Welcome to the latest ramblings from Florence where we have reached the end of our seventh season together. Going in to the season my priority was to try and bring home a second Scudetto after three consecutive 2nd place finishes. Making the decision to prioritise the League over the Champions League could be a costly one when it comes to the club finances but it is a decision that I was prepared to take and who knows we may even have a decent run in the Champions League.
Papa (that’s me)
Who would have thought that I would have seen out seven seasons and still going strong after a few years of struggling to hold a save down long term but I am back and going strong loving the game like I always have since the first release way back in year zero. Yes I am old enough to remember the first one in fact I turned 48 recently and despite the normal everyday life like family time and work I still manage to get good game time. FM Grasshopper started off my Papa nickname and it as gathered momentum in recent months both in the game world and in to my every day life with my friends referencing me to be ‘the father of Italian football’ after my love of Calcio, so thanks for that Mr Grasshopper.
It is no secret that I love the Italian game and everything that it offers. A plethora of managers with tactical innovations that I can’t get enough ofor. I personally think that Italian managers are the best schooled managers in the World thanks to the Scuola Allenatori—the Managers’ School—at the Italian Football Federation’s Technical Centre in Coverciano, Florence.
Every aspiring manager in Italy must pass through here. It is the only place in the country where it is possible to obtain either a UEFA A licence—a pre-requisite for anyone who intends to coach at a professional level—or the subsequent UEFA Pro—mandatory for first-team managers in the country’s top two divisions.
The Scuola Allenatori, though, long predates either qualification. Managers have been learning their craft here for more than half a century. It is a place that unites all those Italian tacticians presently leading the way across Europe and many more who came before them. Conte, Capello, Ranieri and Ancelotti all studied here, but so, too, did the likes of Arrigo Sacchi and Giovanni Trapattoni.
August / September 2024
Kicking off our campaign we managed to add the European Super Cup to the trophy room in Florence by beating Borussia Dortmund on penalties after ending the game all square at 1-1. Rafik Zekhnini was our goalscorer on the night in the 19th minute before we went to spot kicks and win our first trophy of the season.
Matchday 1 of the Serie A season saw Cagliari visit the Franchi and it took a single 47th minute strike from young French midfielder Luther Gendrey to get our season off to a winning start. Sampdoria would be our host next and they proved a tough nut to crack and we had to be on our guard defensively with Gianluca Motta looking every bit like a player loving his football. Neither side could force a breakthrough so we came away with a single point to end the month.
Matchday 3 in Florence produced a eye catching performance against Torino but we failed to convert our chances created winning 1-0 a scoreline that flatters our Turin visitors. Alessandro Cortinovis was the man that got our winner in the end. I have made a couple of tweek’s to the system by moving the wing backs in to the full back positions in hope of getting a better balance between defence and attack.
A 1-2 defeat in Rome against Roma was a little hard to bear with yet again no goals coming from our centre forward which today was Fabio Gentile despite us creating many chances. Captain Gianluca Mancini did get on the scoresheet all be it to score a consolation goal.
“The Goals Will Come, We Have To Have Faith In Both The Players And The System” (Papa 14-09-24 Rai Sport)
I am not worried about the lack of goals coming from our chosen centre forward on the day because I have been in this game far too long to know that with the chances we are creating it will pay dividends for our forwards this season. Patrick Cutrone is our first choice backed up by Fabio Gentile and German Villa two youngsters who have come through our development system.
Champions League action next and our opening Group E game in Florence against Monaco ended all square 1-1 with captain Gianluca Mancini leading by example and getting his 2nd goal in two games earning us a point against the boys from the Principality.
We finished the month of September off with three positive results in Serie A starting with a 4-0 win against Benevento that produced yet another goal from Gianluca Mancini who is on fire, plus we had a centre forward score take a bow Patrick Cutrone along with Nicolo Barella and Rafik Zekhnini.
Our power house midfield duo of Abdou Diakhate and Luther Gendrey got the goals in a 2-0 win at Hellas Verona, both goals coming in the first half.
The last but not least we needed two very late goals to overcome Atalanta who lead right up to the 85th minute when Domenico Berardi cooly slotted home a penalty to what I thought looked liked salvaging a point but Luca Pellegrini had other ideas with a late winner to send the Franchi faithful home happy.
October / November 2024
A trip to St.Petersburg in the Champions League kicked October off but it was not to be a winning start after we lost 0-1 to Zenit who deserved the win after a performance that had me bewildered because we looked liked strangers thrown together. Back to Serie A action and a good 2-0 win away to Diego Simeone’s Internazionale with Alessandro Bastoni and German Villa netting his first Viola goal. We followed up with a 5-0 thrashing of Udinese before beating Dutch Club AZ 3-0 in a must win Champions League tie to keep us in the hunt for a top two finish.
A Patrick Cutrone goal was enough to see off Empoli before a 1-1 draw at home to Genoa on Matchday 11 thanks to a Fabio Gentile goal to end the month of October on 4 wins and a draw from 6 games.
