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What if... One-club men lived forever

The year is 2017. Top scientists have finally cracked the ability to stop ageing, and the world rejoices. The discovery prompts an immediate FIFA investigation into exactly what this means for world football from now on. How will the careers come and go when every team can just preserve their best stars? How will the next Messi break through? The Qatar FA suggest restricting it to only Qatari players, a motion that's only narrowly defeated. In unrelated news, a bunch of mysterious Qatari bank accounts are seized the day before the vote. Eventually, a compromise is decided upon between. Only those players who’ve proven themselves to be in it for the sport, and their team, can use it. The players who have stuck with their team through thick and thin, who’ve turned down bigger money offers to stay where they are. One-Club Men. However, should their loyalty ever waiver, and they choose to leave, those players will lose their right to an everlasting career, and have to face the advance years once again. Who will remain loyal the longest? Who will ride out the lowest of lows to stay at their lifelong club?
Unfortunately for those of you hoping I’ve found a secret miracle, that’s just the best nonsense I could come up with to frame this scenario. In less dramatic terms, using FM 2017, I'm going to select 50 one-club men from the top 5 leagues and de-age them to around 22. Every 5 years I'll de-age them down to 22 again, unless they abandon their loyalty. I'll also be adjusting everyone's contract to expire in 2020 to make it equal, and undoing international retirements where necessary. Nothing overly complicated, but I’m expecting this one to run a long long time if I’m going to have everyone leave, so I’m good with it not being too complicated.
Reddit side note! It's me again. Some may remember my experiments from ages ago. I'm back and writing again, but as you can probably tell, with a new name and website. If you want to see this post with much better formatting, all the images, and everyone's profile at the end, go here to read it in full: link You can stay here if you prefer though!
So who actually qualifies for this? I've restricted it to players from the Top 5 leagues of England, Italy, Spain, Germany and France, and only included those that have been at their clubs the longest. As well as the genuine candidates like Messi and Totti, loaned out players like Lahm qualify, as do those like Iniesta who haven't left in FM 2017, and even those that have left in-game, but are known for their careers at one club. Buffon is a good example of the latter. I've included a link to an image with all 5 players here: link
With all this loyalty around, I wanted to mix it up a bit by adding in one final player. Someone completely opposite to everyone picked so far, the anti-one-club man, the journeyman of all journeymen. And after some research, I came up with the perfect candidate. Sebastián Abreu, a man who in his career has played at an impressive 29 different teams in 11 different countries, setting a Guinness world record along the way. Abreu will receive the same treatment as the loyal players, except it won’t stop when he moves team. I want him to move around more, spread his wings, see how many teams he can collect over an illustrious career.
That’s enough explaining for now. Should be pretty clear what’s going on, just a bunch of footballers never getting old. Time to get things rolling and see who eliminates themselves. Who can stick it out the longest, who will become THE one-club man?

2016/17

With our younger one club men unleashed on the world, many of them attract instant attention from new clubs. For a while it stays quiet and looks like the first transfer window may pass without incident. Only a few loans crop up... until Javi López because the first man to fall. With Espanyol not meeting his standards, he makes a £2.4M trip down the coast to join Valencia. He proves to be the only summer casualty by the time the window slams shut.
January brings the winter window, and the Premier League clubs start to sniff around, ready to throw bags of cash at unsuspecting players. It doesn’t take long before the next two players are reeled in by money and lose their eternal youth. First Marcel Schmelzer in a £20.5M move to Liverpool, followed by Bruno joining moneybags Man City. By the end of the window, Nacho also heads to the north of England, joining rivals Man United. I’m not sure if any of them have realised how damn cold it is up there. That window swiftly ends, settling the bottom 4 finishers in the competition.
Returning to the world of actual football results briefly, and there aren’t many shocks to be seen. Man City finish 6th, Everton get relegated and Borussia Mönchengladbach reach the Champions League Semi-Finals. A few players see their team relegated, as Werder Bremen, Caen and Freiburg go down, so there could be a few casualties once that disappointment has set in. But all in all, the footballing world has coped just fine.
Loyal Players Remaining: 46
Abreu Club Count: 23 clubs in 10 countries
Odd Winners: None

2017/18

With everyone’s transfer budgets warmed up, it doesn’t take long for the action to get back underway. The previous season has barely finished before Chris Solly trades in his morals for a Premier League move to Norwich. Sergio Álvarez joins him in England, making the slightly odd move to Bournemouth before a big £52M move sees Koke trade loyalty for a big move to Man City. That’s the most surprising move so far, as I expected many of the players at top clubs to stick around. The final two transfers of the window take us to sunny Spain, where both Xabi Prieto and Mario become massive glory hunters, trading in their life long clubs for Atletico Madrid and Barcelona respectively. Javi López, having left Espanyol to join Valencia last year, immediately realises his mistake and rejoins Espanyol. It’s too little too late though, his status as a one-club man is already ruined.
The winter window comes and goes without even a hint of action, so things may already be starting to quieten down. Over in Brazil, Sebastián Abreu has his contract with Bangu come to an end after a good season but fails to attract any new suitors before the European season ends.
Around the world, things keep ticking on relatively normally. Watford take a surprising FA Cup win despite finishing rock bottom of the league, meaning they’ll have European nights alongside their Championship campaign. The loyalty of Seube, Höfler and Bargfrede is rewarded, as Caen, Bremen and Freiburg are immediately promoted back to the top tier. Las Palmas head in the opposite direction, which causes David García to hand in an immediate transfer request. The Spaniard could very well be the next player to go.
Loyal Players Remaining: 41
Abreu Club Count: 23 clubs in 10 countries
Odd Winners: Watford (FA Cup)

2018/19

My suggestion that things may be quietening down is immediately disproved by the biggest move so far. Bayern Munich legend Philipp Lahm makes a huge £82M transfer to Manchester City, throwing away all he’d built up at Bayern so far. But it doesn't end there, as 2 more huge transfers are finalised right after. First Claudio Marchisio drops Juventus, clearly not happy with them losing the title to AC Milan, and moves to Real Madrid. Then Daniele De Rossi trades in Roma for Barcelona. Whilst both have moved in real life, I didn’t expect either to fall so early in this, being icons at such huge clubs. A little later, David García makes his predicted move away from relegated Las Palmas, opting to stay in Spain with Osasuna. And then on the final day of the window, one last move. David Zurutuza decides the Premier League is more to his taste and joins Noble at West Ham. Javi López continues his tour of Spain, realising rejoining Espanyol doesn’t earn him back everlasting youth, and so heads to Sevilla instead. Currently, he’s moved around more than the specific journeyman player I chose to actually move around. Talking of, Abreu does find a new contract, heading back to Uruguay to join River Plate Montevideo.
The winter transfer window is again mostly quiet, with very little potential action. There are still some transfers though, as Robin Knoche becomes the 15th person out, heading to Borussia Dortmund. Then a legend moves on, as Iker Casillas decides that barely getting any game time behind Keylor Navas isn’t worth it, and so joins Monaco for a mere £11M. I guess you can't escape the real world after all.
The summer of 2018 means a World Cup, a tournament which regularly creates bizarre results in Football Manager. This year is no exception, as the likes of Italy, Belgium and Argentina fall in the group stages, before South Korea beat both Germany and France in the knockouts. The final between Brazil and Croatia proves 100% less heartbreaking than the real 2018 final for the Croatians, as they become champions of the world. In domestic football, Man United take all the English trophies on offer in a Quadruple, whilst Freiburg find themselves relegated yet again, as do Montpellier.
Loyal Players Remaining: 34
Abreu Club Count: 24 clubs in 10 countries
Odd Winners: Croatia (World Cup)

2019/20

Another season, another transfer window, another set of swirling rumours around our one-club men. Borussia Dortmund manage to steal away another of our competitors from a German rival, taking Timo Horn early in the window. Having been relegated yet again last season, Nicolas Höfler decides enough is enough and leaves Freiburg for Hertha Berlin. Over in Italy, and Chievo Legend Sergio Pellissier finally caves, leaving his relegation-threatened lifelong team for European battlers Fiorentina. But that's all the entertainment I can offer, no big signings this time around I’m afraid. Let's go see what Javi López is up to instead. His merry-go-round of clubs continues yet again, moving over to Deportivo de La Coruña in the latest of his ever-decreasing value of transfers.
January retains its typical bleak and dull atmosphere, with no sign of action whatsoever until the final day of the window. Hugo Mallo decides to try and add to his trophy cabinet and heads to Man United. Not the worst career move to throw away eternal life for considering their dominance right now. And with his departure, the total number of players that we've lost hits a nice round 20.
In the Premier League, Man United claim their 4th title in a row, exerting total dominance over everyone. But where one dominance rises, another falls, with Dortmund claiming the Bundesliga to knock Bayern off their perch. The shock of the season comes in the Coupe de France, where 3rd tier LB Châteauroux knock out Lyon, Auxerre and PSG before falling to Caen in the semi-finals. With Monaco having fallen to 4th tier SA Spinalien, Caen beat an easier opposition of RC Lens in the final, leading to Seube lifting the teams first-ever Coupe de France. Not bad for a player I expected to never lift a trophy. On a less joyous note, Höfler having left relegated Freiburg, sees his new team Hertha relegated immediately too. It seems there is no escaping the 2. Bundesliga!
On the record front, Gianluigi Buffon sets a huge benchmark, breaking the 200 cap mark for Italy. With no-one else close to him, he’ll stay the leader for a long time. Messi also breaks a boundary, climbing through 400 league goals during his career at Barcelona. Like Buffon, he’s way clear of any competitor, and unless a miracle happens that sees him abandon Barcelona, I can’t see anyone catching him soon.
Loyal Players Remaining: 30
Abreu Club Count: 24 clubs in 10 countries
Odd Winners: Caen (Coupe de France)

2020/21

2020 arrives, and with it, two important points arrive too. Firstly, everyone gets de-aged for the first time in this experiment. The 20 that have left get to watch from a distance thinking about what could have been. Second, the initial contracts are set to expire, so anyone that hasn’t re-signed will out the door. Which is exactly what happens to Víctor Valdés. Having barely appeared for Barcelona since his return, he leaves the club on a free and heads to the southern French coast to join Marseille. A day later and someone else leaves France, as Romain Danzé who decides one de-ageing is enough and moves to Schalke. Tony Hibbert also struggled for games at Everton despite his new youthful look, and so he walks out the door. He opts for Aston Villa, who to my great surprise have sunk to a mid-table League 1 team. Feeling left out, Spain joins in, with Oier Sanjurjo departing Osasuna and moving to Villarreal. The window is then capped by a bizarre final free transfer. Despite appearing regularly, Xavi isn’t offered a new contract by Barcelona. Man City can’t quite believe their luck and snap up the Spanish wizard a few days before the window shuts.
Winter brings with it just one transfer in its usual action-heavy way. Roberto Torres leaves Osasuna, making a £35.5M switch to Atletico. I’m not sure whether Atletico thought they were getting a different de-aged Torres because that can only be described as an overpayment. Either way, that means we've now lost over half the competitors.
Euro 2020 passes, and Croatia prove their World Cup victory was no fluke, becoming both champions of the World, and champions of Europe. On the Continental front, things have been fairly predictable so far, at least until this years Europa League. Hoffenheim escape a tough group and go all the way to win the entire thing. Not bad for a team that barely qualified in the first place. Oh, and Messi wins a little thing called the Ballon d’Or for the 10th time. I think he’s only just getting started.
Loyal Players Remaining: 24
Abreu Club Count: 24 clubs in 10 countries
Odd Winners: Hoffenheim (Europa League)

2021/22

The 21/22 season begins with two transfers on the first day. Loïc Perrin makes his way to the Premier League to join Leicester. But that's a minor splash compared to the other move, as after 768 appearances and 302 goals, Francesco Totti leaves Roma. It seems wrong to see it, but he’ll now be wearing a Man United kit. Dortmund continue their run of stealing loyalty, this time bringing Tony Jantschke into the fold. Another contract is run to the end, forcing Álex Bergantiños out of Deportivo without much choice, before being picked up by Cagliari. Mikel González opts to end his time at Real Sociedad, joining Pellissier over at Fiorentina. And as August comes to a close, it looks like Totti may be the only big departure. That is until Gianluigi Buffon decides to call time on his Juventus career. It’s an odd move, with the legend going sorta sideways from a regular starting Juventus spot to Bayern Munich. But there’s no going back now, as his 636 league appearance career with the Italians comes to a close. Two legends down in one window.
No season is complete without a single winter signing to warrant an entire separate paragraph, and this season is no different. Sergi Roberto moves away from Barcelona, in a £24M move to French giants PSG. A good way to guarantee yourself plenty of titles I guess. Abreu also makes a winter move, adding Guarani in the Brasilian second tier to his collection.
Roberto’s decision proves to be a good one, as PSG go on to claim their 10th one in a row. Not many surprises elsewhere, although Real Oviedo get close to pulling off a shock in the Copa del Rey. The second tier team beat Osasuna, Barcelona and Sevilla on the way to the final, but ultimately Real Madrid prove a step too far. Elsewhere everything is won by a team you’d probably expect. Exciting stuff.
Loyal Players Remaining: 17
Abreu Club Count: 25 clubs in 10 countries
Odd Winners: None

2022/23

With the pool of players rapidly decreasing, very few of the crew are even wanted by other clubs anymore. Perhaps deterred by their steadfast loyalty? A few moves do still happen though, so we’re not dead yet. Firstly Anthony Lopes gets fed up of PSG dominating his league and moves to AC Milan for a better shot at a trophy. It’s not long before that story is forgotten, as the biggest transfer fee in the competition so far is dropped. Andrés Iniesta is stolen away from Barcelona, in a huge £86M move to Man United. The midfield maestro fell 2 appearances short of 600 league games for Barcelona, but with his new £300K per-week contract it’s not hard to guess why. That proves to be all the action for the summer window, with no-one willing to top that huge move.
After half a season of hearing their noisy neighbours gloating about their star signing, Man City snap. And if there’s one thing City are good at, it’s splashing the cash. In probably the easiest negotiation over fee Barcelona has ever had, Sergio Busquets makes a £95M move to the sky blues. Yeh, that’ll show United. Once again no-one wants to get in the middle of the awkward Manchester squabble, and the winter transfer closes with a whimper.
The second World Cup of this experiment comes and goes. This time all the giants make it safely through the Group Stages, but it’s Africa that really excels. Morocco make the knockouts, Egypt battle through to the Quarter Finals, but Nigeria come out best. They beat South Korea and Argentina before falling valiantly to France in the Semi-Finals. A 1-0 victory of Italy does see them finish in an impressive 3rd place, becoming the first African team to finish in the top 3 of the World Cup. France win the title on penalties after a deceivingly action-filled 0-0 draw with Spain. The domestic scene follows that with a similar lack of real shocks. In the Carabao Cup, Bournemouth beat Arsenal, Chelsea and Man United on the way to lifting the trophy. But it’s the lesser Cup, so outside of Bournemouth no-one really cares. PSG finally have their grip on the Ligue 1 broken, as Casillas leads Monaco to a fantastic title. Otherwise, all the league titles and cups fall to teams you’d expect them too. Another thrilling year.
Loyal Players Remaining: 14
Abreu Club Count: 25 clubs in 10 countries
Odd Winners: Bournemouth (Carabao Cup)

