2020/21: Serie B
Fresh off the back of a very promising finish to last season (despite defeat in the play off final) there was a lot to be optimistic about going into my third season at this level. With two quality strikers and creative talent on each wing in the form of McClean and Francini, Calcio carried the attacking talent to challenge for promotion.
This mood was quickly crushed by the board just a few weeks into the transfer window as they stepped in and sold Mirval to Auxerre for a measly £450k. This was only 6 months after rejecting offers of around £1.5 million for him! Further adding to my frustrations they also sold backup striker Reece Grego-Cox for £200k to Empoli without making any attempts to negotiate on the deal. I decided to reinvest this money into upgrading my youth facilities for the first time in an effort to bring through more national team players.
Other notable players to leave the club this transfer window included long time CB Jan Pahor after 4 full seasons and close to 150 appearances along with national team full back Mirko Palazzi who was in the middle of a serious decline and could no longer contribute at Serie B level.
My incoming transfer policy was the usual mix of free transfers and loan signings with Gabriele Gori returning for a 4th spell and Luca Biondi for a 3rd keeping the spine of the team in tact. I boosted my scoring options by signing Chilean international Martin Arenas on a free and also boosted my shirt sales by signing former Italian international Alberto Aquilani.
The league campaign started off patchy with 4 defeats in the first ten games as Calcio struggled to adapt without the talisman Mirval leading the line. Change was needed in an effort for fulfil the teams potential this campaign so i swapped from counter attacking football onto a more controlled passing game focusing on using McClean and Francini as the focus of attacks to get crosses into the box.
This tactic worked with dramatic effect. A period of 23 league games without defeat (a serie B record) from the end of October through to the beginning of April put Calcio firmly in control of the league as Gori well and truly adapted to being the main striker once again.
With the club flying in the league very few additions were needed in the January transfer window. The only additions needed were to cover the midfield with Kondic proving to be a great ball winning midfielder. Filippo Berardi was an important addition in a different sense as he was still one of the national teams better players and i didn’t want his development to be stifled as he struggled to find a club after being released by Torino.
Calcio carried on their good form for the remainder of the season with both promotion and the league title eventually sealed on the 1st of May with a comfortable home win against bottom of the table Siracusa.
Gori was in unstoppable form this season and comfortably won the golden boot scoring 29 goals in the process.
San Marino would be off to Serie A for the very first time!
- Average Attendance – 1973
- Biggest Win – 5-2 v Livorno
- Biggest Defeat – 0-4 v Trapani
- Top Scorer – Gabriele Gori, 29 Goals
- Most Assists – James McClean, 8 Assists
- Player of the Year – Gabriele Gori
- Highest Rated Player – Gabriele Gori, 7.48
On a positive note for the national team, Francini continues to be a dominant player on the right wing at this level developing a good partnership with Cypriot right back Eleftheriou. Andreini had a steady season in the first team in an effort to speed up his development but unfortunately he just never seemed to kick on and fulfil his potential. Biondi, Gori and De Santis prove to be a great spine of the team at this level for the second season in a row.
A solid central midfield prospect with no major weaknesses and great passing. Touted to have solid Serie A potential and he fully lived up to this in his career so far. Gave him a couple of short loan spells to aid his development before he was fully first team ready. Since then has always been around the first team whilst at the club. Ever present for the national team he provided a much needed boost to midfield. Became the Sammarinese Iniesta.
Not a prospect for the national team but had Serie A potential when he first came through. Could develop into a great boost for the first team if he lived up to this potential. One to keep an eye on.
A mediocre defensive prospect with OK physical stats but little else. A decent number of national team appearances and has had a steady career in Serie D and below. Never really threatened to break into the first team.
Overall a below average youth intake with only one player who will significantly benefit the national team and one fringe player. I really need the improvement to the youth facilities to benefit the youth intake soon.
Despite still being the bottom seed for the World Cup qualifying campaign there was a cause for optimism after picking up competitive points last year and several promising youngsters being a year further on in their development. With a mediocre group consisting of Moldova, Hungary, Austria, Israel and Denmark i was targeting one win and wanted to finish the group in 5th place or at least not too far behind.
The campaign began with a home game against Moldova with a positive result vital to meeting my objective. In front of a packed home crowd my counter attacking Leicester style of football proved successful as Matteo Vitaioli (one of the few original players left at this stage) tucked away a last minute penalty to pick up a tense victory and a first qualifying victory ever for the national team!
Less than a week later a reality check was delivered by Denmark as they dominated the game in Copenhagen. San Marino never really got into the game after switching to a more defensive style than against Moldova with the defence performing well to limit the Danes to a 3-0 scoreline.
Next up were Hungary at home and, having decided to commit fully to playing a counter attacking style for every game now, i set my team up to play as they did against Moldova in the opening game. A famous night of football followed as San Marino repeatedly hit a slow Hungarian team on the break to eventually win 3-1 with two goals from Francini and another from rising star Tamagnini. The packed San Marino stadium was rocking and the party lasted long into the night in order to celebrate a huge home win.
Despite losing the next game 1-0 to Austria in a surprisingly tight affair, national team fans dared to dream. Early results saw them sitting third in the group only 4 points behind second place and there were whispers of a shock qualification in the air if they could maintain this form.
Sadly this wasn’t to be the case. As quickly as the tight defeat to Austria brought hope, a total collapse against Israel destroyed it and San Marino went without a win for the rest of the campaign despite picking up credible away draws in both Moldova and Hungary. This qualifying campaign highlighted my teams great weakness in defence as we scored 8 goals in our last 4 games but only managed to pick up one point during this time.
Going undefeated against both Hungary and Moldova ensured San Marino finished in 4th place on goals scored, easily surpassing my target before the campaign. This was by far and away my most successful season yet and represented a huge leap forward in only five years as well as being the countries best qualifying campaign ever.
- January 2021 World Ranking – 165th
- December 2021 World Ranking – 111th
- Biggest Win – 3-1 v Hungary
- Biggest Defeat – 0-4 v Israel
- Highest Rated Player – Andrea Tamagnini, 7.18.