Going Dutch with Sparta Rotterdam

Before our fourth consecutive Champions League quarter final we sealed our fifth Eredivisie win in a row with five games to go. Despite the strength of Ajax, PSV and Feyenoord, the league has become far too easy in the last few years.

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Just before the first leg against Chelsea, centre back Ignacio Flores failed his fitness test meaning our team was missing 2 key players for our biggest game of the season.

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It was a horrible first leg where we deserved to win.

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But instead, two wonder goals from Pedri (who is still only 29) meant that we needed a miracle at Stamford Bridge in the second leg.


We travelled to the leaders of the Premier League knowing that 2 goals were needed.

And, once again, our performance was not reflected in the result.

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We crash out of the Champions League at the quarter final stage AGAIN! It was a miserable second leg where Chelsea only had 7 shots but - naturally - scored 4 goals!

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It was Pedri in the first leg and Adama Cisse in the second leg who were both just too good for us. Cisse has 46 goals in all competitions this season.

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But, whichever way you look at it, we lost by 7-3 on aggregate to probably the favourites to go on and win the competition.

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I can’t believe we have been knocked out at the quarter-final stage 4 seasons in a row! This time it hurts even more because we were probably the better team in both legs!
We’re at the end of the 12th season at Sparta and seem to have a curse on us which means we can’t get to the semi finals of the Champions League.

So, for this reason, I’ve decided to call it a day. There’s just no way I could spend time playing another season where we’d dominate the Eredivisie, only to get knocked out in the quarter finals of the Champions League again!

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Chelsea went on to win the Champions League this season meaning that’s twice in a row we’ve been knocked out by the eventual winners.

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Dutch striker Roland Leidelmeijer, who we signed from PSV for £55m four years ago, was top scorer in the Champions League this season with 12 goals.

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We ended up 19 points clear of 2nd place in the Eredivisie in what was our 5th league title in a row. That’s the biggest margin since the start of the save, showing just how dominant we’ve become.

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We have an incredibly gifted, young squad but I just don’t have the appetite for another season. It’s a similar scenario to my
Berwick story on FM18 where the league was too easy but Europe was too difficult.

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Our key players are Uruguayan pair Martinez and Crossa, who we would’ve struggled to keep hold of if we carried on the save anyway.

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Another player who was likely to move for big money in the summer was Marcio Ginatto, who is easily the best player at the club.

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There will still be a few more posts on this story where I’ll take a look back at what we have built at Sparta as well as some of the players who have been crucial to our journey.
Initially, this save started with us only using Dutch players and 4 seasons ago we managed to get to the quarter finals of the Champions League.

That side was poor compared to the team we have now, yet we still haven’t got further than the quarter finals in the last 4 years!

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I sometimes forget that we made it to the Europa League final back in 2027 with our 100% Dutch squad and I still don’t know how we lost that match against Sassuolo.

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Our youth team has been a success though and again won the UEFA Youth league this season. That’s 3 times our youngsters have been the best in Europe in this save.

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We end our career with Sparta after 562 games, most of which I watched on extended highlights, and a 67% win percentage.

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7 Eredivisie titles means that we’re the second most successful manager in Dutch football history, but nowhere near the European and Global Halls of Fame.

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There was a period in 2028 where I thought I was going to liquidate the club, but for the last 4 years Sparta have had at least £120m in the bank.

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We also have some of the best facilities in Europe and had a new 27,000 capacity stadium built in 2027.

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One surprising thing in the save has been the performance of the other Dutch teams. The Eredivisie is now regarded as one of the strongest in Europe and for the past 5 seasons there have been 4 Dutch teams in the Champions League group stages.

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Both PSV and Feyenoord have won the Europa League and Europa Conference League, whereas Groningen and Utrecht have won the Conference League during the save.

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So, that’s what Sparta Rotterdam and Dutch football look like in 2032. The next and final post will cover the individual players that have helped us turn Sparta into Champions League quarter-final specialists…
As always my friend, I have thoroughly enjoyed this save from start to finish!

What we thinking for FM22?
As always my friend, I have thoroughly enjoyed this save from start to finish!

What we thinking for FM22?

Cheers mate, shame it fizzled out towards the end but at least it kept me occupied for 8 months... Not sure on FM22 plans at the moment but I should probably do a save where I manage more than one team at some point!
I’m never one to take the ‘Best Eleven’ seriously in FM, but in this case it is pretty spot on.

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The best player in this save in terms of pure ability was Dominique Maysonnave.

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He came through our first youth intake, scored 74 in 193 appearances and then was sold to Man City for £140m where he has won 3 Premier Leagues, 2 FA Cups and the Champions League once.

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Another player we sold for £140m was Rody van der Steen, who we initially bought for £80m from Groningen

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There are so many players to pick out from the early days so I’ve singled out 4 who were with us during the 2021/22 season where we surprised the odds to finish 3rd.

First is Maxim Gullit (Ruud Gullit’s son) who we had on loan, signed permanently for under £1m then sold on for £15m


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Next up was Giovanni Troupée who we signed for cheap in our second season. He played a pivotal role for us for 5 years before moving onto Saudi Arabia

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Sven Mijnans was with us from the start and now plays for AEK in Greece.

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Likewise, Deroy Duarte was a player we inherited at the start. His 10 goals in 2021/22 fired us up to 3rd place and he was sold to Vitesse who decided to chronically underuse him.

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The 2 van den Berg’s were also crucial to our rise in Holland. First up, Bram was signed on the cheap as a 16-year-old and made over 200 appearances for us, scoring our first ever goal in the Champions League knockout stage.

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Sepp van den Berg made 298 appearances for us across 9 years after joining us from Liverpool and was our captain for a large part of his period at the club.

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Another bargain free transfer was Mo Sankoh who scored 99 goals in 242 games for us and is now at Arsenal.

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The penultimate player I want to mention is Abdou Harroui who was a key player for us over a number of years and made 316 appearances overall. (He’s just signed for Sassuolo in real life too!).

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Finally, there can only be one player of the save.

Emanuel Emegha has spent all 12 seasons at Sparta. He started as a promising 17-year-old and ends as the highest goalscorer in the club’s history.

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He was truly unstoppable for us at times and I will never forget when he got 51 goals in the 2024/25 season. With 2 Eredivisie golden boots and 7 Eredivisie titles, he has simply been an unbelievable player for us throughout the whole save.

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And so that is it.

It’s a shame we couldn’t get further than the quarter-finals of the Champions League but it was not meant to be.

I hope you enjoyed reading another one of my FM journeys and for anybody that's interested, here is a link to the save in June 2032: