Interlude: The State of the World, Summer 2034
Old business first: World Cup wrap-up!
3rd place game result:
Pretty poor game overall, Germany was clearly the better team but both sides were definitely on a comedown after the semifinal losses (remember: they also played a full 120 before losing to Spain on penalties). Our defenders, including a recovered Espinosa, held them off for over 100 minutes but just ran out of gas in the end as Stipe Markovic scored the winner for Germany.
All in all, a bit of a comedown to end a World Cup with two consecutive losses, but the team can be proud of how they played, even in both losses.
The winner of the 2034 World Cup:
If possible, England's triumph here was even more dramatic than their late semifinal victory against us. To go down early, only to fight back even, then lose a man via red card immediately into extra time, and then go on to score two goals anyway and win... they haven't invented a word that will describe the England supporters after this. "Insufferable" won't be nearly enough to cover it.
Heartbreak for Spain vice captain and Friend of Cartagena Damián Fernández Morales, as he has now lost his second straight World Cup final. He'll probably have one more shot at glory in 2038 at the age of 33, but that's not guaranteed. More on Morales later.
(all competition histories will be split by a single dash (-) representing the break from when I departed Cartagena for Team USA)
La Liga (Spain)
2018: Atlético Madrid (2: Real Madrid | 3: Barcelona)
2019: Barcelona (2: Real Madrid | 3: Atlético Madrid)
2020: Real Madrid (2: Atlético Madrid | 3: Barcelona)
2021: Real Madrid (2: Barcelona | 3: Atlético Madrid)
2022: Sevilla (2: Barcelona | 3: Real Madrid)
2023: Real Madrid (2: Cartagena | 3: Barcelona)
2024: Cartagena (2: Real Madrid | 3: Barcelona)
2025: Real Madrid (2: Cartagena | 3: Barcelona)
2026: Cartagena (2: Real Madrid | 3: Atlético Madrid)
2027: Real Madrid (2: Cartagena | 3: Barcelona)
2028: Cartagena (2: Real Madrid | 3: Barcelona)
2029: Real Madrid (2: Cartagena | 3: Barcelona)
2030: Real Madrid (2: Barcelona | 3: Cartagena)
2031: Real Madrid (2: Cartagena | 3: Barcelona)
2032: Real Madrid (2: Cartagena | 3: Sevilla)
2033: Real Madrid (2: Cartagena | 3: Sevilla)
2034: Real Madrid (2: Cartagena | 3: Sevilla)
Premier League (England)
2018: Manchester United (2: Tottenham | 3: Manchester City)
2019: Tottenham(!) (2: Arsenal | 3: Liverpool)
2020: Manchester United (2: Chelsea | 3: Manchester City)
2021: Manchester United (2: Arsenal | 3. Tottenham)
2022: Manchester United (2: Chelsea | 3: Tottenham)
2023: Chelsea (2: Manchester United | 3: Arsenal)
2024: Manchester United (2: Arsenal | 3: Chelsea)
2025: Manchester United (2: Chelsea | 3: Tottenham)
2026: Chelsea (2: Arsenal | 3: Tottenham)
2027: Manchester United (2: Arsenal | 3: Liverpool)
2028: Manchester United (2: Chelsea | 3: Arsenal)
2029: Arsenal (2: Manchester United | 3: Chelsea)
