First Summer (Episode 14.5: Shep – Mangerial Globetrotter)

Now this man is debatably a footballing icon. He has done everything.

June 13th

It’s been a week since that last gasp goal put my dreams of a first season final to bed. Atletico Nacional did make me smile as they beat Junior 3-1 on aggregate to claim their 17th Primera A title. Even though we ran Junior close, Nacional would have been a harder opponent in my opinion and it’s hard to argue that they aren’t deserved winners. Congrats Nacional.

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Everybody has been given three weeks off. Players, staff, assistant managers. I won’t see them all on the training ground again until the 1st of July. We’ve had a squad meal last night and Ricky comes round every few days for a bit of company but apart from that, I’m my own best company. I’ve even booked myself a short holiday in Cuba for four days next week because this manager stuff is stressful and I deserve a treat.

June 26th

Our first incoming bid of what’s going to be a hectic summer window came in today. Japanese side called Jubilo Iwata playing in the J1 League bid just under £1’500’000 for Neumann. It’s obviously swiftly declined as he’s going to play a huge part in this side next season and develop even further. Andreas just turned 18 while I was on holiday and now he’s independent and isn’t forced to lodge with a family, he asked me to come apartment hunting with him.

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We spent most of the day looking all over the 10 mile vicinity of the stadium before I realised it was right under our noses the whole time. A lovely little Piso 7 flat has been up for rent for a couple weeks. Andreas and me are going to be building buddies. Suck on that, Iwata. I-what-a shame you couldn’t convince him to move. I’ve got to write that one down for when I see Ricky.

July 1st

The first day of the summer transfer window was a beauty. An absolute home run of a day. Perez and Jimenez moved on to pastures new in Germany and Chile retrospectively which loaded our bank balance up. Me and Alvarez finally agree on something: that this team we have right now doesn’t need much tweaking. But the main aim is to prepare for when all these loanees start trickling out the club. So if we don’t need players until the end of the season and don’t have the money to buy any worthwhile additions now, what’s the next best thing to do? Bosman bloody ruling.

You may recall my mention of looking for former Premier League players and convincing them to join a competitive league one last time. No cashing in a big check in China, no sunny, celebrity lifestyle in the MLS. A gritty little challenge that Steve Morison has warmed to with ease. And with Rangel going back to Junior come the new year, we’ll need a quality striker to replace him.

Now when I think of players that I would have loved at Newcastle United in recent years, this guy is up there. Jose Jaimes isn’t gonna be the only 6’4 player in Bucaramanga as we’ve agreed a deal for ex-Southampton striker Graziano Pellè to link up with us in January. He’s agreed to only £15’000 as he wants to be out of the CSL so much and wants a new experience. Well that’s the reason he gives but he’s made about 27 million quid since he joined Shandong in 2016 so money probably isn’t his concern now. However, he does seems really excited about being challenged week in, week out again and I have to admit that I can’t wait to get him into my team. He’ll sign until the end of 2020 by which time he’ll be 35 years old and I imagine he’ll be thinking about retiring. He’ll also get £75’000 as a welcoming present come January 1st which will be just enough to classify as walking around money. But, all of the little details aside. I think this might be the signing of my career. Already.

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July 9th

Mojica came to me in training today and asked where he stands now Perez has gone. I was honest with him and said that I haven’t seen enough from him to impress me. That’s partly down to my reluctance to play him but with Neumann, Salazar and Nunez, it’s hard to fit him in. We’ll have a busy August though where we’ll play eight or nine games so he’ll get a start or two there.

July 13th

Friday the 13th. Spookiest day of the year behind Halloween. It’s a load of rubbish to me but the thought of my players getting swept away from under my feet in a similar way to Pellè? That’s scary. Hence, I spent all day sorting out new deals and contracts for who I felt fit and it was a productive day if I do say so myself. Details below:

New Deals until 31st Dec 2020:

  • James Aguirre (No wage increase and a £7’500 signing on bonus)
  • Harold Gomez (£20 a week wage increase, £6’500 signing on bonus and £3’600 for 10 appearances)
  • Yuber Asprilla (No wage increase, £6’000 signing on bonus and £5’000 for 10 appearances)
  • Jose Jaimes (No wage increase and £7’000 signing on bonus. Release clause removed from contract)

New Deals until 31st Dec 2021:

  • Jeferson Torres (No wage increase, £6’000 signing on bonus. Release clause raised from £530’000 to £1’150’000)

All of those deals not only stop any outgoing transfers I don’t agree with from happening but they make me notice how keen my players are to stay here, under my management. Only one of those players asked for a higher wage and even then, it was a measly £20 increase to round his salary up to an even amount. Yes, they all got bonuses but considering they know that almost £1’000’000 is available, they could have pushed for much higher amounts. I must be doing something right. I guess signing a top notch striker for next season helps too.