November turned out to be a funny month for us starting with a 1-3 defeat to our big rivals Juventus managed by Maurizio Sarri who has become a bit of a gob shite towards me and my Viola but I am not taking the bait telling the press that I have great respect for the old foe. A 4-1 win against AZ thanks to a 4 goal haul from Patrick Cutrone puts us in 2nd place in the table with two games to play.
A couple of injuries to our midfielders and wide men forced me to change our formation for the visit of Lazio with us lining up in a 442 formation with Cutrone and Gentile starting up front and it was these two who scored the goals in a 3-2 win with Fabio Gentile getting 2 and Patrick Cutrone getting the other. It was Fabio Gentile who got our only goal in a 1-1 draw against U.S Sassuolo.
A despicable performance in the principality of Monaco left us hanging our heads in shame after losing 0-3 in front of the travelling Viola faithful meaning a must win game against Zenit next month basically to decide who goes through to the knockout round. We ended the month with a 2-2 draw at home to struggling Chievo with my man Abdou Diakhate grabbing a brace.
“Abdou Diakhate is my go to man in the big games”
You know how we all get attached to a player during our FM lifetime well Abdou Diakhate is that man for me. Way back in season one I gave Diakhate the opportunity in the first team and he has never looked back. The Senegalese midfielder is my go too man in the big games he puts a shift in whenever the chips are down I can rely on him. I have offered him a four year contract which he accepted to my delight.
The months are flying by and December was no different but we had a lot better month than November starting with a 1-1 draw in Sicily against a very good Palermo side who are in 4th place in the table thanks to a Domenico Berardi goal. A must win game against Zenit was next to decide which one of us progressed to the knockout rounds of the Champions League. My boys stood up to the plate to produce a 3-0 win with Domenico Berardi, Abdou Diakhate and Ganso getting the goals to take us through to the next round.
Berardi is on fire and his goalscoring form continues with our goal in a 1-1 draw with Milan in the top of the table clash with us holding on to top spot with the point. An impressive 3-1 win at Napoli see’s Berardi hit his 4th goal in 4 games since his return from injury in a game that saw both Nicolo Barella and Ganso get on the scoresheet.
We finish the year off with two 3-0 wins against both Crotone and Cagliari with the first one against Crotone seeing Domenico Berardi Score his 5th goal in 5 games. Nicolo Barella and Patrick Cutrone also found the back of the net. So to our last game of the year in Sardinia against Cagliari which again finished 3-0 with the goals coming courtesy of Alessandro Cortinovis, Patrick Cutrone and Benjamín Rollheiser who was in the side to give Berardi a rest after a busy month for the man.
“Berardi scores five in five games in December”
I signed Domenico Berardi at the start of the 2019-2020 season my 2nd season at the club for £16m from Sassuolo and looking back it most definitely was money well spent. The right sided Inside Forward is a true leader both on and off the pitch. Berardi is now one of the older members of our squad at a tender age of 30. Berardi is a player who has stepped up to the plate when the chips were down making the £16m outlay worth every penny and more.
January / February 2025
A 2-0 win in the Coppa Italia against Atalanta got 2025 off to a good start followed by a superb performance in the Italian Super Cup Final against Lazio who we beat to lift our second trophy of the season by a 3-0 scoreline with goals from Bastoni, Cutrone and Zekhnini . It’s always nice to add a bit of silverware to the trophy room but my attention is back to Serie A because after 3 second place finishes in succession I badly want the title.
A 3-1 against Sampdoria kept us on track for a shot at the title but we had to battle hard for two consecutive 1-1 draws against Torino and then Roma before we ended January with a 2-1 Coppa Italia quarter-final win against Lazio who must be sick of the sights of us.
Transfer News….. I had no intention of bringing anyone in to the club however an injury crisis that sempt to wipe out all of our wide players at the club forced me in to bringing Arsenal winger Eric Albert in to the club on loan a move that makes a massive impact come the end of May.
A tight 1-0 win against Benevento courtesy of Patrick Cutrone. Sandro Tonali was on the scoresheet against Internazionale but it was only a consolation goal in a 1-2 defeat in the 1st leg of the Coppa Italia Semi Final. The Champions League Draw had paired us with Chelsea for the 1st knockout round with the 1st leg in Florence. The Champions League nights always seem to get the Viola faithful excited and this tie was no exception with the social media going in to meltdown before and most definitely after with us beating the London side 4-1 on a night that the Velvet Revolution announced itself on the European stage.
A European hangover resulted in a 0-2 defeat in Bergamo against an Atalanta side gunning for revenge on us and that is exactly what happened. Hellas Verona got the backlash with us beating them easily 4-0 to keep us in touch at the top of the table in what looks like a four horse race with ourselves Milan, Inter and Juventus.
A 1-1 draw against Internazionale in the 2nd leg of the Semi Final was not enough to advance to the Final so we won’t be defending the Coppa this year. Eric Albert remember him on loan from Arsenal well he got the goal and looked quality so I will be hoping for more of the same.
