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Aapo Virtanen: Don’t Look Back In Anger

Started on 6 November 2018 by Jack
Latest Reply on 5 September 2019 by Justice
Pohjanpalo is a national hero. Onto Croatia!

Aapo Virtanen has masterminded an unbelievable 2-1 victory over Croatia as Saku Ylatupa netted a brace in extra-time for Finland.

No person would have thought that Finland could even get through their European Championships group with the likes of Spain, Austria and Poland all present, but the miracle worker that is Aapo Virtanen has taken his home nation to the next level.

His team once again lined up in Virtanen's new defensive 5-1-3-1 formation that has been used only in this competition and only against arguably tougher opposition. Croatia went with a standard 4-2-3-1 formation.

In the 16th minute, Croatia had a goal ruled out by VAR due to Andrej Kramaric being offside from Vlasic's cross.

With Croatia completely dominating the fixture and their team constantly on the attack, Finland withstanded their bombardment for the entire 90 minutes before the referee called full time on normal time with a goalless draw, leading up to the extra-time period.

Straight away it took Finland one instant counter attack with Maximus Tainio leading the way down the right flank before playing a ball inside the box to Saku Ylatupa who smashed the ball home in the 92nd minute to give Finland a shock 1-0 lead very early in extra-time.

After half-time in extra-time, once again it was almost immediately after the break where Finland managed to double their lead over the 2018 World Cup runners-up. With a well-worked spell of passing beginning from within their own penalty area, one of Virtanen's Oulu old boys Oliver Antman supplied the assist for Finland's 2nd goal as he split the Croatia defence apart with one pass to Ylatupa who finished his one-on-one with ease.

With Finland 2-0 up heading into the additional time of one minute, after a poor defensive header away from a long ball by Croatia's goalkeeper, Maximus Tainio headed the ball into the path of Ante Rebic who glided past three more Finnish players before hammering the ball past Hradecky in what turned out to be a consolation goal for Croatia.

With the Finnish fans jubilant with a delightful extra-time performance from Saku Ylatupa, it was later announced that Finland would play the reigning world champions and their group stage rivals Spain in the semi-finals, with France vs England in the other semi-final.
Wow! What a run! Have faith you can see off Spain, especially with this new formation that seems to be doing wonders!
Yet another huge, memorable victory for the nation of Finland. Spain will be a tricky hurdle to overcome, but if you want to win the World Cup, you have to beat the best. It will be a huge accomplishment to have got this far, regardless.
Tremendous stuff, Jack. Finland are on the cusp of greatness. Regardless off the outcome, i think Aapo can get away with anything now ;)
Right, another host of updates to read through!

Congrats on securing Champions League football with Fiorentina! You had a massive task to complete when you arrived mid-season and you have more than come out on top!

As for the Finnish journey, when will their Euro run Finnish? Now, go put the PAIN in SPAIN!

The reigning world champions Spain have come to an embarrassing collapse in the European Championships semi-finals as Aapo Virtanen leads his Finland team to the most unbelievable lengths imaginable as they go to the EURO 2024 Final on 14th July.

According to the latest world rankings by FIFA, Finland entered the game as the 69th-best international team, meanwhile Spain occupied the 4th spot. Spain lost their World Cup-winning manager Marcelino last year to Juventus and brought in former Real Sociedad manager Doménec Torrent as their national head coach after achieving a 6th place finish with his team in 2022.

The match took place at Borussia Dortmund’s Signal Iduna Park - home of the famous ‘Yellow Wall’ - and according to television statistics, 5.5 million people from Finland tuned into the fixture, which is 88% of the Finnish population as they prepared to witness the biggest fixture in their national sides history.

Coming up against global stars such as David De Gea, Koke, Saúl, Dani Ceballos and Isco, Finland knew they were in for a tough fixture, with eight out of their starting eleven playing in the domestic league, Veikkausliiga for small clubs in comparison with some of Spain’s big global superclubs such as Real Madrid and Barcelona.