2030: Arsenal (2: Chelsea | 3: Manchester United)
2031: Manchester United (2: Manchester City | 3: Arsenal)
2032: Arsenal (2: Manchester City | 3: Manchester United)
2033: Manchester United (2: Manchester City | 3: Arsenal)
2034: Manchester City (2: Arsenal | 3: Chelsea)
2018: Bayern (2: Leipzig | 3: Leverkusen)
2019: Bayern (2: Dortmund | 3: Leipzig)
2020: Bayern (2: Leipzig | 3: Dortmund)
2021: Dortmund (2: Bayern | 3: Leipzig)
2022: Leipzig (2: Bayern | 3: Dortmund)
2023: Bayern (2: Dortmund | 3: Leipzig)
2024: Dortmund (2: Bayern | 3: Leverkusen)
2025: Bayern (2: Dortmund | 3: Leipzig)
2026: Bayern (2: Dortmund | 3: Stuttgart)
2027: Bayern (2: Dortmund | 3: Wolfsburg)
2028: Dortmund (2: Bayern | 3: Schalke)
2029: Bayern (2: Dortmund | 3: Stuttgart)
2030: Bayern (2: Dortmund | 3: Leverkusen)
2031: Bayern (2: Dortmund | 3: Leverkusen)
2032: Bayern (2: Dortmund | 3: Gladbach)
2033: Bayern (2: Leverkusen | 3: Dortmund)
2034: Bayern (2: Leipzig | 3: Hannover)
Serie A (Italy)
2018: Juventus (2: Inter | 3: Fiorentina)
2019: Juventus (2: Inter | 3: Milan)
2020: Juventus (2: Milan | 3: Napoli)
2021: Juventus (2. Napoli | 3: Milan)
2022: Juventus (2: Milan | 3: Napoli)
2023: Juventus (2. Napoli | 3: Milan)
2024: Juventus (2. Napoli | 3: Roma)
2025: Milan (2. Juventus | 3: Roma)
2026: Juventus (2: Milan | 3: Roma)
2027: Juventus (2: Milan | 3: Inter)
2028: Juventus (2: Milan | 3: Napoli)
2029: Juventus (2: Inter | 3: Fiorentina)
2030: Juventus (2: Milan | 3: Inter)
2031: Milan (2: Juventus | 3: Inter)
2032: Inter (2: Juventus | 3: Roma)
2033: Juventus (2: Inter | 3: Roma)
2034: Inter (2: Milan | 3: Roma)
Ligue 1 (France)
2018: PSG (2: Monaco | 3. Marseille)
2019: PSG (2: Monaco | 3. Lyon)
2020: PSG (2: Monaco | 3. Lyon)
2021: PSG (2: Monaco | 3. Lyon)
2022: PSG (2: Monaco | 3. Marseille)
2023: PSG (2: Monaco | 3. Lyon)
2024: PSG (2: Monaco | 3. Marseille)
2025: Monaco (2: PSG | 3: Marseille)
2026: Monaco (2: PSG | 3: Lyon)
2027: Monaco (2: PSG | 3: Lyon)
2028: PSG (2: Monaco | 3. Lyon)
2029: PSG (2: Monaco | 3. Marseille)
2030: PSG (2: Monaco | 3. Lyon)
2031: PSG (2: Monaco | 3. Lyon)
2032: PSG (2: Monaco | 3. Lyon)
2033: PSG (2: Monaco | 3. Lyon)
2034: PSG (2: Monaco | 3. Lyon)
Europa League (continental)
2018: Liverpool over Hoffenheim
2019: Liverpool over Marseille
2020: Celta over Villareal
2021: Arsenal over Sevilla
2022: Cartagena over Liverpool
2023: Roma over Arsenal
2024: Manchester City over Liverpool
2025: Stoke(!) over Tottenham
2026: Tottenham over Juventus
2027: Liverpool over PSG
2028: Benfica over Stuttgart
2029: Tottenham over Marseille
2030: Liverpool over Stuttgart
2031: Liverpool over Dortmund
2032: Chelsea over Marseille
2033: Lyon over Milan
2034: Dortmund over Napoli
Champions League (continental)
2018: Real Madrid over Tottenham
2019: Manchester City over Real Madrid (in Madrid!)
2020: Manchester United over Real Madrid
2021: Manchester United over Juventus
2022: Real Madrid over PSG (in Paris!)
