Liverpool 2024

FM Stories #3 – The Top Side In England In 2024 (FM 2008)

Welcome to a new FM Stories where we take a look into not a save but a side. Specifically, the Liverpool side of 2024 on Football Manager 2008. This side has a number of key men that have propelled Liverpool to four league titles in seven years…

1. Massimiliano Montanari (Goalkeeper, 26, Italy)

Signed for £6.5 million from broke Fiorentina in January 2018, eyebrows were raised at the decision of Liverpool boss Eion Smith to spend so much on an unknown goalkeeper who was just 19 years old. Smith was confident in Montanari and had known him from when Montanari was just 16 years old when the Scottish boss was in charge at Cesena. Smith was the one that brought Montanari to Florence too so the keeper was always confident he would be the man eventually. And it took a while.

Scott Carson was the undisputed number one and lead from the back as Liverpool won the title in 2019. Montanari played occasionally but never truly shone but never stopped working hard in training. His eventually became number one in the successful 2020/21 campaign as the fans began to believe in their Italian stopper. He earned international recognition soon after too with Italian fans excited that their nation and finally replaced the legendary Gigi Buffon.

Montanari has continued to improve and grow in stature, cementing his place as a hero to the Liverpool and Italian fans. He has developed a reputation and hunger for success, winning countless trophies at club level and playing in a World Cup final in 2022. The Italian is beloved at New Anfield and he loves it and the boss too.

4. Filippo Pennacchio (Centre Back/Defensive Midfielder, 29, Italy)

The first season of Eion Smith’s reign at Liverpool ended with a promising third place finish despite a struggling, aging spine. He resolved to fix that in the summer of 2018 by spending £22 million on Lazio’s Filippo Pennacchio. Comfortable at the back or anchoring the midfield, Pennacchio had enjoyed a breakout season in Rome and Smith saw him as the man his team could depend upon.

The form of Lucas Leiva saw much of Pennacchio’s first couple of seasons see him play at the heart of the defence but eventually he was shifted forward a few yards and to wonderful effect. His influence on games is so huge that there is a sizable hole when he is not playing.

Made captain in 2023, Pennacchio has grown even more in stature and is revered at New Anfield. The same cannot be said in Italy where Pennacchio is continuously ignored despite outperforming most Italians in his role. He has only received three international caps since moving to Merseyside, something which many consider to be scandalous.

5. Patrick Diawara (Central Midfielder, 23, France)

With the central midfield area at New Anfield entering their thirties, Eion Smith decided to freshen things up in the summer of 2023. The big signing was the capture of an exciting but raw 22 year old Frenchman named Patrick Diawara from Real Betis. Diawara had been on the radar of Smith for a while and has shown in one season why.

£13 million is looking like a bargain as Diawara established himself as the new star of Liverpool’s midfield, with his work rate and enthusiasm freshening up the team and inspiring the Reds to a second consecutive title and their fourth in seven seasons.

Already a full France international, Diawara still has areas to improve on especially in European games where his physical style is no match for some of the more technically superior players out there. There is plenty of time for Diawara though and there is no doubt he will be central for Liverpool for years to come.

6. Joeri Abels (Centre Back/Defensive Midfielder, 20, Netherlands)

In January 2023, Eion Smith paid AZ Alkmaar £4.5 million for 18 year old Joeri Abels. A regular in the Eredivisie from 16, Abels was not expected to see much action when he arrived. However, he  would go on to be one of the stand-outs during Liverpool’s run-in as they won the Premier League title.

A full Dutch international at just 19, Abels has returned from a loan spell at Ajax where he was one of the best players in the Eredivisie, a true indication that the young man is ready to fully make the leap to the first eleven at New Anfield.

7. Mikko Petrescu (Right Winger, 29, Finland)

With no real depth or outstanding quality on the wings, Eion Smith spent big and brought in Finnish winger Mikko Petrescu for £27 million in the summer of 2019. Many question the large fee on a player that had struggled in the Premier League two or three seasons previously at Portsmouth but the skeptics were soon quietened by the Finnish international.

Petrescu made the right wing berth his own and, while never the star man, was an excellent, dependable player that produced when it mattered. His creativity improved as he became more accustomed to the Premier League but his lack of goals has always been his downside (he has never managed more than 3 a season).

8. Veljko Stojanovic (Left Winger/Striker, 25, Serbia)

Fresh off a 17 goal season in Serie A, Eion Smith paid Inter £28.5 million in the summer of 2013 for Stojanovic. However, Smith did not see the Serbian as a striker but rather the solution to his left wing problem. And he was very much repaid.

Stojanovic only managed one goal all season but his creativity was unmatched as he laid on 12 goals as the Reds won the Premier League title for the second straight year. A Serbian international, Stojanovic is the main creative threat for Liverpool.

9. Mick Irving (Striker, 23, England)

A product from the academy, Irving shot to prominence on loan at Sunderland and has returned to Liverpool a goalscoring machine. Already a full international, Irving has scored 58 goals for the Reds in his two full seasons in the first team.

At 6’4″, Irving is a big bruising centre forward but he has the touch and clinical nature of someone more cultured. His goals were key as England won Euro 2024 and he looks set to be the true replacement for Alan Shearer after almost a quarter of a decade of looking.

Irving’s big problem however has been his inability to hold down a first team place thanks to the wealth of talent available. He’s slowly making the number nine shirt his own, a timely reminder that even the best foreign imports are not as beloved as the homegrown products that come good.

10. Nathan Eccleston (Striker, 33, England)

A Liverpool legend, Eccleston is one of the last men remaining from the pre-Eion Smith Liverpool. His goals were crucial to the early success of the manager’s reign and, as of writing, Eccleston has, in 457 games for the Reds, scored 241 goals – a truly remarkable number.

Despite his age and decreasing number of games, Eccleston has remained loyal to Liverpool and Smith and continues to play for England, helping them to win Euro 2024 and playing in the 2018 World Cup final.

Eccleston’s contract runs out at the end of the season and it remains to be seen if he can hit the 250 goal mark for the Reds.

11. Tim Andersen (Right Winger, 25, Switzerland)

In January 2022, West Brom’s star man, Swiss winger Tim Andersen, was wanting out of The Hawthorns. A number of big clubs were sniffing around him but Eion Smith and Liverpool beat them all to the punch and snapped him up for £33.5 million.

Like the other Liverpool wingers, Andersen is not a prolific goalscorer but his creativity is almost unmatched. He’s laid on 40 goals in his two and a half seasons and terrified full-backs while at New Anfield with his pace and technical ability.

12. Robert Harkins (Right Back, 25, Scotland)

Signed at just 18 for a cool £8.5 million from Southampton in 2018, Robert Harkins was another signing that many people questioned. However, they have once again been proved wrong as Harkins has gone on to devlop into of the world’s premier right backs.

The sales of Dor Malul and Robert Cancino in the summer of 2018 left the door open for Harkins and he has never played less than 20 games a season for Liverpool since his arrival that summer. He has seen off the challenge of Argentine Jose San Roman to make himself first choice right back and continues to draw interest from the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona.

14. Lauri Dalla Valle (Central Midfielder, 32, Finland)

Eion Smith’s first signing in the summer of 2017, Dalla Valle’s fee of £10.25 million from Inter Milan is rated by the manager as his best piece of business ever.

Dalla Valle was brought to Milan by Smith and left Inter a better player and one that would be the man behind all of Liverpool’s successes in the last seven years. Never failing to play less than thirty games a season, Dalla Valle only once didn’t reach double figures in goals and was very quickly appointed club captain by Smith.

Now no longer captain, Dalla Valle is still one of the stars of Liverpool’s side and will be remembered as a legend at the club for years to come.

15. Timo Korhonen (Central Midfielder, 20, Finland)

Costing just £1 million from Bayern Munich in the summer of 2023, Timo Korhonen has been one of the revelations of English football.

A wonderful all-round midfielder, Korhonen player over 40 times for the Reds in his debut season and was one of the stand-outs as they won the league. Groomed as the replacement for Dalla Valle, Korhonen is on the brink of overshadowing his mentor and will surely do so this season.

16. Adam Jones (Central Midfielder, 22, England)

Middlesbrough’s star man for the last two seasons, Jones is England’s next star midfielder and only joined Liverpool after a protracted negotiation in the summer of 2024 for a fee of £40 million.

17. Lewis Jones (Central Midfielder, 30, England)

Another who was at the club pre-Smith, Lewis Jones was actually sold in January 2018 by Smith to Real Madrid. He returned after a tough time in the summer of 2020 on a free transfer and continued his fine form.