With Spain opening the first five minutes of the game with two shots on target at Lukasz Hradecky’s goal, the world was stunned when Isco lost the ball on the edge of Finland’s box, Tatu Tiihonen played it up to Robin Lod. AC Oulu’s Teemu Savolainen was spotted making a darting run in-between Jamur and Odriozola. The ball was played over the top, and with the oncoming David De Gea looking set to claim the ball in his own box, Savolainen, standing at 6 feet and 4 inches launched himself into the box before poking the ball to the left of David De Gea’s shocked pose.

The ball took three whole seconds to reach the goal-line from Savolainen’s boot from six yards out but it didn’t matter to Finnish fans gathered all over the country - they had already begun celebrating as soon as it left their number nine’s boot.

Videos emerged all over social media of Finns almost rioting in pubs and sports bars dotted all over the nation at 8:09PM, there were pile-ons, drinks spilled all over wooden floorboards and policemen being carried above heads of drunken partiers who were all too happy to be part of such historic celebrations.

All Finland had to do was hold out for the next 81 minutes of such an extent of Spanish attacking not seen since Medina Sidonia and the Spanish Armada in 1588.

Finns bit their nails all the way until 9:45PM, the tensions across the nation were unbearable for some, even if they did disguise it with a mask of alcohol.

With 95 minutes passed in-game and a barrage of Spanish attacks, including 32 shots by the Spaniards against the awe-inspiring Finnish defence of eleven players behind the ball, as demanded by Aapo Virtanen, the referee blew for full-time, and just one second after that an entire country went into euphoria. If there was one place you wanted to be last night, it was anywhere inside the Finnish border as fans and even those who have never seen a football in their life bursted into chants about their country, their manager and their players one after the others.

Finland have consistently defeated all odds against them in their first major international tournament in men’s football and now only England or France stand in their way of the most unpredictable tournament victory in international football.

The European Championships Final will take place on Sunday, 14th July between Finland and either England or France who play later tonight.

LFCFan: It certainly worked a treat!
Scott: There’s me thinking reaching the semi-final was enough!
SonOfAnarchy: He’s basically smashing every record in the book ;)
Justice: Achieving Champions League with Fiorentina when just six months ago even top-half football looked difficult was a great feeling :D I think I just did put the pain in Spain ;)

After just under two months of bids from the world’s most elite clubs, ACF Fiorentina have today confirmed that Emanuel Vignato will be joining Real Madrid for the 2024/25 La Liga campaign.

After a stunning season in Serie A last season under both Andrea Mandorlini and current Fiorentina boss Aapo Virtanen in which he scored 18 league goals and assisted 12 times, the right-winger switches Italy for Spain as Jorge Sampaoli signs the 23-year-old for a mind-blowing record sale of €70,000,000.

Only Federico Chiesa’s €60 million move to Arsenal in 2019 comes close to the magnitude that this deal presents today.

Vignato’s departure comes after weeks of speculation surrounding the Italian, with Chelsea, Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund and Juventus all inserting their own bids for the player. Vignato rejected a new contract worth around €90,000 per week at Artemio Franchi offered by Virtanen just after Fiorentina’s season ended and his refusal to sign caused waves of interest from Europe’s top divisions and even over in China.

Following the confirmation of the news, Gazzetto della Sport asked Virtanen for comment:
Virtanen: It’s obviously disappointing to see such a talented player leave, but this is a situation that I have dealt with countless times with my time at AC Oulu. I lost some of the most promising players in Europe, arguably, simply because they saw themselves as higher prospects than perhaps I or the club saw them. All I did then was negotiate the best deal possible for the club in return for the loss of a talented player. That’s all that has happened here with Emanuel. This is certainly far and beyond the biggest deal I have ever arranged personally alongside Carlos Freitas and the Fiorentina fans can rest assured that this money will be reinvested into bolstering the squad for next season when we appear in the Champions League!

After an expensive January transfer window for Virtanen at Fiorentina in which just under €60 million, this transfer will be welcome news to the directors who will see their winter investment in their new manager repaid. Champions League football this season will also be important to the clubs coffers.