July 14th

I’m in disbelief. Following the coup of Graziano Pellé, I decided to have a look into some of the other big names that were plying their trade in China. Demba Ba is deciding to retire there at the end of the season, ex-Inter midfielder Fredy Guarin is entering the last six months of his contract too but he quite snobbishly refuses to negotiate with us. I thought bringing him back to his homeland would be an appealing offer for him but obviously not. But, when I get in touch about another veteran South American midfielder, I didn’t expect a response.

Now this man is debatably a footballing icon. He has done everything. Argentine Primera A and Brasileiro Serie A winner, over 200 appearances for one of the biggest football teams in the world. Two Champions Leagues, a World Cup runner up! I could honestly go on and on because his cabinet is almost neverending but I’ll stop. Javier bloody Mascherano will be a Bucaramanga player next year.

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This deal will shine a blinding light on Bucaramanga and sell a lot of shirts which is always good. His preferred number 14 will even be vacant with Salazar returning to Santa Fe at the end of the season. I feel like we lack a bit of aggression and fire in our side and Javier will do that. He’ll bring a vast wealth of knowledge to the training ground, he’s a player for the likes of Neumann and Jaimes to look up to. Plus, he gets to tick Colombia of his South American career bucket list before hanging up his boots. Bayern Munich might have just splashed out £67’000’000 for Ivan Perisic but this signing is the one turning heads here in Colombia.

26th of July

Mojica has annoyed me. He’s been poor in training and not exactly upped a level since our talk a few weeks ago but he’s still asking for confirmation of game time. Out of frustration, I decide I want him out. It’d only cost me £16’000 to pay him back to Deportivo Cali but we need a replacement lined up before pushing him out the door. I strike a deal with German giants Borussia Dortmund to take 17 year old Spaniard Sergio Gomez on a year long loan. He’s tipped to be one of the best play-makers in the world in the next 10 years so playing a part in his early development is beneficial for both ourselves and Dortmund.

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We agree on a 45/55 wage split but it’s up to Sergio if he wants to join us until next summer. I think he’d be a great little player Dortmund would want getting experience in a competitive league.

27th of July

Sergio turned us down. He didn’t want to leave Europe and be so far from home which is understandable for a lad who can’t even buy a pint yet. However, I thought with Neumann thriving for us, he might be persuaded to take the leap and experience something new.

Alas, there’s much bigger news in the transfer market today as Mauro Icardi joins Liverpool’s array of attacking quality for £81’900’000. You think the extra £100’000 wouldn’t make a difference but I suppose that’s a whole two thirds of his weekly wage. Mane, Salah, Firmino, Shaqiri and now Icardi. I can’t help but picture the impact just one of those would make on the Primera A. A man can dream.

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30th of July

Our first game of the Clausura is just five days away. This summer has flew by. I still want another attacking midfield option to replace potentially homebound Mojica and Eugenio Villalba has found me one. Eugenio has been in Germany over the summer after advising me that 95% of his options in Argentina were vetoed by yours truly and recommended 19 year old Linton Maina from Hannover. Good with the ball, bit of pace about him and plenty of room to improve so he fits the bill. We shook hands on a 40/60 wage split (around £2’400 for us) with Linton deciding whether he wants to join us for the next two years.

31st of July

He doesn’t.

1st of August

Three short days until we host Petrolera and we still haven’t got a deal sorted. Our Bolivian over in Europe has one last option for me in Tashreeq Matthews, a South African playing for the Dortmund reserves. I got in touch with Lucian Favre again and another year long loan is agreed but I’m not holding my breath.

Mexican side Nexeca contacted me to bid £520’000 for Aguirre but it was turned down quickly. He’s one of the last players we can afford to lose right now.

2nd of August

Tashreeq doesn’t join, shock horror. What is it with all these stuck up, European club reserves? In the infamous words of Man United fans everywhere, he’s shite and I didn’t want him anyway. I think the pursuit of a new midfielder is gonna have to stop for now. I should be able to buy one with the funds Alvarez gives me at the start of next season so it’s probably better to wait and splash the cash on a big signing come January.

Looking back at Europe, Radamel Falcao has returned to Madrid in a controversial move to Los Blancos. Real coughed up £35’600’000 for him which is a lot of money for a 32 year old but I can see him fitting into that team nicely. I can imagine his first trip to the renovated Wanda Metropolitano will be a rough one.

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There’s been a lot more press sniffing around compared to the start of the Apetura and considering our first game is against relatively local rivals Alianza Petrolera, there’s been a conference. I gave some motivational words to my boys in front of the media in hopes of getting a fiery derby on Saturday and kicking off the Clasura in style.

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4th of August

Our youth scout Gallardo’s six month plan came to an end yesterday. While I was tempted to send him to Brazil, I keep him in Colombia but have advised him to focus on looking for playmakers specifically for the next nine months. Hopefully, we’ll find a gem in time for the start of next season to save some much needed funding for other areas of the squad. We have a whopping eight games in August but we don’t face any of the big teams like Millonarios, either Cali club or Apetura champions Atletico Nacional. I’m honestly expecting at least 14 points from these games as they are all winnable and we played some amazing football before the summer.

Let’s hope we pick up where we left off today.

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