A superb all-round midfielder, Jones scores and creates and was the fulcrum of the early Eion Smith sides. His performances haven’t been as outstanding as before but he has certainly been a good piece of business and an excellent servant to the football club.

18. Bob Smith (Striker, 19, England)

Another youth product, Smith made his debut at 16 for the Reds and recently scored his first goal for the club. He has had previous loan spells with Carlisle and Leicester (who were in the Premier League) and looks set to get some game time at New Anfield this season.

19. Alfie Tomlinson (Left Back, 23, Republic of Ireland)

Signed in the summer of 2019 from Galway United for nothing, Tomlinson has progressed to be Liverpool’s undisputed left back and a target for a number of big clubs around Europe.

A squad player for his first two seasons (after a loan at Aberdeen), Tomlinson broke out in 2023/24 season as he was asked to play more games as Joe Mattock declined with age. Tomlinson stepped up to the plate in a number of big games and is undoubtedly Liverpool’s number one left back now.

20. Jose Antonio Ramos (Central Midfielder, 31, Spain)

An £11.25 million signing from Roma in the summer of 2019, Ramos is not a stand-out player. What the Spaniard does offer is the underrated ability of ball retention and a dose of creativity.

Ramos has clocked up over 100 games at New Anfield but he has always been a bit part player. Nevertheless he has always been a key man for Smith, with his ability to do a decent job against any opponent being valued highly by the Liverpool boss. Ramos’ time at New Anfield looks set to be over soon though with all of the younger midfielders pushing him down the pecking order.

22. Andy Nicholson (Defensive Midfielder, 27, England)

Picked up on a free from Manchester City, Nicholson is another wonderful squad player. He has played in some of the biggest games and has always done a good job.

An excellent ball-winning midfielder, Nicholson can pop up with the odd goal here and there. He has never played less than 20 games a season and is good enough that Eion Smith can rest Pennacchio without worry because Nicholson is good enough.

A star man at most Premier League sides, Nicholson is a good player underrated amongst all the stars.

23. Ivan Quinonez (Left Winger, 25, Ecuador)

Signed on a free from Monaco in the summer of 2024, Quinonez is a tricky winger that makes up for his lack of physical skill with his outstanding technical abilities.

25. Ben Hudson (Goalkeeper, 25, England)

Another from the pre-Smith days, Hudson honed his craft at Crewe, Stoke and Portsmouth on loan before returning to be number two behind Montanari.

A very good goalkeeper, Hudson may have to move on to achieve the international honours his ability deserves.

27. Tim Green (Central Defender, 21, England)

A full England international, Green arrived in January 2024 from Tottenham for a fee of £11.75 million. An exciting young defender who looks set to be Liverpool’s rock for years to come especially after his promising early performances.

30. Nuno (Goalkeeper, 29, Portugal)

A free transfer arrival from FC Copenhagen in the summer of 2024, Nuno will provide competition for Montanari and Hudson in goals.

31. Richard Wilson (Right Back/Left Back, 26, England)

One of the most complete player at the club, Wilson was signed in January 2022 from Bolton for £12.25 million. While a regular England international, Wilson has struggled to nail down a regular spot in the first eleven for Liverpool despite always playing well when he has been given the chance.

A wonderfully versatile player and former Everton player, Wilson has not quite shown Liverpool fans fully what he can do yet.

37. Tadashi Chiba (Centre Back, 23, Japan)

A freakishly talented player, Chiba was brought from Middlesbrough in the summer of 2022 for a club record £45 million. Capable of doing almost everything on a football pitch, Chiba is a rock at the heart of the defence and has been the difference maker for Liverpool’s last two title wins.

Despite being just 5’9″, Chiba is almost undoubtedly the world’s most complete player and someone that should win the Ballon d’Or very soon.

99. Richard van der Weide (Striker, 30, Netherlands)

Liverpool were new champions when Eion Smith paid £35 million for Southampton’s star man, Dutch striker Richard van der Weide, in the summer of 2021. It has proven to be a wonderful choice.

The Dutchman was scarily good at St. Mary’s but at New Anfield he has stepped his game up to a whole new incredible level. He has scored 98 goals for Liverpool in 110 games over three seasons which is a frankly outrageous record. In pure league action he has bagged 81 goals in 78 games. His goal record is astonishing and the £35 million is looking a snip for a player that might be the finest pure scorer since Gerd Muller.

That is the Liverpool squad in the summer of 2024 but how does it usually line-up? This is Eion Smith’s strongest line-up…

Liverpool 2024

Champions League? Pfft. Easy

FM Career #4 – Interviews. Interviews Everywhere.

The start of 2019/20 season and champions Rangers are looking to build on a successful campaign in 2018/19. So, how has the first half of the season gone for The Gers…

So for the first time in three years, we’re entering a campaign as champions and quite frankly, in a much better position than last time. A stronger squad, better finances and some exciting young talents are making for a really exciting season especially with automatic entry into the Champions League group stages meaning that we could make some real progress this season. So, how did we do?

Well firstly, departures and there was some real big ones this summer. Some of the key men of our rise through the leagues have gone and been replaced by a band of exciting youngsters. The biggest in terms of name was our captain and our most consistent performer since the beginning of this save, Lee Wallace. He wanted out towards the end of the season and at 31 and having Jamie Mills and Cesar Armando Hernandez taking over meaning that we accepted a £195,000 bid from QPR and he was off. That meant that Sebastian Faure became club captain and Greg Pascazio became vice-captain. We also lost our best player from last season Marcos Lopes for a deal worth £5 million to German side Hoffenheim which was another sizable hole in the side. We also lost our starting keeper towards the end of last season Andy Gilmour for £400,000 as well which saw the promotion of young Stephen Tidser for a short while (we’ll get to that soon). We also shifted on four goal striker (and hero) Guyon Philips to Cardiff for £650,000 as well which is another huge profit for us. We also got a small fee from Bolton for young defender John McCann who wasn’t going to make it at Ibrox. There were also the usual loans and releases with notable names such as David Templeton, Liam Donnelly and Andy Little all leaving. Sadly though (if you follow The Long Ball on Twitter you’ll already know this), I wasn’t able to get rid of Geoffrey Mujangi Bia. It’s not all perfect…

So with plenty of names leaving, we had to get some bodies in to supplement the current squad and the promoted youth and we only got three and they were all for different needs. Firstly, I picked up released Chelsea youngster Jeremie Boga early on. My scouting team loved him and I thought that he could be that difference maker that can take us above and beyond in big games this season. Then I got a bit of a bargain for a really special talent. 14 year old Frenchman Osseynou Tendeng (nicknamed Ozzy because I could) cost me £100,000 and is already at the very least a good quality Championship player at that age. So, as far as I was concerned, business was done on the incomings until I saw how much money I had sitting in the transfer kitty and checked the transfer list. That’s when I loaned out Tidser and brought in the transfer listed Nicola Leali. A high quality goalkeeper not quite in his prime and for £4 million it’s an absolute bargain.

Lots of change. Still winning

Lots of change. Still winning

Footballing wise, it has been near perfection. Three defeats in all competitions including pre-season is pretty pleasing and the first one didn’t arrive until late October. It’s been incredible with Jeremie Boga tearing apart every team in sight (he’s averaging nearer 8 than 7 in all competitions so far) and we sit atop the SPL with a small lead over Celtic. Bogey teams are no longer bogey teams with St. Mirren especially being torn apart home and away. We’re 1-1 in Old Firm games too with both us and Celtic trading 3-1 victories so the second half of the season is set to be exciting.

We’re still in all the cups with a League Cup semi final against Hearts and a Scottish Cup Fifth Round tie with Aberdeen still to come. Our biggest success though has been in the Champions League. Drawn in a group with Legia Warsaw, Zenit and Borussia Dortmund, I was hoping to get third and maybe sneak second but we pretty much blitzed the group. Undeafeated with four wins and two away draws in Russia and Germany with the draw in Dortmund being very frustrating when Andy Murdoch missed a late penalty and Habib Ben Yahia had his goal ruled out for offside. We’re into the knockout rounds as group winners and will play Atletico Madrid in the next round.

Champions League? Pfft. Easy

Champions League? Pfft. Easy

Player performance has generally been good with some exceptional stuff. Boga obviously has been our star man but the one that has really stepped up and really surprised me is Yussuf Poulsen. He’s been solid without being spectacular but he’s finally getting a regular shot up front and has been taking his chances. He only sits behind Boga (15) in terms of goals scored (Poulsen’s on 13) and this should easily be his most prolific season in a Gers shirt. He’s keeping Habib Ben Yahia out of this side as the Tunisian continues to struggle in front of goal and with consistency. Cesar Hernandez has been exceptional at full back and has kept Jamie Mills out of this side for long periods while Bobby Smith and Alexandr Klimovich have really impressed this season. Leali has been good in goals as well as we motor along at a pretty destructive pace. Special mentions have to go to Ryan Mackintosh and Derek Johnstone who have made the step up to senior level relatively easy while Saidy Janko, Hernandez and Leali have all become full internationals with The Gambia, Mexico and Italy respectively.