Following the sale of Vignato, it is rumoured that Real Madrid Castilla’s Theo Fernandez is a target for Aapo Virtanen after Zidane’s son was recently placed on the transfer list at the Alfredo Di Stéfano stadium. Madrid’s “B” side is reportedly looking at just wanting a small fee for the 22-year-old midfielder so they can allow the French U21 international to properly progress his career.

Whatever happens from this moment on, it is for certain that the fans who are disgruntled at the sale of Vignato will be watching this transfer window very keenly to make sure that the Vignato funds are properly reinvested in the playing squad for Fiorentina’s first season in the Champions League since 2015.
The Finnish taking a note from England and causing alcohol infused riots. Good to see! Shame that you have had to sell Vignato but as Aapo said i am sure your history with Oulu will ensure you have a top level replacement sorted soon enough!
Congratulations on an astonishing achievement in taking Finland to the World Cup final - truly is fairytale stuff. Aapo continues to amaze me.

The departure of Vignato is a shame - but a good fee has been recouped and therefore it can be used to further increase the squad and allow Aapo to continue to implement his own ideas.

Hello and welcome everybody to this Sunday afternoon's big European Championships Final here at Berlin's Olympiastadion!

This tournament has been packed with thrills and shocks from start to finish, with the biggest shock so far being one of the finalists in today's game - Finland!

Aapo Virtanen led his Finland team to EURO 2024 here in Germany, but only just! Under the former manager Markku Kanerva, he left his national side role after seven years in charge and failed to automatically qualify for the competition. The mantle was passed to Virtanen - who had recently moved clubs to Fiorentina from Finnish champions AC Oulu - and against both the Republic of Ireland and Turkey, he dragged this side into the nations first ever major international tournament.

After qualifying, he prepared with warm-up friendlies versus Czech Republic and the European Championship hosts - Germany. In Group D, they scraped through only just with a win on the last group game against their opponents Austria with a goal from one of Virtanen's favoured personnel from his Oulu days Antti Huhtamaki.

In the 2nd round it was Joel Pohjanpalo who sent Finland into the quarter-finals with two penalties in one game against Czech Republic, who they played in a warm-up friendly. Their quarter-final went into extra-time against Croatia after the two sides went in goalless before Saku Ylatupa netted a double in extra-time, followed up by an Ante Rebic consolation for the losers.

However, in the semi-finals Finland met their toughest task yet as they faced the reigning world champions Spain. After losing to them in the group stages, Finland were worried that they were going to receive a similar fate in their semi-final. Thankfully for an early Teemu Savolainen and some tremendous defensive work all through the game, Finland have ended up in the final from scraping into the competition in the first place!

Unlike Finland, France were one of the early favourites to win the tournament. They showed their class in the group stages by not losing a single game and even included a highly entertaining 7-3 victory over Wales in which Kylian Mbappé netted a hat-trick - the first of the tournament.

The French had a much tougher route to the final than Finland though despite being the favourites. They beat Belgium, Italy and then England in the semi-finals to reach the Olympiastadion here today. Etienne Didot hopes to bag his first piece of international silverware for France since leaving Saint-Etienne one year ago to take over from Rudi Garcia.

We will look at the teams before we hand over to our commentary team this afternoon. France look set for a 4-4-1-1 meanwhile Finland go back to their defensive 5-1-2-2 which has seen them topple giants such as Croatia and Spain in recent ties:

1': Yes, thank you very much! Two very proven and trustworthy sides there. What France have in superior quality, Finland certainly have had in tactical nous with their new tactic set out by Aapo Virtanen throughout this summer after their win against Austria in the group stages. We're about to get kicked off here at the Berlin Olympiastadion in front of a packed crowd of blue and white. Kylian Mbappé has his foot on the ball and is waiting for the referee to get us started... And we're off! The EURO 2024 final begins now!

23': We've got a chance here for Finland now after the opening twenty minutes were predictably dominated by France in Finland's half. Here's Kairinen with a free-kick where a cross into the box looks like it's the best option despite it being fairly central on the pitch. Kairinen actually looks like he's going to fire the cross in rather than loop it... And he has, and Savolainen has beaten Upamecano... IT'S A GOAL FOR FINLAND!!! TEEMU SAVOLAINEN, ONE OF VIRTANEN'S OLD GUARD AT OULU HAS GIVEN FINLAND THE LEAD IN THE EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS FINAL! Unbelievable scenes here!!! It's 1-0 to Finland and Aapo Virtanen is working his magic once more! Incredible!

