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Rio Ave - Road to Primeira Liga Champions

Year 1 in my attempt to get lowly Rio Ave to win the league with only teenagers as new signings.
Started on 21 July 2019 by DesmondTheCat / First Post
Latest Reply on 29 July 2019 by TheLFCFan / Last Post
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Welcome all - my name is Desmond, and for the first time in my long career as a dedicated FM player, I have decided to create a story. My plan was to take over Rio Ave and create a long legacy as the dominant team in Portugal. I picked them as I wanted to be a team that will destroy Porto, Benfica and Sporting, as they have won all but 2 titles in the history of the Primeira Liga.

I also was going to set a challenge for myself in another season in which I was to only sign teenagers, and decided I would do that here instead. I realised that this might be a good idea for a story, as this challenge may last a very long time due to the standing of my team against the "Big 3" and the quality of players I would be able to bring in. Unfortunately, being a fool, I realised this after I had completed a full season with this team, so here is a summary of how my season went, starting in July with my friendlies and Europa League qualifying rounds, all the way to where I am now.

Pre-season friendlies and transfers

Started the season with a very small budget of £200k and a wage bill of £68k per week, with only £3k available for new players. With that, I signed Gustav Isaksen from Midtjylland, who I am hoping may become a regular name in a couple of seasons time. Also signed were Stefan Dafovski and Andre Luiz on free transfers - both went into my under 19s team whilst Isaksen went into our under 23s, despite being the youngest of the trio.

Friendlies went well, losing to Monaco but winning against lower teams and also beating Krasnodar and Club Brugge, who were regarded as our equals when organising the friendlies. In total, we played 8 friendlies, of which we drew 1, lost 1 and won 6.

Primeira Liga

Started the season as 6th favourites for the title, with Vit. Guimaraes as 5th favourites - my opening day opponents. A dominant 5-0 win was followed by victories over 4th favourites Braga and lowly Santa Clara before the September international break. Unfortunately this is where things started to go downhill, with only 2 wins from my next 7, leaving me 5th after 10 games. Then December came and things went very well in all competitions (more on the cups later). 4 wins in 4 gave me my first Manager of the Month award, including a 3-2 win at home to leaders, and at that point unbeaten, Porto, despite being 2-0 down at half time. Another positive was the poor form of Sporting Lisbon, who after the turmoil that happened in the real life pre-season, had found themselves in midtable at the halfway point, whilst my Rio Ave took 3rd spot.

The new year did not carry on from the success of December, as i failed to win any league game in January. February improved with a 5-1 win away at Vit. Guimaraes, who must have been delighted that they didn't have to play me again after 2 demolitions. A fantastic league run started from that game where we didn't lose a single game between February and April, with 8 wins and 4 draws in those 12 league games.

May started with a defeat at already champions Porto, which followed by us consolidating 3rd spot with a win at home to Boavista. A draw and a defeat at Portimonense and Sporting completed a very successful league season where we finished 3 ahead of 4th but 18 behind 2nd placed Benfica. As a reward, we will go straight into the group stage of the Europa League next season without needing any qualifying rounds.

Europa League

Europa League campaign started at the end of July in the Best Placed 2nd Qualifying Round against Hacken. After comfortable wins in both legs, we were drawn against another Scandinavian side, Brondby, in the 3rd round. Despite being regarded as narrow outsiders for this tie, we went to the Brondby ground and put 7 past them in a hectic match in which it was only 2-0 at half time. This put us into the 4th and final qualifying round against Romanian side U Craiova. A pair of 2-0 wins were enough to put us into the Europa League group stage.

The draw for the groups were extremely unkind, as we were made to face Frankfurt, Besiktas and Milan due to our 4th seeding. Expecting a painful run, especially after a 3-0 home defeat to Frankfurt, we were surprised to win 4-2 away in Besiktas, after spending the vast majority of our game camped out inside our defensive third. A defeat in Milan was overturned with a 2-1 win at home to put us both level on 6 points with 2 games to go with only 1 space remaining to qualify for the knockout rounds due to Frankfurt winning all 4 and Besiktas losing all 4 at that point.

Another heavy defeat to Frankfurt was lifted by Milan failing to defeat Besiktas, leaving us again level with just 1 game to go. To continue our December form from the league, in the game of the season we came from behind to win 5-3 at home to Besiktas, and with Milan failing to win again, we finished in 2nd spot to go into the 1st knockout round of the Europa League for the first time in our history - this is where our run ends, however, as we were drawn against Chelsea, who defeated us by 1 goal in each leg. No complaints though, and hopefully we'll be drawn as 3rd seed next season.

