Going Dutch with Sparta Rotterdam

Thats heart breaking to lose when you dominated the game. Hopefully its not a curse and a European Trophy won't avoid you for much longer.
Gutted to see you lose in the final, especially as you'd beaten stronger teams in the preliminary stages - Replay that final with those stats and you'd win 9 times out of 10!

Hopefully you come back stronger next season!
Thats heart breaking to lose when you dominated the game. Hopefully its not a curse and a European Trophy won't avoid you for much longer.

Gutted to see you lose in the final, especially as you'd beaten stronger teams in the preliminary stages - Replay that final with those stats and you'd win 9 times out of 10!

Hopefully you come back stronger next season!

My track record with European finals on FM is terrible! I make it that I've only won 2 out of the last 6 finals I've played (lost 2x Champions League finals with Berwick on FM18, 1 Europa League final with Sligo on FM19 and 1 Champions League final with Altrincham on FM20)

Luckily I've got £140m to spend after the sale of Maysonnave in January so a slight summer rebuild is underway...
Well, what can you say after that season?

We sold our best player to Man City for £140m in January and relinquished the title to an admittedly very strong Ajax side… but I still can’t get over us bottling the Europa League final which was ours to lose.

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Elsewhere in Europe, Ajax lost to PSG in the Champions League semi-final… their striker Joel Sarpong ended up top scorer with 16 goals in 12 matches!

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and PSV won the Europa Conference League, with their striker scoring 21 goals in the competition!

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Collectively, the results of Dutch teams in Europe mean that Holland has moved above Germany in the coefficient rankings. 4 Dutch teams will go straight to the Champions League group stage next season!

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So the Eredivisie is becoming really competitive and Ajax seemed unstoppable for the majority of the season.

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It was a mixed year for our Dutch squad but it was nice to see other players contributing to goals rather than just relying on Emegha - who still got 34 goals this season!

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Loan signings van de Beek and Depay were a bit disappointing. Memphis actually got 11 assists in the Eredivisie but was outshone by fellow wide players Sankoh and Hoogewerf despite the latter being injured for a long time.

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One player that performed well was Murat Kacar, who has been around the first team for ages despite still only being 21. He contributed 5 goals and 10 assists last season

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And centre back Joeri Bresser filled the gap left by Nathan Ake, scoring 8 goals in all competitions!

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A big update that I’d forgotten about is that next season we will be moving into our new stadium, which has a capacity of 25,000.

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And an update on our £140m sale Dominique Maysonnave - I mentioned that he scored against Ajax in the Champions League but that’s about all he has done for Man City.

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He is now only a squad player, which explains why he has only started 4 Premier League games.

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We still have the majority of the £140m we got for him to spend in the summer… and I have already spent it all!

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2 of the best, young Dutch players will be joining us next season.

It’s a new season and a new start, but the loss in the Europa League final is still haunting me…

So I decided to spend £180m on 3 players to make it better.

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First in, and the most expensive, was Rody van der Steen for £80m. I’ve been trying for ages to get him but Groningen wouldn’t budge until we offered that much money for him. He’s only 19 and will be world class one day, so I’m not really fussed about the fee as we needed a quality centre mid!

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We also spent £65m on Coen van Gool from PSV. He’s a quality left back who can fill in at centre back and we again paid over the odds for him - but I was desperate to improve the squad and it is proving very difficult to get Dutch players in!

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Next up was Ernest Poku for £37.5m from AZ. He’s extremely versatile and has been in good form for AZ over the last few seasons, so I’m really happy with the signing.

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We didn’t stop there though. Martin Paes has signed from Ajax for just £3.2m as Ajax have a wonderkid who is now first choice. He’ll probably be our first choice goalkeeper this season ahead of Rody de Boer.

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We’ve also made 3 free transfers on some very familiar players…

First was Memphis Depay permanently after his Man United contract expired. I was actually a bit disappointed with him last season but it made sense to get him on a free even though he’s getting on a bit.