France 0 - 1 Finland (Savolainen 23)

33': France have a throw-in down the left side here as Hernández the left-back heads down to take it. He's thrown it to Thomas Lemar's feet who cuts inside and passes to Cuisance who has a lot of time given his proximity to the Finnish goal. Cuisance feeds it into Mbappé who has his back to goal, but everybody knows what that man can do when he's in this territory. He's had a go! Just wide of Hradecky's right post.

45+1': It looks like we are heading into half-time with Finland once again stunning the world in their first ever major international tournament. Teemu Savolainen has given them the lead from a header from a Kairinen free-kick. And that's the first 45 over! Great performance from Virtanen's men here.

France 0 - 1 Finland

46': The goalscorer and the pending Finnish hero Savolainen has the ball at his feet to kick us off for the second-half of what is becoming quite an exciting final!

69': In a rare Finnish attack, Nissinen has a throw-in inside the opposition half. Kairinen nods it towards Pohjanpalo who's on the edge of the box here. Ndombele glances it away but it's back at the feet of the original thrower Nissinen. He's passed it inside to Antti Huhtamaki who is in a definitely threatening position here, he's looking for options and he's tried to play Nissinen down the right flank... Intercepted by Antoine Griezmann and France look set for a counter-attack here. It's fired up to Mbappé who is isolated up top there. The striker has gone out left with Nurmi closely tracking him... And that's a marvellous pass by Mbappé to Ousmane Dembélé who is in acres on the right and he looks set to travel into the box here... He's one-on-one... GOAL!!! FRANCE HAVE FINALLY EQUALISED!!! OUSMANE DEMBÉLÉ IS THE MAN WHO HAS BROUGHT IT BACK FOR FRANCE!!! IT'S ALL SQUARE GOING INTO THE FINAL TWENTY MINUTES!

(Dembélé 69) France 1 - 1 Finland

84': Nissinen has a throw on the right flank near the halfway line here for Finland. Simon Skrabb is dispossessed by Ndombele who has had a great game in the centre for France this afternoon. Griezmann is on the ball and he keeps dribbling, there's space once again on the right for Dembélé - surprising after the first goal! He's tried playing it forward but it's headed away by Noah Nurmi, straight back to Nabil Fekir in the centre. Fekir is pushed out wide by Niemi, but he's still going to get a cross in to the far post here... Griezmann's unmarked and he's chested it down... IT'S A GOAL FOR FRANCE!!! ANTOINE GRIEZMANN HAS SCORED WHAT COULD VERY WELL BE THE WINNER FOR FRANCE, SIX MINUTES FROM TIME! The blue half of the Olympiastadion is in raptures as Griezmann is mobbed by players, substitutes and coaches alike! He might just have scored the winner here as Finland's players collapse to the floor in despair!

(Griezmann 84) France 2 - 1 Finland

90+6': The initial added time of five minutes is up as France have a throw-in. They're surely going to take their time here as they are just seconds away from an international trophy here. Sidibé walks over to the ball slowly and looks down the line. Sidibé throws it towards Fekir who lets the ball run past him despite its regular pace... And that's time!!! France are the EURO 2024 winners!!! The favourites have done it in what has been a remarkable fixture today! Griezmann scored the winner in the 84th minute and he is being mobbed by his teammates once more!

Finland, meanwhile are on the ground. Some have their heads buried into the Berlin grass. Some sitting up, looking up at the sky. Aapo Virtanen is smiling though, he knows how far beyond expectations he has taken this side - we all do. He's going round to all of his players, making sure every one of them is OK after such a gut-wrenching turnaround in favour of France. Antti Huhtamaki hugs his old AC Oulu boss in acknowledgement of yet another achievement that they have done together. Nobody expected this from Finland, and yet they are distraught. They have been an absolute pleasure to watch and on another day, who knows? They could have been the champions of Europe...