There are a couple of issues however. Most noticeably is the falling out I’ve had with Jordy Clasie who up until he acted stupidly was actually having a good season. Then he was brought on in a cup tie at Alloa where we were winning comfortably and proceeded to get a straight red for a pretty appalling tackle that was totally unnecessary. We scraped through that game with a young side in the end but I was furious and fined him a week’s wages on the basis of idiocy. He took issue with it and refused to back down so he’s leaving ASAP. Also, the form of certain players is concerning. Nicolae Pusca has had a poor season while Ben Craig has rarely played and struggled when he has so he’s leaving while Nicky Law looks to be at the end of his time at Ibrox. It’s a real shame but football is a ruthless business at times and he isn’t worth keeping around now.

As for me, I’ve had about ten interview opportunities and they’re becoming more frequent as this season progresses. Wigan, Huddersfield, Fiorentina, Udinese, Lille, Hamburg, Genoa are just a number of clubs I’ve turned away because there’s something special happening at Rangers and I want to be the man at the helm for it all.

January is a big time for us too as there is naturally some interest in my players especially from some heavy hitters. Schalke are very keen on Klimovich, Lazio want Ben Yahia, QPR are sniffing around Mackintosh, Gaitan is wanted by Newcastle and, most worryingly, Hernandez is wanted by Stuttgart and Inter Milan. It’s going to be a tough window but I plan on keeping everyone I want to.

So stay tuned for the end of the season which looks set to be an exciting one. How far do you think we can go in Europe? Will we win the title? Who will stay and who will go? Will Jeremie Boga still be our Superman? You’ll find out soon.


Tabare Silva

Where Are They Now? #23 – Copa America 1995 (Uruguay)

Where Are They Now? returns with a Copa America special looking at the winners of the tournament of twenty years ago. Held in Uruguay, the host nation won their 14th of 15 titles with a penalties triumph over Brazil…

1. Fernando Alvez (Goalkeeper, CA River Plate)


The vastly experienced Alvez had already been a member of countless Copa America squads and went to two World Cup finals pre-tournament. A hero of domestic giants Penarol, Alvez was playing for River Plate of Montevideo at the time of the Copa America and would continue on playing for his country until he was 37 two years later. Alvez finished his international career in 1997 with 40 caps spread over seventeen years. Post tournament, he would leave River Plate to be the back-up at Argentine giants San Lorenzo before returning to Penarol for one final swansong before his retirement in 1997.

2. Oscar Aguirregaray (Defender, Penarol)


Here’s an interesting piece of trivia for you – Oscar Aguirregaray won two Copa Americas with Uruguay (1987 and 1995) but only made his international debut in 1995 before the tournament. Interesting fact aside, Aguirregaray would go on to play 10 games for his country until 1997 but continued playing for Penarol until he was 42 years old before retiring. He would have a short lived spell in charge of River Plate of Montevideo with team mate Pablo Bengoechea (see below) in 2006.

3. Eber Moas (Defender, America de Cali)


Defender Moas, of Colombian side America, had been a regular in Uruguayan squads since 1988 when he made his debut at 19. He would go on to play 48 times for his country with his final appearance in 1997. He didn’t spend much longer in Colombia as he left for Monterrey of Mexico in 1996 where he managed 83 league appearances. A return to Uruguay in 1998 saw him see out his career at Danubio where he retired in 2002. Moas returned with Racing Montevideo in 2005 and Rentistas in 2007 before retiring completely.

4. Jose Oscar Herrera (Defender, Cagliari)


One of only four players in the squad to be playing their club football outside of South America, Herrera was a veteran of nearly 150 league games with Cagliari in Italy and score in the final shoot-out against Brazil. Post- tournament, he would leave the club to join Atalanta for 18 months before moving to Cruz Azul of Mexico. His Mexican adventure ended quickly and after a short, uneventful stop at Newell’s Old Boys in Argentina, he made his return to Penarol where he made his name in 1998. It was short and he left for spells with Racing Montevideo, Montevideo Wanderers (twice), Penarol again as well as Shangdong Luneng and Bandung of China before he ended his career with Penarol in 2003. Herrera’s international career ended in 1997 with 56 caps and 4 goals amassed over 9 years.

5. Alvaro Gutierrez (Midfielder, Nacional)


A member of Bella Vista’s historic (and only) Uruguayan league title side in 1990, Gutierrez’s performances in the tournament (including scoring his penalty in the final shoot-out)  would alert the attention of Spanish side Real Valladolid who signed him from Nacional not long after the tournament. He spent three years with Valladolid before leaving for a short spell with Rayo Vallecano before he returned to his first club Bella Vista in 1999. Short spells with Liverpool of Uruguay and Sporting Gijon followed before Gutierrez retired in 2001. Gutierrez played internationally until 1997, winning 38 caps for his country in the process. He is currently the manager of Nacional having taken the role in 2014.

6. Edgardo Adinolfi (Defender, CA River Plate)


Full back Adinolfi impressed in the Copa America and scored the opener in the semi final against Colombia (which proved to be his only international goal as well), earning him a move from Uruguayan side River Plate to Israeli side Maccabi Haifa. He only spent a season in Israel before returning to Uruguay with Penarol in 1996. He was never a regular for Penarol and was moved on in 1999 to Gimnasia de la Plata in Argentina. Again Adinolfi was never a regular and upon leaving Gimnasia in 2001, found himself on a small tour of South America and Europe as he had short spells with Newell’s Old Boys (twice) and Tiro Federal of Argentina; Defensor Sporting and Fenix in his homeland; PAOK of Greece and Pontevedra of Spain before ending his career at Olympiakos Nicosia in Cyprus in 2007. Adinolfi only played for Uruguay until 1997, earning 18 caps and scoring that solitary goal against Colombia.

7. Marcelo Otero (Striker, Penarol)


Uruguay’s top scorer at the Copa America with 3 goals, Otero was another whose performances earned him a move to Europe as joined Italian side Vicenza. His time in Italy was very successful as Otero’s goals helped Vicenza win the Coppa Italia in 1997 and won the striker a move to Spanish side Sevilla in 1999. His time in Seville was a disaster as he scored just two league goals in two seasons before being sent to Colon in Argentina before he finished his career at Fenix in 2003. Otero would play for the national team until 2000, earning 25 caps and scoring 10 times.

8. Pablo Bengoechea (Midfielder, Penarol)


The captain of the side and veteran of the 1987 Copa America victory, Bengoechea had spent much of the late 1980s in Spain with Sevilla and had scored in the final of the 1987 triumph. He repeated that feat against Brazil in the final of the 1995 tournament and scored in the shoot-out to help Uruguay win the tournament. Bengoechea was at Penarol where he was one of the keys to 7 league titles in his spell there including five in a row between 1993 and 1997 and is rightly regarded as a club legend. A consumate pro, Bengoechea retired in 2003 at 38 with Penarol. Bengoechea finished his international career in 1997 with 43 caps, scoring six goals and winning two Copa Americas. He moved into coaching, assisting Sergio Markarian at numerous sides including Cruz Azul of Mexico and Universidad de Chile. His first managerial role was a short stint in charge of the Peru national side in 2014 before he was recently appointed to his current role of manager of Penarol.

9. Daniel Fonseca (Striker, Roma)


Another of the few who played in Europe, Fonseca was often played out of position in Serie A but found the net on a reasonably consistent basis. Fonseca’s record at international level was decent as well as he scored 11 in 30 appearances for Uruguay up until 1997. Fonseca would play irregularly for Roma but he impressed enough to be signed by Juventus in 1997 where he was often used as an impact sub rather that starter. He helped the Turin side to the Serie A title in 1998 and Champions League final before being allowed to leave in 2000. He moved to Argentine giants River Plate where he played once in pre-season before resigning and returning to his first club in Uruguay Nacional whom he helped win the title in 2002. A brief return to Serie A with Como in the 2002/03 season was unsuccessful and he retired in 2003.