2023: Liverpool over Leipzig
2024: Real Madrid over Manchester United
2025: Cartagena over Leipzig
2026: Cartagena over Roma
2027: Cartagena over Real Madrid
2028: Real Madrid over Cartagena (Cartagena eliminated: final)
2029: Arsenal over Real Madrid (Cartagena eliminated: semifinal)
2030: Manchester City over PSG (Cartagena eliminated: quarterfinal)
2031: Real Madrid over Arsenal (in Madrid!) (Cartagena eliminated: round of 16)
2032: Manchester United over PSG (Cartagena eliminated: quarterfinal)
2033: Manchester City over Barcelona (Cartagena eliminated: round of 16)
2034: Manchester United over Arsenal (Cartagena eliminated: semifinal)
Major League Soccer (USA)
(note: I only am including data after I loaded the league)
2028: Columbus over Portland
2029: Toronto over Dallas
2030: Dallas over Orlando City
2031: NYCFC over Sporting KC
2032: NY Red Bulls over Houston
2033: Real Salt Lake over NYCFC
2034: in progress
Liga MX (Mexico)
(note: I only am including data after I loaded the league)
2029 opening stage: Necaxa over Toluca
2029 closing stage: Tigres over América
2030 opening stage: Veracruz over Cruz Azul
2030 closing stage: América over Pumas
2031 opening stage: Toluca over Pumas
2031 closing stage: Pachuca over Tigres
2032 opening stage: Necaxa over Léon
2032 closing stage: Léon over Tigres
2033 opening stage: Pachuca over América
2033 closing stage: Pachuca over América
2034 opening stage: América over Pachuca
2034 closing stage: América over Toluca
2018 World Cup (Russia):
Brazil over Uruguay
Golden Ball: Fredson Vinícius (Brazil)
England performance: Lost in semifinal to Brazil; 3rd place over France
USA performance: Knocked out in group stage (Italy, Nigeria, Brazil)
Euro 2020 (Pan-European):
France over Germany
Best Player: Jelle Dubois (Belgium)
England performance: Lost in first knockout round to Belgium
2022 World Cup (Australia):
Germany over Brazil
Golden Ball: Simon Fick (Germany)
England performance: Lost in first knockout round to Uruguay
USA performance: Lost in first knockout round to Belgium
Euro 2024 (Germany):
England over Portugal
Best Player: Riccardo Cancelli (Italy)
England performance: Champions over Portugal
2026 World Cup (Morocco):
Argentina over Germany
Golden Ball: Karl-Heinz Diegmann (Germany)
England performance: Lost in quarterfinal to Portugal
USA performance: Knocked out in group stage (France, Belgium, Colombia; didn't score a single goal)
Euro 2028 (Italy):
France over England
Best Player: Causso Moreno (Portugal)
England performance: Lost in final to France
2030 World Cup (Italy):
Mexico over Spain
Golden Ball: Facundo Mansilla (Argentina)
England performance: Lost in semifinal to Spain; defeated Argentina in 3rd place match
USA performance: lost in quarterfinal to Mexico
Euro 2032 (Scotland/Wales)
Italy over England
Best Player: Lorenzo Granelli (Italy)
England performance: Lost in final to Italy
2034 World Cup (Australia)
England over Spain
Golden Ball: Jake Collier (England)
England performance: Champions over Spain
USA performance: Lost in semifinal to England; lost to Germany in 3rd place match
2017: Jamie Clarke (England/Tottenham)
2018: Silvio Cañete (Argentina/Juventus)
2019: Silvio Cañete (Argentina/Juventus)
2020: Eric Arrigada (Chile/Manchester United)
2021: Fredson Vinícius (Brazil/PSG)
2022: Fredson Vinícius (Brazil/PSG)
2023: Silvio Cañete (Argentina/PSG)
2024: Silvio Cañete (Argentina/PSG)
2025: Silvio Cañete (Argentina/PSG)
2026: Nikão (Brazil/Monaco)
2027: Nikão (Brazil/Real Madrid)
2028: Silvio Cañete (Argentina/Cartagena) (the final season of his career)
2029: Ludger Schade (Germany/Bayern)
2030: Ludger Schade (Germany/Bayern)
2031: Ludger Schade (Germany/Bayern)
2032: Leon Kelly (England/Chelsea)
2033: Ludger Schade (Germany/Bayern) (Schade did not play against us in the 3rd place match)
USA's Place in the World
I took over in Summer 2027. Not quite our nadir, but pretty close to it. The dip in mid-2031, shortly before we won the Copa América and Gold Cup that summer, has to do with the fact that we had only played friendlies between the 2030 World Cup and then. Friendlies factor far less into the ranking algorithm and other nations were actually playing competitive matches during that stretch. I anticipate a similar dip at the same point in this coming cycle.
