After we finished our second consecutive season as Dutch champions, the transfer started with a huge offer from the UK. West Ham showed up with an offer of 20M, including 40% of the profit from the next sale, with additional clauses increasing the transfer deal up to 25.5M for Alexander Isak:
What a deal! Alexander Isak has provided the club with a transfer profit of at least 20M, just one year after he did join us on a free from Borussia Dortmund. Despite losing our top scorer over the summer, we did keep on winning the games in the new season - and this season no big tweaking was needed. I just changed the mentality from positive to attacking. The results at the start of the season were amazing, we our first Dutch Super Cup by beating Ajax Amsterdam 5-1, won 7 points from the first three games in the Champions League against Salzburg, Lazio and Chelsea (just a late equaliser by Morata in the 3rd game denied us a third win).
Another three points from the resting three games, a 7-2 win away at Salzburg, was enough to secure a place in the next round in the Champions League. Being seeded I was expecting not the hardest draw, but we had to face Spanish champions Real Madrid in the 1st Knockout Round. We did start alright in the league as well, but three stupid losses against Vitesse, Groningen and VVV Venlo saw us being challenged by PSV at the winter break. It was just in season three, where the number 3 did pop up a fair amount of times 😂
The new year started well too, the first 3 league games were won as well before winning a Dutch Cup 1/4 Final vs Groningen on pens. After that game we conceded our first loss in the year 2021 against Willem II. The team really struggled to create any chances in that game, a total of six shots where noted, none of them were on target. But we're going to witness going some magic in the coming weeks:
The AZ supporters witnessed two 1-0 wins vs the big Real Madrid to make it to the Champions League Quarter Final and saw the team beating Ajax Amsterdam in the Dutch Cup Semi Final. We've faced Ajax Amsterdam for a third time in just three years in the cup and after two losses in the Semi and Quarter Final in the previous years, we finally managed to beat them. After the two wins in the league (a 1-0 away and at home), a 5-1 in the Super Cup, the 4-2 win in the Cup was already the 5th victory against them this season. Somehow, they were really struggling against us. Beating PSV a few month later in the final and securing our first Dutch Cup title, meant as well that Ajax is the only team that has managed to beat us in that competition.
After beating Real Madrid in the Champions League, we had to face Manchester City in the Quarter Final. But Leon Bailey with a great game and Gabriel Jesus with two goals in the last ten minutes made sure that we didn't have a chance at "The City of Manchester Stadium" and came back with 2-5 loss from the UK. We still managed to get a good 1-1 draw at home, but this saw our really good continental season come to an end.
We had a tough fight in the league against PSV. Both kept on winning their games, until PSV draw five league games in a row between 27th February and the 4th of March. To mention is that the last game of their series of draws was against us, we were winning the game easily by 0-2 at Eindhoven by goals from Calvin Stengs and Mokeri Shongwe. But a penalty in the 74th minute and an equalizer from Luuk de Jong few minutes later made some proper bottle job happening. Nevertheless, we still managed to win the league the third time in a row with a record total of 84 points.
Thanks to the transfer profits, the TV deals and the bigger stadium the financial future at the AFAS Stadium looks amazing. Big profits have been made. The "Circle of AZ" is going well. Alexander Isak is exactly the kind of a deal, that I plan to do at AZ. Research, identify and invest (clever). Buy players with high potential - sell them for big money later...
But how are we going to (re-)invest that Money?
Possible Improvements: Increase youth and training Facilities, increase the Youth Network, expand the stadium
We've been quite busy talking to the board about investing into our facilities. Thanks to that, Youth Recruitment is extensive, training facilities are excellent, and the youth facilities are state of the art. Just the data analysis is still rated as average:
The AFAS Stadium offered 17'023 when I started the save and it stayed like this for first two seasons. But as you might remember from the last post the board decided to do a first Investment of around 7M to add another 4035 seats, which allowed a total of 21'058 supporters to attend our home games:
The average attendance increased from 16'084 in the first season to 20335 in third one. That three league titles had some proper impact. Just 12 months later, before the start of the 4th season a second stadium expansion has been announced. Another 5071 seats will be added to have a stadium capacity of over 26k. This will see us having the 4th biggest stadium in the Netherlands after Ajax Amsterdam (54k), Feyernoord Rotterdam (51k) and PSV Eindhoven (33k) and just before SC Heerenveen with around 26k.
Possible Improvements: New partner club for loaning players and providing them with game time, new partner club abroad to improve merchandise sales
After 3 seasons there's just two Affiliations in place, Columbus Crew from the US and Sint-Truidense from Belgium. The deal with Columbus Crew has been signed to improve the merchandise sales in the US. After requesting a new affiliate club, the board did come back with Columbus as only option in the US, besides some options in Japan. I decided to choose a north American club to boost our income.
Sint-Truidense is currently playing in the Second Division in Belgium, currently it would allow players that are currently between the reserves and youth team. But it actually hasn't been used much lately. Anyhow besides some more international Affiliates to improve our scouting network, merchandise sales and profit from the intake of better prospects, I plan to look for another club we'll be able to loan players who are too good for the reserves but cannot figure in the first team yet.
Possible Improvements: Improve scouting team
Actually, there wasn't any ground-breaking investments here, but at least we increased our scouts from 7 to a total of 13. Portugal, Colombia and Africa have been the countries/continents I've found the best newgens so far. So, I'll plan to scout there the most combined with all the youth competitions I've set up on Screen Flow (Big thanks to John Mcintosh, who mentioned in his #FMSlack channel, that he's using it for finding the future stars, don't miss his blog at https://johnmcintosh19.wordpress.com/)
Possible Improvements: Sign new promising youngsters
Selling Alexander Isak, Fred Friday, Marko Vejnovic, Guus Til and some other smaller deals allowed us to make around 50M in transfer deals before/during our third season. Only Alexander Isak and Guus Til were playing games regularly and they were going to be replaced by players at the club. Shongwe would step up for Isak and Guus Til was going to be replaced by Iago Oliveira, who joined us beginning the season 2019/2020 for a fee of just 100K:
So, as we were replacing our leaving players with players within the club, we had over 40 million to spend on new promising youngsters. We did announce over 60 new players in the 15 month after the start of the transfer window in 2020, being all under 21y old and transfer fees going up to 2.5M. Obviously I cannot show them all, so I'll just present you my favourite ones:
Rúben Araújo, 18y old, the striker joined us from Braga for a fee of 500K:
Nabil Benali, the German wingback joined from 1860 München for 100, when he's just 16y old
Evan Bon, 17y old, the promising Belgian midfielder joined for just 42K from RFC Liege:
Tunisian 19y old striker Mohamed Makhzoumi, joined from ES Tunis for a fee of just 700K and will make it to the first team squad instantly:
Yeison Peña, 18y old, the Colombian striker joined from Junior for a fee of 700K:
Mohamed Yao, 18y old, the promising Ivorian centre-back joined from ASEC Mimosas for a reported fee of 250K:
So that's it from my 3rd season. I hope you've enjoyed it, any feedback and sharing's welcome as always! You can find me on Twitter as NestorFM_ or on the FMSlack in the #nestorfm channel.