10. Enzo Francescoli (Midfielder, River Plate)


A true legend of Uruguayan football and idol of Zinedine Zidane, Francescoli was a technically wonderful playmaker who scored twice and was named player of the tournament. Following the tournament, Francescoli would continue to be at his imperious best for River Plate, helping the club to three more league titles as well as the Copa Libertadores and South American Super Cup. He would annouce his retirement in 1997 and his final two professional games saw him secure two trophies. Francescoli would continue playing internationally until 1997 and finished with 73 caps and 17 goals. Francescoli would create a TV channel post-retirement (Gol TV) and occasionally will play in exhibition matches.

11. Gustavo Poyet (Midfielder, Real Zaragoza)


Named in team of the tournament, Poyet was a fixture in Spain for Real Zaragoza. However, with his deal running down in 1997, he deccided to move to England and signed for Chelsea. He would struggle with injury to begin with but established himself as a goalscoring midfielder and helped Chelsea win the FA Cup, Charity Shield, European Cup Winners’ Cup and European Super Cup. He was allowed to join London rivals Tottenham in 2001 where, despite injuries, he again proved himself to be an effective goal threat from midfield. Poyet retired from playing in 2004. He moved into coaching as an assistant at Swindon, Leeds and Tottenham before he was eventually appointed manager of Brighton in 2009 and guided the team to the League One title and the Championship play-offs in three and a half seasons. He was sacked after the play-off semi finals for reportedly telling the players he could do no more with Brighton. Poyet was appointed Sunderland boss in October of 2013 and kept the club up that season but struggled after the summer and was sacked recently. Internationally, Poyet kept playing for Uruguay until 2000 and finished with 26 caps and three goals.

12. Claudio Arbiza (Goalkeeper, Olimpia)


An unused back-up at the tournament, Arbiza would only play internationally for one more year and finished with six caps in total. He helped Olimpia to that year’s Paraguayan title before leaving to join Chilean giants Colo Colo in 1996. With the club he was a key man as Colo Colo won three consecutive league titles from 1996 to 1998. He stayed in Chile until 2000 and he returned to Uruguay to play for Nacional at the turn of 2001. With Nacional he won two more league titles before retiring from playing in 2004.

13. Ruben da Silva (Striker, Boca Juniors)

da Silva

 A regular scorer at club level, da Silva would actually leave Boca right after the tournament to join another Argentine side, Rosario Central. He was a key man as Rosario won the Copa CONMEBOL (essentially a short-lived South American Europa League) and would win another top scorer award. He left Argentina in 1998 to join Mexican side Tecos where he again scored on a reasonably regular basis. He returned to Uruguay, first with Nacional in 2000 (where he won a league title) before joining his first club Danubio in 2001. With Danubio he won another league title right before he retired in 2004. Internationally, da Silva would play until 2000 and would end up with 22 caps and three goals.

14. Gustavo Mendez (Defender, Nacional)


Full back Mendez would not remain much longer at Nacional as he left after the tournament to join Italian side Vicenza. He was a regular as Vicenza won the Coppa Italia in 1997 and played over 100 times for the club. He left in 1999 to join Torino but found games hard to come by and left at the turn of 2002 to return to Nacional. He was a regular for Nacional until his retirement in 2005. Mendez would continue to play for Uruguay until 2002 and represented them at the World Cup that year. He finished with 46 caps in total.

15. Marcelo Saralegui (Midfielder, Racing Club)

Alberto Garcia Aspe of Mexico (R) and Marcelo Sara

Midfielder Saralegui would leave Racing after the tournament to join fellow Argentine side Colon where he got regular football and did well. He would leave Colon in 1999 but struggled to find regular game time with short spells at Independiente, Racing (again), first club Nacional (where he won the Uruguayan title again), Fenix and Uruguay Montevideo before retiring in 2004. Saralegui would play internationally until 1997 and would end up with 33 caps, scoring six goals.

16. Diego Lopez (Defender, CA River Plate)

Luis Diego Lopez

One of the youngest members of the squad at 20, Lopez had just made the breakthrough at River Plate of Montevideo. Lopez would move to Europe in 1996, joining Spanish side Racing Santander. He was a regular in Spain but struggled with cards and was sold to Italian side Cagliari in 1998. It was at Cagliari where Lopez blossomed as he became a rock at the back for the club and was appointed club captain . He played nearly 400 times for Cagliari before retiring in 2010. Lopez won 32 caps for Uruguay, scoring once but was overlooked for the World Cup squads of 2002 and 2010. Lopez moved into coaching in 2012 as assistant at Cagliari before being promoted to boss in 2013. He lasted just less than a season as he was sacked but was appointed Bologna boss in 2014, a role he still holds.

17. Sergio Martinez (Striker, Boca Juniors)

Sergio Martinez

A prolific scorer for Boca and scorer of the decisive penalty in the final shootout, Martinez would go on to finish as top scorer in Argentina in 1997. He is in the top ten at Boca for goals but left in 1998 to try his luck in Europe with Spanish side Deportivo. He played just three times before returning to Uruguay with Nacional. He was a bit part player as Nacional won consecutive league titles in 2000 and 2001. Martinez retired after the second title win. Martinez finished his international career with 35 caps and five goals.

18. Tabare Silva (Defender, Defensor Sporting)

Tabare Silva

The youngest member of the squad, Silva would help Defensor to one more title in 1997 before leaving for Spanish side Sevilla in 1998. He was a rotational player but never established himself in Spain and struggled in short stints with Levante and Elche. He returned to Uruguay in 2003 and had spells at Central Espanol, CA River Plate, Rampla Juniors, Villa Espanola and Sud America before retiring in 2009. Silva finished his international career with 19 caps for Uruguay. He moved into coaching and has had short stays as manager at Sud America, El Tanque Sisley, Defensor Sporting and Bolivian side Oriente Petrolero. He is currently manager of Ecuadorian side Deportivo Quito.

19. Nelson Abeijon (Midfielder, Nacional)


A tough midfielder loved by Nacional fans, Abeijon would stay with the club until 1997 when he left to join Spanish side Racing Santander. He never played regularly in Spain and, in 1998, followed compatriot Diego Lopez to Cagliari. Abeijon spent eight years with Cagliari and played over 150 games for the club as well as having a season loan at Como while there. He left in 2006 and retired in 2008 after short stints with Atalanta and CA River Plate. Internationally, Abeijon finished with 23 caps and two goals.

20. Ruben Sosa (Striker, Internazionale)


A goal scoring, tricky little striker, Sosa is undoubtedly a legend of Uruguayan football. He left Inter not long after the tournament to join German side Borussia Dortmund but struggled for game time despite winning the Bundesliga. He left after a season to join Spanish side Logrones for a short spell before fulfilling his dream of playing for Nacional in 1997. He helped Nacional win three league titles and also won the hearts of the fans in the process before he left in 2002 for a short spell with Shanghai Shenhua in China (where he won another league title). He returned to Nacional as assistant and played a little as they won the title once more before he finished his career at Racing Club of Montevideo in 2006. Sosa ended his international career with 19 goals in 46 appearances.

21. Diego Dorta (Midfielder, Penarol)

03.05.1992 Diego Dorta - CA Pe–arol ©JUHA TAMMINEN

Penarol midfielder Dorta would leave the club not long after the tournament to join Argentine side Independiente. However, Dorta struggled in Argentina and in 1998 made his return to Penarol. Dorta saw out his playing career with Penarol. Internationally, Dorta won 23 caps with the last one coming in 1996.

22. Oscar Ferro (Goalkeeper, Penarol)


Third choice keeper Ferro would not add to his nine international caps after the tournament at all and would leave Penarol after the tournament to join Argentine side Ferrol. He was a regular for the club but left in 1998 and embarked on a number of short stints around South America including Sporting Cristal of Peru, Atletico Tucuman of Argentina, Guarani of Paraguay, Defensor Sporting of Uruguay as well as Spain’s Compostela. He finished his career with Penarol and retired after helping them win the 2003 league title. Currently, Ferro is Penarol’s goalkeeping coach.


Hector Nunez

Hector Nunez

The experienced Uruguayan guided his country to glory and would remain in the job for two more years. He left after the 1997 Copa America and stayed away from football for a good while. He returned in 2001 for a short spell at Saudi club Al-Nasr but it barely lasted. He had another short spell in management with Uruguayan side Tacuarembo in 2007 but that again did not last long. Hector Nunez passed away on 20 December 2011 at the age of 75.

That concludes another edition of Where Are They Now?. Stay tuned for more from The Long Ball coming soon.