2023/24

Literally nothing happens. Thomas Kessler decides that no team can ignore his existence for 20 seasons in a row and get away with it, leaving Köln to join Trabzonspor. So as I said, literally nothing happens. Even Javi López moving to yet another club would be more interesting than that.
The same applies to the footballing season. Asides from Casillas captaining Monaco to a Champions League title, or Atletico winning the title again, exactly 10 years after their last win, everything is frustratingly normal. And even those two events are hardly shocks.
Before I start to lose hope, there are a few interesting moves over the last few years from the losing group that are worth highlighting. First season mover Bruno didn’t make the impact he hoped and found himself moving to the lovely Stoke. Robin Knoche barely received any playtime at Dortmund and found himself cast out to Dinamo Zagreb. Even in League 1, Tony Hibbert could barely get any game time at Villa and so moved on the Scunthorpe in League 2. But the winner of the oddest move has to be Zurutuza, who somehow manage to pull off a move to Liverpool after West Ham found themselves relegated, only make a few disappointing performances, before being released on a free to join Al-Arabi in Qatar. Not quite the career he was anticipating when joining the Premier League I bet.
Loyal Players Remaining: 13
Abreu Club Count: 25 clubs in 10 countries
Odd Winners: None

2024/25

The summer transfer window arrives for another season, and with it finally comes a huge deal! Javi López has found yet another club! Hooray! As for actual competitors, absolutely no movement whatsoever. Even from Abreu, who’s been at Guarani for 2.5 years now. Manceau, Lewington and Seube complain to their managers about playing time or relegation, but none of them actually make a move anywhere. So our final 13 will add another 5 years onto their career length.
There are some fun statistics from our 51 worth mentioning at this point. Buffon leads the way with both total league appearances (935) and international caps (259). His caps are at a point where they’re too high for the game to display, as the value is stored as an unsigned 8-bit integer, and so has rolled over to just show 3. Most appearances for a single club goes to Dean Lewington however, who thanks to being a regular sits at 857 league appearances for the MK Dons (or 889 if you include Wimbledon). In the goals department, the winner is obvious. With almost 500 league goals, 100 international goals and 14 Ballon d’Or awards, Messi sits on top of everyone. On the international scene, he’s run close by Müller and the fast-approaching Kane, but for league goals, it’s not even close.
2024 brings with it a Euro tournament, which doesn’t provide much in the way of surprises, but brings with it some exciting high scoring matches. All ending in a 4-3 victory for a Thomas Müller led Germany over neighbours Netherlands. Which I’m sure went down very well. The domestic scene decides to spring a few shocks though. In Serie A, Roma claim an impressive title thanks to main striker Iheanacho, their first since 2001. The German and French cups provide surprise winners, in the form of Hertha Berlin and Dijon. Both cap an impressive run by beating their respective league winners, Bayern and Monaco. Even the continental tournaments turn up too. First Monaco cement their place as a top power in football by winning their second Champions League in a row. That coming a week after the best win there could possibly be. Tottenham win the Europa League! Screw the other stuff, that last part is all I need!
Loyal Players Remaining: 13
Abreu Club Count: 25 clubs in 10 countries
Odd Winners: Dijon (Coupe de France), Hertha Berlin (DFB Pokal)

At this point though it’s fair to say that the competition results are more interesting than the movements of the players. Which is the perfect signal that things need to speed up a little bit. So from now on, updates will be every 5 years, which lines up perfectly with player age resets, letting us see who has made it to the next checkpoint.

2025-2030

Another round of de-ageing hits, and you’d think that would incite some interest in our final 13. Instead, it’s a ghost town. We do have an immediate dropout though, as Nicolas Seube finally gets fed up with his lack of playtime at Caen and heads for Panionios in Greece. A year later the situation is repeated. I’m not entirely sure what his unhappiness was about, but Iker Muniain decides he’s had enough of Athletic Club and moves to Hamburger SV. At least he left on exactly 100 goals for Athletic though, a nice round number. With 11 left, a standoff to reach the top 10 ensues. For 3 years no-one budges in their show of loyalty, until in 2029… Dean Lewington leaves for Derby County on a free. It’s a huge move, with Lewington becoming the first man to break through 1000 league appearances for a single club before leaving. But he’s moved on now, and it won’t be long before that record is broken. That move means we’re left with our final 10 contestants. Terry, Iraola, Messi, Susaeta, Noble, Jourdren, Müller, Kane, Manceau and Bargfrede have secured a top 10 spot, and now all that’s left to do is fight it out for number 1.
Over in Brazil, our anti-one-club man continues his journey, although it remains in Brazil for the moment. Only 2 clubs are added to his count, with a long stay at Atletico Goianiense followed by a £2M move to top tier Coritiba. I’m kind of hoping he starts to make enough waves in the Brazilian league to move to Europe and add some new countries to his history.
Those that fell before the first de-ageing are retiring, finishing off their magnificent, or in some cases very un-magnificent, careers (as losers). Javi López finishes his fine anti-loyalty tour around Spain with 7 transfers to his name. Schmelzer, Nacho, Solly, Álvarez, Koke, Mario, Prieto, Marchisio, De Rossi, David García, Zurutuza, Knoche, Höfler, Pellissier, Mallo, Horn and Hibbert end their careers. Many, such as Nacho, Horn and De Rossi stay just as committed to their new clubs as they did their old, finishing out their careers after just a single transfer. Of the pensioners, Sergio Pellissier manages to rack up the most career league appearances and goals, at 894 and 246, although that’s largely thanks to a huge head start. De Rossi dominates on the international scene, earning a whopping 197 caps over his 30-year career. Naturally, all those records will be blown out the water once the next group start retiring, but it’s nice to have some benchmarks.
Around the world, plenty has gone on worth hearing about. The Netherlands claim their first-ever World Cup win, beating Brazil in the final, whilst in the Euro’s Germany win their second tournament in a row. The Gold Cup throws up a few interesting results too, as first, the Mexico B team win it, with their A team tied up in the Confederations Cup. Then 4 years later Canada take the title, only the second time in their history. Over in Italy, Lazio find themselves relegated as the league starts to shake itself up a bit. But other than that, domestic football remains relatively unspectacular. Oh except… TOTTENHAM WINNING THE LEAGUE. Didn’t even have to reset it and we won it before Arsenal did. North London is very much Lilywhite now, suck it Gooners!
Loyal Players Remaining: 10
Abreu Club Count: 27 clubs in 10 countries
Odd Winners: Tottenham (Premier League)

2030-2035

Another 5 years pass and to start with it looks like the top 10 are going to hold firm. Eventually though, the temptation of money proves too much for one man. That man is Geoffrey Jourdren who trades in his starting slot at Montpellier for a cosy backup contract at PSG. Then comes… dead silence. Not even a rumour, or an unhappy player. No-one even hints at leaving for the next 4 years, which means we end the period with nine players on the books. The real waiting game has begun. Even our journeyman Abreu is moving in a very slow way, as a five year Coritiba stint finishes with a free transfer to Red Bull Brasil. I think my hopes for a European move have died.
At least there are a lot of retirements to run through. Bruno, Lahm, Casillas, Valdés, Danzé, Oier, Xavi, Torres, Perrin, Jantschke, Bergantiños, González, Roberto, Iniesta and Busquets hang up their playing boots. That does leave us without some noted legends, with Lahm, Casillas, Iniesta and Busquets reaching 200 caps for their country. You’d think Spain would have won more with that golden generation. Casillas and Xavi also both hit 1000 league appearances thanks to a strong head start before the experiment. But it’s Andrés Iniesta who is the most loyal of the bunch, racking up nearly 600 appearances for his original club before departing.
Five years leaves plenty of time for interesting results once again. England take a World Cup win, which is always a sign of the apocalypse, only made more bizarre by Scotland making the semi-finals in the same competition. Portugal take the other title in that period, whilst the Euros also see a surprise winner in Switzerland. France provides the biggest shock at club level, as Lille come from nowhere to win Ligue 1, and then immediately revert back to mid-table once again. Otherwise, the time belongs to Manchester City. The oil bar… sky blues take 4 out of 5 titles in both the Premier League and Champions League, with all that cash flinging finally paying off.
Loyal Players Remaining: 9
Abreu Club Count: 28 clubs in 10 countries
Odd Winners: England (World Cup), Lille (Ligue 1)

2035-40

With just nine players left, once again we get a transfer fairly early on in the period. Early as in the first transfer window, which makes me wonder why they waited so long. Anyway, Mark Noble has had his patience tested by West Ham’s yoyoing between the Premier League and Championship a bit too much and finally caves. He makes a £20M move to Burnley, who… are doing the exact same thing. Not sure that was the brightest idea. Like the previous 5 years though, one transfer is all we get. None of the others move, despite some pretty heavy unhappiness from Bargfrede and Manceau. Abreu keeps up his trail, running out his contract with Red Bull Brasil and opting for Chapecoense to reach 29 clubs in his career.
With very few moving recently, that also means less and less are retiring, as just 7 ex-competitors leave the game. Totti, Buffon, Lopes, Kessler, Seube, Muniain and Lewington call time on their football life. The fact they all stuck with it for so long means there’s so impressive stats between them. Totti racked up 1154 league appearances, with 768 at Roma. Dean Lewington, after leaving MK Dons with 1003 appearances finished with a total of 1287. Italian legend Gianluigi Buffon finished with a whopping 1307 league appearances, but perhaps more impressively, 334 international caps. But the single most surprising statistic goes to Thomas Kessler. Despite barely playing in Germany he manages to notch a grand total of 7 goals after his move to Turkey. Maybe if he’d been a striker he’d have actually played at Koln. Oh and Seube ends his career Greek. Because why not.
As per every time, a quick look around the world’s results is needed. Spain win back the World Cup titles, whilst Italy take a Euro win. Argentina, Mexico and Australia claim all their continents international trophies in the window, so no massive surprises there. The domestic world isn’t exactly littered with shocks either. Brescia win a Coppa Italia, and Nîmes Olympique grab 4 top 5 finishes in a row in France, but there’s not really much to shout about. I think it’s best to just get on with the next de-ageing.
Loyal Players Remaining: 8
Abreu Club Count: 29 clubs in 10 countries
Odd Winners: Brescia (Coppa Italia)

2040-45

Down to 8 now, so it’s getting tougher. And a lot slower, so slow in fact that not a single transfer in our group happens in five years. For a moment I was excited to see Manceau at Recreativo de Huelva, but that was just a loan. So I was back to being crushed. On the plus side, Abreu makes some huge steps. He adds not just 1, but 2 new countries to his history! The first is Portugal, in a huge step up to join Braga. As usual, it’s just until his contract ends, before he moves on to Frankfurt in the Bundesliga. He’s hardly setting Europe alight but I don’t care, he’s actually moving!
There’s only one retiree to talk about too, as pretty much everyone has already gone. Geoffrey Jourdren finishes up with 925 total league appearances. It probably could have been a bit more, if he’d not spent 10 years of his career being a backup at PSG and Bayern. On a far more interesting note, Terry breaks through 1500 career league appearances. Kane also hits 256 international goals, which results in the number resetting to 0 just like caps. So the game has him on 96 caps with 11 goals, when the actual numbers are a stunning 352 caps with 267 goals.
Having seen my disappointment last time around, the world decides to liven things up. Denmark become both Champions of the World and Champions of Europe in 2042 and 2040, although they lose the European title to Germany 4 years later. At the continental level, the Champions League stays on track, but the Europa League brings some bizarre winners into the mix. Nîmes Olympique, Real Sociedad, Leicester and Bristol City all win a trophy. It seems Mark Noble finally made a right move transferring to Bristol City, as the club is now a strong top 6 Premier League side. Manceau wins a Coupe de France at Angers, but it’s still Nîmes making waves, forming a big three with PSG and Monaco. It may not be long before either Nîmes or Bristol City win their league, which is not something I expected to be saying.
Loyal Players Remaining: 8
Abreu Club Count: 31 clubs in 12 countries
Odd Winners: Nîmes Olympique/Bristol City (Europa League), Angers (Coupe de France)

2045-50

2045 kicks off and once again Manceau deceives me. This time it’s a loan spell in Denmark with Brøndby that had me thinking he was gone. Well you know what they say, fool me once shame on you, fool me twice… I’m probably gonna fall for it. It looks like there’s going to be no moves whatsoever once again, until June 2047 arrives and I notice a contract is set to expire. Imagine my shock when Lionel Messi is not offered a contract by Barcelona and is let go. It’s made doubly worse by the fact that of all teams to pick him up, it's Atletico Madrid. Apparently, 37 Ballon d’Or awards aren’t good enough for Barcelona anymore. I don’t even care that nothing else happens. That’s enough to stun me.
Over in the retirement home, Mark Noble moves into a room. After an up and down career, the Englishman did manage some silverware with Bristol City and ended his career with 1317 league appearances. He even earned not just 1, but 90 England caps across his 44-year career.
Around the world, interesting results are still cropping up. England grab their third World Cup win beating Colombia, whilst Honduras win their first-ever Gold Cup. Much to my bitter disappointment, Arsenal win 4 of the 5 Champions Leagues on offer, as well as 3 Premier League titles. Chelsea have a period of bottom 10 finishes which deeply upsets Terry, whilst over in France, Chamois Niortais begin to try and join the top 3. Don’t worry I’ve never heard of them either.
Loyal Players Remaining: 7
Abreu Club Count: 32 clubs in 12 countries
Odd Winners: Honduras (Gold Cup)

2050-55

With the world still reeling at the fact the Messi has moved from Barcelona, everyone kinda forgets to make any moves. In fact, Messi is the first person to move yet again, leaving Atletico in a very cheap 34.5M move to Man City. Which is more in line with where I originally expected him to go. Abreu finishes one contract, at Hapoel Be’er Sheva, and moves onto the next, but it’s with Monterrey so doesn’t count. Sebastian, it has to be new clubs. John Terry is starting to get frustrated with a Chelsea team that has really fallen from grace. The Londoners barely survive relegation in 2052/53, so Terry may be the next to go. Or maybe I know nothing and it’s completely random.
No-one retires this year, so let’s take a brief look at some statistics of our remaining 7 + Messi. All our players have now reached 1000 appearances, with Bargfrede in last at 1173. Messi has crossed 1000 league goals, now a full 300 clear of the chasing pack of Abreu and Kane. On the international level, Thomas Müller becomes the first player to need a rollover of caps twice, moving on to a massive 524 international caps. But it’s Kane who still leads the international goal stat, nearly breaking 350, a full 50 ahead of the German.
Müller does, however, grab a World Cup win for Germany so I’m sure he won’t be too upset. At least until they’re deposed by Holland 4 years later. On the continental level, Bristol City win another Europa League title beating previous champions Espanyol. Middlesbrough also nearly earn a trophy, having joined Bristol as a top 6 team. But the winner of the biggest shock, although I did say this might happen, goes to Chamois Niortais, who topple the dominance of PSG and Monaco to capture a miraculous Ligue 1 title in the last season of the period.
Loyal Players Remaining: 7
Abreu Club Count: 32 clubs in 12 countries
Odd Winners: Chamois Niortais (Ligue 1), Bristol City/Espanyol (Europa League)

