Once upon a time there was a city called Vaduz. Isn’t that how stories are supposed to begin? That’s what this is if you weren’t sure, an FM story to be precise. And the subject of the story is the Vaduz Challenge. If you’re not sure exactly what that is, then let me give you a bit of an intro.
So what is a Vaduz?
The country of Liechtenstein has a pretty unique footballing setup. Liechtenstein has no professional league, so every club in the country gets accepted into the Swiss league. “But how does that work with the Champions League?” I hear you ask! Well here’s the deal:
Because the country has no league, they don’t follow the usual UEFA coefficient rules. Instead, they’re given 1 token slot. Every club from Liechtenstein plays in a cup tournament every season, and the winner of this tournament gets a place in the first qualifying round of the Europa League. This is fixed, so no matter the coefficient, no matter how good the club is, Liechtenstein will only ever enter a club into the Europa League. Unless they win the Europa League, then the cup becomes irrelevant and the team enters the Champions League like normal.
And so there you see the challenge. Win the Champions League with a Liechtenstein team, knowing full well if you fail to win you’ll be sent back to the first round of the Europa League. It’s very high stakes and very tense.
Now because they’re so small, there aren’t actually many good clubs from the country of Liechtenstein. In fact, one makes it into the default database: FC Vaduz. By far the greatest team in their home country, with 45 wins out of 72 total Liechtensteiner cups. But in the Swiss league they’re a struggling top tier team, barely able to establish a place in the Super League. That shows the size of the task ahead. But I’ve led San Marino to glory before, so I’m ready to do this with Vaduz too.
Just so you’re aware, this game is played on the Touch version of FM17. I’m aware I’m missing out on tons of amazing features, but it fits far better with my schedule. I’m actually able to progress in the time outside my experiments, without having to treat the game as a second job. If you don’t like it, I’m sorry but that’s how I play. It may also explain why I’m already so far into the save, because it’s so much easier to get seasons underway and completed. Anyway enough serious talk, time for a little bit of a history lesson.
Where it all began…
This save was never planned to be a Vaduz save. I sorta moved towards it halfway through, which means there’s a little bit of history before I finally become the king of Liechtenstein. I don’t want to put a post for every year of the foreplay, so I’m going to summarise my career beforehand. It’ll also explain why when I finally get to the real story, you’ll know none of the players that I’m buying.
So where did it actually start? Well, I wanted to do a bit of a journeyman save, go somewhere I’ve never been before. Which is a little ironic considering how this ends up. Anyway, my search for a new location took me to Eastern Europe. I’ve never managed in the gritty depths of Europe before so I wanted to give it a shot, see if I can drag one of the less popular nations to the top. After a bit of browsing, I opted for Hungary. There isn’t much reason, other than it being the home country for a favourite F1 track of mine. But who cares, this will all be irrelevant soon. I booted up the Nemzeti Bajnokság II and chose a team based purely on the colours of the kit. Naturally I ended up with…
Yeh I have no idea either. They could be a horrible club for all I know. But their kit is purple, which is pretty unique, so Saproni it is.
Season 1 brought very little expectation. All the board wanted was a top half finish, and for half a season it seemed like that was all they’d get. A few smart loans combined with a classic 4-4-2 turned things around and a final day win granted a goal difference promotion over Kisvárda. Balmazújvárosi walk the league, but my managerial legacy had its first block.
The second season greeted us with a 1000-1 chance of a title in Nemzeti Bajnokság I and joint favourites for relegation with Balmazújvárosi. The loan signing of Taiwo Awoniyi proved to be an incredible choice, with the team at one point pushing for European qualification. The end of the season fell apart though, with the occasional draw giving just enough to scrape safety over Haladás and Balmazújvárosi.
Awoniyi opted to stick around for a second season of Hungarian dogfighting. Relegation seemed like a certainty once again, but fortune favoured the purple. Paks failed to adapt to the Europa League pressures and fell apart in the league. Their failures alongside a weak newly promoted Győr was enough to keep the Saproni warriors still standing.
The slight increase in reputation allowed some decent signings to offset star striker Awoniyi returning to Merseyside. The club was still the weakest in the top tier by far, even on the financial front, making it tough to get the needed quality in. It showed, and despite a strong finish, Saproni VSE finished in the relegation zone. The board (wrongly) thought that was underachieving and gave me my marching orders. In my disappointment, I vowed to never return to Hungary ever again.
With the frustration in Eastern Europe, I opted to look at more familiar shores for jobs. Despite the sensational career so far, my reputation wasn’t exactly high so the job offers were a slow trickle. Eventually something did come through that caught my eye, and before long I was on my way to…
1. FC Magdeburg
Germany was the natural choice, due to the real life connection. I’d never dipped into the lower German leagues, and Magdeburg is an beautiful city (honestly, google it) so it was ideal.