Where Are They Now? #22 – U20 World Cup 1987 (Yugoslavia)

Where Are They Now returns with a special Under 20 World Cup edition looking back the champions of the 1987 – Yugoslavia. A vastly talented squad beat West Germany in the final on penalties in Chile…

1. Dragoje Lekovic (Goalkeeper, Buducnost Titograd)


The undisputed number one in the tournament, Lekovic would break through into the senior national side in 1988. Lekovic stayed with Buducnost until 1991 when he left to join Yugoslav giants Red Star Belgrade. He was a more rotational keeper during his time at Red Star and was allowed to leave after a season to join FK Mogren. He eventually left Yugoslavia in 1994 to join Scottish side Kilmarnock where he was the number one and helped the club to the 1997 Scottish Cup. Lekovic would leave Scotland and Kilmarnock in 1998 to join Spanish side Sporting Gijon where he experienced relegation from La Liga as second choice before joining Malaga in the second tier after just a few months. He helped Malaga to promotion as second choice before leaving Spain in 2000 to join Cypriot side AEK Larnaca. Lekovic joined Australian side Perth Glory in 2002 before retiring in 2003 at 36. Lekovic would play four times for the Yugoslav national side until the war broke out in 1991 including being unused at the 1990 World Cup before playing ten times for the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1997 and 1998 (again being unused at the 1998 World Cup). Lekovic is currently the assistant manager of the Montenegro national team, a role has held since 2011.

2. Branko Brnovic (Defender, Buducnost Titograd)


More often used as a midfielder through his club career, Brnovic played five times in the tournament. Like Lekovic, he left Buducnost in 1991 but went to the other Belgrade giants, Partizan. His time in Belgrade was more successful that Lekovic as he helped Partizan win back-to-back titles in his first two seasons. He left Partizan in 1994 to join Spanish side Espanyol where he played nearly 150 league games for the club and helped them win the Copa del Rey in 2000. He left Espanyol after the Copa win and did not return to professional football until 2006 when he turned out for Montenegrin side FK Kom before retiring in 2007. Brnovic would make his international debut in 1989 and played 27 times for Yugolsavia across it various guises, scoring twice until 1998 (he also appeared at the 1998 World Cup). Brnovic was appointed assistant manager of the Montenegro national team in 2007 and remained in the role until 2011 when he was promoted to manager, a role he still has to date.

3. Robert Jarni (Defender, Hadjuk Split)


Full back Jarni was a key man at the back for the Yugoslav team in the tournament and would make his name with Hadjuk Split, winning two Yugoslav cups before leaving for Italian side Bari in 1991. He spent two seasons at the club and earned himself a move to Torino in 1993 where his performances caught the attention of local rivals Juventus. He made the move in 1994 and won a league and cup double in his time with Juve but was merely a squad player and left after a season to join Spanish side Real Betis. His form really picked up at Betis and he drew the attention of Real Madrid who wanted to sign him in 1998 but were given no chance to Betis. Rather surprisingly, Jarni joined English side Coventry City that summer for £2.6 million but before he ever played a game for Coventry, he was sold to Real Madrid for £3.4 million in what might go down as the sneakiest transfer deal of all time. Jarni only spent a season in Madrid winning just an Intercontinental Cup before joining Las Palmas in the second tier. He helped the club to the Segunda Division title in 2000 and was a regular in their La Liga campaign the following season. He left in early 2002 to join Greek side Panathinaikos but played just five times before retiring that summer. Jarni played seven times for Yugoslavia (scoring once) between 1990 and 1991 and played at the 1990 World Cup. He made his international debut for his nation of birth Croatia in just their second match ever in December 1990 (around ten months before the Croatians were independent from Yugoslavia) and would go on to be a regular until his retirement in 2002, playing 81 times and scoring once with appearances at Euro 1996, and all of Croatia’s World Cup games in 1998 and 2002. Jarni would play futsal after retirement (he played twice internationally for Croatia) until he was appointed manager of Hadjuk Split in 2007. His time there was disappointing and he left in May 2008. He had similarly disappointing spells with NK Istra 1961 in Croatia, the Hadjuk Split under 19s and FK Sarajevo in Bosnia before he was appointed to his current role as manager of Hungarian side Pecsi MFC in November 2014.

4. Dubravko Pavlicic (Defender, Dinamo Zagreb)


Centre back Pavlicic was another regular in the tournament but found regular playing time at club level hard to come by. He left Dinamo at the start of 1990 to join Rijeka where he developed into a solid centre back and earned international recognition in 1992 with Croatia. His form attracted the attention of Spanish side Hercules who signed him in 1994. He helped Hercules to La Liga in 1996 and the following season was a star man as they went down (Pavlicic would score in both games against Barcelona). He stayed in La Liga with a move to Salamanca in the summer of 1997 but they went down in 1998. He stayed with Salamanca until 2000 when he joined Racing Ferrol before retiring in 2001. Pavlicic would play 27 times for Croatia, scoring twice in five years and appearing at Euro 1996. He settled in Spain after retirement but sadly died in April 2012 from pancreatic cancer at the age of 44.

 5. Slavoljub Jankovic (Defender, Red Star Belgrade)


A product of Red Star’s academy, Jankovic would be unable to make the step up to first team level with his boyhood club. He played four times in the tournament which is coincidentally the number of league games he played for Red Star before leaving to join Nepradek at the turn of the 90s. Jankovic would go on to have spells with Busucnost and OFK Belgrade before his career stalled in large part due to the war. Jankovic would go on to play in Greece for a while before retiring. Jankovic would move into coaching with spells at Jedinstvo, SFS Borac, Radnicki Nis and, most recently, FK Juhor Obrez.

6. Igor Stimac (Defender, Hadjuk Split)


Often used in defence in his club career, Stimac would play at the back for the tournament and would bag two goals in the successful campaign. Stimac would remain with his first club Hadjuk Split until 1992 when he left to join Spanish side Cadiz. His time in Spain was solid and reasonably productive but by 1994, Stimac had returned to Hadjuk. Just a year later, English side Derby County paid £1.5 million for him and he joined the Rams in the midst of their successful promotion campaign. Stimac would go on to be a key part of the club as they consolidated their Premier League status and his performances endeared him to Derby fans so much so that he was named in a greatest XI by readers of the Derby Evening Telegraph. He would leave Derby in 1999 to join West Ham where he once again proved to be a reliable option before returning for a third and final spell with Hadjuk in 2001. Stimac retired in 2002 and immediately became Hadjuk sporting director. He held the role for three years before moving into coaching in 2005 with short spells at Hadjuk, Cibala and NK Zagreb. He was appointed Croatia boss in 2012 but resigned at the end of World Cup qualifying when they barely scraped into the play-offs after losing twice to Scotland. His current role is as manager of Zadar, which he has had since the start of the year. Internationally, Stimac would play for Croatia, making his debut in 1990 and earning 53 caps in twelve years, scoring twice.

7. Zoran Mijucic (Winger, Vojvodina)


Left winger Mijucic would play five times for the Yugoslavs in the tournament and would help his club side Vojvodina win their second and last title (to date) in 1989. He would play over 100 times for Vojvodina but the war would destroy his career with last known information being that he left Vojvodina in 1992. Mijucic would never play internationally and would pass away in 2009 at the age of 40.

8. Zvonimir Boban (Midfielder, Dinamo Zagreb)


A real talent, Boban scored three times in the tournament and was already Dinamo Zagreb captain at just 19. Boban would go on to impress at Dinamo but almost lost his career in 1990 after attacking a police officer that was attacking a Dinamo fan. He was banned for a while by the Yugoslav FA and missed the 1990 World Cup. He would leave Dinamo in 1991 for Italian giants AC Milan in a deal worth around £8 million and was immediately loaned to Bari to acclimatise. His loan spell was successful and he returned to become a key man for Milan, helping the club to four Serie A titles, three Italian Super Cups, the Champions League and European Super Cup. He played over 250 times for Milan but found his role diminished in 2001. He was loaned to Spanish side Celta Vigo for the season but struggled for game time and called it a day in October of that year. Internationally, Boban played seven times for Yugoslavia, scoring just once in three years before declaring himself for Croatia when they declared independence. He would make his Croatia debut in 1990 and captained the famous side at the 1998 World Cup. He retired from internationals in 1999 with 51 caps and 12 goals. Following retirement, Boban achieved a history degree at the University of Zagreb and moved into punditry where he is still a prominent and outspoken pundit in Croatia and Italy.

