We’ve all dreamt of it. You take one of the oldest names in the sport and bring them back to the elite of football. But what if you want to manage outside the top 5 leagues in Europe? Take a look at these five uncommon fallen giants for an exotic FM21 save.
1. C.D. Cobreloa
Cobreloa might be an unheard name for those unfamiliar with the South American game, but for those of us who grew up with the Copa Libertadores on our screens, it’s a well-known name. The club many consider to be the fourth biggest side in Chile (behind Colo Colo, Universidad Católica, and Universidad de Chile) was founded as a professional club in 1977 after a long history in Chile’s amateur football leagues. They would go on to win eight league titles and finish runners-up in the Copa Libertadores in 1981 and 1982.
Their home city of Calama’s location in the middle of the Atacama Desert, at 2,260 m (7,410 ft) above sea level (home games advantage, anyone?) got them their nickname of Zorros del Desierto (desert foxes); their ground was renovated in 2013 and holds just over twelve thousand people. However, in 2015 they would be relegated when after a terrible season they got a points deduction. Why? It was denounced that assistant manager Alejandro Hisis had worked for two teams during the same season. They’ve been stuck in the Second Division since. Can you harness the quality of the youth academy that produced the likes of Alexis Sánchez, Charles Aranguiz, and Eduardo Vargas and take the desert foxes to the top of the South American game once again?
2. D.C. United
I know what you’re thinking, “I thought this was a fallen giants list… I’m expecting black-and-white glory days and this club is younger than most of its players”. You’re right… but hear me out. The Black-and-Red were formed in 1996 as part of the original ten MLS teams. Led by the amazing Bolivians Marco Etcheverry (look him up, he was mind-bending) and Jaime Moreno they were a force in the early days of the league. They went to four straight MLS Cup finals between 1996 and 1999, winning three of them. In 1998 they also won the CONCACAF Champions’ Cup and the Copa Interamericana (a competition played between the winners of the Champions’ Cup and the Libertadores).
After a terrible spell during the early 2000s, they won the MLS Cup a then-record 4th time in 2004. However, they haven’t been to the finals since; that’s a longer stretch of time than most of the league’s teams have existed. The arrival of Wayne Rooney and the inauguration of the Audi Field, a brand new, soccer-specific stadium, in 2018 lifted them up but not enough. Now Rooney’s gone, and yet, over seventeen thousand people flock every match on average to cheer the Black-and-Red on. So we have a team with a great past in a bygone era, a large set of faithful fans, and a series of incredible legends; how is this not a sleeping giant ready to take the league by storm?
3. Vitória FC
I know, not exactly a giant of the game. However, when no club from outside the two biggest cities in the country has ever won the league, this is as big a giant as you can get. Vitória FC’s golden era was from the mid-60s to the early-70s, winning under manager Fernando Vaz two Portuguese Cups. He would leave at the end of the 68/69 season, but his replacement José Maria Pedroto took them to new highs. During the 71/72 season, they became the second team from outside Porto or Lisbon to finish second in the league. They also found international success when in 1970 they won the Small Club World Cup, an international tournament played by teams from Europe and South America.
As for reasons to manage them, there’s the obvious Mourinho connection. It was his club growing up, his father played for and managed them and he has said he wishes to retire there. If you’re not the biggest José fan, they also present a fantastic challenge. They were relegated to the 3rd Tier of Portuguese football due to administrative reasons. As tragic as it can be for fans, could prove a blessing in disguise for any potential managers; it gives you time and resources to build a winning team before taking on the big guys. Can you build Portugal’s fourth giant outside the powerbases?
4. Busan IPark
I was surprised to find out the K-League was established in 1983, thirteen years before the MLS had even kicked a ball. Despite that, there have been just nine K-League winners to thirteen sides who did it in the States; one of those sides was Busan IPark. Then called Daewoo Royals, they were one of the five initial K-League teams, winning it in 1984. They became the first side to win it twice in 1987 and then thrice in 1991.
However, owner company Daewoo got into financial troubles in the late 90s and the club was sold to Korean construction corporation IPark. The team went through a series of name changes, eventually settling for Busan IPark in 2012. Despite having good and bad seasons, results never reached the success of the first seasons; the club failed to add to their trophy tally since their 2004 Korean FA Cup. In 2015 they got relegated for the first time in their history, only managing to return to the top division four later. Happiness, however, was short-lived; a last-place finish last season got them back to K League 2 once again. Now, this giant of the Korean game has to reset and reshuffle. Can you build a solid team and lead the Royals back to the glory days?
When I set up to write this list I tried not to repeat continents. However, I just couldn’t leave Cruzeiro out. Why? Because it’s the giant that has fallen the furthest on this list. Hailing from Belo Horizonte, the soon-to-be hundred-year-old club is one of Brazil’s big twelve, the Doze Grandes. In that time, they’ve won four league titles (consider it’s only been played since 1959), six Brazilian Cups, thirty-eight estate championships. Add to that two Copa Libertadores, with the likes of Dida, Sorín, Piazza, and Tostão playing for them.
However, none of that saved them when a terrible 2019 campaign got them relegated for the first time in their history. The bad news, however, don’t quite end there. Cruzeiro owes UAE side Al-Wahda nearly a million dollars for the loan signing of midfielder Denilson in 2016. They have already been ducked six points because of that; should an agreement not come they could be administratively due to the Asian club’s elevating a demand with FIFA. However, it could prove unnecessary; despite hiring World Cup-winning coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, they sit 16th on the table (as of early November), just 1 point above the relegation places. Can you go against all odds and take this giant of the Brazilian game back where it belongs?