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We also managed to get Donny van de Beek on a free after his United contract also expired. He only wanted £9,000 a week, which I think is a bit of a bug, but I’ll take it

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Finally, 36 year old Gini Wijnaldum has joined on a free. He was not needed at all but is only on a 1 year deal.

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Despite the extortionate money spent, we still have £36m in the bank. However, most of the big transfers will be paid off in installments so that number is going to continue to decline.

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We also have some top quality facilities at the club and this will also be our first season in our new stadium, which should also mean we see an increase in matchday revenue.

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The season got off to a great start with a win over Ajax in the Johan Cruijff Schaal - I just hope we can repeat the performance against them in the league this season.

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That’s because they are massive favourites to retain the Eredivisie with us down as 4th favourites according to the pre-season predictions.

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Although a 3rd Eredivisie title would be nice, this is our 4th season in the Champions League group stage, yet we have only got to the knockout rounds once before - I’m hoping that this squad is capable of reaching the last 16 at least this year.
Some great signings there as you look to take the team to the next level which will come once your young players start to develop and sure you have another couple there that could go for some very big money at somepoint
Some great signings there as you look to take the team to the next level which will come once your young players start to develop and sure you have another couple there that could go for some very big money at somepoint

I hope so! Using only Dutch players is proving to be a real challenge especially when you see Ajax and PSV snapping up the best youngsters from South America/ Hopefully we're not too far away from making an impact in the Champions League
Our first game of the season could not have gone any better, as new signings van der Steen and Poku combined for the second goal in a 3-0 win over NAC.

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But another new signing Van Gool broke his ribs soon after, which will rule him out for the next 2 months.

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Luckily, left back is our strongest position and Van Gool’s backup is fellow Dutch international Malacia, who we signed last season for £19.5m.

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He started in our next match at home to PSV, which was our first game at our new stadium. It was a difficult opponent for such a momentous occasion, so I was a bit worried about the result.

Instead, it was an unbelievable match to kick things off at the new ground, as we ended up winning 8-2!

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The first goal at the new stadium was scored by Bram van den Berg, who went onto get a hattrick as well as 2 assists in the game.

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That result was part of our perfect start to the season and we sit top of the Eredivisie after 4 games.

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Van den Berg and Mo Sankoh are taking the league by storm already and have the highest average ratings in the division.

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A 2nd place finish in the Eredivisie last season meant that we went straight into the group stage draw for the Champions League as 3rd seeds, so have a difficult group against AC Milan, Atletico Madrid and Dynamo Kiev.

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We lost to Atleti twice in the group stage 4 seasons ago. Looking back, I can’t believe how that team got to the Champions League although 6 of the players involved then are still in the squad now.

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We also have 30 players in the various Dutch squads, including 5 players in the senior team.

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It’s taken a while, but we’re slowly getting there as a force in Dutch football. Hopefully this impressive form can continue throughout the season!
The September international break saw our £80m signing Van der Steen get his first cap (and score his first goal) for Holland - at just 19 he has a big career ahead of him.

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Since that international break, results have fluctuated a lot.

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After going goal crazy at the start of the season, suddenly we were struggling to score and lost to AZ in the league and Atletico in the Champions League.

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I wasn’t confident ahead of our 3rd Champions League game against AC Milan, especially because of the strength of their squad.

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But we actually got an incredible 2-0 win - I have no idea which side is going to turn up in games this season!

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So we’re top of our Champions League group but it is delicately poised at the halfway stage. I’m getting deja vu from last season…

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And the Eredivisie season already has a familiar feel to it 10 games in. Us and Ajax are pulling away at the top of the table and it looks like it'll be the 6th consecutive season where we'll finish in the top 2

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Our next league game is at home to them and it could decide who wins the Eredivisie!

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Maarten Paes will lineup for us against his former club for the first time in that match. The £3.2m summer signing has been one of our best players this season and has saved 3 penalties already!

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Ajax are the current holders of the Eredivisie but we won it the 2 seasons before that - so this match could determine who the top team in Holland is.
Our crucial game at home to Ajax ended 2-2 with us conceding in the last minute which could prove to be costly at the end of the season!

