God of War 10 – Rags to Riches

Rags to riches feels like an apt title for this post, as we continue to up the ante in the transfer market, looking to sign the best players available. In eight years we’ve gone from a second division side to a moderately wealthy European club, now able to spend freely on players and wages. Will season 8 see that spending push us on in the Champions League?

Domestic

Domestic performances remain extremely high. An unbeaten run in the Superleague was undoubtedly the high point, which ended in us lifting the Superleague title with a whopping 17 point lead. A domestic double wasn’t to be repeated though, as we were eliminated from the Greek Cup in the semi finals to rivals Olympiakos, who went on to lift the cup.

The Greek Football Informer said of our season:

Aris had been expected to make much of the Superleague title running and lived up to their pre-season billing by finishing top of the pile.

Our average attendance of 15,845 (70% full) is a little concerning. We’ve rarely filled the stands throughout this whole series but I was hoping recent successes would boost those numbers to make expansion feasible. Extra funds from gate receipts would alleviate some of the strain as our wages progressively increase, due to the calibre of recent acquisitions. We’re doing fine financially, but we’ll have to continue to rely on Champions League money for now.

Greek Superleague League Table (2023-2024 season)


Champions League

  • Inter 2 – 1 Aris
  • Aris 3 – 3 Juventus
  • Aris 1 – 0 Barcelona
  • Aris 2 – 0 River Plate
  • Aris 0 – 3 Real Madrid
  • Aris 2 – 4 Boca Juniors

In the previous episode of this series, Breaking the Mould, I highlighted the need to change my methods from signing future prospects on the cheap, to bringing in more ready-made top class players. This was all part of a plan too boost our fortunes in the Champions League, where we’ve previously struggled. We brought in some quality additions and started them off with some challenging pre-season fixtures. We didn’t pull up any trees up but we did OK. A 1-0 over Barcelona was a definite highlight.

For the Champions League group stages we were drawn in Group A alongside Napoli, Sporting and Sevilla, and did very well, qualifying relatively comfortably this time around.

As expected, we were handed a very challenging tie in the 1st knockout round against a star studded Man United side, which featured the likes of Pogba, Griezmann and Dybala. We lost 3-1 on aggregate to a side who went on to win a stunning Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup treble. All in all I feel we’ve progressed this season but the challenge remains to try and push on to the latter stages.


Player Performances

As well as the usual player awards there are a couple of players who deserve a special mention in this update.

Néstor Agüero

Losing our star striker to Marseille, Mauro Tissera, was a massive blow. It was late in the window too so we had to act quickly to get a replacement in before the deadline slammed shut. He’d been a very reliable goalscorer for us over a few seasons, scoring 20+ goals every season.

Fortunately though, I’d had my eye on another young Argentinian striker for a few seasons; Néstor Agüero. He too had a release clause, which made his transfer even more feasible given the lateness of our offer. He cost us £9M but was worth every penny. The 6’5″ giant ticked all the boxed for me – height, pace, strength, finishing, determination, flair, teamwork – the complete striker. He didn’t disappoint in his debut season either, from 33 starts he bagged 31 goals in all competitions. Truly prolific.

Take a look at his goal scoring highlights, he’s a real fox in the box but he’s happy to run on to a through ball too:

Mason Bennett – the man from Mansfield

Football is a wonderful thing, isn’t it. One of the most beautiful moments in all of my years playing Football Manager happened this season. Mason Bennett, he’s been with us throughout this whole journey, from top goal scorer in my first season to fans player of the year, to this – he’s now a fully fledged Greek international after 7 seasons plying his trade in Greece. Just wow.

It was a goal scoring debut for Bennett too with a tidy finish from a tight angle:

Player Awards

  • Aris Fans Player of the Season: Takis Tzavellas
  • Aris Signing of the Season: Magomed Yefimov (£12M from CSKA Moscow)
  • Ari Goal of the Season: Philip Billing
  • Aris Young Player of the Season: Takis Tzavellas
  • Miguel Estrela’s average rating of 7.69 is a new Superleague record
  • Néstor Agüero finished 3rd in the Superleague goalscoring charts with 19
  • Takis Tzavellas was named the Superleague Talent of the Year
  • Néstor Agüero was named in the Superleague Team of the Year

Signings

During the January transfer window we made a couple of acquisitions to boost flair in the final third: Explosive winger, Adama Traoré, for £7M from Roma and Man United academy graduate, Andreas Pereira, on a free.

Plenty of new acquisitions came through the doors during the summer transfer window with our biggest spending spree so far. French goalkeeper, Loïc Henry, was brought in on a free transfer from Chelsea to bolster our number of stoppers. Highly rated England international, Ryan Sessegnon, made the switch from Southampton to Aris for £8.5M.

Sakis Tzandaris, a regular in my Greek national side, made a £5.25M move from Man City for his second spell at Aris, having been on loan a couple of season back. Spanish midfiled playmaker, Manu Morlanes, came in from Vallecano for a cut price of £1.9M to bolster the midfield options. Wonderkid Joe Hughes joins on a 2 year loan from Man City – he goes straight into the first team as a box-to-box midfielder alongside Tzandaris. I was delighted to make Greek international Takis Tzavellas’s loan move from Napoli permanent. The winger racked up a record number of assists last season and cost £9M.

Finally, I was really chuffed to secure a deal for striker Jonás Lescano for £4.3M from Benfica. He’s one of those players who was probably labelled a wonderkid at 17/18 years old but probably hasn’t progressed enough yet to secure a move to a top European club. His goalscoring record is really impressive though, having hit double figures in every season, including 15 league goals for a Benfica side who finished second in the Portuguese Premier League last season. He’ll be backup striker to his Argentinian compatriot, Néstor Agüero, but with plenty of rotation he’ll play a lot of football for us this season.

Ryan Sessegnon was a really important signing as we had to cave-in to the wishes of our star left back and Swedish international, Jonas Waldenström, who’d had his heart set on a move to a bigger club. His eventual destination was the Premier League and Everton – an initial £15M softened the blow for us. There was intense interest in our goalkeeper and center back pairing too, but we managed to ride the storm and keep them on the books, and without any temper tantrums too.


The Greek National Side

I had a very productive season with the Greek national side too. With a squad that featured 9 Aris players we got as far as the knockout stages in the European Football Championship 2028, having had a fantastic qualifying campaign that saw us top Group B and beat favourites Belgium both home and away.

Euro 2024 Qualifying Group B League Table


Timeline (season 8)

  • August 2023 (pre season)

    6’5″ Argentine striker, Néstor Agüero, is signed for £9M to replace Mauro Tissera.

  • September 2023

    Néstor Agüero opens his account with a thunderous free-kick in a 2-0 win at Napoli in the Champions League.

  • November 2023

    Aris qualify from Group A of the Champions League with two games to spare.

  • December 2023

    Aris are drawn against Man United in the Champions League 1st knockout round.

  • January 2024

    Explosive winger, Adama Traoré, joins from Roma for £7M along with cultured attacking midfielder, Andreas Pereira, who joins from São Paulo.

    First choice goalkeeper and captain, Homera Silva, moves to FC Schalke for £14M.

  • March 2024

    Aris are knocked out of the Champions League 1st knockout round 3-1 on aggregate to Man United.

    Aris claim a 4th consecutive Superleague title with 4 games to spare.


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