Expectations were a bit stronger, with the board wanting at least an attempt at promotion. With the squad available that seemed a challenge, so I attacked the loan market like my life depended on it. Over half the final squad ended up being loanees, and the players available provided the perfect chance to attempt a 3 CB formation. I’d never given it a go, but have heard it’s strong in this version of FM so dived in feet first. And boy did it work. A full season battle with St Pauli culminated in a final day duel for the title. The Hamburg club slip against Großaspach, whilst I guided my team to a comfortable 3-0 win over Jena, resulting in my first piece of silverware ever. The legacy was building.
The season after a promotion is about consolidating. I managed to keep a hold of the majority of last seasons loanees, then added even more loanees and a couple of actual signings, so things looked pretty good. But still… I never expected what happened. We absolutely dominated, a 12 point clear title, with 54 GD thanks to two incredible loanees from Leverkusen and Köln. St Pauli followed us up with a double promotion themselves, but I dominated them twice so screw ’em.
Now time to tackle the Bundesliga, with all it’s big guns. By this point I’d got a bit of cash to spend, so I started to acquire some players permanently rather than on loan. For some reason the parent clubs let me keep a hold of my loaned defence though. Everyone expected relegation, but things started well with 4 wins in the first 5. The form didn’t drop, and by winter break we were strong contenders for Europe. Things slowed down after the season restarted and I feared the worst. The players however, had other ideas. 7 wins in the last 7 games, including 20 goals scored in the last 4 games and Magdeburg didn’t just qualify for Europe, they made the Champions League. Only Dortmund and Bayern beat us, and after two straight promotions and a 3rd, I was wondering when this fairytale would end.
To make it even better, several of the previous loans agreed to come on permanent deals out of sheer love for the club. Good thing too, with the extra competition to add in. A few key loan players went back to their parent squads for better first team football, and the lack of good replacements led to a rough start to the season. 9 points from the first 10 games, as well as two loses in the Champions League put my joy on hold. A 3-0 win over Atletico improved things, but after a 4-1 battering in the return leg, things looked dire.
And this is where I made my worst decision of the save so far. On 11th November 2023, Leverkusen offered me the job. The team was struggling but had far more resources than Magdeburg. I quite like Leverkusen, and things looked bad as I stand. So I accepted.
Now let me clarify. When I signed for Leverkusen they were last. I signed with the expectation that I would save the squad from relegation, which when you have the like of Brandt still around, seems easy. And it was. I knocked a few heads together, changed things up a little, and by the end of the season we cruised home to safety in 10th. We even finished above Magdeburg (who also survived). What I didn’t anticipate was the board deciding in January that we had the resources to qualify for Europe. Sure, the players are there, but not when you’ve spent half the god damn season in last BEFORE I’D EVEN ARRIVED.
So despite everything, everyone was pissed after just one season. The board were reviewing my position, the players were disappointed the club underperformed and the air around the club wasn’t good. So I chose to resign. I’d done what I set out to do in my contract, but decided it was best for everyone involved if the club and I parted ways. Plenty of time to job hunt before a new season!
Then came the job hunting again. I took a quick stint as Australia manager, winning one qualifier before realising the game has bugged. I couldn’t take on an international job with a club one (Yes I have the unlockable), so had to retire. Annoyingly England had the most jobs, a place I’ve managed a million times and wanted to avoid if possible. I caved though, and a project of interest came up. Newly-promoted Wolves were looking for someone to keep them out of relegation, and as I’d developed a knack for that, I took the job.
The Wolves squad provided another new tactical lesson. The complete lack of wingers led to a narrow formation, with Sessegnon and Smith at wingbacks to provide the width. As it was August before I got the job, all I could do with the transfer window was fill out my backup squad, and make the most of what I already had.
Things started off very slowly. It was 7 games before I was able to get my first Premier League win. From there things went from strength to strength, including spending around a month and a half unbeaten. There was a traditional New Years faltering before a very strong end to the season left me not only safe from relegation but pushing towards Europe once again. A final day matchup vs Leicester gave the winner continental football, and it was Batshuayi who pulled out some magic. A brace from the veteran pushed the Foxes down, and we were in the Europa League.
With the season done I take a casual browse of the job market, and noticed the Vaduz post was open. By this point I knew that Vaduz could make the Champions League, and as I’d already said I didn’t want to manage in England. So I went for it. After a little wait, the club registered their interest in me but said they couldn’t pay the compensation to get me. I decided the Vaduz was worth paying out my contract and resigned on the spot. And as the old saying goes, the rest is history. Or future. Wait and find out ok.