Team USA Overall Best Eleven:
Five of our Best Eleven (Appleby, Escobedo, Spielmann, Lapore, and Musah) were generated when I loaded MLS into the game and have still had time to crack the roster. Of the remaining six, I've made extensive use of Christian Musa and Liam Espinosa. Andy Alvarez was a roster regular before he aged out. Kevin Fogg had a cup of coffee with the team and was our leading striker in the 2027 Gold Cup, but has not made an appearance with the team since I loaded MLS into the game. Greg Adams and Alex Baladez were before my time.
The biggest omission is probably Jeff Suarez at striker. His numbers with us are roughly comparable to Fogg's, but Suarez scored in a lot higher-leverage situations. Escobedo is out of position, but as he can play attacking midfielder, I'll let it slide.
Where Are They Now?
(Note: This list is going to heavily reference the previous Cartagena AAR)
Who was he? Nobody ever gave more to Cartagena than Molina. Joined the club in 2018 on a free, got named vice captain a year later, got passed over for the captaincy in 2019 and then saw his vice captaincy stripped a year later, but never stopped being a influential presence in the dressing room. Sold to Léganes in 2023 to help make financial room for Dirk-Jan Bruinier.
Where is he now? Was immediately named Léganes's vice captain in 2023 and experienced some success with them, leading them to a surprise Europa League appearance in 2023 and then scoring the winning penalty to knock us out of the Copa del Rey in 2025. Was unable to secure a second contract with Léganes and moved to France, playing for Caen and later Red Star Paris. Was appointed vice captain of both French clubs but never made it to Captain at any of them. Retired with Red Star Paris in 2031 at the age of 33-34.
Who was he? Qatar's best ever player and the first left winger I signed who could do more than simply send in crosses. A big part of our success in the Europa League and beyond, but had turned 30 and I cashed in on him while I still could to make room for Morales. Sold to Newcastle for €9.25 million in 2026, where he had an up-and-down first season with them.
Where is he now? Something went wrong in his first season in Newcastle, where despite decent stats, they immediately turned around and sold him to Fenerbahce in the Turkish league. Mohammed saw out his career with them, but he was a changed man after his time in Newcastle. Grew out a truly shocking afro and eventually retired in 2031 at the age of 35, announcing that he would follow the route of the old Hippie Trail and go on a spiritual journey to India. Newcastle: Not even once.
Who was he? Right winger and longtime captain of Cartagena. Was with the team from 2019-2026, serving as Captain for all but the first year of his tenure. Was a super clutch player for us and instrumental in Cartagena getting promoted to La Liga and then becoming a force to be reckoned with.
Where is he now? Declined with age and was gradually phased out of the lineup before retiring in 2026. I rewarded his service with a coaching job with the U19 squad and he remains in that position to this day despite multiple managerial changes. Has some pretty good stats too!
Who was he? Cartagena's longest-serving player, with me for my entire ten-year career with the club. All time leader in appearances and goals by the time I stepped down, though the striker was a clear third in the pecking order at the position by the end.
Where is he now? Didn't outlast me at Cartagena for very long. The new manager was apparently an unsentimental type and cleared out half the roster, and Gutiérrez was one of the first to go. Sold to Dynamo Kyiv in 2027 for €4.2 million. Saw out the remaining years of his career in Ukraine, spending time with Vorskla and Zhemchuzhyna Odesa in addition to Kyiv before retiring in 2033.
Who was he? A stalwart right winger with us ever since Fernández started aging, his most famous moment was springboarding the winning goal against Milan in the 2027 Champions League semis in the 92nd minute.