2055-60

The summer window of 2055 opens and as I warned may happen, there’s an almost immediate transfer. Fed up with Chelsea’s mediocre finishes, John Terry decides to move on. Unfortunately for Chelsea fans, Arsenal is his next club, which I’m sure will cause a few shudders. A year later and another move comes around, once again due to unhappiness over the club’s performance. Surprisingly it's Thomas Müller,who's annoyed by the fact that Bayern haven’t won a Bundesliga title since 2048, and so runs down his contract. Leverkusen almost earn his signature, but eventually its the glory of PSG that proves too much to resist. But we’re not done there! Another player runs down their contract, opting to move to Vitoria de Setubal in Portugal. Vincent Manceau finally makes a real move rather than constantly faking me out. So with another 3 players down, we’re left with our final 4. The race for the top 3 is hotting up now!
We do have a retirement this time thanks to the transfer window livening up. The world's best-ever player, Lionel Messi, retires from football. He ends up on a total of 1858 league appearances, scoring a massive 1068 goals in this time. 1430 appearances and 895 goals of those belonging to his 45-year career at Barcelona. On the international scene, he earned an impressive 505 caps and 276 goals. But it’s the awards where he shines. 279 individual awards, 82 team titles, 22 league titles, 6 Champions League titles, 45 Ballon d’Or awards. What makes it even crazier is 41 of those Ballon d’Or awards were in a row, as he earned every single one from 2015 to 2056. I don’t think I’ll see another player like that crop up in any save, truly the world’s best player.
Looking out on the world, I can say that it’s a Chamois Niortais player that breaks Messi’s streak, as the French team claim another two Ligue 1 titles. It’s hard to say they’re a “surprise winner” at this point. Bristol City finally make the full step up to join the big guns, winning 3 Carabao Cups, 1 FA Cup, 2 Premier League titles and even a Champions League trophy. If any Bristol City fans want this save to give themselves hope over the future, I can send it over. Internationally it's the era of Portugal, as they claim both the Euro and World Cup trophies.
Loyal Players Remaining: 4
Abreu Club Count: 32 clubs in 12 countries
Odd Winners: Bristol City (Premier League/Champions League), Lyon (Relegation)

With so few players left, now is probably a good time to speed it up once again. The final four will be tough to budge, so how about we move to 10-year intervals to try and cut down on dead years. And I'll be moving to the comments, because I've hit reddits character limit.
submitted by whatif_gaming to footballmanagergames [link] [comments]

Test post please ignore

The year is 2017. Top scientists have finally cracked the ability to stop ageing, and the world rejoices. The discovery prompts an immediate FIFA investigation into exactly what this means for world football from now on. How will the careers come and go when every team can just preserve their best stars? How will the next Messi break through? The Qatar FA suggest restricting it to only Qatari players, a motion that's only narrowly defeated. In unrelated news, a bunch of mysterious Qatari bank accounts are seized the day before the vote. Eventually, a compromise is decided upon between. Only those players who’ve proven themselves to be in it for the sport, and their team, can use it. The players who have stuck with their team through thick and thin, who’ve turned down bigger money offers to stay where they are. One-Club Men. However, should their loyalty ever waiver, and they choose to leave, those players will lose their right to an everlasting career, and have to face the advance years once again. Who will remain loyal the longest? Who will ride out the lowest of lows to stay at their lifelong club?
Unfortunately for those of you hoping I’ve found a secret miracle, that’s just the best nonsense I could come up with to frame this scenario. In less dramatic terms, using FM 2017, I'm going to select 50 one-club men from the top 5 leagues and de-age them to around 22. Every 5 years I'll de-age them down to 22 again, unless they abandon their loyalty. I'll also be adjusting everyone's contract to expire in 2020 to make it equal, and undoing international retirements where necessary. Nothing overly complicated, but I’m expecting this one to run a long long time if I’m going to have everyone leave, so I’m good with it not being too complicated.
Reddit side note! It's me again. Some may remember my experiments from ages ago. I'm back and writing again, but as you can probably tell, with a new name and website. If you want to see this post with much better formatting, all the images, and everyone's profile at the end, go here to read it in full: link You can stay here if you prefer though!
So who actually qualifies for this? I've restricted it to players from the Top 5 leagues of England, Italy, Spain, Germany and France, and only included those that have been at their clubs the longest. As well as the genuine candidates like Messi and Totti, loaned out players like Lahm qualify, as do those like Iniesta who haven't left in FM 2017, and even those that have left in-game, but are known for their careers at one club. Buffon is a good example of the latter. I've included a link to an image with all 5 players here: link
With all this loyalty around, I wanted to mix it up a bit by adding in one final player. Someone completely opposite to everyone picked so far, the anti-one-club man, the journeyman of all journeymen. And after some research, I came up with the perfect candidate. Sebastián Abreu, a man who in his career has played at an impressive 29 different teams in 11 different countries, setting a Guinness world record along the way. Abreu will receive the same treatment as the loyal players, except it won’t stop when he moves team. I want him to move around more, spread his wings, see how many teams he can collect over an illustrious career.
That’s enough explaining for now. Should be pretty clear what’s going on, just a bunch of footballers never getting old. Time to get things rolling and see who eliminates themselves. Who can stick it out the longest, who will become THE one-club man?

2016/17

With our younger one club men unleashed on the world, many of them attract instant attention from new clubs. For a while it stays quiet and looks like the first transfer window may pass without incident. Only a few loans crop up... until Javi López because the first man to fall. With Espanyol not meeting his standards, he makes a £2.4M trip down the coast to join Valencia. He proves to be the only summer casualty by the time the window slams shut.
January brings the winter window, and the Premier League clubs start to sniff around, ready to throw bags of cash at unsuspecting players. It doesn’t take long before the next two players are reeled in by money and lose their eternal youth. First Marcel Schmelzer in a £20.5M move to Liverpool, followed by Bruno joining moneybags Man City. By the end of the window, Nacho also heads to the north of England, joining rivals Man United. I’m not sure if any of them have realised how damn cold it is up there. That window swiftly ends, settling the bottom 4 finishers in the competition.
Returning to the world of actual football results briefly, and there aren’t many shocks to be seen. Man City finish 6th, Everton get relegated and Borussia Mönchengladbach reach the Champions League Semi-Finals. A few players see their team relegated, as Werder Bremen, Caen and Freiburg go down, so there could be a few casualties once that disappointment has set in. But all in all, the footballing world has coped just fine.
Loyal Players Remaining: 46
Abreu Club Count: 23 clubs in 10 countries
Odd Winners: None

2017/18

With everyone’s transfer budgets warmed up, it doesn’t take long for the action to get back underway. The previous season has barely finished before Chris Solly trades in his morals for a Premier League move to Norwich. Sergio Álvarez joins him in England, making the slightly odd move to Bournemouth before a big £52M move sees Koke trade loyalty for a big move to Man City. That’s the most surprising move so far, as I expected many of the players at top clubs to stick around. The final two transfers of the window take us to sunny Spain, where both Xabi Prieto and Mario become massive glory hunters, trading in their life long clubs for Atletico Madrid and Barcelona respectively. Javi López, having left Espanyol to join Valencia last year, immediately realises his mistake and rejoins Espanyol. It’s too little too late though, his status as a one-club man is already ruined.
The winter window comes and goes without even a hint of action, so things may already be starting to quieten down. Over in Brazil, Sebastián Abreu has his contract with Bangu come to an end after a good season but fails to attract any new suitors before the European season ends.
Around the world, things keep ticking on relatively normally. Watford take a surprising FA Cup win despite finishing rock bottom of the league, meaning they’ll have European nights alongside their Championship campaign. The loyalty of Seube, Höfler and Bargfrede is rewarded, as Caen, Bremen and Freiburg are immediately promoted back to the top tier. Las Palmas head in the opposite direction, which causes David García to hand in an immediate transfer request. The Spaniard could very well be the next player to go.
Loyal Players Remaining: 41
Abreu Club Count: 23 clubs in 10 countries
Odd Winners: Watford (FA Cup)

2018/19

My suggestion that things may be quietening down is immediately disproved by the biggest move so far. Bayern Munich legend Philipp Lahm makes a huge £82M transfer to Manchester City, throwing away all he’d built up at Bayern so far. But it doesn't end there, as 2 more huge transfers are finalised right after. First Claudio Marchisio drops Juventus, clearly not happy with them losing the title to AC Milan, and moves to Real Madrid. Then Daniele De Rossi trades in Roma for Barcelona. Whilst both have moved in real life, I didn’t expect either to fall so early in this, being icons at such huge clubs. A little later, David García makes his predicted move away from relegated Las Palmas, opting to stay in Spain with Osasuna. And then on the final day of the window, one last move. David Zurutuza decides the Premier League is more to his taste and joins Noble at West Ham. Javi López continues his tour of Spain, realising rejoining Espanyol doesn’t earn him back everlasting youth, and so heads to Sevilla instead. Currently, he’s moved around more than the specific journeyman player I chose to actually move around. Talking of, Abreu does find a new contract, heading back to Uruguay to join River Plate Montevideo.
The winter transfer window is again mostly quiet, with very little potential action. There are still some transfers though, as Robin Knoche becomes the 15th person out, heading to Borussia Dortmund. Then a legend moves on, as Iker Casillas decides that barely getting any game time behind Keylor Navas isn’t worth it, and so joins Monaco for a mere £11M. I guess you can't escape the real world after all.
The summer of 2018 means a World Cup, a tournament which regularly creates bizarre results in Football Manager. This year is no exception, as the likes of Italy, Belgium and Argentina fall in the group stages, before South Korea beat both Germany and France in the knockouts. The final between Brazil and Croatia proves 100% less heartbreaking than the real 2018 final for the Croatians, as they become champions of the world. In domestic football, Man United take all the English trophies on offer in a Quadruple, whilst Freiburg find themselves relegated yet again, as do Montpellier.
Loyal Players Remaining: 34
Abreu Club Count: 24 clubs in 10 countries
Odd Winners: Croatia (World Cup)

2019/20

Another season, another transfer window, another set of swirling rumours around our one-club men. Borussia Dortmund manage to steal away another of our competitors from a German rival, taking Timo Horn early in the window. Having been relegated yet again last season, Nicolas Höfler decides enough is enough and leaves Freiburg for Hertha Berlin. Over in Italy, and Chievo Legend Sergio Pellissier finally caves, leaving his relegation-threatened lifelong team for European battlers Fiorentina. But that's all the entertainment I can offer, no big signings this time around I’m afraid. Let's go see what Javi López is up to instead. His merry-go-round of clubs continues yet again, moving over to Deportivo de La Coruña in the latest of his ever-decreasing value of transfers.
January retains its typical bleak and dull atmosphere, with no sign of action whatsoever until the final day of the window. Hugo Mallo decides to try and add to his trophy cabinet and heads to Man United. Not the worst career move to throw away eternal life for considering their dominance right now. And with his departure, the total number of players that we've lost hits a nice round 20.
In the Premier League, Man United claim their 4th title in a row, exerting total dominance over everyone. But where one dominance rises, another falls, with Dortmund claiming the Bundesliga to knock Bayern off their perch. The shock of the season comes in the Coupe de France, where 3rd tier LB Châteauroux knock out Lyon, Auxerre and PSG before falling to Caen in the semi-finals. With Monaco having fallen to 4th tier SA Spinalien, Caen beat an easier opposition of RC Lens in the final, leading to Seube lifting the teams first-ever Coupe de France. Not bad for a player I expected to never lift a trophy. On a less joyous note, Höfler having left relegated Freiburg, sees his new team Hertha relegated immediately too. It seems there is no escaping the 2. Bundesliga!
On the record front, Gianluigi Buffon sets a huge benchmark, breaking the 200 cap mark for Italy. With no-one else close to him, he’ll stay the leader for a long time. Messi also breaks a boundary, climbing through 400 league goals during his career at Barcelona. Like Buffon, he’s way clear of any competitor, and unless a miracle happens that sees him abandon Barcelona, I can’t see anyone catching him soon.
Loyal Players Remaining: 30
Abreu Club Count: 24 clubs in 10 countries
Odd Winners: Caen (Coupe de France)

2020/21

2020 arrives, and with it, two important points arrive too. Firstly, everyone gets de-aged for the first time in this experiment. The 20 that have left get to watch from a distance thinking about what could have been. Second, the initial contracts are set to expire, so anyone that hasn’t re-signed will out the door. Which is exactly what happens to Víctor Valdés. Having barely appeared for Barcelona since his return, he leaves the club on a free and heads to the southern French coast to join Marseille. A day later and someone else leaves France, as Romain Danzé who decides one de-ageing is enough and moves to Schalke. Tony Hibbert also struggled for games at Everton despite his new youthful look, and so he walks out the door. He opts for Aston Villa, who to my great surprise have sunk to a mid-table League 1 team. Feeling left out, Spain joins in, with Oier Sanjurjo departing Osasuna and moving to Villarreal. The window is then capped by a bizarre final free transfer. Despite appearing regularly, Xavi isn’t offered a new contract by Barcelona. Man City can’t quite believe their luck and snap up the Spanish wizard a few days before the window shuts.
Winter brings with it just one transfer in its usual action-heavy way. Roberto Torres leaves Osasuna, making a £35.5M switch to Atletico. I’m not sure whether Atletico thought they were getting a different de-aged Torres because that can only be described as an overpayment. Either way, that means we've now lost over half the competitors.
Euro 2020 passes, and Croatia prove their World Cup victory was no fluke, becoming both champions of the World, and champions of Europe. On the Continental front, things have been fairly predictable so far, at least until this years Europa League. Hoffenheim escape a tough group and go all the way to win the entire thing. Not bad for a team that barely qualified in the first place. Oh, and Messi wins a little thing called the Ballon d’Or for the 10th time. I think he’s only just getting started.
Loyal Players Remaining: 24
Abreu Club Count: 24 clubs in 10 countries
Odd Winners: Hoffenheim (Europa League)