9. Robert Prosinecki (Midfielder, Red Star Belgrade)


Famously turned away by Dinamo Zagreb when looking for a professional deal, German born Prosinecki is often regarded as the best Croatian player of all time and got his Red Star deal on the back of impressing none other than Dragan Dzajic (you can read more about him here) and was the 1987 tournament’s best player. Prosinecki would help Red Star to three league titles, a Yugoslav Cup and the 1991 European Cup. His performances caught the attention of Spanish giants of Real Madrid who splashed the cash for him. His time in Madrid was blighted by muscle injuries and instability within the club as they struggled but still winning a Copa del Rey and Super Cup. Madrid eventually cut their losses on Prosinecki and sold him to Real Oviedo in 1994. He only spent a season with Oviedo before joining Barcelona where he won another Super Cup. He left Barcelona after just a year to play for Sevilla before returning to Croatia and Dinamo Zagreb in 1997. He helped Dinamo to three league titles, a Croatian Cup and Super Cup before a short spell with another Croatian side, Hrvatski Dragovoljac, in 2000. He would then have season long spells with Belgium’s Standard Liege, England’s Portsmouth, Slovenia’s Olimpija and NK Zagreb before retiring in 2004. Internationally, Prosinecki would play 15 times for Yugoslavia (scoring four times) and 49 times for Croatia (scoring ten times). He is the only man to score at two World Cups for two different teams (Yugoslavia in 1990 and Croatia in 1998) as well as being the Best Young Player in 1990 and one of the stars in 1998. Prosinecki would move into management with Red Star in 2010 and won the Serbian Cup before leaving in 2012. He had a spell with Turkish side Kayserispor before his most recent role as manager of the Azerbaijan national side which he has had since December last year.

10. Milan Pavlovic (Midfielder, Zeljeznicar)

Credit: Old School Panini

Credit: Old School Panini

Defender Pavlovic was named captain for the tournament  and would remain with Zeljeznicar until 1991 when he left Yugoslavia to play in Greece. His Greek odyssey would begin in the third division with Nigrita for a season before he stepped up to play in the second tier with Anagennisi Karditsa. He would make the step up to the top flight in 1995 with Iraklis but only lasted a season before returning to Karditsa. He would make the step up again in 1998 with Ethnikos Asteras where he would play over 100 games before retiring in 2002.

11. Pedrag Mijatovic (Striker, Buducnost Titograd)


Young striker Mijatovic bagged two as Yugoslavia won the tournament and would remain at Buducnost until 1989 when he joined Partizan Belgrade over Hadjuk Split due to the worsening political situation around Croatia. Mijatovic really blossomed at Partizan, helping the club to a league title and two Yugoslav Cups before his departure in 1993 to Spanish side Valencia. He flourished at Valencia and almost fired them to the La Liga title in 1996, winning Spanish Player of the Year in the process. He would join Real Madrid that summer and continued his excellent form as he helped Madrid win a league title, Spanish Supercup, Champions League and Intercontinental Cup in his time at the Bernabeu. He was allowed to leave in 1999 to join Italian side Fiorentina but his time in Florence was not a success due to injury and lack of game time. He did help Fiorentina win the Coppa Italia in 2001 but left after they were relegated the following season. He returned to Spain with Levante but struggled for games and retired in 2004. Mijatovic would make his Yugoslavia debut in 1989 and would play 73 times for his country, scoring 26 times and playing at the World Cup in 1998 and Euro 2000. Following retirement, Mijatovic would be appointed Real Madrid’s Director of Football in 2006 and would hold the role until 2009.

12. Tomislav Piplica (Goalkeeper, Iskra)


Bosnian Piplica would stay at Iskra for another two years before moving to NK Zagreb in 1989. He would move on to Istra in 1991 before getting a chance at HNK Segesta at the start of 1993 and played over 100 games (even managing four goals in the process too) but left in 1997 NK Samobor. In 1998, Piplica left Yugoslavia to join Energie Cottbus in Germany where he would become a cult hero, notorious for his character as much as his howlers. He remained with Cottbus until 2009, playing over 250 times and retiring at 40. He stayed on as a goalkeeping coach and scout before leaving in 2011. He joined sixth tier side FC Eilenburg in 2012 as joint manager and became sole manager in 2013 where he is still employed. Piplica played nine times internationally for Bosnia in 2001 and 2002 and is also their goalkeeping coach which he has been since 2010.

13. Davor Suker (Striker, Osijek)


Croatian striker struck six goals in the tournament and would kick on with first club Osijek in the Yugoslav league, registering double figures in the next two seasons and moving onto Dinamo Zagreb in 1989. He continued his excellent form with Dinamo, earning his two Yugoslavia caps during that time (scoring once) and making the 1990 World Cup squad (never played). Suker’s performances alerted Spanish side Sevilla and he moved to Spain in 1991. His time at Sevilla developed his reputation as a lethal goalscorer as his time at Sevilla saw him achieve a ratio of around a goal every second game. He was so deadly that Spanish giants Real Madrid signed Suker in 1996 and continued his goalscoring exploits at the Bernabeu, helping them win La Liga, Spanish Super Cup, Champions League and Intercontinental Cup. His playing time in Madrid decreased until he left for English side Arsenal in 1999. He spent two reasonable seasons in England with Arsenal then West Ham before he left England for German side 1860 Munich. He rarely played in Germany before retiring in 2003. He made his Croatia debut in 1992 and won 69 caps for his country and scored 45 times (a Croatian record). Suker is most famous to many having won the Golden Boot and Silver Ball as Croatia finished third at the 1998 World Cup, shocking the world in the process. Suker currently operates his own football academy in Croatia – the Davor Suker Soccer Academy.

14. Gordan Petric (Defender, OFK Beograd)


Defender Petric’s performances for first club OFK Beograd earned him a move to giants Partizan Belgrade in 1989. He helped Partizan win the league once and the cup twice before moving to Scottish side Dundee United in 1993. Petric impressed at Tannadice and won the Scottish Cup in 1994 before joining Rangers in 1995. He helped the club win the last two league titles of their nine in a row before leaving in 1998 for English side Crystal Palace. He only spent a short time with Palace before a small stint at AEK Athens before returning to Scotland with Hearts. He had a solid two years with Hearts but left by mutual consent in 2001. Petric played three times for Chinese side Sichuan Dahe in 2002 before retiring. Petric made his Yugoslavia debut in 1989 but only played four times between then and 1997.

15. Petar Skoric (Defender, Vojvodina)


Nicknamed Pero, Skoric has had a long career with a number of clubs. He had two spells with Vojvodina (sandwiching a spell with Spartak Subotica) before leaving Yugoslavia in 1991 for Germany. He has played for numerous clubs in Germany – SC Bamberg, Karlsruhe, Darmstadt, Bayreuth, SCW Weismain, TSV Gerbrun, FC Schweinfurt (three spells), FC Hassfurt, TSV Gerbrun and VfL Euerbach. Skoric played into his forties before retiring around 2009. He would never play internationally after the tournament.

16. Dejan Antonic (Defender, Red Star Belgrade)


Another squad member whose career didn’t quite reach the same heights as the likes of Suker and Prosinecki, Antonic would never play senior international football. He remained at Red Star until 1991 when he joined FK Napredak for a season before a spell with Belgian side Beveren. He returned to Yugoslavia in 1994 with FK Obilic before making the leap to sign for Indonesian side Persebaya Surabaya in 1995. Antonic found himself a home in Indonesia and remained in the country, moving around clubs such as Persita Tangerang and Persema Malang before leaving for Hong Kong in 1998. There he played for Instant-Dict, Rangers, Sun Hei and Kitchee before retiring in 2005. He immediately became manager of Kitchee and has since coached in Eastern Asia with the Hong Kong national team, TSW Pegasus, Shatin, Tai Chung, Tuen Mun, Arema Indonesia, Pro Duta FC and current club Persipasi Bandung Raya whom he joined in 2013.

 17. Slavisa Djurkovic (Defender, Sutjeska)


Djurkovic is another fringe player at the tournament that struggled afterwards. His career stalled at second tier Sutjeska and his football career was really ruined by the Yugoslav war. He left Sutjeska in 1990 but spells with Leotar and Jedinstvo were not successful and he retired after a stint with Buducnost. He has done some coaching at FC Polent Stars and Sutjeska and obtained a UEFA ‘A’ Licence for coaching in 2011, the same year he and Ranko Zirojevic were denied a pension by Montenegrin authorities for their sport-related achievements.

18. Ranko Zirojevic (Midfielder, Sutjeska)

The current assistant boss at FC Mogren of Monetenegro has had a very similar career to his ex-teammate and pension rejectee Djurkovic. Zirojevic too saw his career stall at Sutjeska after a move to Buducnost fell through and the Yugoslav war started. Zirojevic left Sutjeska in 1992 and had three spells with FC Mogren as well as stints in Greece with Ehtnikos and Slovenia with Maribor before reitiring in 1997.