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And we followed that up with a 3-1 home loss to AC Milan in the Champions League, which was really disappointing.

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But that result kick-started a remarkable run of form for us, where we scored 22 goals in 5 matches including a 3-0 win against Feyenoord.

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We absolutely battered Dynamo Kyiv 7-0 in the Champions League, with Ernest Poku getting 4 goals and 2 assists in the match.

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It meant that we were in 2nd position with one game to go in the group, but that match was away against group-leaders Atletico

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But an amazing 3-0 win in Madrid ensured that we finished top of our group and qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League for just the 2nd time!

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We are scoring goals for fun lately and our front 4 of Poku, van den Berg, Sankoh and Emegha have all been incredible this season

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Mo Sankoh has the most goals in the Eredivisie… and also has the most assists!

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Van den Berg is filling in perfectly for Maysonnave who we sold for £140m last season. The 20 year old has 9 goals and 16 assists in 22 matches this season, which are ridiculous numbers.

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But such is the good form and quality of Ajax, they are still top of the Eredivisie

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It’s going to be tough to take the Eredivisie off them but the way we are playing at the moment it feels like we could outscore any team!
Despite finishing 1st in the group, we could not have got a tougher draw in the Champions League and will face Man City - the current Premier League holders and a team that have got to the semi-finals twice in the last 3 years

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It also means that we will be reunited with Dominique Maysonnave, just over a year after we sold him to City for £140m

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We’re still benefiting from the money that Man City paid for him and spent £8.25m on Philippe Middelkoop from Ajax in the January transfer window.

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I can’t believe they let him go for that cheap but it’s just typical that his only 2 goals this season were both against us in a 2-2 draw!

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He joined us just in time for the frustrating form to start as we somehow lost to FC Twente in the cup. That makes it 4 years since we last won the competition.

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Then we had 2 games that pretty much sum us up.

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The first was a 4-1 win over PSV, who we absolutely dominated. It means that we’ve scored 12 goals against them in 2 league games this season.

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And the same team followed that up with a 1-0 loss away against relegation threatened PEC Zwolle. It’s so, so frustrating!

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That loss means that we are 6 points away from Ajax, who have dropped points in just 3 league matches this season.

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I honestly have no idea how we’ve won the league twice in this save given the strength of Ajax.

Just the small matter of Man City in the Champions League next then!
Probably written in the stars that you were going to come up against Maysonnave at some point this season!
Probably written in the stars that you were going to come up against Maysonnave at some point this season!

I was expecting him to score at least 5 goals against us but he didn't get any in the end! That didn't stop the heart-breaking result though...
What’s the best way to prepare for Man City in the Champions League? A 1-1 draw against bottom of the table De Graafschap of course!

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Our Champions League opponents Man City were top of the Premier League and have won the league in both of the last 2 seasons.

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We truly needed a miracle to progress to the quarter finals for the first time in our history.

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We were outplayed at the Etihad but managed to get an away goal in the first leg to give us some false hope at least.

Then, over the course of the next 2 weeks, our 3 best players were ruled out with injury for the second leg. There was no hope of going through but this just sealed the deal.

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Sankoh and van den Berg are the ones in ridiculous form this season, it is genuinely unbelievable how much we got shafted with injuries before the second leg.

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So I was dreading the second leg at home to City as our depleted squad (including a 34 year old Memphis Depay) tried to somehow overturn a 2-goal deficit.

The result was even more sickening than I could imagine…

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We were 2-0 up and going through to the quarter finals with 5 minutes left...

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I shut up shop and made sure that every single set piece had players back defending, yet Man City still managed to score in stoppage time. Truly sickening!

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We only have 7 league games left and even though we’re just 4 points off Ajax, I can’t see us catching them.

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They’re unbeaten and have just defeated Man United in the Champions League. Our only hope is that we beat them at the Amsterdam Arena and hope they drop points somewhere.

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I can only take so many disappointments in this save. How unlucky can we get?!
With 6 games remaining, it was between us and Ajax for the Eredivisie title.