2021/22

The 21/22 season begins with two transfers on the first day. Loïc Perrin makes his way to the Premier League to join Leicester. But that's a minor splash compared to the other move, as after 768 appearances and 302 goals, Francesco Totti leaves Roma. It seems wrong to see it, but he’ll now be wearing a Man United kit. Dortmund continue their run of stealing loyalty, this time bringing Tony Jantschke into the fold. Another contract is run to the end, forcing Álex Bergantiños out of Deportivo without much choice, before being picked up by Cagliari. Mikel González opts to end his time at Real Sociedad, joining Pellissier over at Fiorentina. And as August comes to a close, it looks like Totti may be the only big departure. That is until Gianluigi Buffon decides to call time on his Juventus career. It’s an odd move, with the legend going sorta sideways from a regular starting Juventus spot to Bayern Munich. But there’s no going back now, as his 636 league appearance career with the Italians comes to a close. Two legends down in one window.
No season is complete without a single winter signing to warrant an entire separate paragraph, and this season is no different. Sergi Roberto moves away from Barcelona, in a £24M move to French giants PSG. A good way to guarantee yourself plenty of titles I guess. Abreu also makes a winter move, adding Guarani in the Brasilian second tier to his collection.
Roberto’s decision proves to be a good one, as PSG go on to claim their 10th one in a row. Not many surprises elsewhere, although Real Oviedo get close to pulling off a shock in the Copa del Rey. The second tier team beat Osasuna, Barcelona and Sevilla on the way to the final, but ultimately Real Madrid prove a step too far. Elsewhere everything is won by a team you’d probably expect. Exciting stuff.
Loyal Players Remaining: 17
Abreu Club Count: 25 clubs in 10 countries
Odd Winners: None

2022/23

With the pool of players rapidly decreasing, very few of the crew are even wanted by other clubs anymore. Perhaps deterred by their steadfast loyalty? A few moves do still happen though, so we’re not dead yet. Firstly Anthony Lopes gets fed up of PSG dominating his league and moves to AC Milan for a better shot at a trophy. It’s not long before that story is forgotten, as the biggest transfer fee in the competition so far is dropped. Andrés Iniesta is stolen away from Barcelona, in a huge £86M move to Man United. The midfield maestro fell 2 appearances short of 600 league games for Barcelona, but with his new £300K per-week contract it’s not hard to guess why. That proves to be all the action for the summer window, with no-one willing to top that huge move.
After half a season of hearing their noisy neighbours gloating about their star signing, Man City snap. And if there’s one thing City are good at, it’s splashing the cash. In probably the easiest negotiation over fee Barcelona has ever had, Sergio Busquets makes a £95M move to the sky blues. Yeh, that’ll show United. Once again no-one wants to get in the middle of the awkward Manchester squabble, and the winter transfer closes with a whimper.
The second World Cup of this experiment comes and goes. This time all the giants make it safely through the Group Stages, but it’s Africa that really excels. Morocco make the knockouts, Egypt battle through to the Quarter Finals, but Nigeria come out best. They beat South Korea and Argentina before falling valiantly to France in the Semi-Finals. A 1-0 victory of Italy does see them finish in an impressive 3rd place, becoming the first African team to finish in the top 3 of the World Cup. France win the title on penalties after a deceivingly action-filled 0-0 draw with Spain. The domestic scene follows that with a similar lack of real shocks. In the Carabao Cup, Bournemouth beat Arsenal, Chelsea and Man United on the way to lifting the trophy. But it’s the lesser Cup, so outside of Bournemouth no-one really cares. PSG finally have their grip on the Ligue 1 broken, as Casillas leads Monaco to a fantastic title. Otherwise, all the league titles and cups fall to teams you’d expect them too. Another thrilling year.
Loyal Players Remaining: 14
Abreu Club Count: 25 clubs in 10 countries
Odd Winners: Bournemouth (Carabao Cup)

2023/24

Literally nothing happens. Thomas Kessler decides that no team can ignore his existence for 20 seasons in a row and get away with it, leaving Köln to join Trabzonspor. So as I said, literally nothing happens. Even Javi López moving to yet another club would be more interesting than that.
The same applies to the footballing season. Asides from Casillas captaining Monaco to a Champions League title, or Atletico winning the title again, exactly 10 years after their last win, everything is frustratingly normal. And even those two events are hardly shocks.
Before I start to lose hope, there are a few interesting moves over the last few years from the losing group that are worth highlighting. First season mover Bruno didn’t make the impact he hoped and found himself moving to the lovely Stoke. Robin Knoche barely received any playtime at Dortmund and found himself cast out to Dinamo Zagreb. Even in League 1, Tony Hibbert could barely get any game time at Villa and so moved on the Scunthorpe in League 2. But the winner of the oddest move has to be Zurutuza, who somehow manage to pull off a move to Liverpool after West Ham found themselves relegated, only make a few disappointing performances, before being released on a free to join Al-Arabi in Qatar. Not quite the career he was anticipating when joining the Premier League I bet.
Loyal Players Remaining: 13
Abreu Club Count: 25 clubs in 10 countries
Odd Winners: None

2024/25

The summer transfer window arrives for another season, and with it finally comes a huge deal! Javi López has found yet another club! Hooray! As for actual competitors, absolutely no movement whatsoever. Even from Abreu, who’s been at Guarani for 2.5 years now. Manceau, Lewington and Seube complain to their managers about playing time or relegation, but none of them actually make a move anywhere. So our final 13 will add another 5 years onto their career length.
There are some fun statistics from our 51 worth mentioning at this point. Buffon leads the way with both total league appearances (935) and international caps (259). His caps are at a point where they’re too high for the game to display, as the value is stored as an unsigned 8-bit integer, and so has rolled over to just show 3. Most appearances for a single club goes to Dean Lewington however, who thanks to being a regular sits at 857 league appearances for the MK Dons (or 889 if you include Wimbledon). In the goals department, the winner is obvious. With almost 500 league goals, 100 international goals and 14 Ballon d’Or awards, Messi sits on top of everyone. On the international scene, he’s run close by Müller and the fast-approaching Kane, but for league goals, it’s not even close.
2024 brings with it a Euro tournament, which doesn’t provide much in the way of surprises, but brings with it some exciting high scoring matches. All ending in a 4-3 victory for a Thomas Müller led Germany over neighbours Netherlands. Which I’m sure went down very well. The domestic scene decides to spring a few shocks though. In Serie A, Roma claim an impressive title thanks to main striker Iheanacho, their first since 2001. The German and French cups provide surprise winners, in the form of Hertha Berlin and Dijon. Both cap an impressive run by beating their respective league winners, Bayern and Monaco. Even the continental tournaments turn up too. First Monaco cement their place as a top power in football by winning their second Champions League in a row. That coming a week after the best win there could possibly be. Tottenham win the Europa League! Screw the other stuff, that last part is all I need!
Loyal Players Remaining: 13
Abreu Club Count: 25 clubs in 10 countries
Odd Winners: Dijon (Coupe de France), Hertha Berlin (DFB Pokal)

At this point though it’s fair to say that the competition results are more interesting than the movements of the players. Which is the perfect signal that things need to speed up a little bit. So from now on, updates will be every 5 years, which lines up perfectly with player age resets, letting us see who has made it to the next checkpoint.

2025-2030

Another round of de-ageing hits, and you’d think that would incite some interest in our final 13. Instead, it’s a ghost town. We do have an immediate dropout though, as Nicolas Seube finally gets fed up with his lack of playtime at Caen and heads for Panionios in Greece. A year later the situation is repeated. I’m not entirely sure what his unhappiness was about, but Iker Muniain decides he’s had enough of Athletic Club and moves to Hamburger SV. At least he left on exactly 100 goals for Athletic though, a nice round number. With 11 left, a standoff to reach the top 10 ensues. For 3 years no-one budges in their show of loyalty, until in 2029… Dean Lewington leaves for Derby County on a free. It’s a huge move, with Lewington becoming the first man to break through 1000 league appearances for a single club before leaving. But he’s moved on now, and it won’t be long before that record is broken. That move means we’re left with our final 10 contestants. Terry, Iraola, Messi, Susaeta, Noble, Jourdren, Müller, Kane, Manceau and Bargfrede have secured a top 10 spot, and now all that’s left to do is fight it out for number 1.
Over in Brazil, our anti-one-club man continues his journey, although it remains in Brazil for the moment. Only 2 clubs are added to his count, with a long stay at Atletico Goianiense followed by a £2M move to top tier Coritiba. I’m kind of hoping he starts to make enough waves in the Brazilian league to move to Europe and add some new countries to his history.
Those that fell before the first de-ageing are retiring, finishing off their magnificent, or in some cases very un-magnificent, careers (as losers). Javi López finishes his fine anti-loyalty tour around Spain with 7 transfers to his name. Schmelzer, Nacho, Solly, Álvarez, Koke, Mario, Prieto, Marchisio, De Rossi, David García, Zurutuza, Knoche, Höfler, Pellissier, Mallo, Horn and Hibbert end their careers. Many, such as Nacho, Horn and De Rossi stay just as committed to their new clubs as they did their old, finishing out their careers after just a single transfer. Of the pensioners, Sergio Pellissier manages to rack up the most career league appearances and goals, at 894 and 246, although that’s largely thanks to a huge head start. De Rossi dominates on the international scene, earning a whopping 197 caps over his 30-year career. Naturally, all those records will be blown out the water once the next group start retiring, but it’s nice to have some benchmarks.
Around the world, plenty has gone on worth hearing about. The Netherlands claim their first-ever World Cup win, beating Brazil in the final, whilst in the Euro’s Germany win their second tournament in a row. The Gold Cup throws up a few interesting results too, as first, the Mexico B team win it, with their A team tied up in the Confederations Cup. Then 4 years later Canada take the title, only the second time in their history. Over in Italy, Lazio find themselves relegated as the league starts to shake itself up a bit. But other than that, domestic football remains relatively unspectacular. Oh except… TOTTENHAM WINNING THE LEAGUE. Didn’t even have to reset it and we won it before Arsenal did. North London is very much Lilywhite now, suck it Gooners!
Loyal Players Remaining: 10
Abreu Club Count: 27 clubs in 10 countries
Odd Winners: Tottenham (Premier League)

2030-2035

Another 5 years pass and to start with it looks like the top 10 are going to hold firm. Eventually though, the temptation of money proves too much for one man. That man is Geoffrey Jourdren who trades in his starting slot at Montpellier for a cosy backup contract at PSG. Then comes… dead silence. Not even a rumour, or an unhappy player. No-one even hints at leaving for the next 4 years, which means we end the period with nine players on the books. The real waiting game has begun. Even our journeyman Abreu is moving in a very slow way, as a five year Coritiba stint finishes with a free transfer to Red Bull Brasil. I think my hopes for a European move have died.
At least there are a lot of retirements to run through. Bruno, Lahm, Casillas, Valdés, Danzé, Oier, Xavi, Torres, Perrin, Jantschke, Bergantiños, González, Roberto, Iniesta and Busquets hang up their playing boots. That does leave us without some noted legends, with Lahm, Casillas, Iniesta and Busquets reaching 200 caps for their country. You’d think Spain would have won more with that golden generation. Casillas and Xavi also both hit 1000 league appearances thanks to a strong head start before the experiment. But it’s Andrés Iniesta who is the most loyal of the bunch, racking up nearly 600 appearances for his original club before departing.
Five years leaves plenty of time for interesting results once again. England take a World Cup win, which is always a sign of the apocalypse, only made more bizarre by Scotland making the semi-finals in the same competition. Portugal take the other title in that period, whilst the Euros also see a surprise winner in Switzerland. France provides the biggest shock at club level, as Lille come from nowhere to win Ligue 1, and then immediately revert back to mid-table once again. Otherwise, the time belongs to Manchester City. The oil bar… sky blues take 4 out of 5 titles in both the Premier League and Champions League, with all that cash flinging finally paying off.
Loyal Players Remaining: 9
Abreu Club Count: 28 clubs in 10 countries
Odd Winners: England (World Cup), Lille (Ligue 1)

2035-40

With just nine players left, once again we get a transfer fairly early on in the period. Early as in the first transfer window, which makes me wonder why they waited so long. Anyway, Mark Noble has had his patience tested by West Ham’s yoyoing between the Premier League and Championship a bit too much and finally caves. He makes a £20M move to Burnley, who… are doing the exact same thing. Not sure that was the brightest idea. Like the previous 5 years though, one transfer is all we get. None of the others move, despite some pretty heavy unhappiness from Bargfrede and Manceau. Abreu keeps up his trail, running out his contract with Red Bull Brasil and opting for Chapecoense to reach 29 clubs in his career.
With very few moving recently, that also means less and less are retiring, as just 7 ex-competitors leave the game. Totti, Buffon, Lopes, Kessler, Seube, Muniain and Lewington call time on their football life. The fact they all stuck with it for so long means there’s so impressive stats between them. Totti racked up 1154 league appearances, with 768 at Roma. Dean Lewington, after leaving MK Dons with 1003 appearances finished with a total of 1287. Italian legend Gianluigi Buffon finished with a whopping 1307 league appearances, but perhaps more impressively, 334 international caps. But the single most surprising statistic goes to Thomas Kessler. Despite barely playing in Germany he manages to notch a grand total of 7 goals after his move to Turkey. Maybe if he’d been a striker he’d have actually played at Koln. Oh and Seube ends his career Greek. Because why not.
As per every time, a quick look around the world’s results is needed. Spain win back the World Cup titles, whilst Italy take a Euro win. Argentina, Mexico and Australia claim all their continents international trophies in the window, so no massive surprises there. The domestic world isn’t exactly littered with shocks either. Brescia win a Coppa Italia, and Nîmes Olympique grab 4 top 5 finishes in a row in France, but there’s not really much to shout about. I think it’s best to just get on with the next de-ageing.
Loyal Players Remaining: 8
Abreu Club Count: 29 clubs in 10 countries
Odd Winners: Brescia (Coppa Italia)

2040-45

Down to 8 now, so it’s getting tougher. And a lot slower, so slow in fact that not a single transfer in our group happens in five years. For a moment I was excited to see Manceau at Recreativo de Huelva, but that was just a loan. So I was back to being crushed. On the plus side, Abreu makes some huge steps. He adds not just 1, but 2 new countries to his history! The first is Portugal, in a huge step up to join Braga. As usual, it’s just until his contract ends, before he moves on to Frankfurt in the Bundesliga. He’s hardly setting Europe alight but I don’t care, he’s actually moving!
There’s only one retiree to talk about too, as pretty much everyone has already gone. Geoffrey Jourdren finishes up with 925 total league appearances. It probably could have been a bit more, if he’d not spent 10 years of his career being a backup at PSG and Bayern. On a far more interesting note, Terry breaks through 1500 career league appearances. Kane also hits 256 international goals, which results in the number resetting to 0 just like caps. So the game has him on 96 caps with 11 goals, when the actual numbers are a stunning 352 caps with 267 goals.
Having seen my disappointment last time around, the world decides to liven things up. Denmark become both Champions of the World and Champions of Europe in 2042 and 2040, although they lose the European title to Germany 4 years later. At the continental level, the Champions League stays on track, but the Europa League brings some bizarre winners into the mix. Nîmes Olympique, Real Sociedad, Leicester and Bristol City all win a trophy. It seems Mark Noble finally made a right move transferring to Bristol City, as the club is now a strong top 6 Premier League side. Manceau wins a Coupe de France at Angers, but it’s still Nîmes making waves, forming a big three with PSG and Monaco. It may not be long before either Nîmes or Bristol City win their league, which is not something I expected to be saying.
Loyal Players Remaining: 8
Abreu Club Count: 31 clubs in 12 countries
Odd Winners: Nîmes Olympique/Bristol City (Europa League), Angers (Coupe de France)