France 2 - 1 Finland

LFCFan: Nobody parties better than the Finnish my friend ;) I had to lose Vignato or face backlash within the squad and from Vignato himself. I hope he was just a one-season wonder so I can feel better about selling him, but we'll have to see.
Gutted! Unlucky mate! Amazing to get so far, hopefully World Cup 2026 you can go one further!
Not the best of ways to Finnish the tournament but you can take great pride in getting the Oulu way to the final. Next time you'll win it.
A bitter-sweet end to it all, however Finland and Aapo have overachieved by far. That French side had far too much quality, it seemed, and therefore there is no disappointment in losing to them. Finland will come back stronger one day and take it all.

As we edge closer and closer towards the new season following the summer of the European Championships, we have finished our transfer business and are ready to approach the 2024/25 season.

The first arrival of the summer came in the form of a loan deal until the end of the season with Bayern Munich’s Italian defender Nicoló Armini joining us until the end of the season to cover a void left behind in the defensive positions.

Armini started out his career with SS Lazio before making his first-team debut at the end of the 2019/20 season. Loans to Chievo (Serie B ) and Frosinone (Serie A, 37 appearances) were largely successful before he fully established himself with his parent club in the 2022/23 season. This earned him a move at 21 years old over to Germany where he joined the then-reigning Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich for €30million. After only eight league appearances in two seasons for Bayern Munich, he took on an unsuccessful loan move to AC Milan, who despite winning the league, never made a Serie A appearance. He joins us this season for a second consecutive loan spell in Serie A.

Our second signature of the summer was a permanent move as English left-back Lewis Gibson flies across the continent from Merseyside to join us at Artemio Franchi for the 2024/25 season.

Starting out his career at Newcastle in the academy, upon signing a professional deal with them, Everton quickly snapped the defender up in 2017/18 for a hefty €4.6million. Loans to League One sides Burton Albion and Swansea City followed in which Gibson took on a lot of game time before returning to Goodison Park in 2020 to make his Premier League debut. In the two seasons at Goodison Park, Gibson made 10 league appearances before another series of loans to Championship sides Fulham, Aston Villa and most recently, Stoke City. With 180 competitive league games to his name, Everton transfer listed Gibson this summer which I took the opportunity to swoop in for the left-back for €4.2million.

Davide Bettella of Atalanta became our third and - by that point - the most expensive signature of the summer as he joined us for a fee of €14million, which was his release clause at Stadio di Bergamo.

After starting his career at Internazionale, competition ruled him out of any first team action as Bettella forced a move to Atalanta back in 2017. He spent two consecutive seasons in Serie B on loan to Cittadella and Bologna between 2019 and 2021 before returning to Atalanta and becoming a first-team regular in the 2021/22 campaign in which he made 27 Serie A appearances. After three seasons of regular football at Atalanta, the club’s poor finish last season as they narrowly avoided relegation to Serie B caused us to pick up the unhappy defender for a cut-price deal of only €14million.

Our most expensive signing came after Bettella’s signing as sc Heerenveen’s talented young winger Andy Frankel joined us for a huge fee of €21.5M (rising to €31M dependent on clauses). Frankel came as a result of the Emanuel Vignato sale boosted our budget, meaning we could meet Heerenveen’s pricey valuation of the right-winger to replace the Santiago Bernabeu-bound Vignato.

Despite only making his first-team debut in the Eredivisie last season, Frankel was hugely impressive in the game he played as he created five goals in 13 outings in the Dutch top division as Heerenveen finished 6th in their division last season.

It simply wouldn’t be an Aapo Virtanen transfer window at Fiorentina if we didn’t bring back a member of the AC Oulu old-guard. Wilson Gutiérrez joins both Rostislav Hora and Nikola Boskovic as the third member of Virtanen’s old team to make the move from Raatti Stadion to Artemio Franchi. The Colombian attacking-midfielder joins for a fee of €1.4million (his release clause) and signs on until June 2029.