With just four games in March, we started off with a good 2-0 win against Udinese with goals from both Tonali and Cutrone before losing the 2nd leg of our Champions League tie 1-3 against Chelsea meaning we advance to the last 8 winning 5-4 on aggregate setting up an all Italian encounter against Lazio.
A 5-1 demolition job in Florence against Empoli saw on loan winger Eric Albert score an impressive hat-trick to secure all 3 points and it was Albert who got the goal to secure a 1-1 draw in Genoa to end the month.
April / May 2025
We go in to the month of April at the top of the table and get off to a flier against one of our title rivals Juventus beating the Turin club 4-3 with goals from Adjapong, Berardi and a Cutrone double. The Champions League Quarter-final in Rome against Lazio was the first of a triple header against them which produced a 2-1 win to put us in a good position courtesy of strikes from Cortinovis and Mancini.
We stayed in Rome for our Serie A game against Lazio in the Olympico which ended in a thrilling 3-3 draw with a brace from Barella and yet another goal from Albert his 5th since his arrival.
And so to our third game on the bounce against Lazio this time our 2nd leg of the Champions League Quarter-final in Florence and yet again La Viola turned on the style with a 3-0 victory to book our place in the Semi Final against Paris Saint Germain with goals on the night coming from Cutrone, Bastoni and Berardi.
The goals continued to come on Matchday 32 when we beat U.S Sassuolo 4-0 with a brace from Bastoni and a goal each for Berardi and Albert. We needed a late goal from Patrick Cutrone his second of the game to scrape a 2-2 draw away to Chievo just days before our Semi Final showdown with PSG.
The Florence skyline was distorted by a cloud of purple smoke for the arrival of the French Champions Paris Saint Germain for the 1st leg of the Champions League Semi Final. The game was end to end but it was us who looked more likely to break the deadlock but to no avail so we ended up with a 0-0 draw to Paris.
So we enter the last month of the season still in contention to do the quadruple but a 1-1 draw against high flying Palermo gives the chasing pack a chance to close the gap at the top and that they did. A 1-3 defeat in Paris means we fail to get in to the Champions League Final but to be honest Paris Saint Germain brushed us aside in their quest for a European trophy but I tell the lads to hold their heads high.
Next up Matchday 35 and our biggest game of the season when we squared up to Milan in the San Siro in a top of the table clash that was to have a big factor come the end of the season and in a tight game we triumphant thanks to a 2nd half penalty converted by Milan old boy Patrick Cutrone to give us a priceless 1-0 victory.
A 0-0 draw against Internazionale and 1-2 defeat against Napoli left us going in to the final game of the season against Crotone with 73 points in 1st Place level with Milan in 2nd meaning we have to equal or better Milan’s final result against Empoli to win the Scudetto.
I made it plain and simple to the boys before the game ‘I expected nothing but a victory’ that would guarantee the title.
We put instant pressure on the Crotone backline but failed to make our domination pay until my man Domenico Berardi fired a shot past the despairing keeper to put us 1-0 at the break. We knew Milan were 2-0 up against Empoli so we had to win to take the title with both a better goal difference and head to head record against Milan. A tense 2nd period until Patrick Cutrone put us 2 up in 82nd minute before Alessandro Cortinovis put the game beyond doubt at 3-0 that secures a fantastic treble and one of the tightest title races that I have been part of with us finishing above Milan in 2nd by goal difference and a better head to head on 76 points non the less we are crowned Champions of Italy.
Serie A Table
Florence And The Goal Machine The Story So Far :
2024-2025 Serie A 1st Place , Uefa Super Cup Winners, Supercoppa Italia Winners 2023-2024 Serie A 2nd Place / Europa League Winners / Coppa Italia Winners
2022-2023 Serie A 2nd Place / Europa League Runners Up / Coppa Italia Runners Up
2021-2022 Serie A 2nd Place / Supercoppa Italia Winners / Coppa Italia Runners Up
2020-2021 Serie A 1st Place / (Manager Of The Year)
2019-2020 Serie A 5th Place / Coppa Italia Runners Up
2018-2019 Serie A 3rd Place / (Manager Of The Year)
The Last Word
What a fantastic season culminating in us being crowned Champions for the 2nd time under my leadership plus completing a fantastic treble plus reaching the Semi-finals of the Champions League. Before the dust settles I am know planning for season 8, a season that I will prioritise the title again because back to back titles is my next goal. If success in the Champions League prevails then of course I will be happy but likewise if we don’t win the Champions League then so be it.
Looking forward to FM20 and the announcement of the new platforms that will offer a chance for new folk to launch their management careers. Myself I like it how it is now loaded on my PC and Laptop. I am excited about my save on FM20 that I have already started on the storyline that takes on my Papa nickname, the series will be called il Padrino ‘Papa’ and will be one of many saves across the community that will be based in Italy after a week of the FM World declaring their intentions.
If FM20 delivers what FM19 has done for me then I am sure we are in for a treat, lastly I will leave you with one of my graphics to promote my series on FM20.