2045-50

2045 kicks off and once again Manceau deceives me. This time it’s a loan spell in Denmark with Brøndby that had me thinking he was gone. Well you know what they say, fool me once shame on you, fool me twice… I’m probably gonna fall for it. It looks like there’s going to be no moves whatsoever once again, until June 2047 arrives and I notice a contract is set to expire. Imagine my shock when Lionel Messi is not offered a contract by Barcelona and is let go. It’s made doubly worse by the fact that of all teams to pick him up, it's Atletico Madrid. Apparently, 37 Ballon d’Or awards aren’t good enough for Barcelona anymore. I don’t even care that nothing else happens. That’s enough to stun me.
Over in the retirement home, Mark Noble moves into a room. After an up and down career, the Englishman did manage some silverware with Bristol City and ended his career with 1317 league appearances. He even earned not just 1, but 90 England caps across his 44-year career.
Around the world, interesting results are still cropping up. England grab their third World Cup win beating Colombia, whilst Honduras win their first-ever Gold Cup. Much to my bitter disappointment, Arsenal win 4 of the 5 Champions Leagues on offer, as well as 3 Premier League titles. Chelsea have a period of bottom 10 finishes which deeply upsets Terry, whilst over in France, Chamois Niortais begin to try and join the top 3. Don’t worry I’ve never heard of them either.
Loyal Players Remaining: 7
Abreu Club Count: 32 clubs in 12 countries
Odd Winners: Honduras (Gold Cup)

2050-55

With the world still reeling at the fact the Messi has moved from Barcelona, everyone kinda forgets to make any moves. In fact, Messi is the first person to move yet again, leaving Atletico in a very cheap 34.5M move to Man City. Which is more in line with where I originally expected him to go. Abreu finishes one contract, at Hapoel Be’er Sheva, and moves onto the next, but it’s with Monterrey so doesn’t count. Sebastian, it has to be new clubs. John Terry is starting to get frustrated with a Chelsea team that has really fallen from grace. The Londoners barely survive relegation in 2052/53, so Terry may be the next to go. Or maybe I know nothing and it’s completely random.
No-one retires this year, so let’s take a brief look at some statistics of our remaining 7 + Messi. All our players have now reached 1000 appearances, with Bargfrede in last at 1173. Messi has crossed 1000 league goals, now a full 300 clear of the chasing pack of Abreu and Kane. On the international level, Thomas Müller becomes the first player to need a rollover of caps twice, moving on to a massive 524 international caps. But it’s Kane who still leads the international goal stat, nearly breaking 350, a full 50 ahead of the German.
Müller does, however, grab a World Cup win for Germany so I’m sure he won’t be too upset. At least until they’re deposed by Holland 4 years later. On the continental level, Bristol City win another Europa League title beating previous champions Espanyol. Middlesbrough also nearly earn a trophy, having joined Bristol as a top 6 team. But the winner of the biggest shock, although I did say this might happen, goes to Chamois Niortais, who topple the dominance of PSG and Monaco to capture a miraculous Ligue 1 title in the last season of the period.
Loyal Players Remaining: 7
Abreu Club Count: 32 clubs in 12 countries
Odd Winners: Chamois Niortais (Ligue 1), Bristol City/Espanyol (Europa League)

2055-60

The summer window of 2055 opens and as I warned may happen, there’s an almost immediate transfer. Fed up with Chelsea’s mediocre finishes, John Terry decides to move on. Unfortunately for Chelsea fans, Arsenal is his next club, which I’m sure will cause a few shudders. A year later and another move comes around, once again due to unhappiness over the club’s performance. Surprisingly it's Thomas Müller,who's annoyed by the fact that Bayern haven’t won a Bundesliga title since 2048, and so runs down his contract. Leverkusen almost earn his signature, but eventually its the glory of PSG that proves too much to resist. But we’re not done there! Another player runs down their contract, opting to move to Vitoria de Setubal in Portugal. Vincent Manceau finally makes a real move rather than constantly faking me out. So with another 3 players down, we’re left with our final 4. The race for the top 3 is hotting up now!
We do have a retirement this time thanks to the transfer window livening up. The world's best-ever player, Lionel Messi, retires from football. He ends up on a total of 1858 league appearances, scoring a massive 1068 goals in this time. 1430 appearances and 895 goals of those belonging to his 45-year career at Barcelona. On the international scene, he earned an impressive 505 caps and 276 goals. But it’s the awards where he shines. 279 individual awards, 82 team titles, 22 league titles, 6 Champions League titles, 45 Ballon d’Or awards. What makes it even crazier is 41 of those Ballon d’Or awards were in a row, as he earned every single one from 2015 to 2056. I don’t think I’ll see another player like that crop up in any save, truly the world’s best player.
Looking out on the world, I can say that it’s a Chamois Niortais player that breaks Messi’s streak, as the French team claim another two Ligue 1 titles. It’s hard to say they’re a “surprise winner” at this point. Bristol City finally make the full step up to join the big guns, winning 3 Carabao Cups, 1 FA Cup, 2 Premier League titles and even a Champions League trophy. If any Bristol City fans want this save to give themselves hope over the future, I can send it over. Internationally it's the era of Portugal, as they claim both the Euro and World Cup trophies.
Loyal Players Remaining: 4
Abreu Club Count: 32 clubs in 12 countries
Odd Winners: Bristol City (Premier League/Champions League), Lyon (Relegation)

With so few players left, now is probably a good time to speed it up once again. The final four will be tough to budge, so how about we move to 10-year intervals to try and cut down on dead years. And I'll be moving to the comments, because I've hit reddits character limit.
submitted by sonnorcteer to mscalstest [link] [comments]