Where is he now? Did not survive the Cartagenan Diaspora of 2027 (though I was planning on moving on from him anyway). Landed on his feet with a €6.5 million move to Atlético Madrid, where he spent four moderately successful seasons. Moved to Scotland and played for Rangers FC for three seasons after that, and is currently still active at age 36, about to start his first season with Sparta Praha in the Czech league.
Who was he? An early speculative purchase I made. While he never turned into a superstar, he still was a useful player in the midfield and became a folk hero in Cartagena after becoming the first athlete in La Liga to come out. Scored the clinching goal to give us our first league championship.
Where is he now? Another victim of the Cartagenan Diaspora. Loaned to Celta in 2027 before returning to Cartagena in 2028 where he didn't play much. Made a permanent move to Rangers for €5.5 million in 2029 where he reunited with Léandre Diarra. Still active at age 32, now starting his second year with Burnley in England. They were relegated from the Premier League last season and Dupuis is looking to help them bounce back.
Who was he? A central defender originally with Manchester City but was never quite able to break through their squad and ended up being in loan hell. Finally stuck on with us, where I retrained him into a crack defensive midfielder. Was unfairly blamed for "scoring" an own goal in the greatest gif in Football Manager history during his time on with Real Sociedad:
Where is he now? Initially survived the Cartagenan Diaspora, but the well-traveled Fernández soon resumed his odyssey. Loaned to Celta in 2028. Sold to Reading for €5.5 million in 2029. Sold to Everton for €7 million in 2032 and was briefly named their vice captain, a position which Patrick Escobedo now holds. Is back in Spain now after having moved to Espanyol on a free earlier this summer.
Who was he? Stalwart central defender who played for me for seven seasons, succeeding Roberto Fernández as captain for the last of those. Big, imperious, steady, and absolutely critical to our deadly counterattack by playing accurate long balls to our attackers, who would receive them and go off to the races.
Where is he now? Remained with the team for a few years after my departure and eventually broke Gutiérrez's all-time appearances record for the club. Nothing lasts forever though, and Rousseau was stripped of the captaincy in 2029 as part of a leadership shakeup. Saw out his contract and moved to Sevilla on a free in 2031, which coincided with the string of their third-place finishes in La Liga. Currently plays in MLS of all places, having been acquired by Sporting Kansas City this past February. He and Scott Hernández are swapping stories about me.
Who was he? The best left back in the world and the object of my desire for over a year before I guttered damn near half the team in order to scrape the funds to buy him for a club record €25.5 million in 2023. Was absolutely worth the money as he transformed how the team played, but half of Europe's interest in him - and his reciprocation - wore me down over the years. I was on the brink of selling him after he alienated half the team in our last Champions League final before I left.
Where is he now? Technically part of the Cartagenan Diaspora by getting his big move to Chelsea for €189 million shortly after I left the club, which I believe is the highest amount of money any player has ever gone for in this savefile. Spent two decorated seasons there before engineering another move to Real Madrid in 2029, hilariously, for "only" €111 million. Still with Real Madrid at age 31. I'm still listed as one of his favored personnel, but I don't respond to his Christmas cards. The just-ended World Cup, where we defeated the Netherlands in the group stage, will be his last - he retired from the national team at the end of it.
Who was he? All-purpose midfielder for us, longtime vice captain, and the most clutch player on the team, having scored in three of our four European finals (including the match winner in the 2022 Europa League final). Would have received the captaincy in 2026 after Roberto Fernández's retirement had it not been for his unfortunate affiliation with Juan Carlos Alonso.
Where is he now? My very last act before leaving Cartagena was me renewing Fraile's contract, which allowed him to survive the Cartagenan Diaspora of 2027. Remained vice captain after Rousseau lost the armband in 2029, but never ascended to the big job himself. Eventually Fraile's contract ran out and he moved to Bordeaux, where he was never quite able to replicate his glory years with us. Saw out his career playing for Akhmat Grozny in Russia, where he retired in 2034 at the age of 35. Has not remained in the game as a coach, and considering his spectacular hair, I don't blame him either. Dude's got "Armani model" written all over him.
