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Darren — Ultimate European Challenge, the Italian job 12/13

Hey guys, welcome back to my Ultimate European Challenge and what is turning in to a journey across Europe. During the last post you saw me guide Hamburg SV to the Bundesliga title, German Cup and therefore completing the required competitions in Germany. This challenge requires me to win the title and domestic Cup in England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain. An additional target is to win the Champions League twice with any club from the five countries. To read the full rules and targets of this challenge visit the ‘Ultimate European Challenge rules’. After achieving so much, my reward was a just 15% of the bank balance for next season transfer budget. I was so annoyed with the £3 million budget and the boards stubborn ways that I resigned immediately.

Career history:

— Hamburg SV, Germany (January 2010- April 2012)


Bundesliga title : 2012

German Cup : 2012

As I began the search for a new job, I had to wait for any action until November. It seemed like club owners were preparing a manager hunt before the winter fixtures. Tottenham, AC Milan and one other club I can’t remember all looked very promising. I also applied for the Manchester City job but was laughed off by their rich owners. In the end I was offered the AC Milan job and snapped their hands off. This was a perfect offer and one I eagerly anticipated.

Milan Contract offer : AC Milan have some terrible debt and therefore couldn’t offer me a transfer budget. They did however offer me a huge wage budget.

Smith bites back in press conference : During my first press conference I answered each question as normal but couldn’t help putting my two cent in about the HSV board. When asked if I can bring success back to Milan, my usual response was I hope so and the club deserves it. However, I did add ‘Plus I want to shove my success up the tight arses of the HSV board.’ :)

Transfers : After tweaking my wage budget, I managed to bump my transfer budget up to £12 million. I needed to bring in another striker, right winger and goalkeeper. I knew that AC Milan had the capacity to win Serie A, but needed more strength in depth. Below are my 4 signings during January.

Alberto Paloschi (ST)

You may be familiar with Paloschi from his heroics in my Newcastle story. Lecce and Parma both co-owned the Italian forward and seemed happy to let him leave. After my overall offer of just £650K was accepted, I swiftly confirmed the contract. Paloschi will be used in the Europa League and Cup matches.

Vaclav Kadlec (ST)

The 21 year old had previously moved to Real Madrid, but after a lack of Football demanded a move away. I am a huge admirer of the striker and you can see this in my post, ‘Best cheap striker — Kadlec’. When I saw the 21 year old on the transfer list for just £2.8 million, my mouth started to water. He can also be used as an inside forward from the left wing, which is perfect for a side lacking in depth.

Maarten Stekelenburg (GK)

With my main goalkeepers ageing and really not good enough for AC, I decided to bring in Stekelenburg. The Dutchman was on a free transfer and will be my main keeper.

Mariano Vella (AMR)

I have saved the best to last. This regen is simply brilliant, his attributes are ridiculous and make him the best winger in Italy. Fiorentina signed Vella a few years ago but will regret the release clause of £7.75 million. I took advantage and know Vella will be vital to any success I gain this season.

Serie A table before my appointment

The previous manager left me with a lot of work to do, Milan were 10th after 13 games and ten points behind the league leaders. Despite the ten point gap, I am fairly confident I can at least reach the top three. Clubs are bound to drop points and a lot of tough fixtures are already out of the way.

The mission begins — Serie A, December-January results

The first two months were almost perfect. We could only draw at home to Inter but won the next three games in December. The new signings were firmly in place for a tough January. They had a huge impact and helped me win all four games during January. These included some wonderful victories against Fiorentina, Palermo and Roma.

Serie A : February-March results

Despite a shock away defeat at the hands of Genoa, my side recovered well. Pato found his scoring boots and the strikers 8 goals were vital as Milan won the next 8 games!! The best of them came away to reigning champions Napoli as we won 3-1 thanks to the Brazilian wizard. My side seemed to be playing well in my 4-4-2 and 4-5-1 formations. The only adjustment from my Newcastle game was to use a very deep defensive line, very slow tempo and very narrow width. You can see these tactics and also download them here. Just remember the defensive line, tempo and width need changing when in Italy and with a similar side to AC Milan.

Serie A : April-May results

Another brilliant set of performances from Pato extended my unbeaten run. Whenever the Brazilian gets the ball you just know he can take on three or four players before smashing the ball home. His form helped Milan win 6 games and draw 2 from the eight remaining fixtures.

Serie A final table

My sides incredible run mixed with a lackluster effort from other clubs won us the Serie A title. My squads domination is shown by the 12 point gap to second placed Roma. Do you remember what I said in the opening press conference ‘I want to shove my success up the tight arses of the HSV board’. Well not only did I win the league, but HSV finished 4th in the Bundesliga and failed to qualify for the Champions League. Talk about karma! :)

The fans and pundits seemed very impressed with my first season and I must admit such a fast start was really good.

Italian Cup results

The Italian Cup seems much easier to succeed in than other countries domestic competitions. There was only three rounds to progress past in order to reach the final. I had an easy draw apart from a sticky away tie to Atlanta. The only game that involved my key players was the semi-final against Catania, we waltzed past all opponents and set ourselves up for an interesting final against Napoli. Previous form would suggest an AC Milan win but I wasn’t taking the Italian champions for granted.