Blurryturtle's Wimbledon First Round Writeup

Halfway through the season anyone could use a break, and for those guys in the top of the rankings who’ve earned it, that break is the grasscourt season. Short volleys, a boost for everyone’s serving, appreciative crowds, and exhibition events that feature about the same effort level as the real tour events. With the awe-inspiring grind of the clay tour behind them, the tour’s finest will head to Wimbledon this week for a chance at making history. At this vaunted venue, even 1 match can be talked about for years and with the speed of the grass, upsets are never out of the question. Below are my thoughts about the 1st round of the men’s division.
Djokovic Kohlschreiber : Kohl managed to nab a win against Novak earlier this season in Indian Wells on a slow hardcourt. A couple weeks later he managed to steal a set in Monte Carlo on clay. The progression from favorable conditions to difficult ones continues, and while Kohl is the definition of a professional on the tour, this is one way traffic. I had a chance to watch some of Novak’s exhibition matches this past week, and while the best takeaway was how capable Shapovalov and Garin are on the swift stuff, Novak looked not only engaged but happy to be in contested rallies. If you watch a lot of great champions they are actually at their most engaged and highest level when they are being pressed, and this is revealing of how difficult it is to play at peak level against inferior opponents. Kohl’s W against Novak will keep his attention on the match, and where he struggled a bit in his comeback Novak’s serving game is nearing top level again (he has really been hitting his spots nicely). Novak is my pre-tournament pick for the title here, and I don’t think he drops a set here. Novak in 3.
Kudla Jaziri : Kudla has had a Mischa Zverev like start to 2019. He had to go through qualifying in some events and head to the challenger in Surbiton, but managed to string together some 7 wins through this grass season. Arguably his best surface, he has a great first round draw here in Jaziri, who has been struggling with injury and playing not only sparsely, but on clay at that. Two clay challengers and early exits have been on the menu, and rumblings of dealing with injuries lend to the idea that he probably is not at his peak for Wimbledon but of course cannot afford to pass up 1st rd points and pay in a major. With a big serve and a big forehand, Jaziri is a threat in any set of tennis, but these players are trending in opposite directions. Kudla in 4 at most.
Gulbis Mayer : Although this matchup sits in the Novak section, this is a tidy little spot for someone to steal some very important ranking points with the winner likely facing Hurkacz where they won’t be favored but will certainly have a chance. Gulbis has had 3 subpar losses to start his grass season, and Mayer hasn’t fared much better. The time Mayer tends to need to produce his groundstrokes will hurt him on the grass, and injury rumblings before the French Open coupled with his lack of activity make me think this is a great chance for Gulbis to steal a match and remain relevant on tour. Gulbis in 5.
Hurkacz Lajovic : Grass suits Hurkacz game nicely as he has a big serve and good reaction time on his groundstrokes. A fairly flat backhand moves nicely through the court and although he’s had middling results through the grass season, he’s shown more promise than Lajovic. One of the smaller players on tour with a less than dominant serve, Lajovic prospers primarily through precision and intelligence. That counts for something on grass but what will decide this match will be Hurkacz ability to hold serve with a great deal more ease. Hurkacz in 4.
Auger-Alliassime Pospisil : “Anything is Pospisil,” my friend says for the 400th time. “haha” I type for the 400th time. I am nothing if not loyal. If you watch Vasek Pospisil you think, This is a professional tennis player. Big serve, excellent skill, appears to be in top shape, but the results end there. Grass and the US Open will be his best chance to pick up some points, but this is a terrible first round draw for him. Perhaps injuries have hampered his rise on the tour in the past, but he has shown an impatience on court that speaks to a slight confidence issue in hanging with the top players. While they’re from the same country and this comfort can produce a higher level of tennis from the underdog, FAA’s current form on grass is not to be underestimated. Those saying he has a chance at the title are more hopeful than valid, but he is a favorite against anyone outside the top 30 in any round at this event. An easily repeatable serve, a great reach, and pure athleticism combine to form one of the best coached players I have seen enter the tour in a long time. Injuries cost him his big major debut at the French Open, but I expect him to be prepared for the big stage here and clean up a struggling Pospisil. The best thing I’ve seen from FAA has been the winners he hits to the open court. There are a lot of guys employing the “guide it to the spot and kinda cringe inward and hope” strategy, but this kid hits the ball with length and angle right through the court. This may cause an error here or there but in time (and he has it) it will produce a player whose standard shots are simply more aggressive and repeatable than his opponents. This is a future #1 barring injury. Given Vasek’s main strength is a big serve, he could hold his way to some tiebreakers, but the writing is on the wall. FAA in 4 at most.
Dimitrov Moutet : Dimitrov has yet to have a match this year that did not seem like it was primetime disaster popcorn status. Moutet is likely most known for his gutsy loss in the French to Londero, but he has turned heads this season on the challenger tour and while he’s not the most athletically blessed guy, he’s left handed and has a great deal of determination and confidence about going after his shots. Dimitrov has been know to play too passive and to lose his length, and this is a player who will steal a set if you let him. That loss of focus is an intangible, and so while Moutet will be waiting and hoping for it, Dimitrov SHOULD (big should) win this in 4 sets. With the winner facing FAA, I really am hoping that he does. Dimitrov in 4.
Sonego Gralloers : I glanced at the oddsmakers lines for this and noted that it’s a pickem. Granollers has all but vanished from the main tour this season, and Sonego’s game and stock has been on a constant rise. The expectation of fatigue following his win in Turkey this weekend could play a factor, and Granollers is a get artist who will extend any match. Sonego has the better serve, better forehand, and his backhand slice has proven quite annoying on grasscourts, and I expect fatigue to not be as much of a factor for a young player. Sonego in 5.
Umbert Monfils : Monfils has taken a nice vacation through the start of the grass season, and as stated in his contract, he must play at like one Frenchman in the first two rounds of a major. I haven’t heard injury rumors about him, and while his loss to Kudla is a little troubling I caught that match and he was mostly practicing and enjoying himself. There is a great deal to like about Ugo’s game. He’s a lefty, he has excellent control and poise, and a good enough service game to allow him to remain in the top 100 for a few years at least. Monfils is going to be able to counteract these positives here though, and while he hasn’t shown much determination through the first section of the grass season, for many guys at the peak or end of their career these are warmup events, and I expect Monfils A or B game is enough to get him through this match. Since they’re French and since it’s Monfils, you’re going to have to consider that a 4 or 5 set clash could ensue, so I would avoid betting on it, but Monfils should come through here with relative ease. Monfils in 4.
Medvedev Lorenzi : Lorenzi is the most annoying player on tour who no one should lose to. People do though, and his fight and skill at 37 steal him enough victories each year to keep him just around the 100-150 level. Medvedev is a player capable of the kind of anger and frustration that net Lorenzi most of his wins, but Medvedev in rage mode features no alterations in play and possibly even better serving than usual. This is oneway traffic. Medvedev in 3 incredibly drawn out sets.
Carreno Busta Popyrin : Oddsmakers have Popyrin as a favorite in this one and the reason is the consistency that PCB has shown to lose close matches since his return. He has been losing the first set in almost 75% of his matches since his return from injury and this is a crusher on a surface like grass where it is hard to manufacture breaks which are really where PCB has always made his money. I cannot count the number of times PCB was broken at the end of a set and broke right back. He showed some promise before losing to Sonego in Antalya but he just isn’t back to his peak yet. Popyrin is unproven on tour, and while he’s notched some wins here and there the best thing about his game is his game. Results aside, Popyrin is one of the best talents in terms of ceiling on an Australian roster that features nothing but young talent right now with Kyrgios/De MinauThompson/Bolt etc. This is a real test on a real stage for him as PCB does not give anything away and has a representative service game, and I’d be hard pressed to call a clear winner here. I do think that coming through qualifying will give Popyrin a decent amount of confidence, and that notion that “this guy may be vulnerable” is enough that if he’s able to nose ahead he could win this match. While PCB’s level hasn’t quite returned to 2017 2018 level, he is still the way more experienced player. I expect this to go 5 sets, with the winner being a coinflip. Popyrin in 5.
Chardy Klizan : Chardy has played some grass since the French and Klizan has not, seemingly, played at all. In a bo5 match Klizan may find his game and begin to pressure Chardy, but Chardy’s offense is such that he will likely already have a 1 or 2 set lead before this happens. I don’t see either guy getting blanked, and Chardy simply will be the more prepared player. Chardy in 4-5.
Klahn Goffin : Goffin is back, my friend announced recently. A former high level tennis player and a current pro announcer, his words were just what I’ve been waiting to hear. After an eye injury which seemingly reduced all aspects of his game for months, Goffin finally began to show good form in Hertogenbosh and Halle. Wins over Berretini, Zverev, and Hughes Herbert are the most notable for me, as these players all present defensive challenges that the old Goffin was apt to solve, and the recent Goffin has been apt to get rolled by. A fairly simple first round opponent in Klahn will not present much opposition, and while Goffin can make anything into a match, I believe he would have to throw this one to avoid finding himself in the second round. Goffin in 3.
Edmund Munar : Edmund began to show some excellent quality this week in his match against Evans. After not much of a season, and a first set where Evans showcased his entire variety in exchange for multiple breaks and multiple rounds of applause, Edmund again found a way to apply his forehand in a manner that breaks down his opponents mental game and turns them into defensive grinders. While he wasn’t able to find the cracks in Taylor Fritz game, playing on home soil against a clay court specialist should find him in the driver’s seat. Munar has actually shown more early in the grass season than I expected, holding serve enough to get to a tiebreaker against Fucsovics and Coric. That doesn’t offer much hope in terms of beating an in-form Edmund with the crowd at his back, however, and he will likely bow out and head to the hardcourt swing. Edmund in 3.
Majchrzak Verdasco : Verdasco had the good fortune to be part of Sam Querrey’s return from an ab injury, but still nabbed a set. This is notable for me because had he not shown a spark of competition, it would be easy to write him off here. Some may remember Majchrzak from his marathon match with Kei Nishikori at the AO 2019, where had he not succumbed to cramps he would have likely pulled the upset and already been on the main tour. Life is a struggle however, and while Majchrzak has spent the last few months on the challenger tour, he has been racking up wins and will be ready for this stage. A big serve and crisp groundstrokes make him best suited I believe for a fast hardcourt, but the grass could easily be his coming out party. He came through qualifying and while I’m sure Verdasco won’t be taking this lightly, he will have a hard time shutting the kid out. In a match that will largely be decided by whose offense makes more errors, we may see the first upset of the 1st round here. Verdasco is a guy who requires favorable conditions to compete, and on an outside court against a “random” I don’t think he will do much besides complain if Majchrzak begins to roll. Majchrzak in 4.
Arnaboldi Karlovic : I’ll be honest, I don’t know Arnold Arnaboldi. I don’t know if his first name is Arnold either, but it would be cute if it was, so it is. Having come through qualifying, I can guarantee he is a quality player with a fairly good ability to hold serve, and that’s enough to mean this match will feature tiebreakers. Who will win those tiebreakers? I have no flipping idea. Karlovic matches are the hardest to predict as until he throws in a bad service game he looks unbeatable, and once he’s in a volley it almost appears that he cannot play tennis at all. The grass suits his slices and volleys, and he would appear to be fresh after skipping the clay season and the grass. Karlovic in 4 or 5.
Fabbiano Tsitsipas : After a good week and a nice warmup match with Querrey, Fabbiano has drawn a terrible first round opponent. While he is coming off a loss to FAA, Tsitsipas is one of the best and most well-rounded players on tour right now and has the edge in their past matchups. Fabbiano is a threat for an upset and has pushed some guys in the past, but he’s been a bit unlucky here with the draw and this should be a bit more than he can handle. Tsitsipas in 4.
Anderson Herbert : Is Anderson back? Oddsmakers do not believe so, but also believe so. Anderson sits at -220 on Bovada and in what has been one of his best events in the past, this is a bit low. Herbert is one of the most skilled players on tour and is excellent at net, but his lack of power has at times kept him in matches he should have been able to win in quick fashion. Anderson looked unimpressive in his first match back from injury, and the jury is out on whether he is fully recovered, with a loss to Simon not really lending itself to believing that a deep run at Wimbledon is on the way. For gambling porpoises I would avoid this one, but as a spectator it is another intriguing story at an excellent event. Herbert has been on the edge of some big wins it has seemed at times, and a rusty Anderson may just be his chance to get one. Somebody in 5.
Tipsarevic Nishioka : What a wonderful draw where Thiem plays Querrey and these two get to ball out in the first round. Tipsarevic has made some traction in his return from injury, and Nishioka has made more. While Tipsarevic is a great player with good control and a ceiling higher than Nishioka, that ceiling is well behind him and Nishioka is a difficult player to put away. I expect shockingly long rallies for grasscourt tennis in this one, and I suspect Nishioka will come out ahead in way more of them than Tipsarevic. Nishioka in 4.
Seppi Jarry : A matchup of opposites. Seppi’s best surface. Jarry’s worst. Seppi’s controlled swing is short and allows him to adjust well in the grass. Jarry’s huge swing leads to all kinds of errors on his groundstrokes. Seppi’s strength is poise and consistency. Jarry wins 1 tournament a year and looks like a top 20 player then double faults his way to first round losses for 3 months. Seppi is towards the end of a bright career and his game is beginning to falter. Jarry is at the beginning of his and at probably his best. After a hard to watch loss to Simon a week ago it would be easy to write Jarry off here, but Seppi lacks the big weapons to put this one away in short order. This is another coinflip and given Jarry’s recent struggles I would not be surprised if Seppi wins. Seppi in 5.
Copil Pella : Marius Copil is a player much like Chardy who is simply a joy to watch. He has a huge serve, a great deal of variety, and a beautiful onehanded backhand. Pella is a player without much flair but with way better results. Primarily a claycourt threat, Pella has defied the odds and grinded through a great deal of hardcourt upsets in the past few seasons. This is a match where Copil should be seen as having the edge with court conditions, but the consistency of Pella will likely make the difference if he is able to make it a physical battle. Hard to say on a grass court if he’ll be able to, and Copil has been able to pull upsets in the past when he is serving well. Pella in 5.
Wawrinka Bemelmans : Scary. Bemelmans has just been a non-factor on the tour after being a consistent 1st 2nd round appearer for 2-3 solid years. Now he’s found his way nicely through qualifying, and plays a resurgent Stan. A bad matchup for Ruben, but a nice welcome back to the tour. Stan did lose to Mahut last week, but Mahut’s game was built for grass and going deep the week before a major has never been something the top guys have done. This should be one way traffic for Stan although given Bemelmans qualifying form, he may be able to steal an early set. Wawrinka in 4.
Stebe Opelka : Stebe’s comeback trail hasn’t really offered him many winnable matches. This could be one. Opelka is so inconsistent a veteran like Stebe might be able to hang around long enough to benefit from the errors, but on grass that becomes even less likely. Opelka has probably the best serve on tour when it lands in, and probably the worst service percentages for anyone above 6’5” on tour. When his serve lands in however, it is not coming back. Stebe is not a particularly gifted returner, and his only real chance here lies in Opelka’s poor returning. While it sounds like I’m painting a picture for Stebe to win, I’m mostly cringing at the thought of the match being on Opelka’s raquet. This is a match that will either be oneway traffic for Opelka, or will be lost by him rather than won by Stebe. Opelka in 4 but I wouldn’t put a single penny on it.
Kovalik Haase : Kovalik’s protected ranking has appeared with a very lucky draw. Haase has struggled of late and seems at the twilight of his career. There are not many first round matchups that Kovalik has a chance in, and the same can be said for Haase. Haase is going to have the bigger weapons here, and the rust has shown for Kovalik in the past few events. Haase in 4 or 5.
Gunneswaran Raonic : It’s hard not to like Prajnesh’ freeswinging left hand. He has a very smooth service motion and a good attitude on court. Raonic is on his best surface however, and while injuries have really made his 2019 a complete bust, this is a warmup match. Watching Raonic serve in the early rounds at Wimbledon makes you wonder how he hasn’t won the event before and watching Federer inevitably return almost every one of his serves at 36 makes you wonder what the other guys are doing. We’ll miss out on that matchup this year, but it’ll be someone other than Gunneswaran who makes returns. Raonic in 3.
Khachanov Kwon : I don’t know a ton about Kwon but Khachanov has been hit or miss all season. What I have noticed, however, is that he tends to step up for the big events. Given his ranking, and his relatively stable place on tour, this may be a conscious choice. Wins over Struff, Kecmanovic, and losses to Berretini do represent a significantly harder schedule however, than Kwon’s impressive (most sets won by 2 or more breaks) path through the qualfying. That kind of talent and his alltime high ranking of 123 mean he does have a chance to nab a set (Karen has a habit of losing a set in every match in majors) but he won’t be able to win this one outright. Khachanov in 4.
Giron Lopez : Lopez is easy to hate while you watch him lose and easy to love while you watch him win. The guy is skillful and creative. Grass is his best surface at this stage of his career by far and he has picked up a titles in both of the past two years. He opens his Wimbledon with a match against Giron who first turned heads in the Australian Open by upsetting Chardy and De Minaur at Indian Wells before eventually falling in the third set to Raonic. An athletic player with a good forehand and a quick serve, he’s a bit one dimensional and this may give a significant edge to Lopez. Breaks are hard to come by on grass and Lopez is one of the most proficient servers on the ol Earth hair. Giron’s game (I haven’t watched the qualifiers I’ll admit) is mostly about power and when he was rushed at IW he did make some careless errors. I think given his form in the qualifiers he will definitely win a set, but Lopez should have the edge if the match gets close with his variety and experience. Lopez in 4-5.
Darcis Zverev : Man if they aren’t trying to keep Mischa on tour. How the actual fluff did he manage to draw Darcis here. The problem is actually that Darcis has the kind of wicked slices and variety that are a nightmare to compete against on grass, but the fortunate thing is that he is getting towards the end of his career. This will come down to whether Mischa is able to get profitably to net, and honestly I am not optimistic. Whoever wins is going to get tuned up by RBA. I was a big fan of Darcis in his Fed Cup heroics, and I think he is probably in better form than Zverev here. Darcis in 5.
Gojowczyk Bautista Agut : This guy RBA is the NBA 6th man winner on the ATP. While not regarded as one of the top 10 guys, he is the same amount of difficult to beat every time he steps on court, and when those top 10 guys play him he pushes them as much as anyone else. On the opposite side of the net we have Gojowczyk, who swings like his name and hits clean flat winners from anywhere. Unfortunately, he doesn’t hit as many of them as he misses so far this season, and RBA specializes in punishing this. This match will play about the same as it would on clay, with RBA targetings Gojo’s backhand and hitting as many kick serve to take him out wide and off balance as he can. RBA in 3.
Paire Londero : Londero is adding nicely to his maiden win by notching wins and battling all the way into the grass season. Paire has been the best he ever has, and appears motivated coming into a tournament with a big emphasis on serving and volleying he is one of the shortlist of most talented players at the tactic. This is the classic Paire matchup, a guy who will fight for every point and expose Paire’s impatience, but who doesn’t have the big serving to keep Paire from dictating most of the rallies. If they both show up with frosted tips expect at least one awkward article from Tennis Channel about it, and this is similar to the Verdasco Majchrzak
match in that I do think Londero has a chance if he’s able to get an early lead. I don’t expect Paire’s intensity will be able to win this in straight sets, and I’ll be taking the over here. Paire in 5.
Carballes Baena Kecmanovic : RCB has actually notched some good grasscourt wins to start the season which is an unexpected bonus for a guy who makes most of his dollars on clay. Kecmanovic had a GREAT showing this week in Antalya and for one of the first times on tour will be facing a guy with less offense than him. I’m not sure of the fatigue factor, but given Kecmanovic’s dedication on the challenger tour I imagine his conditioning will get him through at least one or two more matches. Kecmanovic in 4.
Cuevas Dzumhur : Dzumhur finally got a nice win last week over Ebden, and has another chance here against a guy who isn’t famously the most motivated on grass. Cuevas didn’t look great against Jarry, and while I’d like to write him off here, Dzumhur lacks the big serve that Jarry possesses. Dzumhur in 4 tight sets, but I would not be surprised if Cuevas pushes this one to 5, and given Dzumhur’s erratic past, this one isn’t worth predicting.
Vesely Zverev : I love it. If Zverev shows up playing passive, he loses this one in straights. Vesely’s best upsets have come on grass, and he has come through qualifying easily. A big lefty with huge groundstrokes and a powerful serve is the perfect match to get a look at whether Zverev is going to be a threat in this section of the draw or not. I’ll be honest, I don’t suspect he will. Vesely in 4.
Thiem Querrey : Woof. Querrey announced this week that his abdominal issues are behind him, and played some of his best tennis. While a loss to Fritz is not the best, he has struggled with him in the past so it isn’t completely unexpected. Thiem is coming off a brilliant run in the French Open and while he was unfortunate with the weather and scheduling, there’s no shame in losing to Nadal. Grass hasn’t been his favorite surface, but he hasn’t really struggled on it either. A big serve, huge power, and a good base of skill and variety make Thiem a threat to any player at any time on any surface. Querrey is just the opponent, however, to pressure Thiem for time and to take the raquet out of his hand on the serve. With both guys playing at a good level, this one should feature quick sets, several tiebreakers, and a section of the draw that actually looks like it will get easier each round until at least the 4th with Garin/Rublev waiting and the other section featuring dellien/milman/andreozzi/djere. Whoever loses will be disappointed here as this is just the worst 1st round for both. Querrey in 5.
Garin Rublev : Garin looked real efficient and his movement was excellent in his exhibition match against Novak. He’s had a way better 2019 than Rublev who has struggled with injury. Where Rublev has bigger groundstrokes and can get in a great rhythm, he has suffered behind his second serve (double faults at the worst times), and his temper is simply a liability that I think he’s the only one who can’t see. Garin is composed, the better athlete, and in better form. Garin in 4.
Dellien Milman : Oddsmakers have Milman sitting at about -1200. Dellien has been playing clay challengers so this is understandable, but Milman is not the worldbeater that warrants that kind of line. Dellien is a grinder, and Milman is the same. I don’t know if Dellien’s timing will be solid here, and I actually would have liked him to get in some grass practice before the event rather than kind of sticking to his bread and butter. Milman in 3, but if Dellien gets going he could make this a very long 3.
Andreozzi Djere : Neither player has shown much in the way of victories thus far in the grass season. In their previous matchup Djere was able to best him on the slow hardcourts at Indian Wells. Djere is trending upward but grass isn’t exactly his best surface, so this won’t be oneway traffic. Andreozzi hasn’t exactly shown anything that shows he’ll pull the upset so. Tentatively, Djere in 4.
Simon Caruso : Ooooh. Caruso showcased a big forehand and a solid serve at the French, and used the same to good effect to come quickly through qualifying at Wimbledon. Simon managed to wake up after a mundane early season, and looked to be finding his form on the grass. This is one of my popcorn matches for the first round, with Simon being a real slick opponent on the grass but not really having a way to just hit Caruso off the court. On the opposite end, Caruso will need to hit big shots to get through Simon’s defense and will have the chance to. Somebody in 5.
Uchiyama Sandgren : Sandgren has really been hit or miss thus far on the tour. He briefly was very fit and looked to be stepping it up but the results didn’t follow. He notched two mid-level wins in Eastbourne, and while Ichiyama might be looked at as having a better level currently after coming through qualifying, 5 sets with Kubler isn’t really tour level stuff. Sandgren owns the h2h matchup 3-0 in this one, and I do think it’s a bit of a coinflip, but this has to be a mental battle for Uchiyama. I really don’t know who I expect to win this one.
Fucsovics Novak : Tough draws are Marton Fucsovics reward on tour for about two years now. This one is no different. Countryman Dennis Novak seems to only show up for majors, and with his power and crisp serving he is a danger to anyone in the first round. This one can’t go anything but the distance with Novak’s form a great threat but Fucsovics defense and fitness being just a job and a half to hit through. Whoever wins here I expect to beat the winner of Tiafoe and Fognini so i’m excited to find out and hopeful it’s Fuscovics as he’s primed for some major results with his game. Fucsovics in 4-5.
Tiafoe Fognini : Two guys who are sure they’re better than they are. Fognini hasn’t played since Rolan Garros and there’s a part of me that thinks he won’t be making much noise at this event. Tiafoe has been having a disappointing month but has at least been active despite his losses. Whoever wins will earn a war with Fuscovics or Novak and this pleases me. Tiafoe likely has the better chance and the higher level of motivation here. Tiafoe in 4.
Cilic Mannarino : Mannarino is so very capable on grass. His forehand dips so nicely and his serving game is light years better with the aid of the swift stuff. Cilic’s reach should give him the edge here, neutralizing this. Mannarino is working with smaller weapons and it will show here. Despite some disappointing results, Cilic is still a threat and a fairly consistent performer at most majors. Cilic in 4-5 unless his backhand is unable to find the court on returns.
Sousa Jubb : A great draw for Jubb who is making his debut at a major. A great draw for Sousa who isn’t at his best on grass but has been fighting and earning some good wins the past few weeks. Who wins? Probably not Jubb. Inexperience and Sousa’s ability to make matches a physical test are going to rob him of this opportunity, but qualifying as a teenager is simply an amazing accomplishment and given Sousa’s relatively weak backhand, there is a chance Jubb could steal a set. Sousa in 4.
Delbonis Evans : Evans is having the best grasscourt season of anyone. He has gotten in a ton of matches, has had some wars and his skill level is the best it ever has been. A lot of people have been tagging him as a dangerous floater for anyone in the draw, and this is where my opinion deviates. While he’s an excellent skilled player, Evans works with smaller weapons, and has to maintain top level in every match he plays. I don’t believe he’d be favored against most of the top 50, but I was hoping he’d get some winnable matches as his variety is very relaxing to watch. Enter Delbonis. One of the biggest swings on tour and one of the most consistently well performing guys on clay, grass is something he plays but without much success. This is the perfect matchup for Evans, and with Ward/Basilashvili waiting there is a chance Evans can make a third round and get himself some valuable points he will need heading into a very difficult hardcourt season. Evans in 3.
Ward Basilashvili : Basilashvili hits one of the hardest balls on tour, and has to be favored in this match. Ward, however has some nice wins over Kudla/Karlovic/Stakhovsky this season which show he at least will be competitive in this match. Although Basilashvili lost to Fucsovics and Berretini, he represents a step up in level for Ward and it may be the end of the road here for the hometown favorite. Basilashvili in 4.
Shapovalov Berankis : Shap looked good in his exhibition against Novak and this is an ideal first round opponent for him. Berankis will be hard pressed to earn break points against Shap’s offense and Berankis profits mostly from his power and Shap’s defense will be able to negate that. Shapovalov in 4.
Tomic Tsonga : A lot of people were upset with his loss to PCB but Tomic has been trying at tennis and that, my friends, is a miracle. I expect him to try here too and to make this loss respectable. On the other side of the net Tsonga has a bigger serve, better fitness, and the lowest percentage running one handed forehand pass in the game. Tsonga Shap 2nd round should be entertaining. Tsonga in 3 or 4.
Kyrgios Thompson : The mental battle of the year for Kyrgios. Thompson will work hard and make Kyrgios do the same if he wants to win. Will Kyrgios engage and fight and “stoop” to Thompson’s level to get the work done? I haven’t seen anything to indicate that he is capable of that level of fight. I think if Thompson can stay tight in his service games, Kyrgios will get impatient and make an early exit. Kyrgios’ body with someone else’s brain could win Wimbledon, but all his antics and all his injury faking and all his talking to the crowd are just the actions of someone who is scared to try. Scared to find out how good he really is. Scared to care. Less tools, but all Thompson does is care and try. Thompson in 4 depressing sets.
Sugita Nadal : Shame Sugita did not draw someone else as he is a pretty solid grasscourt player. Nadal has bitched and moaned about the seeding and kinda ruined any chance of me cheering for him here, but this should be over in straight sets. Nadal in 3.
Nishikori Monteiro : Good warmup match for Kei and while Monteiro is a dangerous lefty, Nishikori’s backhand neutralizes the crosscourt forehand. This won’t be as simple as Kei in straights for the simple reason that his serve is semi-useless so far this season, but he should be able to get the win because Monteiro just isn’t the offensive terror that can hit Kei off the court. Kei in 3-4.
Istomin Norrie : For a big serve, Istomin’s grass season has been fairly disappointing. Expect that to continue here with the hometown favorite Norrie playing his scrappy game to good effect. A loss to Rosol and Jubb don’t inspire hope in Istomin having the serving together to beat a player on the rise like Norrie. Norrie in 3-4.
Johnson Ramos-Vinols : Johnson has a good chance to get some ranking points here. ARV isn’t much on the grass and hasn’t been that strong at all in 2019. A good serving performance has bolstered Johnson’s confidence in his last few outings and he should roll here. If the writeups seem like they’re getting shorter it’s because omg there are a lot of matches in this tournament. Johnson in 3.
Cecchinato De Minaur : De Minaur season is fast approaching as we get this silly dirt and grass behind us, and while this one on paper should be a lock for De Minaur, he had a disappointing loss to Bedene who is a great grasscourt player but a guy you should be putting away if you want to be considered a “lock.” Still, Cecchinato’s best result on the grass swing has been only coughing up one break per set against Hurkacz, and this will be one way traffic as ADM is unlikely to give up the momentum once he gets it. De Minaur in 4 but probably 3.
Struff Albot : Everybody’s adorable favorite Albot cannot seem to avoid Struff these days. On hardcourt, this is a closer test. On grass, the edge in power and serve favors Struff too much for Albot to do much more than take a set. Struff in 4.
Fritz Berdych : Another great popcorn match. With Berdych having taken much of the past few months off, it’s hard to guess what to expect here. Oddsmakers notched Fritz at -170, and this is a nod to his only real result of the year, which is his title in Eastbourne. Honestly, I would expect his run to continue, but if Berdych is healthy, this will be an epic contest. Fritz in 4 or Berdych in 5.
Andujar Kukushkin : Kukushkin will have too much variety and experience here for Andujar to have a shot at winning this. A claycourt specialist, dont expect much in the way of results from Andujar for the rest of the year. Kukushkin in 3.
Ruud Isner : Isner published one of the most awkward comments of the year this week stating that if he lost in the first round he would go home a net loser. Travelling with his family, a team of coaches, a doctor, and being able to shell out for a house within walking distance of Wimbledon is a beautiful thing and something to be thankful for, not a burden to be pointed out in the media. Playing professional tennis is a blessing, not something to be negotiated at the ol dollar table. Besides, Isner is not going to lose first round. Ruud should make it to a few tiebreakers, but Isner’s serve at Wimbledon is something that will carry him through most matches and the first round is something (barring a secret injury) that he should not experience any fatigue for. Isner in 4.
Berretini Bedene : One of the bright points of this season has been Matteo (win every single close match) Berretini. Simply put, the kid does not blink. With Baghdatis likely waiting in the second round I do expect Berretini to make a nice run here, and it will start with a good grasscourter in Bedene but a guy who traditionally does not beat the top 20-30 guys. Berretini in 3.
Schnur Baghdatis : In what may be his last Wimbledon, Baghdatis has been lucky enough to draw lucky loser Brayden Schnur. I predicted Marcos would be finding his way off the tour a season ago, but he surprised me with his ability to win matches and his exceptionally solid backhand. A quick warmup with FAA last week, and Marcos looks to make at least the second round here against Schnur who has shown promise on the hardcourt but no real results to suggest he will win this one. Baghdatis in 4.
Koepfer Krajinovic : Oddsmakers have this as a pickem and these are two very different men entering this contest. Koepfer plays mostly on the challenger level, but is coming off a grasscourt title in his last outing. Krajinovic hangs with some of the top guys on tour, but hasn’t played since the French Open. I admit I’m not very familiar with Koepfer’s game but it looks like he is the favorite here. Perhaps Kraj is injured or perhaps Koepfer is that good. I am excited for the latter and will be watching this one for sure. No pick.
Ebden Schwartzman : Diego isn’t much on grass. Ebden is just having a terrible season. Grass is traditionally Ebden’s best surface but he hasn’t done much this year, and there’s no reason to think that it will start now. Diego in 3-4.
Pouille Gasquet : As per contract all French players must play each other in every event, or maybe there are just so many of them that this happens? I don’t like this matchup. Gasquet is excellent on grass and while he’s at the middle/tailend of his career, I would love to see him playing towards the end of the first week. Pouille is a great talent and I love his aggression on the court. This is a tough match to call and when I peek and see J Clarke playing Noah Rubin and Bublik playing Barrerre below them, I kinda cringe. Pouille likely has the edge in form and Gasquet the edge on this surface, but it will be hard for either of these guys to put the other away quickly. Somebody french in 5 (probably Pouille).
Bublik Barrere : I’m still waiting for Bubliks talent to match his mental game but it’s starting to materialize. Barrere is a solid talent and has qualified at a few majors already. Bublik leads the h2h with the one win coming by narrow margin (7-6, 7-5) in 2019 but also has been playing better comp so far on the grass. A 5 set win over Liam Broady will give Barrere confidence but may indicate that his level is not quite what it is on clay. Bublik in 5ish.
Clarke Rubin : idc
Harris Federer : Federer in 3.
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At Least It Can't Get Worse: Chapter 12