After beginning his career with Liga Postobón side Atlético Nacional, he spent three seasons as a professional player there before Virtanen snapped up Gutiérrez for €1million in 2023. Across two seasons with AC Oulu, he made 30 appearances in all competitions - including Oulu’s historic Champions League run in 2024.

In perhaps one of the most high-profile movement of the summer, it was Leicester City’s James Maddison who joins us on a free transfer. With such a good bargain came bad news however, as Maddison only became available once we had already signed two non-EU players in Lewis Gibson and Wilson Gutiérrez (blame Brexit). This means that Maddison is ineligible to play for us until next season and because of this, he has been loaned out to Eredevisie’s Feyenoord for the 2024/25 season.

Starting out at Coventry City in 2013, Maddison became noticed by Norwich City who snapped up the budding English star who had been making waves in League One. It was in the 2017/18 season after his loan to Aberdeen when Maddison got his big break, though. After 14 goals in 44 league appearances from midfield at Carrow Road, Premier League Leicester City forked out €24million for the attacking-midfielder in 2018. After 77 appearances for Leicester in the Premier League and two loan spells at Mainz 05 and Southampton, terms of a new contract were not agreed between Maddison and Leicester boss John Coleman and he left at the end of his contract to come to Fiorentina and then loaned out to Feyenoord.

Joining hours after Maddison, we arranged a deal for another non-EU player who cannot be registered for the league campaign until next season. Daniel Zapata joined us for an initial fee of €9.5M (rising to €12.5M dependent on performance clauses) from Argentinian giants River Plate.

Leonardo Venturelli was the next to join us at Fiorentina as his boyhood club Genoa were relegated to Serie B last season after finishing 20th in Serie A. This made his relegation release clause become active and luckily we were able to get in before any other Italian side to sign the 22-year-old right-back.

Venturelli made his professional debut on loan with Cosenza Calcio in Serie B in 2020/21 in a season where he made 35 league appearances for his loan side as Cosenza reached 9th place that season. Whilst he was on loan to Cosenza, his parent club Genoa were promoted to Serie A once again and he became an integral part of their starting eleven in the club’s first season back in the top-flight. From there, Genoa have become a yo-yo club as they were relegated to Serie B once again in 2021/22, before winning promotion again the season after, before once again being relegated last season. After 81 appearances for Genoa, Venturelli became unsettled by the instability of the club’s league position and after contract negotiations, we signed him for €14.75million - his release clause.

After being transfer listed just this summer, Zinedine Zidane’s youngest son - Theo - joins us at Fiorentina for a bargain price of €300K from Real Madrid’s “B”team, Castilla.

With his father’s influence and help from becoming a club legend at Santiago Bernabeu during his playing and managerial days, Theo became involved in the Real Madrid youth system like his other three brothers had. Theo never made any impact up until the 2021/22 season when he bursted into the Castilla side and became a regular in La Liga 2, making 41 appearances and assisting 9 times, scoring 2 goals. Despite relegation, Theo improved his form further with 16 assists and 6 goals in 31 appearances before a loan move to La Liga 2 outfit Deportivo La Coruna. Theo proved once again his quality outside Real Madrid with 13 assists and 3 goals in 42 appearances for Deportivo La Coruna in 2023/24.

With Davide Merola as our only main goalscoring outlet from January last season, I thought it was about time I invested in another striker to challenge the outstanding goal record of Merola from last season. Alberto Cerri became the main target for our competition as striker as he joined for a fee of €7million from Serie B’s Bologna.

Arising from Parma’s academy system, Cerri joined Juventus on a free transfer in 2015 but his playing time at such a strong club was always going to be difficult. A series of loans followed for Cerri, involving the likes of Cagliari, SPAL 2013 and Pescara. However, it was Cerri’s two loan at Perugia in Serie B (33 apps, 15 goals) and Cagliari in Serie A (33 apps, 10 goals) that his talent became finally acknowledged, although not by Juventus who let his contract expire in 2020. He joined Serie B side Bologna on a free transfer in 2020 and shone in his first season, scoring 18 goals in 36 appearances as he guided his side back into Serie A that season. His season in Serie A was not as good as Bologna were sent back down, but for the two consecutive seasons Cerri has spent in Serie B, he has been nothing short of sensational. Every single season he has been with Bologna in Serie B, he has won the divisional top goalscorer award as he has scored 55 goals in 104 games with Bologna in Serie B. However, a third consecutive season in Serie B with Bologna was not how Cerri wanted his career to be like and they received €7million for Cerri’s services.