Domestic Cups

Not much to say about the Taca de Portugal, except we were defeated on penalties in the first match we had by 2nd Division side Arouca. Poor performance in a poor run of form at that point, leaving us wonder what could have been.

The League Cup went much better, as a win in the 2nd Phase vs Mafra put us into the 3rd Phase which is a group stage for some reason. We were given another tricky group draw, as we had to face Moreirense, Nacional and Benfica. A defeat at Moreirense started the group, before a demolition of Nacional left us needing a win against Benfica to progress into the semi final stage. Our outstanding December form, which ended with 7 wins in 7 games in total, lead to us defeating Benfica 1-0 and putting us into the semi finals.

A nervy penalty shootout win over Braga in the semi finals put us into the final against Porto, where a 1-0 win meant we were able to lift our first trophy since the Segunda Liga title in 2003. This also meant we inflicted 2 defeats on Porto, who finished as title winners and Taca de Portugal winners - only Benfica were also able to defeat Porto in the domestic competitions, and they did so only after the title had already been decided.

All in all, a fantastic season, and we will start next season with a transfer budget of £3.56m and a weekly wage budget of £86k. One rather annoying blip is that due to the league coefficients of the Primeira Liga improving against the Russian Premier League, is that from next season, the 3rd placed team in Portugal will gain a Champions League qualifying spot....but only from the 3rd placed team next season, so we still have to play in the Europa League. We will see Rio Ave in the Champions League at some point - but not yet.

Top performers this season were striker Gelson Dala with 22 goals, with Galeno and Diego Lopes scoring 27 between them whilst also creating 23 goals from the wing positions. Also worthy of a mention were my outstanding defensive setup - goalkeeper Leo Jardim, protected by a mighty defence of Junio Rocha, Messias, Ruben Semedo and the legendary Fabio Coentrao. But anyone hoping of a repeat season might have to think again - of those 8 players above, only Coentrao and Lopes remain, as the other 6 return to their clubs on loan. And with none of them being teenagers anymore, we won't be trying to get them back.

Plenty of youth signings have come in, with Marvin (Real Madrid), Rui Rua (Academica) and Marko Bulat (Sibenik) as the most promising. From now on, I will try to update this monthly so there will be more detail but much fewer words hopefully. Plan next season is to finish in the Europa League spots, and hopefully we'll be able to replace the loanees that departed successfully enough to do that. Thanks for reading.
Welcome to FM Scout and the Stories section, first of all. Secondly, congratulations on a magnificent first season in charge at Rio Ave. You have already worked your way into the top three, toppling Sporting from their perch, which is a great achievement in your first season. Working your way through a difficult group and only narrowly losing against Chelsea - a side far greater than your own - continues to show some stellar work on the pitch. After such great work domestically and in Europe, you fully deserve to lift the League Cup, so well done on achieving that. Whilst it must be frustrating to not qualify for the UEFA Champions League, at least if you match - or even better your performance next season - you will find yourself in that spot. It seems breaking the dominance of Benfica and Porto will be a huge challenge given the gulf in points between yourself, but I'm looking forward to seeing the progression!
An interesting challenge that I look forward to seeing develop. The first year domestically is a great success with getting in to that 3rd spot, however, finishing 18 points behind Benfica certainly shows the challenge ahead. Again an impressive job to qualify from the Europa League group which saw some tough challenges, with Chelsea being that one step to much.

Looking forward to what you can do next season and I am excited to see how this story goes.
Evening all

Thanks for the feedback - it's nice to see that people have taken an interest in this story (however one deleted message hinted that I could be doing something better with my time - as they claimed they were making $13,000 a month working from home). I will try to keep this shorter than my previous post, as I will take this up to the first international window at the start of September.

I started the window as 6th favourite for the title, the same as last season, but with my odds going from 35/1 last season to 8/1 here. Seems the "pundits" are expecting a close season, but I feel the 18 point gap between 2nd and 3rd last season will not be closed quite so heavily this time around. Board have told me they are expecting a Europa League position this season, which is currently 4th to 6th, depending on eventual cup results. They have told me to reach the semi finals of both the Taca de Portugal and the League Cup, whilst also telling me that they do not expect to get through the Europa League group stage. All definitely achievable aims, but I'll definitely be trying my hardest to beat their Europa League expectations.


Transfers galore this summer - 24 players were signed, with a further 7 on trial awaiting their 18th birthdays before being able to sign contracts. 8 players departed on transfers, and a further 5 departing on loan for the season. Also departing were 6 players whose loans ended at the end of June and we will greatly miss all of them - we'd have not achieved so much if they were not around, and replacing them adequately was by far the most difficult task I had to do this summer.