While part of the THNGW multiverse, this story, depending on the direction of our esteemed original authobenefactor, is intended to be a standalone.
Credit goes to u/ThisHasNotGoneWell, so be sure to support the original author. Thanks for your continued support!
 
Again, it's been a while since my last post. Still dealing with life being life, I guess... A huge thanks to all of you who have encouraged me and kept me going. enjoy the story, there's still a lot more to tell.
 
First
Previous
 
Consequences, part 2
 
Is now a bad time to mention I've never really ridden a horse? Aside from a slow and controlled jaunt around a pen at a local carnival when I was younger, I had no experience with them.
I stood staring at the snorting animal with not even a single clue how to ride it.
Lets just dismiss the fact that I was on an alien world and staring face to face with a horse in the first place. After all, I had seen squirrels and oak trees, so why not horses too?
Honestly this world seemed to require a large degree of suspension of disbelief just to stay sane. Or perhaps this whole thing was a hallucination and I was actually locked in a padded room somewhere.
 
Either way, I had a job to do.
 
I had been lead to the stables and to Arvan’s fastest horse and then simply told to ride out the south gate and down the road to meet Silviana before being left alone. I had been offered a sword and armor, but since I had never worn armor or used a sword for combat, I declined. The last thing I needed if we encountered the Faye was to be encumbered by heavy equipment that I had no idea how to use. Speed would be all important in this mission so I took only my pistol.
It took me several minutes to get myself situated and moving on the horse as all I had to go by was memories from various movies and shows.
I’d love to say I rode that horse like I had been born to ride, but that would be a lie. I ambled my way out of the stables and into the main castle. Much like Earth’s medieval castles, this one was essentially a small town within thick walls. Here and there, people went about their various businesses, albeit now with a palpable sense of urgency. They all knew what was imminent.
Far above me, what looked like a tight wire mesh stretched over the open areas of the castle walls. On the ramparts, men ran here and there, arming themselves with copious amounts of arrows. Yes, they were indeed prepared for an aerial attack.
As I rode through the town, people left and right scurried out of the way, throwing odd looks my way. Maybe it was because they had never seen a human before. Although it was more likely because I rode like a bumbling idiot. Get good, noob.
After a few rushed and rather rude directions, I found my way to the south gate of the castle and, after a brief moment of heckling from the guards and me explaining who sent me and where I was going, I was allowed to exit into the Naan countryside.
 
 
If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought myself back in Kansas. Around me stretched rolling hills covered in blowing prairie grass with isolated patches of woods. The castle had been defensively placed on one of the larger hills in the region, towering over the rest of the countryside. Just like Kansas, small farms dotted the plains, their fields spreading out toward the horizon.
I stared at the road that meandered south. I had to be fast. There was little to no cover available if things went bad. The Faye were also supposed to be coming from the south and, even though the table had shown only a few, I had no clue just how many there would actually be.
 
“Alright. Let’s go.” I said to the horse, spurring him into a brisk trot. “Let’s take this nice and easy.”
 
It took far too long to get used to riding. Slowly we picked up speed but it was too slow. The animal rippled under me, giving me an all too clear sense of the word ‘horsepower’. I’ve seen what happens when inexperienced riders are thrown by horses and I didn’t want to go out that way. We proceeded southward along the road quickly but not at potentially literal breakneck speeds.
 
On the distant southern horizon, a smudge of what looked like grayish black smoke rose almost imperceptibly. Over long minutes I watched the form grow darker and slightly larger. Something wasn’t right about it. Was it smoke?
 
No…
 
It didn’t dissipate like smoke would. It didn’t become hazy near the edges but instead remained a solid, coherent mass. The form undulated and grew at a snail's pace as I continued my pace southward, toward it.
 
No, it definitely wasn’t smoke.
 
 
Definitely fucking not…
 
It could have been a flock of birds, it could have. But it didn’t take a genius to put together the imminent attack by tiny flying creatures from hell (Hel?) and a growing stain on the southern horizon, the very same direction that at least a few were observed to be approaching from.
Arvan had mentioned that in order to track a subject on the table, that subject had to be fixed with a locator spell. It wouldn't make sense to try and tag an entire army, but a few within that army could just as effectively give away the location of a much larger group.
Sure, it might have been birds, and I hoped it was. But I wasn’t going to bet on it. I had to find Silviana’s carriage fast.
 
There comes a time when one must go from careful to ‘fuck it.’ this was one of those. Throwing caution to the wind, I kicked the horse hard and snapped the reins. “Yah!”
I expected the horse to run, I did. I even braced myself for the acceleration. Except the damn thing didn’t run…
It took the fuck off
 
“Ahhhh!”
 
I was shot out of a bouncy turbulent cannon across the plain, white knuckling the reins, my only lifelines from the blurring road beneath me. Each pounding footfall rocked me to my core, threatening to buck me off.
 
“Why. THE. Hell. DID. I DO. Thiiiisssss?!!!”
 
Despite my apparent inability to ride properly, something welled up inside of me. A feeling of exhilaration bubled away. I felt like one of the guys from the old west, riding hard into the sunset.
I leaned myself further down into the horse’s mane and spurred it faster.
As thrilling as it was, the thoughts still echoed in my mind. What was I going to do if I couldn’t reach her in time? What was I going to do once we got back? Why did I even care? For that matter, why didn’t Arvan ask someone else? Why a total stranger?”
 