Italian Cup final — AC Milan vs Napoli

After beating Napoli in the league I already knew which tactic would work best. My 4-5-1 was to be used with a standard strategy, very deep defensive line, very narrow width and very slow tempo. This worked a treat as my wonderkid regen, Vella, scored one and assisted the second from a corner. Napoli’s late goal was no more than a consolation, they seemed to struggle getting past my deep defensive line and had to rely on long range efforts.

The fact that this went in to extra time is very deceiving as I felt no threat from the champions. The first half flew by without any drama and hardly any highlights. The second half saw Napoli try to attack, but constantly get caught out by Milan’s quick attacks down the wing. It took until extra time to break the deadlock, but it was coming for most of the second half.

The board seemed very cool and laid back, while the fans were ecstatic as always to see more silverware. After winning the Serie A title this Italian Cup win is much appreciated as I could move if a great offer came in, the Italian job is now complete. I still have the desire to stay in Italy, but would consider the likes of Manchester City, Real Madrid and Barcelona. :)

Europa League results

AC Milan started the season in the Champions League, but had been knocked out by the time I took over. A real shame, but at least I could now use the fringe players in this competition. The first two rounds saw an extremely easy draw and I waltzed through to the quarter-finals. Then Lyon gave me a little shock in the second leg, but a dogged performance saw us claw back two vital goals. On to the semi-final and a very easy 6-2 aggregate victory over Benfica saw my side reach the Europa League final. An in form Porto awaited us and I was rattling the old brain to find a way of taming Hulk.

Europa League final — AC Milan vs Porto

After a major lack of help form my assistant, I opted to try my 4-4-2. After all Milan have the better side and we should try playing on the front foot. I think my biggest mistake was using the deep defensive line, narrow width and slow tempo. These work a treat in Italy, but seemed to offer Porto far too much time on the ball. I also told my players to never mark Willian tightly, that was an error in judgement as the defence just kept backing off him before the goal. A very rare tactical disaster from myself, but the best team won.

I was extremely happy with the domestic double and that helped calm the pain of a shock Europa League defeat. Porto were very tough to break down and I hardly had a shot on goal until the last 10 minutes. From experience I know that when a side plays so out of character its because the manager has made a royal hash of the tactics. Oops, sorry guys.

Squad season stats

First of all, check out my 20 year regen Vella, his 16 assists were just brilliant. On the other end of the age scale, Ronaldinho was simply showing off with his 16 assists and 5 goals. The Brazilians physical attributes are horrendous but everything else is simply amazing. The biggest shock of the season was N’Zogbia managing 14 assist and 9 goals, while Pato met all expectations with 24 goals and most of those came after my appointment as manager. Well a great season is over and I now face the challenge of strengthening for a Champions League campaign. The likes of Ronaldinho and Pirlo took a huge wage cut to stay at the club an extra year. This will ease the financial strain, but Milan are still in some debt. Hopefully this will be sorted out sometime soon.

Thanks for reading folks, I’ll be reverting back to more frequent updates in this story. Probably every two to three months per post as my Newcastle story is on hold for a bit. I hope you enjoyed the read and I look forward to your comments. If you want to join us all in the Ultimate European Challenge, please follow the link and read the rules. Its very simple and should get us all into different cultures and styles of Football.

26 комментариев


  1. Laxeyman

    19 января, 2011 at 20:28

    Hi Darren, wow, what an eventful season and game you’re having. Congratulations on the A.C Milan job and well done on the incredible turnaround you produced since your arrival. Hopefully you can go on and win the Champions League next season, with a few good signings I reckon you could do it. Good luck for next season and looking forward to seeing who you bring in during pre season.

    • Darren Smith

      19 января, 2011 at 21:36

      Hey Laxeyman, it really has been eventful and full of action. After bringing in my own players during January I knew I had a good enough side for the title but its great to win it so early. Next season will be tough, but your right about the signings, some good business in the summer could make us serious contenders.

  2. warren

    19 января, 2011 at 20:44

    Hi Darren

    Excellent season and in such a short space of time. With a few summer signings I have no worries that you will be challenging for the champions league next season.

    Good luck for next season

    • Darren Smith

      19 января, 2011 at 21:37

      Thanks Warren, we definitely need to strengthen but the foundations are superb.

  3. Birdy

    19 января, 2011 at 20:45

    Hey Darren Awesome work with AC Milan and good luck in the Champions league I reckon you can win it for this season and maybe do another with them? Looking forward to see what the Board will give you and i cannot help noticing seeing the Greek calls Pathaloupous i think it is!

    • Darren Smith

      19 января, 2011 at 21:38

      Thanks Birdy, it was a sensational season full of lots of great moments. I’m looking forward to next season and the challenge of my first Champions League campaign in this story. :)

  4. GS Fan

    19 января, 2011 at 21:01

    So, it’s AC Milan. 10th to 1st, you’re a miracle worker!!

    Any offers yet? Have you considered coaching a national side?