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We were still without star players Sankoh and van der Steen due to injury but really needed to win at the Amsterdam Arena - no other result would do.

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But we were poor and deservedly lost. Ajax are just far too good and have improved every single season so much so that they’re one of the best sides in Europe!

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So it looks like 2nd place for us again.

One more thing I have noticed is that we currently have £3m in the bank and are predicted to have -£30m at the end of the season...

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Yet despite those alarming forecasts, our transfer budget and wage budget were still huge!

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So despite everything telling me not to, I decided to spend £55m on a striker who will arrive in the summer.

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Roland Leidelmeijer just looks awesome and I hope he can be the final piece in the puzzle as we try and build our Dutch-only squad into Champions League contenders.

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He’s somehow not got a cap for Holland yet. The Dutch squad currently has 4 Sparta Rotterdam players regularly appearing for them and it’ll be interesting to see how many get picked for Euro 2028.

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We have also had a crazy youth intake this year. Despite selling a player for £140m last year, I honestly think we have produced somebody who could be even better

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Just look how good Mourad Soufiani is! He’s just 15!

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So, unless Ajax start losing games*, it looks like our season will fizzle out and end with us finishing in second.

*they do…
With 5 games remaining there were 5 points between us and Ajax, so I decided to use those games to give youngsters a chance and to experiment with our formation.

That was until I saw that Ajax lost at home to NAC and were also knocked out by Bayern in the Champions League.

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The surprise loss meant that with 3 games to go, there were just 2 points between us... Surely not?

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I could not believe what happened in the next set of games.

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Ajax were crumbling! 2 losses in a row for them meant that we went top of the table for the first time since October!

Just 2 games remained - one away to Dordrecht and the final match at home to rivals Feyenoord.

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Both us and Ajax won our penultimate games comfortably, which meant everything rested on the last game of the season against Feyenoord.

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Victory would mean we won the Eredivisie title, surely we could not have any more bad luck this season?

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We have done it! Eredivisie win number 3 is ours!.

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I certainly did not expect to win the league 6 matches ago when we lost to Ajax... but they have truly bottled it and somehow we have won the Eredivisie!
What a tense end to the season but good to see you win the title again. Looking forward to see what business you do in the summer now
A bit yin and yang at the end there...the City result in the Champions League and the Eredivisie run in.
What a tense end to the season but good to see you win the title again. Looking forward to see what business you do in the summer now

Got an interesting summer coming up considering we seem to be losing money constantly, I'm also finding it impossible to buy Dutch players that would improve our first team for less than £50m!

A bit yin and yang at the end there...the City result in the Champions League and the Eredivisie run in.

Ha yeah the last few months of the season were a bit crazy, but it makes the save enjoyable even 8 seasons in!
What a whirlwind season it has been.

From getting knocked out of the Champions League last 16 in the last minute by Man City to somehow winning the Eredivisie thanks to Ajax’s collapse. There was never a dull moment!

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We won the league by one point and managed to score exactly 100 goals! Also Willem II finished 4th which gets them a spot in the Champions League next season!

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There were a number of standout performers for us this season, but it was all about our front 4 of Poku, Van den Berg, Sankoh and Emegha.

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Bram van den Berg picked up the best player in the Eredivisie award with 16 goals and 14 assists, which was thoroughly deserved.

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And Emanuel Emegha was top scorer in the Eredivisie for the second time and now has 237 goals for Sparta Rotterdam.

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It was our first season in our new stadium and the board have already planned an expansion. That’s great, but will cost £25m and we’re really not in the best financial situation at the moment...

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That’s because somehow we’ve got -£20m despite selling a player for £140m last season...


It turns out that spending £55m on a new striker probably wasn’t the smartest move and the forecasts are not looking good.

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But we have so many youngsters at the club that are almost first team ready that I think I’m going to sell quite a few players in the summer to make way for them.

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Hopefully, that should be enough to balance the books for now…

I’ve always been convinced that I’ll be able to win the Champions League with an all-Dutch squad at some point in this save - but if those youngsters don't fulfil their potential then it might be a struggle!