Between the thrill of the ride and the thoughts in my mind, I nearly rode past the carriage. It materialized just ahead of me as I crested one of the hills.
“Whoa! “ I called, pulling back on the reins and feeling the horse respond and skid to a trot.
For such a high value person, Silviana’s carriage was nothing impressive. It was a simple wooden carriage pulled by a single horse. Atop the modest carriage, an equally modest, elderly driver led the horse along at a leisurely pace, unaware of the flock of terror that was growing ever closer.
I planted the horse in the middle of the road, forcing the driver to draw back on the reins and stop the carriage.
A scowl crossed his face as he shouted and me. “What do you think you're doing? Get out of the way!”
He didn't see what I saw. The flock was growing fast, evidence of the size and speed at which it was moving toward us. Individual elements like tiny pixels were starting to become visible. Amongst the pixels, I caught flashes of metal glinting in the sunlight.
I steadied my own horse who was prancing around. “Easy there…” I said, patting his neck. To the driver, I called out. “Is this the carriage of Silviana?”
“Who wants to know?” the old man barked. Even for elves, this man was old. I wasn’t sure just how long elves lived but I was relatively certain that this man had been around for a long time. Even so, he didn’t seem to carry any of the frailty that elderly humans often held. His eyes were sharp and he looked to be of perfect health.
“I was sent by her uncle Lord Arvan to escort her to the castle. An attack is imminent by Faye.”
The driver paled. “How long do we have?”
I pointed to the flock behind him. “I’d say they’re going to overtake us any minute now.”
He followed my point and then his head snapped back toward me, his eyes wide. “We must get off the road!” he leapt off the carriage and pounded on the door. “Lady Silviana! It is urgent!”
The door opened and a mildly annoyed voice issued sleepily from an unseen character. “What is it, Kobrin?”
“Faye, Milady. The Faye are coming.” he pointed down the road toward the flock.
A disheveled mop of reddish brown hair popped out of the carriage facing away from me. “Are you sure they’re Faye? It looks like a flock of birds…”
“It’s not birds, Ma’am.” I said. “Unless birds of this world wear armor.”
My voice caused her head to snap around giving me a look at her face. “Who are you?”
 
They say everyone has at least one person out there who looks like they could be a twin. Silviana was no exception. From the delicately angled face to the proportionately small mouth and the large blue-gray eyes, the resemblance was unparalleled. She could have been a perfect celebrity double for Audrey Hepburn during the peak of her career.
 
If this one starts charming me too, I swear I’m gonna blow up this fucking planet…
 
“My name’s Zee. I was sent by your uncle to escort you into the city.”
Her head cocked quizzically to one side. “My uncle sent you, a… what exactly are you? You seem rather diminutive for a giant and you don’t look quite like an elf either. Are you some sort of hybrid?”
“I’m a human. A human with no time to spare. Those Faye will be on top of us any minute.”
“If they find us out here, they’ll kill us!” Kobrin said, tugging at Silviana’s shirt. “We must hide, now!”
I pointed back along the road. “There’s a large patch of woods at the bottom of the next hill. We can get there pretty quickly.”
Without wasting time, Kobrin swung himself up onto the carriage and snapped the reins as Silviana ducked back into the cabin.
 
In less than a minute we found ourselves partially sheltered under a grove of woods whose canopy overshadowed the road. The timing could not have been better, as the surrounding woods became permeated with a high pitched hum. I thought about the speed at which Faye wings beat and it made perfect sense. We were hearing the sound of a veritable fuck ton of wings.
As soon as we were safely into the woods, Kobrin launched himself off the carriage and wrenched open the door. “Please come! We must hide!”
 
He got no objections from me.
 
Silviana stepped out onto the mossy forest floor and I almost stifled a laugh. During the short moment that we had been on the run, she had taken the time to fix her hair and wrap it with a silky white scarf, which I assumed was due to her hair being messy from her falling asleep during the trip. The absurdity of it was almost too much.
Kobrin led Silviana by the hand into the brush alongside the road and I followed them. The woods weren’t as dense as Kansas might have boasted, but it was hopefully enough. We carefully pushed our way far enough in as to not be spotted easily but we could still see the road and the carriage. Around us, the hum rose louder and louder to an incessant droning as we dove into a copse of bushes.
 
They were almost on top of us...
 
Overhead, breaks in the canopy allowed shafts of sunlight to peer in, giving the forest a dappled look to it. As long as the Faye stayed moving, we’d be fine. However, if any of them stopped, there was a good chance we’d be seen.
The droning grew to a roar as the first of the flock began to streak over us. I had heard a similar sound before… the sound of a C-130 preparing for takeoff, it’s massive props spinning up and churning the air behind it.
Overhead, the sky grew dark and the once mottled light became much dimmer as the bulk of the flock passed. The tops of the trees rustled and a cooling breeze filtered down from the beating of hundreds, if not thousands of wings.
And there were two more groups approaching the castle from other directions…
Did Arvan’s men even stand a chance?
 
 
A glance at Kobrin revealed the pale, blood drained face of pure terror. He had had some experience with them, I realized. He knew exactly the power he was dealing with. Silviana also looked nervous but much more composed. If anything she seemed to simply be waiting, concerned but bored.
 
Then there was me… I had no fucking clue…
 
A few long minutes later, the droning began to die down as most of the flock continued onward. Only a few dozen stragglers here and there zipped overhead.
I took a moment to release the breath I hadn't realized I was holding.
That is until a few Faye peeled off from the flock, and descended down into the understory.
 
Fuck me…
 
“Told ya I saw somethin!” A voice echoed in the newly silent woods. As we watched, five Faye lighted onto the carriage. From the distance, I couldn’t make out all of the details save for the obvious and honestly, most terrifying. Each was clad in a metal helmet and breastplate. Slung across the breastplate was a strip of what could have been leather. These bandoliers connected to a sheath on their back that carried a small, six inch dagger.
 
That’s a dagger by human standards…
 
For them, it was a longsword nearly as long as their bodies. Considering their formidable strength and speed, the swords were as light and agile as a sushi chef would wield a knife and as precise as a surgeon's scalpel.
They were an army of flying fucking razorblades...
 
Fuck me sideways…
 
One of the Faye peered into the window of the carriage. “ ‘s empty, Cap’n.”
“Horses’re still here. Means they saw us comin’ and ran.” one of them said, reaching back and undoing a latch on his sheath. He gripped the sword by the pommel and the sword came away to the side.
A slightly rational part of my brain took notice of the innovation. Looks like these guys have actually figured out an efficient way to draw from the back… go figure…
The Faye I assumed was the leader of the team raised his sword and pointed to the woods straight at us. “They’re out there somewhere. Rionn and Fiann, find them. Chulainn and Seisyll, rejoin the formation and report this to the General.”
Four of the Faye fired their wings and simultaneously launched into the air. two of them veered northward to catch up with the rest of the flock. the other two split right and left, buzzing through the woods. While the bushes would keep us out of sight for the most part, all it would take was for one to fly overhead and we’d be spotted pretty easily.
We needed a distraction. One of us needed to draw them away.
As the non elf, I was the logical choice. After all, I was neutral to the war, wasn't I? Even so. If I could get close, I could use my pistol.
I took a deep breath and went to stand up.
 
“The one you're looking for is me.” A hand on my shoulder forced me back down into the bushes next to a wide eyed Silviana. Kobrin stepped out from the concealment and into the open.
He moved forward slowly, away from our hiding place, hands up.
The two Faye immediately converged on him, seizing him by the shirt and dragging him away toward the leader, who still stood atop the carriage.
Shit… I didn’t know why I all of the sudden had the urge to sacrifice myself for these people. Damn Air Force core values or something, I guess.
 
Might need to get rid of those. They’re gonna get me killed someday…
 
I needed a new plan now. I drew my pistol and ever so slowly, as to not make a single sound, racked a round into the chamber. Even then, there was a minute click as the bullet slid forward that, at least to my ears, was barely audible but seemed cacophonous. The fact that I waited until now to put one in the chamber, I know, stupid… I just didn’t want to be bouncing around on through the countryside with a weapon on red status, even if it wasn’t cocked. Yep, stupid...
 
The Faye dumped Kobrin at the wheels of the carriage and hovered just off to the side of him, waiting further orders.
“Who are ya?” The leader asked.
Kobrin picked himself up and glared up at him. “You young ones are always so rude, not bothering to introduce yourselves first.”
“I’m askin’ the questions here, elf.” The Faye snapped. “Who’re ya transportin’?”
Kobrin shook his head. “No one.”
“The feck ya were. Ya got two horses here an’ a carriage that’s had someone in it recently. Who were ya carryin’ and where’re they now? ”
Kobrin kept his eyes hard on the Faye. “I was charged to deliver this carriage from Amoret. The horse, I found wandering and I believe it belong to a knight from the castle. I was taking it to see if I could get a reward for it.”
 
Next to me, Silviana finally seemed to get the gravity of the situation. Do something! she mouthed, as if I had any damn control over our situation. All I had was a gun. They were too far away to hit accurately.
Yeah, I shoot expert with the M-9, what of it? The target’s a big ol’ green, stationary piece of paper that sits like fifteen meters out at max… Most of the qualifying though is done at much closer range. Could I hit the eight inch target as he sat still on the top of the carriage? Maybe, if I was lucky. Could I then take out the two eight inch targets that would come after both of us immediately afterwards that moved like hummingbirds? Not a fucking chance.
 
“I think you’re lyin’.” The Faye said. “I think you’ve got some friends hidin’ with ya.”
“I’m telling you the truth!” Kobrin said, his voice getting a bit more distressed.
 
Gotta do something…
 
I was only going to get one shot before the other two flew off and countered. Once that happened, I’d never hit them with a bullet. No. What I needed was a fly swatter.
 
That’s it…
 
Next to me was a fallen branch from the bush, its branches on on the unbroken end forming a long forked Y pattern. I grabbed the branch and twisted the ends together.
 
Out toward the woods the Faye shouted. “Here’ what’s gonna happen! You’re gonna come out or I’m gonna show this man’s guts to the daylight!”
 
Stripping a few more branches off the bush, I wove them into the form until I had a crude form the size and shape of a tennis racket. As I did this, Silviana watched with incredulity etched into her face until the weapon took form and she realized what it was.
When I was done, I had a finished product about the length of my arm. It wasn’t much but it might take down one or two Faye before it fell apart.
I positioned myself in a prone position and, propping my wrists in a fork of the bush, I centered the tiny 22LR pistol on the leader. I took a couple of long breaths to center myself and find my aim.
I was ready as I would ever be.
 
I was too fucking late.
 
The leader sighed. “ A’right then. Have it as ya want.”
The order came as almost a whisper, barely audible to my ears. “Do it.”
On either side of him, Rionn and Fiann unsheathed their swords. In a flash the two became a whirling blur swarming around Kobrin. From top to bottom, a series of long red lines appeared on his body. They cycloned around him for only a second or so and then came to a halt an instant later, hovering next to him.
There was no screams of pain from Kobrin, just a quiet guttural gasping croak as the red lines criss crossing his body began to bleed, slowly at first and then erupting into spurts. Within seconds he was covered head to toe in blood.
 
These fucking fairies are goddamn cuisinarts!
 
The lead Faye allowed a smile to cross his face as Kobrin collapsed to the ground, gurgling from his lacerated throat.
Silviana’s eyes widened and a slender hand came to her mouth as her other hand found and tightly clenched the cloth of my sleeve.
I cut my sight in from the side and centered it on the leader’s chest. Take a deep breath, exhale...
Another deep breath… pause...
 
He gazed out into the woods. “Find the others.”
 
Squeeze…
 
Next to me, Silviana yelped in surprise at the report of the pistol. Simultaneously, the lead Faye perched atop the carriage was struck with a supersonic chunk of lead with the relative size of a tennis ball.
 
I was using 38 grain bullets with an average velocity of 1430 feet per second. That meant he was being struck with a net force of 191 joules or 141 foot pounds of force. I doubted the Faye even weighed in pounds unless they were completely decked out in armor. Even if he weighed a pound, it was still 141 times his weight centered in his chest.
That would be roughly the equivalent of nearly 34,000 joules if proportionally scaled up to my 180 pound frame. At just under 18,000 joules, even being shot with a 50 caliber bullet was only half the force.
To the tiny Faye body, a .22LR was a goddamn cannonball.
 
Needless to say, the bullet ripped through both him and his armor like it wasnt there. His entire chest and back shredded open and scattered itself across the roof of the carriage. One moment he was there, the next he was everywhere else. His body fell back, head and arms connected loosely to his waist by a few jagged threads of flesh, the rest of his torso an empty void.
Was it overkill? Hell yeah it was.
Overkill’s the best kill.
 
Ready for what would come next, I holstered the gun and gripped what I now thought of as my Faye Swatter. Taking a deep breath, I stood up and stepped out of the bushes.
 
Note to self, invent tennis rackets…
 
For a scant moment, the other two gawked at their fallen leader. One regained his senses a second later and turned toward the bushes where I stood. His sword readied and he zipped toward me.
I’ve never played tennis, but I used to watch it all the time when I was younger. Okay, okay, I actually just had a raging hard on for the Williams sisters, but didn’t everybody? The point is, I wasn’t a tennis player. But that didn’t mean I couldn’t be like them.
The faye shot toward me, ready to go mad sushi chef on me. I readied my pose, channeling my inner Serena…
 
Never think that again…
 
Behind him, his comrade came to his senses and raced to join the fight.
 
Wait for it…
 
Now!
“Wimbledon, muthafucker!” I yelled and swung the swatter as hard as I could. The mesh connected with the Faye’s bird-like form and sent him careening to the ground. I heard a rather loud crack as he smashed into the ground.
 
“Rionn!” his comrade called, stopping in his tracks.
 
The forest was way too still for a long moment. Kobrin lay dead, still leaking blood in an ever spreading pool. The Faye leader also lay in a bloody mess, a good portion of him plastered over the roof of the carriage. Rionn was hammered into the dirt, battered and broken wings twitching slightly as he lay unconscious. Only Fiann remained, hovering out of my range. The only sound in the forest was the buzzing sound of his wings while he considered what to do.
 
I was under no illusions that I’d be able to do that again. I had lost the advantage of surprise. Fiann was more maneuverable than I was and could easily evade my swings. My plan had not been the best thought out but it certainly evened the odds. Now I needed a new plan.
I needed to negotiate.
 
“I’ll allow you to take your comrade here if you agree to leave.”
 
Fiann brandished his sword. “And if I say I wanna kill ya right here an’ now?”
I drew the pistol with one hand while holding the swatter with the other. “This here is the weapon that made short work of your leader. I'm giving you a chance to go free. If I have to, I'll kill you and him. I won't even waste a bullet on him.” I stomped a foot and ground it into the dirt to make my point.
He considered my offer for a moment. If he decided to fight, I would lose. That I knew.
“Fine then.” he said, sheathing his sword and snapping the latch in place. “You've spared his life, so as payment, I’ll spare yours. Know this though, it ain' over.”
 
Weary of any sudden movements, I allowed him to scoop up his fallen friend. Carrying Rionn in his arms, he hovered a few feet off the ground. “Doesn't matter how long it takes, we won't stop. We’ll rend this place to the feckin ground if we have to.”
Before I could ask what he meant by that, he turned and flitted off through the canopy, leaving a silent, blood scented forest behind.
 
What the hell was that about?
 
 
The bushes rustled and Silviana rushed out, darting to Kobrin’s still form. She knelt over him for a long moment before standing.
 
“Kobrin was a dear friend but there’s no time to mourn.” She turned to me and I was nearly set ablaze by the white hot fire that I saw I saw in her eyes. “We need to get to the castle. Many more will die today. I intend to make sure its the Faye who do so.”
 
 
 
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