    • Darren Smith

      19 января, 2011 at 21:40

      Thanks GS Fan, it was a great season and AC have some fantastic players. I am keeping one eye on all the national sides and would consider a big nation if they come calling. I will not however be leaving AC Milan this season. There is still a lot I can do with them, the only offers that would turn my head are Barca, Real, Man Utd and Man City.

  5. Sears

    19 января, 2011 at 21:38

    Fantastic Darren. You’ve already conquered the German and English league, and now your performing miracle’s in the Italian League as well. You’ll have this challenge completed in no time :-D Well done.

    ps that regen is amazing!!

    • Darren Smith

      20 января, 2011 at 19:05

      Cheers Sears, it has been a very lucky start with the jobs I’ve found. Hopefully I can keep up the good fortune. The only league I’m a little worried about is La Liga, if your not Barca or Real I think Spain could be a long journey.

      ps I’m glad someone finally mentioned the regen. He’s amazing and keeps improving. :)

  6. Davewig1980

    19 января, 2011 at 22:13

    I hate you :o)

  7. Wazz

    20 января, 2011 at 05:07

    Darren, as usual, I’m really speechless with your amazing management skills. It seems like you can win everything although that won’t be easy. You were defeated only once in the league. Amazing! Tough luck tough with the Europa League but hey, you’re gonna be in the Champions League. Looking forward for your progress next season. Good luck Darren!

    • Darren Smith

      20 января, 2011 at 18:56

      Thanks Wazz, Milan are a club with great history and I think that helps. Hopefully we can repeat the Serie A success and give the Champions League a good go.

  8. Ana Garcia

    20 января, 2011 at 13:17

    You really landed on your feet! :)

    AC Milan seems to have everything in place for you to achieve what you want, how much in debt are you?

    The squad is in good shape and with a few new players am sure you can compete for the champions league!

    Good luck Darren. :)

    • Darren Smith

      20 января, 2011 at 19:00

      You’re right Ana, I held out for the perfect job and thankfully found it. Funny thing is I made my interest in the Milan job public at the end of my season in Germany. This was well before even knowing what budget the HSV board would offer. About two weeks later the current Milan managers job status went back to safe. I thought that was that, then 6 months later they approach me out of the blue. Love it when things work out like that. :)

      The club was in £55 million of debt near the end of the season. This was reduced to £17 million of debt in pre-season after my transfer action.

  9. Lye Kuek Hin

    20 января, 2011 at 13:45

    Hi Darren,

    What a season. AC Milan is very clever at appointing you as their manager. Winning the title and cup on your first season in Italy is a great achievement. Seems you will soon complete the requirements for the Ultimate European Manager. Well done.

    • Darren Smith

      20 января, 2011 at 19:01

      Thanks Lye, the move worked perfectly for myself and the club…it would seem like the timing was down to a tee. Another few weeks would have seen me join Spurs instead. I’m looking forward to next season, just want to repeat the Serie A success.

  10. kevin

    20 января, 2011 at 20:12

    Hi Darren
    You did another fantastic job at the first attempt and this is quite something going from 13th to title winners. Glad to see one of my favorites back in Paloschi and I hope he becomes a regular next season. On the other hand Vella is unbelievable. I feel another «all conquering» story in the making :)
    Good luck!!

    • Darren Smith

      20 января, 2011 at 21:46

      Thanks Kevin, Taking AC Milan from mid-table to the title was really great and Pato was amazing. Paloschi could be one of those players that follow me around on FM. :) He’ll struggle to get first team football with Pato around though, the cup matches could well be his stage.

  11. Johnny Karp

    21 января, 2011 at 09:45

    That right winger is ridiculously good and it was a great bargain at 7.5 mil! I’m sure you’ll win the title again but the Champions League will be quite competitive, looking forward to that. Good luck!

    • Darren Smith

      21 января, 2011 at 12:12

      I agree Johnny, his stats are amazing and you should see him play, absolute genius. The title will be expected this year, but I also agree with your Champions League prediction, I could win it, but it will take some look and a lot of good form. :)

  12. Arjuna

    21 января, 2011 at 16:03

    Hey Darren,
    I also signed for AC Milan, but in my first season — i haven’t played much though, joined at the end of jan and played 3 matches, and they are a hard squad to manage with all their ageing players. you did very well this season, and should do better next season.btw, do you still have simone verdi? He is a great talent

    • Darren Smith

      21 января, 2011 at 18:59

      Hey arjuna, glad to hear you’re managing Milan too. They are tough to start with because the older players aren’t really good enough. However, I found that with the signings I made everything just took off. Hopefully I can carry this on and improve again next season. Verdi is not in my squad mate, must have already left. :(

  13. Sayam Khan

    23 января, 2011 at 14:06

    Hey Darren,

    well done on winning the double again! Unlucky not to win the Europa League. That regen’s attributes are crazy!

    • Darren Smith

      23 января, 2011 at 17:05

      Thanks Sayam, we were well beaten in the Europa League and the regen is really something. :) Couldn’t believe my eyes when stumbling across him.

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