Mirko Jozic (Manager)


Croatian Jozic was a veteran of Yugoslav youth football having been in the set-up since 1972 and would leave in 1988. He was appointed boss of Chilean giants Colo-Colo in 1989 and led them to the Copa Libertadores in 1991 and the only coach to win the tournament with a Chilean side. He left his position in 1993 and went on to have spells with Chile, Club Amercia of Mexico, Hajduk Split, Al-Hilal of Saudi Arabia, Newell’s Old Boys of Argentina, Sporting Lisbon of Portugal and Croatia which was his last job in senior management which he left after the 2002 World Cup. He also had a stint with Dinamo Zagreb’s youth in 2006 and has not had any work since.

That is all for this edition of “Where Are They Now?” Stay tuned for another edition in a week’s time and of course other content on The Long Ball.


A personal highlight

FM Career #3 – The Curse

We’re heading into the business end of 2018/19 and Rangers are all set for a tilt at glory on four fronts. Can they do it?

2019 clicked in and we were still in all competitions for the first time in a long time. Admittedly, we probably wouldn’t get past Manchester City in the Europa League but we were still in four competitions. So how did we do?

Well, we did have the small matter of the January transfer window where we saw the departure of Robbie Crawford (mentioned in the previous edition) on New Year’s Day. Transfer activity was minimal with only young defender Ian Miller leaving on loan to join Partick Thistle. We had managed to raid the MLS to snag Mexican defender Cesar Armando Hernandez (also mentioned last time) and a new striker in the Tunisian international Habib Ben Yahia. Highly rated by my scouts with a lovely, mixed skill-set, he should be the answer to my striking woes (Ben Craig is the new Nicky Clark and I’ve lost all faith in Guyon Philips) plus PSG only wanted £300,000 for the 22 year old so it was a perfect no lose deal. With all business done and dusted, I had settled back into the games ahead when deadline day hit us with a sucker punch. There had been rumoured interest in some of our players but one man who couldn’t shake it was Ismail Bouzar who was wanted all over Europe (Milan, Stuttgart, Monchengladbach) and eventually two sides made their interest concrete – Stoke and Spurs. £4.5 million was the amount offered by each for the now labelled “wonderkid” with both eventually agreeing to loan him back to me. I accepted, knowing that I have options and Bouzar was having an inconsistent season. He decided on Stoke over Spurs and the Algerian-born French youth international was no longer permanently ours.

On to the football and we’ll start in Europe because I think we all know what the outcome was. City were far more clinical than us in the first leg and just simply created chances in the second. A side containing Umtiti, Bernard, Willian and Vincent Kompany as a holding midfielder won 3-1 at Ibrox in a fairly even game decided by the clinical finishing by Balde Keita. Nicolas Gaitan’s goal gave faint hope that was destroyed in Manchester by Leon Goretzka’s double and Lazar Markovic. We had 60% possession though so positives.

Also mentioned last time was our trip to Celtic Park for the fifth round which did not go to plan at all. My big rallying cry pre-match led the boys to go out and concede after two minutes. Tommy Reid scored on the stoke of half time to leave us two down at the break and my words did get a reaction second half. Ben Yahia got one back before we fell apart conceding a Scott Brown penalty and a very late Jason Carroll goal to get mauled 4-1.

A personal highlight

A personal highlight

The League Cup gave us more joy though. We left off with us in a semi final against struggling Hearts and with no Celtic around meaning that we should really win it. We managed to brush aside the Jambos 5-2 to set up a showdown with Hibs. I got the boys all fired up and ready to go only to end up back in the changing room 45 minutes later 3-0 DOWN! Nicky Law and Barrie McKay got goals back but it was too little too late for us and Hibs deservedly won it 3-2.

So… three competitions down and three spectacular failures so far. Now you’re probably expecting some kind of fantastic failure here too but we kind of maybe did win the league comfortably. See, Celtic under Stuart McCall may have become slightly soft in tough away games and faltered at some unthinkable times (they lost at home to bottom side Dunfermline) while we just kept winning. We weren’t massively thrilling or amazingly unbeatable but we just managed to grind out the results. Less flash, more grit basically. We did comfortably win a few big games including a Marcos Lopes hat trick in a 4-0 derby win at Ibrox. We could have won the title at Celtic Park but they managed to nab a 2-1 win late on to prevent it before imploding the following week and handing us the title. I continued my tight grip on Manager of the Month awards, winning all but four all season and consequently swept the Manager of the Year awards. Nicolas Gaitan was Football Writer’s Player of the Year, Barrie McKay was Player of the Year and Ismail Bouzar got Young Player of the Year.


The final league table 2018/2019


Player performance across the board was solid if unspectacular. The fans voted Greg Pascazio as their Player of the Season despite patchy form in the first half of the season and then wonderful display towards the back end of the season. He even managed to chip in with 7 goals all after January. Sebastian Faure was immense all season as he passed 200 games under my management (I passed 300 in January) while Andy Murdoch despite injury was outstanding and reached 100 league games on the final day of the season. Nico Gaitan was incredible on the left wing and David Templeton even managed to play well when he got the chance. Jordy Clasie was meh at best while Nicolae Pusca missed a fair chunk of the season but did well when given the chance. Alexandr Klimovich didn’t hit the heights I was expecting but showed genuine moments of brilliance during the second half of the season. My curse with strikers goes on though. Ben Yahia started excellently then just stopped scoring and didn’t score again until May. He finished with six goals, Guyon Philips managed FOUR all season (only one was in the league) while Ben Craig hit nine. My strikers combined only scored one more than Gaitan did on his own. I’m cursed I swear.

We said goodbye to Liam Donnelly (who didn’t improve in three years, his broken leg probably destroying that); David Templeton (not good enough anymore and getting on) and some youngsters as their contracts expired. Club captain Lee Wallace left too. He’d already complained after we secured the title that he wanted to have a new challenge elsewhere so we sold in a cut price deal to QPR. £195,000 is on the low side but I wanted him out to develop Hernandez and Jamie Mills. Nicky Law is also one that is dispensable now. He has the ability to make a difference but his consistency is waning and he’s third choice in his position. Jose Baxter hasn’t repaid £4.5 million in two seasons for me either while I wish someone would take James Tomkins who is now fourth choice and on £30,000 a week.

Now hopefully we can build on this and move forward and there is some promise moving forward but we need to strengthen in a couple of areas. There are some promising youngsters that are going to get their shot this coming season including right back Derek Johnstone and right winger Ryan Mackintosh with new youth recruits like Anthony Young (who made a scoring debut on the final day of the season) and Johnny Doyle keeping our youth team exciting.

That’s all for season seven then. Who knows what will happen in season eight? Stay tuned to find out.

Not pictured: Jordy Clasie (1 goal in 24 games, 6.85 average rating); Ben Craig (8 in 28, 6.81) and Guyon Philips (3 in 23, 6.73)

FM Career #2 – Pulling A Chelsea

We’re halfway through season 7 at Rangers and 2018/19 is shaping up to be very, very interesting indeed…

So, season seven. When I left you last time, we were sitting at the start of August, holding a 2-0 lead over Besiktas and with big names Jordy Clasie and Nicolas Gaitan on board. Let’s see what has happened so far…

We smashed Besiktas 3-0 at home to cruise into the play-offs where we were given the worst possible draw – Diego Simeone’s Manchester United. With a new side including Kondogbia, Son, Lamela and Schneiderlin we were demolished 4-0 at Old Trafford before a 0-0 draw at Ibrox saw us bow out early in a game that we should have won with all the chances we had. So, Euro Cup again and this time we were given an OK draw – Debrecen of Hungary, Sparta Prague and fucking Real Madrid. Yeah. THE Real Madrid. In the Euro Cup. Jesus. Our first game of the group was the dreaded trip to the Bernabeu where we were undone 2-0 by a defensive mistake and being a man light (Andy Murdoch strained his knee ligaments late on) and had a couple of good chances. We smashed Sparta at home before inexplicably throwing away a two goal lead at home to Debrecen to lose 3-2 (3 shots, 3 goals). We got revenge in Hungary before a home draw with Madrid left us second level with Sparta meaning we traveled to Prague for essentially a play-off. Jose Baxter’s penalty was enough and we went through to the next round where we will meet Manchester City. We’re not having any luck with draws this season.

