This is a new four-part FM17 Project series in which Sam Tighe writes about his attempt to complete the Pentagon Challenge – winning the Champions League in five different continents on the same save.
In December, I decided to take on what many perceive to be the ultimate Football Manager test: The Pentagon Challenge. It’s a lengthy, patience-sapping adventure that spans five continents and hoovers up a significant chunk of your free time – or, in other words, the perfect thing to embark upon knowing full well you’ve got five days with the in-laws at Christmas rapidly approaching.
The concept is simple: Win the Champions League (or most prestigious continental trophy) in each of Europe, Africa, Asia, South America and North America in the same save. A tough ask, no doubt, and one that’s made harder by the fact that you have to do it from an unemployed background with a Sunday League reputation and no coaching badges to speak of. There be no shortcuts here.
I whisked through the ‘create manager’ screen pretty quickly, eager to get to the good stuff. It was only once I’d finished that I realised I had subconsciously created a lookalike of the DEA agent from Netflix’s Narcos (the TV series I was binging on at the time) – moustache included. That hairy slug is glorious, but I would be lying if I said I could boast anything remotely comparable.
I decided to start my adventure in Asia, loading up the Korean and Chinese leagues. Visions of taking the reins at Guangzhou Evergrande were dashed almost immediately, though, when the best job offered was at second division side Zhicheng (and they’re not even like Beijing Renhe, the second tier side who signed former Everton striker Nikica Jelavic last winter).
Fortunately, the standard of management down there is abysmal, and it didn’t take long for me to hit my stride. I used the same 4-3-3 tactic (three strikers, no wingers, three central midfielders) that I’d developed in other FM17 saves and quickly built a winning run. It turned out Beijing Renhe were a close rival, so when Jelavic put me to the sword our fans took umbrage, but losing to them was a rare downpoint in a brilliant season.
We were promoted at the first time of asking, but the jubilation lasted just a few seconds. My newly enhanced weekly wage budget at Zhicheng was only £200,000-per-week – Alex Teixeira and Hulk were earning close to that on their own at some of the Super League’s top clubs.
I only felt a small pang of guilt about immediately jumping ship (how could I compete?), signing the legendary Artem Milevskiy for Zhicheng before resigning and targeting a new job.
Beijing Gu’on picked me up – a move which, on reflection, was a lucky break – and I was greeted by a squad including talented Brazilian midfielder Renato Augusto and the prolific Maximiliano Fornari (who I’d never heard of before). Using the same 4-3-3, we romped to the Super League title and qualified for the Asian Champions League as a result. Pleasingly, Zhicheng stayed up too.
It was at this point I made the best signing in my entire FM17 career: Colombian Nicolas Rebellon. Arriving for £950,000 from Deportivo Cali, the striker scored 30 goals and assisted 23 more in his single season in Beijing. He represented an incredible bargain in a league that can’t stop overpaying for foreign imports.
Beijing Gu’on tasted domestic glory once again, but most importantly we overcame Al-Ain in the Asian Champions League final 6-4 on aggregate. Now 2019, and with the first of the five Pentagon Titles in the bank, I resigned. Days later Wolfsburg activated Rebellon’s release clause of £33 million. We’d meet again years later, but that’s a story for another time…