiente man. The only other outgoing of note so far this summer is a big one: Bosnian defender Anel Ahmedhodzic’s two seasons at Atalanta are over as he joins Real Madrid for a mighty £30.5m – a £27m profit for us in that move.
There is one transfer that I had already agreed way back in January of last season and it is that of Marcus Edwards as an end of contract signing. The attacking midfielder once dubbed a ‘mini-Messi’ by the British press, had been on my radar for a while and I swooped. It was all agreed before my intention to put a cap on new signings but also he’s one of those players I would go out of my way for anyway – having had him in one of my previous saves with Groningen.
For the youth teams, my recruitment in Scandinavia continued with the signing of Simon Brandhof for free from FC København. Closer to home I paid £100k for Sierra Leone international Tamba Mansaray from Foggia, having discovered him while keeping an eye on Walter Galante who was on loan from us to the Lega Pro club.
I dipped my toe into the South American market for the first time since bringing Brenner and Thiago Almada to the club back in 2021. Dejair Palermo is a free signing, one agreed almost a year and a half ago but only confirmed now that he has reached 18 years of age. Juan Pineda is a £35.5k steal from Independiente Santa Fe, he’s been labelled the next Freddy Rincón which is exciting! Both are well developed already despite being just 18 and I can see them playing a part int he senior squad at some point this year.
With the departure of Anel Ahmedhodzic, my replacement signing measures kicked into force. There were a few options but I eventually settled on a club record transfer of £81m for Pau Torres from Villarreal. He comes in with the tab of ‘elite centre back’ and it feels like a real statement signing from us, especially just one year after shelling out £50m for Edmond Tapsoba from Leverkusen.
Pre-season is what it is. A fixture against a non-domestic but European team, our annual trip to China and two games against fellow Italian clubs.
New signing Marcus Edwards got himself right into my good books within just 7 minutes of play by scoring against Hertha Berlin. We’ve been using the 4-3-3 wide formation in order to utilise the widemen I’ve got within the squad.
A 4-0 victory over a full strength Juve was a great way to cap preparations for my fourth season.
THE SEASON AHEAD
It’s been a quick and easy pre-season to this point with not much movement on the transfer front.
The season ahead is a really challenging one because I honestly can’t see this side matching last year’s Champions League Final. If I don’t manage to pick up a bit of luck in the league then this save could well fizzle out to a bit of a boring finish! The Coppa Italia isn’t such a big focus for the board so I’m likely to try and use it to give some minutes to more of the younger players as I try to blood them into the first team.
Season Four incoming…