The Next Challenge: Real Sociedad

After leaving Schalke with a huge collection of silverware, I thought job offers would be coming thick and fast. I had a couple of opportunities to join some teams, Real Madrid being the biggest offer followed by some offers from England that really didn’t interest me. I started the season unemployed and seemingly, unemployable.

I waited it out and hoped a good challenge would come up. Spain seemed like the next destination and when Real Sociedad sacked Luis Milla at the end of October, I got a bit excited.

They’d gone through a few managerial changes, but managed to maintain a pretty good level of performance, notably finishing second in 2022/23, only two points off of title winners Atletico Madrid.

I did the interview, which is an odd thing really as it said I’d left teams in financial ruin when I’d actually done quite the opposite, and within a few days I was offered the job.

The team were a bit short of defensive options with only five defenders in the first team and several youngsters out on loan. We had some decent options in midfield and a choice of three or four strikers. As I enjoyed the football that my team played while at Schalke, I decided to stick with the tried and tested 4231. It suited what we had available. I had a look at the backroom staff and immediately made sweeping changes, bringing in a higher standard of coach.

When I joined the club, we were 17th in the division. We got off to a great start with a 4-1 win over Malaga. Things were steady after that, but wins were hard to come by. We just couldn’t hold onto a lead, always conceding late in the game. Our defenders were shocking and our goalkeeper was a liability, gifting goals for fun.

At the other end, scoring was something the team struggled with at first, but as the season wore on, we managed to get a grip on it and secured some great results to fire us up the table.

We eventually managed to finish fifth, marginally missing out on a Champions League place by one point thanks to Athletic scoring an 88th minute winner on the final day.

As you can see below, Rotariu ended the season with 19 goals as top scorer from the wings. He didn’t make an assist until December time. Serrano and Silva came in and played very well. There are a lot of players in their 30’s and I’ll be looking to get rid of most of those players.

rsteam

Summer is where I knew I’d earn my wages. Big changes were planned as I’d been scouting potential targets since I joined, drawing up a shortlist of about 20 players and narrowing it down based on cost/future potential. The club had a lot of players on rather large wages, but not really offering a lot to the team. My aim was to shave at least £400k-£500k off the wage bill and raise money for new players. We had a £8m transfer budget as well as £400k wage budget remaining, which I slid into a transfer budget.

I think I did some great pieces of business this summer, although time will really be the telling factor on that one.

In January I signed a left back, Denis Silva from Sao Paulo for £5.5m, Yaw Adjei (a right back) from Ipswich for £2.3m and Xavier Serrano from Barcelona on loan until the end of next season. He’s an excellent prospect. My aim is to try and win something to convince him to stay here, but that’s for the future. Obviously, these transfers were not included in my summer budget spend.

When the transfer window opened, I was all business. I had a priority list. Goalkeeper, central defender and attacking midfielder. Everything else was a bonus after that and entirely dependent on the sale of my surplus players. I didn’t have many players that would raise a lot of money, so the saving of wages was going to be the bigger financial gain for me here.

There were a few players who were retiring or just leaving on free contracts, but I had eleven players that I wanted to sell. No mean feat. Somehow, I managed to pull it off. I raked in £41m in transfer fees and saved a whopping £805k per week.

outs

It looks like a lot of business, but the free transfers and loans really fill that out.

With raised a lot of money, but the board only let me keep 20% of the revenue, so as stated above, the wages were the money maker. I signed seven new players, five of those going straight into the first team and two being rotational/backup players. Blanchard wasn’t the best goalkeeping option out there, he wasn’t even second best, but at 23, he seemed solid with the right profile to grow. He was also out of contract, which was a big selling point. Saenz was signed to make my backline look capable. A good transfer fee to ability ratio was enforced here. I had three potential centre backs on my list and he was top of the list of those. D’Onofrio was a player I thought about signing, then backed out and then decided to sell Rotariu, so went back in. Was at Real Madrid and didn’t get many games, but again he is youn, with a great potential to develop and also, free. Val was identified as my top attacking midfield target when I signed Silva in January. I wanted a little bit further on in their development in this position so he fitted the bill. Great attributes and the right PI’s were required. £6m was a fair fee. After the departure of a couple of other players, I signed Dieter Fromme and Aryan Forner to bulk us out a bit. Alex Pacheco was one of three strikers on my shortlist, he had the best goalscoring recording and the best mental attributes. £10m will hopefully turn out to be a bargain signing for us.

ins

Total cost of wages for these seven players is £253k per week. That means I still hit my £500k target after signing new players and paying them. Checking our finances, we’ve been paid nearly £130m in TV money before kicking a ball, more than double the £50m of last season. We’ve also made £91m in sponsorship compared to £23m last season. Big money and the bank balance looks incredibly healthy. Good turnaround on the finances!

I’m in the depths of pre-season just now and I should be kicking off today. As you can see below, a younger looking team than before.

team

Aiming to qualify for the Champions League and do well in the Copa Del Rey. I’m in the Europa League, but I’ll be rotating my squad for that competition.

Cheers again for reading

J

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