Of the 24 transfers, only 7 were moved into the first team squad, with the remaining 17 (including Ryan Glover from Bournemouth and George Tanner from Man Utd) were moved into the under 23s, the under 19s, the B team, and the under 19s B team to aid their development - hopefully we will see these players in the first team in the coming seasons. Of the 7 that were signed for the first team, 2 were full transfers - striker Leo Chu from Gremio for £77k to be backup to my main striker (more on that later).

My other full transfer is Miguel Silvestre - a 16 year old regen from Vitoria Guimaraes for £500k. I signed him with the hope he will eventually become my first choice right winger in a couple of years - but what I didn't expect is that he would already be a Primeira Liga standard winger despite his young age, with my coaches of the opinion that there are only 2 players better at this point than him in my entire squad. With good speed, good determination and some very impressive technical skills - as someone who has played on the FM series for a very long time racking up tens of thousands of hours, I can honestly say that I have rarely seen a player as good as this for his age group. My hope is that I can keep hold of him long enough to profit well off his eventual departure as he is destined to go right to the very top.

5 incoming transfers were loan transfers, which I will try to sum up quite quickly, as I am sure many of you will be fully aware of most of these. Bayern Munich's Christian Fruchtl comes in as my first choice keeper - this proved to be my hardest spot to adequately fill, as I must have looked at at least 20 keepers before ending up with Frutchl. Also joining me from Bayern is striker Joshua Zirkzee, who has been a reliable penalty taker in pre-season, something which I lacked last season. Chelsea defenders Reece James and Ethan Ampadu joined as well - I had the 3rd best defence in the league last season and I am hoping these 2 go a long way to repeating that. My final loan signing is Shakhtar midfielder Marcos Bahia (more commonly known as Marcos Antonio) - he is regarded as my best player in both the central and defensive midfield positions despite being on the smaller side.


9 friendlies were arranged in total, winning 6 and drawing 3. The highlights were dominant wins over Schalke and River Plate. My idea behind having so many friendlies is to get everyone fit and ready for the competitive games - unfortunately this didn't quite occur. A dominant performance away at Moreirense finished goalless, and the following week I led Vitoria Guimareas 2-0 at half time, only for my concentration to slip and to draw 2-2 late on. Things improved after that, with a comfortable 2-0 win at home to Feirense and a narrow 1-0 defeat away at holders Porto, in which I matched their performance and only eventually conceded in the 85th minute thanks to a slightly dubious penalty call. Stuck in midtable after only 4 games isn't great, but there is still plenty of time to make amends.

Cup draws

The end of August brought the Europa League and League Cup group draws, with the Taca de Portugal draw still a month away. Due to my high league finish, I was seeded 1st in the League Cup draw, where I face Belenenses, Estoril and Segunda Liga side Academico de Viseu - definitely a favourable draw and a failure to get through would be disappointing.

Despite my run to the knockout stage last season, I was still drawn as a 4th seed in the Europa League group stage, where I will face CSKA Moscow, PSV Eindhoven, and FC Steaua Bucharest. On paper, far easier than last season, but far from being easy - topping the group might be ambitious but I don't think is beyond our capabilities.

Next update will be after we reach the October international break - Sporting, Braga, PSV and Steaua Bucharest amongst our hardest games - we will see the Taca de Portugal draw during that time too. Hopefully we will be able to find ourselves rising up the table and getting a win or 2 in the cups. From now on, updates will be more frequent and hopefully much shorter. Thanks for reading.
Interesting to see the large amount of players coming in, but hopefully the youngsters all develop how you want them to. Miguel Silvestre sounds an interesting prospect and seems a player you could potentially give some game time so early in his career.

In terms of results, it's not the start you would of liked, but as you said, there is plenty of time to go yet. The cup draws are favorable for sure and I believe you will progress through both competitions with very little problems.
A lot of players brought in, but I can see the idea behind it is to have a number of young players ready to progress into the first-team within the next few seasons. Very forward-thinking. The loanees brought in will significantly bolster the options you have within the squad, with each being very highly-rated by their parent clubs.

A steady start to life in Liga NOS this season means there's work to be done if you want to match, or even improve, on your position from last season. The Europa League group is challenging, but we've already witnessed the miracles you can work in this competition last time out. Best of luck and hopefully you can report back with some good news in your next update.
Evening all

I mentioned last time that my next update will cover the games between the September and October international break, but as there were only 6 games, I have extended this to include the games up until the November break too. With feedback (cheers again) mentioning the large number of transfers made in the summer, I thought it was a good idea to put in as many players in my reserve/youth setup as I could, seeing as I had 4 teams worth of players fighting for a spot in the first team squad.