Who was he? Teenage wunderkind striker I bought in 2021, hoping for a strong development from him. Never quite hit the dazzling heights I envisioned, but turned into a reliable weapon for us for the second half of the AAR. Sensationally renounced his Brazilian nationality in order to become eligible for Spain after it was clear that Brazil wasn't calling him up to the national team.
Where is he now? Strikers are always useful, and he's still at Cartagena at the age of 32! He beat Gutiérrez's all-time goal mark in 2031 and topped Rousseau's appearances record in 2033. Has 182 all time goals in La Liga, and could crack the historic top ten by the time he's done. Represented Spain in the 2028 and 2032 Euros and the 2030 World Cup, but did not make the 2034 squad.
Damián Fernández Morales
Who was he? A €99 million present to myself after we opened the new stadium in 2026. Shattered the club purchase record, but Morales was well worth the money as he scored roughly a billion clutch goals for us in my final season with Cartagena, including the decisive goal in the Champions League semifinal and two in the final against Real Madrid. His longterm ambition was to become the club's captain, so I figured we were in good hands after I left.
Where is he now? Of all the departures from Cartagena over the years, Morales's is the one that angers me the most. He was given the captaincy over Rousseau in 2029, and after periodic flirtation with other clubs it looked like he was set to stay longterm. Then, inexpicably, management sold him a year later to Manchester City for €116 million. I followed the saga; he was NOT pushing to leave. Is still with Manchester City and is Spain's vice captain, banging in goals for both at the age of 29 and having just won the Goal of the Tournament award in this last World Cup. Unlike Bruinier, is still beloved in Cartagena, and the feeling is mutual.
Who was he? An emergency purchase I made at midfield in January 2024 after we had to let one of our midfielders go, Pauwels proved to be a metronome. His creativity and partnership with the hard-working Ángel Fraile anchored our midfield for years. Was 29 when I left the club and I was considering cashing in on him while his value was still high, even though his skills hadn't remotely deteriorated.
Where is he now? Not only did Pauwels survive the Cartagenan Diaspora, he became club captain in 2030 after Morales's exit. Stayed with Cartagena for the rest of his career before retiring to great fanfare in 2033. Currently looking for work as a fitness coach and has passable stats; I tried to hire him for Team USA but he wants to stay in Europe so he rebuffed me. I don't hold it against him at all.
Who was he? My midfielder of the future. I bought Gaspar in January 2026 from Porto for €41.5 million and he looked like a burgeoning star. Scored the final goal I was in charge of the club for, the capper to seal our victory against Madrid in the 2027 Champions League final.
Where is he now? 28 years old, has 97 caps with Portugal, 2032 FIFA World Player of the Year (though, bizarrely, did not place Top 3 in the Ballon d'Or voting, even though there's almost always perfect overlap between those two awards), Portugal vice captain, Cartagena captain. Has an outside shot of breaking Borracha's appearance record for the club by the time all is said and done, though obviously there's a lot that will factor into that. It's safe to say that he's been money well spent.
Juan Carlos Alonso
Who was he? The enemy. Talked trash about Cartagena when he was managing Lleida Esportiu back in Segunda Prime. When Cartagena got promoted to La Liga, I thought I had left him behind, but he jumped ship for Betis, ensuring our rivalry would continue. Since then, has bounced around various teams in Spain: Betis, Real Sociedad, Celta, Valencia, Athletic Bilbao, Valencia again. Had never stayed more than a full season with any of these teams after Lleida Esportiu while I was in charge of Cartagena.
Where is he now? This is the reason why you're all still reading this anyway, so let's get right to it: After he was fired by Valencia the second time, his record is as follows:
Girona, February 2028- February 2029 (gained promotion to La Liga, sacked)
Deportivo, June 2029-January 2030 (jumped ship)
Malaga, January 2030-December 2031 (sacked)
He has been out of work since then. During a couple of his unemployed spells, some MLS teams were interested in him, but he was too proud to take those jobs. I haven't heard a peep recently and think he's finally, finally done.
NEXT: The cycle for the 2038 World Cup begins! Look for it in a few days.