With Koen Casteels placed on the transfer list to get rid of his hefty wage, we brought in Stefano Gori to become our new back-up keeper to Nikola Boskovic for the new season.

Despite never playing in Serie A even though he had spells at Brescia and Milan, Gori has been fantastic for Pisa Calcio in the Italian third division. Joining in 2018 from FC Bari, Gori has managed to keep 77 clean sheets and concede only 187 goals in the 210 appearances at Pisa. Although he has very limited experience at this level of football, he is a great shot-stopper and on a comparatively much smaller wage than Casteels, Gori seems a good investment.

Moving onto our final arrival of, in my opinion, a very successful window, we signed French teenager Mamadou Kanté for a fee of €4million from Ligue 1 side Stade Rennais.

Kanté came through the academy ranks at Stade Rennais and made his full Ligue 1 debut at the club at just 15 years of age. Last season as a 16/17 year old, Kanté became much more involved in the first-team despite his youth as he made 19 appearances in all competitions. Before this, Kanté was massively impressing in the youth and reserve teams at Stade Rennais, with 74 goals and assists in 112 non-competitive appearances in the reserve level at the club.

In total, our transfer spend this summer was €77million - just €7million more than the fee we sold Vignato to Real Madrid for.

Moving onto our departures, the first to leave the club was in fact our 20-year-old midfielder Corentin Sanchez who moved to to EFL Championship side Aston Villa for a fee of €2.1M (rising to €3.2M).

Jacob Christensen and Miguel Borja followed Sanchez out of the door for a combined fee of €16million as they joined Olympique de Marseille and Sporting CP respectively.

The fourth departure became the transfer that tipped our transfer window on its head as following a huge scrap between Europe’s biggest clubs, Real Madrid got their hands on our winger Emanuel Vignato for a record sale of exactly €70million, which allowed me a free reign in the transfer market with so much money added to the budget.

Lucas Silva was signed up by fellow Serie A side Sassuolo for a fee of €3.6million, meanwhile our Czech striker Martin Graiciar was signed by Foggia for a fee of just under a million euros.

Jordan Veretout, returning from his successful loan spell at Torino last season was bought permanently by his loaning team for a fee of €5million, after Torino had paid €2.3million the season before the take the Frenchman on loan for the season.

Romanian centre-back Eduard Dutu moved back to his home country as Liga I side Dinamo Bucharest signed up the defender for little over €500K.

In our second-most expensive departure, our 29-year-old Italian midfielder Marco Benassi, who had been at the club for six years was sold to fellow Champions League outfit Napoli in a transfer worth €16.5million.

Two of our youth players in Luigi Giorgi and Leonardo Angelini were both sold to Milan and Salernitana Calcio respectively for fees that could rise above €1.5million.

Following the knowledge that James Maddison could not be registered for the upcoming season after joining on a free transfer from Leicester, the €28M-valued attacking-midfielder moved on loan for the season to another reasonably large European club in the form of Feyenoord in the Netherlands.

Koen Casteels rounded off our transfer window in terms of departures as following the signature of Pisa Calcio Stefano Gori on a free transfer, Casteels became third-choice goalkeeper at the club. With Super Lig runners-up SK Galatasaray coming in with an offer of €4million, the offer was immediately accepted and Casteels joins the Turkish side.

In total, we made €120million in player sales this summer which has funded the overhaul of the first-team and improved the club finances significantly.

LFCFan: Really gutted I couldn’t pull off one last miracle this tournament, but I’ll take 2nd place… Bring on 2026!
Justice: My return to Finnish football has only enhanced my reputation in the nation, that’s for sure.
Scott: We certainly massively overachieved by even qualifying, never mind getting to the brink of winning the thing! We had the tactics, but it was ultimately overpowered by France’s pure quality in players, but it took them long enough to be in charge!

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