A small side plan I have for these players is that, due to Rio Ave's small standing in the game and the likelihood of any quality player eventually figuring out their ability would outgrow the club, my plan is to continue to keep track of these players, with the hope that if I am still continuing this game in 10-15 seasons time, there would be a large group of my former players who are playing at the highest level, and possibly even competing for the World Footballer/Player of the Year award. At least if they aren't able to reach their potential here, we still played a part in their development to get to that stage. If I am still at the club in 10-15 seasons, and still doing updates here, I might start doing sections as to how some of these former players are doing.

Primeira Liga

Onto the games now. Only 5 league games during this period, due to the domestic cups taking up many of the weekends and Europa League many of the midweek, but a relatively successful set of games. An issue with my team is the lack of goals from the solo centre forward - Gelson Dala was scoring with a record of a goal every 2 games last season, but Zirkzee and Leo Chu have struggled more, having only scored once in the league between them up to the November international break. Thankfully, loanees Murilo and Marcos Bahia have managed to score plenty between them, from the wing and from central midfield.

A 1-1 draw that very much flattered 4th favourites Braga gave Ethan Ampadu his first goal in professional football, which was shortly followed by a narrow 1-0 win over Portimonense thanks to a wonderful strike from range by Marcos Bahia. Following that was a home game vs Sporting, who despite last season's troubles, were the only team to beat me home and away in the league. History was not about to repeat itself however, as despite having less of the ball and the chances, a hat trick from Murilo and another from Marcos Bahia gave us a 4-0 win in arguably our most impressive league performance of my time here.

A 3-1 defeat at Arouca followed that 5 weeks later (with no other league game during that time), in possibly our least impressive league performance, before a 2-0 win at home to Boavista put us 9th in the league going into the international break. It is difficult to tell how we are performing, due to us having so many games in hand at this point on some teams - there are some instances so early in this season where some teams have as many as 4 games in hand on others. Our current position means we have the possibility of moving to 4th if we win our games in hand, but many of these games won't be played until very late into the season - we currently have 4 games scheduled in the last 7 days of the season. Hopefully we won't be desperate for points at that point as I imagine the players will struggle to cope with the workload.

Domestic Cups

My relatively favourable League Cup group started well, with a comfortable 2-0 win over Estoril before another 2-0 win over Segunda Liga side Academico Viseu leaves us requiring only a draw, or at worst a narrow defeat, away at Belenenses at the end of December for a spot in the final 4.

Just the 1 Taca de Portugal game this update, and after losing in the 3rd round last season, we have already managed to beat that this season with a 5-1 win over 3rd tier side Pinhalnovense, giving us an away tie at Aves on our first game back from the international break. The board are expecting a long run in both cup competitions, and I see no reason why we can't do this providing we avoid the "Big 3" before the semi finals in the Taca de Portugal.

Europa League

The Europa League campaign started in Bucharest, with a very polished 4-1 win getting us to the best possible start to the group. This was unfortunately followed by 2-1 defeats at home to PSV and away at CSKA Moscow - both games in which we were dominant and deserved at least a draw but poor finishing let us down in the big moments. A 2-1 win at home in the reverse game against Moscow has put us back in with a good chance of qualification, but due to the equal scoring in our 2 fixtures, we will have to rely on other teams helping us out as we will be unable to finish above them solely on the head-to-head rule. With PSV 6 ahead of both of us and Steaua 6 behind us, we are both fighting for the sole remaining spot for the last 32 of the competition.

Next update will take us to the end of 2019 where we will find out our cup fates and see if we can repeat last seasons December form, where we managed to win every single game. Our trickiest game will be the away game at PSV - with an undeserved defeat at home to them before, it would be a perfect time to get revenge. With the January window coming up, we are likely to be attempting some free transfers, though I would be surprised if there were big names available to us. Thanks for reading.
Having games in-hand means it's difficult to establish your *actual* league position, as there are no guarantees with how many points you'll pick up from the games you have at your disposal. Hopefully, though, you'll be able to get as many as possible to improve your position in the table. I'm pleased to hear of your exploits in the cup competitions and hopefully you'll be able to extend these runs further next update. A piece of silverware, wherever it comes from, is always welcome. The Europa League campaign is exceptionally tight, so I have my fingers crossed that you can pull off what you need in-order to pip CSKA to the post for second.
An interesting few months of football there going in to the break. Having so many games in hand, as you and Scott have both said, makes it tough to see where you really are in the league. Europa qualification is very tight, and having to play PSV again will make it difficult. But seeing as you dominated the previous game, hopefully this time you can find your scoring boots!

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