Not pictured: Jordy Clasie (1 goal in 24 games, 6.85 average rating); Ben Craig (8 in 28, 6.81) and Guyon Philips (3 in 23, 6.73)

Not pictured: Jordy Clasie (1 goal in 24 games, 6.85 average rating); Ben Craig (8 in 28, 6.81) and Guyon Philips (3 in 23, 6.73)

League wise, it was a tough start. Our new look side was struggling to gel quickly and Hearts mugged us off at Ibrox 3-1 on the opening day of the season. 3 consecutive away 2-1 wins helped get some confidence into the boys with Sebastian Faure’s last minute winner at Aberdeen really getting the mood up. Everything was going well until we traveled to Easter Road and got mugged off royally. Hibs had three shots on goal and won 3-1. A win in the Old Firm Derby got us back on track again and from there we were near unbeatable in the league. It wasn’t pretty at times but we were grinding out results in games that caused us problems last season – Hearts, Dundee United, St. Mirren – and all this despite very few stand-out players. It was all solidly brilliant right up until we lost the last game of the calendar year at Celtic Park 4-0. They had five shots on target too which is starting to become an alarmingly regular thing too. We’re still second though after our run of 11 straight wins.

We’re still in both cup competitions too. Clyde were dispatched easily in the Fourth Round of the Scottish Cup which earned us a tie at Celtic Park in the next round. In the League Cup we’re into the semi finals with relative ease where we’ve drawn Hearts. Interestingly, Celtic fell by the wayside which leaves us as the favourites meaning that I’ll be disappointed if we don’t win.

In transfer news, the one deal that I mentioned I was working on was to bring in Belarus international Alexandr Klimovich and it was successful. At 21, he is already outstanding and provides more midfield depth. On the outs was young striker John Easton who prompted Liverpool to agree to my £2.5 million asking price. Youngster Kevin Cowie also left the club permanently to join Ross County for £10,000. Cowie was a decent young player and had a little potential but he was simply not good enough for Rangers and is away to carve out a mid-table SPL career. Robbie Crawford is also gone, with League 1 side Wycombe taking him off our hands for nothing. It’s sad to see him go but we’ve upgraded and moved on and that’s the sad reality of sport sometimes. We’ve also got another new player for nothing too – Cesar Armando Hernandez, a Mexican full back playing in the MLS was out of contract and my scouts rate him very highly so I nabbed him on a pre-contract and he has just arrived. Plus, anyone remember Jamie Moore from the FM Story on this save, the regen I sold to Chelsea for £5 million? He’s on loan… at Celtic. Traitor.

A good first half of the season...

A good first half of the season…

Strangely, I’ve found myself in the running (according to the media) for a number of jobs at some quite high-profile clubs. Both Everton and Inter sacked their manager early in the season and I was amongst the frontrunners for both jobs but never got invited to an interview while the media said I was favourite for the vacant Toulouse job and Lille actually interviewed me and offered me the job but I turned it down (I do have a second file where I will accept). It does seem that my personal reputation is growing within football which is always a good sign that you’re doing a good job. Winning all of the Manager of the Months bar August’s is also a good sign.

The managerial merry-go-round was in full swing too during the season’s opening. Hearts sacked Paul Hartley in November as they sat bottom of the table and replaced him with Grant Murray while Hibernian lost Scott Leitch to Fulham and replaced him with St. Mirren’s Danny Lennon. The Buddies hired Steve McLaren (yeah, the ex-England boss) who had funnily enough been sacked by Fulham. Even better was the fact this wasn’t the most shocking move. Athletic Bilbao sacked Marco van Basten and decided to replace him with none other than Celtic boss Neil Lennon. Celtic got Rangers legend Stuart McCall to replace him too. This game is something else.

January 1st also saw some other awards announced. Erik Lamela of Manchester United  won the World Golden Ball while Eden Hazard was named World Player of the Year. Youri Tielemans of Monaco was named World Golden Boy for his performances in France.

From a personal view, performances haven’t been outstanding but this side has ground out some pretty impressive wins and is perhaps the best side I’ve had at Rangers. The board gave me a three year extension too meaning that there is belief in me throughout the club which is nice. I have concerns defensively as we have conceded too many for my liking while up front the goals haven’t exactly flowed for our front men. In fact, Guyon Philips has had a nightmare season (3 in 23) while Ben Craig has started to impress despite his youth and inconsistency (he’s on 8 in 28). Goals haven’t been an issue but they have been spread pretty evenly across the squad. Our top scorer is Nicolas Gaitan with 12 and he’s been superb this season, a wonderful buy. Jordy Clasie has not been amazing but he’s done a job while Nicolae Pusca and Alexandr Klimovich have made reasonable starts for youngsters in a new league. There’s plenty to be excited about with some youngsters stepping up recently too – Andy Gilmour is getting more and more game time ahead of Cammy Bell, Ismael Bouzar is nearly first choice centre back and Jamie Mills is practically ahead of Lee Wallace in the pecking order now too. It’s been mostly positive and I’m looking forward to the rest of this season.

Hopefully you do too…

This year's ins and outs

FM Career #1 – The Rangers Story Continued…

Continuing on from the Football Manager of Rangers’ rise back into the upper echelons of Scottish football (which can be read here), where do the Gers go from where we left off…

If you want to know how we got to this point then look back at the FM Story that was done on this save (link above). Anyway, season five ended meekly. We struggled into second place and the Champions League qualifiers after some really sketchy league form in the home stretch that included a 3-0 pasting by Celtic at Ibrox. Our old rivals also managed to knock us out of the Scottish Cup in the quarter finals too despite Guyon Philips’ best efforts. Europe was our one bright point as we reached the quarter finals of the Euro Cup (again), hammering Galatasaray and sneaking past a really talented Swansea side, before losing by the odd goal in seven against Milan. We did manage a battling 2-2 draw in the San Siro and should really have won it late on but alas it was not to be.

The final league table. Celtic slightly ran away with it in the end

The final league table. Celtic slightly ran away with it in the end

Transfer wise, January saw us do little but it did see a few notable names leave not least my star man in midfield Jordan Hammill. With his contract running into it’s last eighteen months and the player keen to move, I had to cash. The best I could get was £2 million from Norwich and Aston Villa and Hammill chose East Anglia over Birmingham. Chris Hegarty was also sold down south as Ipswich came out of nowhere with £825,000 and Hegarty was off. I also managed to fall out with Geoffrey Mujangi Bia because he was crap and he didn’t think so. My efforts to sell proved fruitless but Saudi side Al-Ahli decided in April to loan him from me, paying £220,000 for the “privilege” as well as the majority of his large wages and having the option to buy him for close to £1 million. I guess money doesn’t buy sense.

The end of the fifth season caused me to re-evaluate everything about my squad and I had a number of tough choices to make regarding player movements. I had two big players coming in on pre-contracts – Jordy Clasie from Feyenoord and Nicolas Gaitan from Benfica – but my squad was brimming with quality and I had to cut it down quickly. So, the underperforming players were deemed dispensable. David Templeton played poorly more than he did well so he was the first to be offered out but thus there have been no takers. Robbie Crawford is a hard working guy that I’ve loved from the start but it was time for an upgrade but he’s been unable to attract a buyer too. One man who did was Andy Little, the man who fired me up the leagues. Hibernian wanted Little on loan and gave me £115,000 for him. I’m still paying his wages and there’s no purchase option on their end but it was good to get him out the door. Youngsters that failed to make the grade included big names such as Darren Ramsay, Ryan Hardie, Andy McKinnon, Tom Walsh, Derek Wilson, Davids Martin and Harris and many more. Steven Bonar went down south to Watford for nothing because Bobby Smith is better while Mark Gordon and Tom Forbes were allowed to join Aberdeen and St. Mirren respectively for nothing. Shock transfer of the summer was Manchester City signing Liam Kelly for £55,000 to sit on the bench while I raided Sheriff Tiraspol of Moldova for their 20 year old Moldovan international midfielder Nicolae Pusca. He had an utterly outrageous rating last season that suggested he was far above the Moldovan league and Sheriff sold me him for £325,000 which was less than what they paid for him. Superb business all round there. There is also another deal in the pipeline but I can’t say too much right now…

This year's ins and outs

This year’s ins and outs (not pictured: the tears of the released youngsters)

Pre-season was the usual batch of meaningless games I let my assistant deal with. We won three, drew with Clyde and lost to Mainz in a “who cares?” set of games. Champions League qualifiers are up first and we’re in the Best Placed Third Qualifying Round which is the pits. We drew Besiktas (the toughest team of the lot) and are currently 2-0 up after winning in Turkey (Andy Murdoch and Saidy Janko scored). Not the best thing to go through though – teams like Manchester United and Shakhtar Donetsk await us in the Playoffs.

I’ll see you all at the start of January. Hopefully, my laptop doesn’t give me the blue screen of death anytime between now and then.