European Gigalo Challenge Episode 8: The journey takes a new route


I don’t want to speak prematurely but I think I’ve cracked it. My Leeds side, with all our financial struggles, are flying high in the Premier League. Yes it’s only October but considering my target was to ‘fight against relegation’, and not necessarily avoid it, I’m definitely on-form. I even think I saw Massimo Cellino smile.

Incredibly, they increase my transfer budget. It’s hardly useful right now but it means I can sort out the wage structure and I have manoeuvrability come January, which will be crucial. For now, my focus is on our clash with a Sunderland side who remarkably occupy a Champions League spot.

An eventful second-half sees us lose 3-1, extending our winless run to three games, but we bounce back by defeating Burnley by the same score-line. We then snatch another win against Liverpool and lose to Leicester City. It’s yet another international break and I’m very, very pleased.

Ashley Young knocks on my door and asks to be signed, he’d be excellent so I accept, and I also bring in Facundo Piriz to provide depth at half-back. However, both are unable to play until being registered in January- which is now around six weeks away.

An injury crisis hits us ahead of our clash with Aston Villa, with both Pontus Jansson and Marco Silvestri sidelined, and we lose 1-0. My eyes are left open by a number of sackings in Europe and I’d be daft not to consider an opportunity, especially as I need to be back-on-track for my challenge and Leeds, despite my success, are reluctant to offer me a new deal.

We draw 2-2 with West Ham and I’m approached by both Hertha Berlin and RB Leipzig, which sparks Leeds to seek talks with me. I politely decline and prepare for the upcoming clashes with Chelsea and Arsenal. Incredibly we beat the Blues 3-0 but lose to Arsenal. Jobs are coming up left, right and centre, leaving me assessing where’s the best option for me to further my career- could I really make Leeds into a European force again?

Southampton are up next, incidentally a job that’s just become available, and we lose 1-0. We’re unfortunate to lose to Manchester United the following week and our next match against Swansea City marks the halfway stage in the campaign. We throw away a lead, meaning we’re just two points off the drop zone. It’s a massive dip in form.

It’s frustrating that the players’ morale has dropped so much, we were favourites to finish rock bottom so it’s hardly been awful. We’re 19 points away from the magic mark of 40 and I want us to start a strong run immediately, as I believe our January additions will provide a huge boost.

Incidentally, I’ve decided I’ll only leave Leeds mid-season if an opportunity arises with a ‘big’ club, one that could be in Europe next year or one that will hand me the necessary money to rebuild the squad. We end the year with a thrilling win over Newcastle, where Pablo Hernandez scored a hat-trick upon his return from injury, but lose to Everton.

It’s January, meaning I can register Young and Piriz in my squad, and it sees the arrival of veteran striker Miku and wing-back Dimitri Folquier. We draw with Bournemouth and knock Crystal Palace out of the FA Cup but lose Young for the remainder of the season, a huge blow. We keep going though, we can’t really afford not to as there’s plenty to do and draw Ipswich in the next round.

A draw with West Brom isn’t a bad result but we’re now just two points above the drop zone. A dramatic 4-3 win against Watford, where we fought back from 2-0 down, sends us flying up to 13th and we boast a four point cushion. Being reduced to nine-men and drawing with rock-bottom Hull, however, is hardly ideal.

A break from league action sees us tackle Ipswich in the cup and it’s a chance to exceed expectations, as the target was merely reaching the fourth round. A 2-0 loss follows though, allowing us to focus our attention on avoiding relegation, but a hefty defeat to Spurs really affects our confidence- and things don’t get easier with Manchester City up next.

We lose to the league leaders but a fantastic result against high-flying Sunderland puts us seven points clear of the drop. We have a bit of a break now and I reject a job offer from Stuttgart, though I continue to assess my future, and have interviews with Gladbach, Sevilla and Marseille.

To my surprise, Marseille move almost instantly and the move is finalised before Leeds’ clash with Burnley. I’m disappointed to be leaving before the end of the season but Marseille is an opportunity I cannot turn down. The next step on my journey is set to begin.

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