CSKA-Sofia | Season 1 | Part 2

With the mid-season break upon us, what better time to catch up on how Lilyana Dimitrova is doing in her first season at CSKA-Sofia.

On paper things are looking good for Dimitrova – after 31 competitive games, she has a win percentage of 58% and only 5 losses to her name. With a tenure of 387 days, she has also lasted longer in the role than the last four CSKA managers.

Behind the scenes… things are a little tougher and Dimitrova is struggling to live up to the board’s expectations in a few key areas, especially with the very specific club culture.

Develop players using the club’s youth system

Slightly misunderstanding the philosophy, Dimitrova took this to be a long-term vision for the club and had taken steps to invest in youth training and development. The board, however satisfied they are, wanted more club developed players active in the first team. Out of the 24 players in the first-team squad, 4 are youth players who have been with the club since they were 15 so fingers crossed a few appearances from the bench could see the board confidence change before the season is out!

Antov has been with the club since he was 13 and, at the age of 19, has already secured his place in the starting 11

Sign high-reputation players

This could not be going any worse for Dimitrova. Despite having a relatively decent transfer budget, Bulgaria is not a place many high reputation players want to move to and for those who do, their wages demands are too high for even the most financially secure clubs to afford. Dimitrova is definitely looking for a Christmas miracle to turn this one around.

Attacking football is where Dimitrova is strongest and, as she hasn’t signed a single player over 33, she is hoping this will be enough to prevent the board making a kneejerk reaction based on the other failures.

The 5-year plan the board set out is currently course which should also alleviate a bit of pressure.

Europa League

CSKA have never had much success in Europe and lived up to expectations again this time around. After Graham Carey put in a world-class performance against Viktoria Plzen in the 4th Qualifying Round 1st Leg- scoring a hattrick and levelling the score twice – hopes were high that CSKA could reach the Group Stage for the first time since 2010. Unfortunately, an 88th-minute goal in the return leg ended the dream and they succumbed to a 5-4 aggregate defeat.

Kupa na Bulgaria

The Bulgarian cup is where CSKA were expected to shine and add to their previous 21 titles. Dimitrova was so confident she even fielded some second-string players in the first two rounds. It was the Quarter Final where disaster struck.

In the 64th minute, Dimitrova used her final two substitutions – not something out of the ordinary for her style of play.

In the 65th minute, Evandro was taken off with a fractured lower arm. CSKA were down to 10 men.

In the 76th minute, Atanasov picked up his second yellow card and was sent to the stands. CSKA were down to 9 men.

The match went to extra time, Cerniauskas made some sublime saves and kept CSKA in the game right up the 105th minute.

An absolute belter”, they called the 25-yard free-kick that sailed into the back of the net.

Parva Liga

After a bit of a wonky start due to Dimitrova wanting to be a tactical maverick with a 31312 formation* , CSKA soon found a 5212 set up was a lot more successful and are currently on a 16 match unbeaten run.

Sitting 2nd in the league, CSKA are exactly where they’re expected to be.

* when later asked why she’d chosen such a formation, Dimitrova distracted journalists by pointing at a 3 headed monkey in the distance (???) and ran from the room.

In the next blog…

We’ll be returning to Dimitrova as she ends the Preliminary Phase of the Parva Liga, maybe by then she’ll understand how the league structure actually works…

CSKA-Sofia | Season 1 | Part 1

Day One: 9am

During the first meeting with the board, the club culture was outlined.

Develop players using the club’s youth system

I already had the personal aim of turning the club into the Barcelona of Bulgaria by bringing first-teamers through from my academy so it’s great to see the club on side with this too.

We have great youth facilities, good academy coaching, exceptional youth recruitment and my HoYD claims we have a strong U19 squad. I’ll be looking to invest in facilities as soon as money allows too.

The u19 squad has four 5 star potential players in its ranks – Mitkov is already on the cusp of being good enough for my first team and will be a regular on my subs bench for the season.

Sign high reputation (attacking) players younger than 33

I’m not a manager who frequently signs older players so the prefered age limit of 33 doesn’t worry me, neither does the attacking football playing style as I don’t class my teams as successful unless scoring lots of goals. The signing high-reputation players stipulation however does – I have limited funds and not much in terms of recent success so drawing those big names to my club could prove quite a challenge.


Whilst the club finances aren’t terrible, they also aren’t great, and they’re something I’ll be looking to improve. We’re projected to have a balance of £8m by May 2021 which is an increase on now but I won’t be satisfied until we’re at least in double figures.

I’ve started the save early (in November 2018) and I’ll be using the 7 months before the season starts to play friendlies and bring in some easy cash. I’ll be assessing my squad soon so no doubt some players will be sold and I’m hoping to turn a profit by bringing some freebies in to sell on.

Backroom Staff

When most managers start at a new club the first port of call is to assess their playing squad. Not me though, I always go straight to my backroom staff because how can you expect to achieve success on the pitch if you don’t have the right team behind you.

Whilst we’re above average in most areas there a few worrying shortfalls and we lag a fair way behind our two biggest rivals.

Rather than paying out substantial amounts in mutual terminations I’ll be letting most contracts run down and then replacing them. The only exceptions being my Assistant Manager and Head of Youth Development, two roles which are vital to the success of the club and currently don’t have the right people in place. I’m planning on doing all transfer dealings myself so I have made the DoF and Loan Manager roles obsolete, saving the club £2k a week in wages.

I’ll be looking to bring in a Fitness Coach, another Physio and one or two Scouts as seeing the giant gaps between CSKA and Ludogorets Razgrad is setting my vertigo off.

Attribute Analysis Spreadsheet

I’m a self-confessed spreadsheet geek and Football Manager addict, so when I stumbled on an opportunity to combine them both, of course I couldn’t resist!

What started as a simple spreadsheet for my own use in July 2019, it quickly became a project I have continuously worked on and developed for the last 8 months, turning into what I can now proudly release for public download.

Before I introduce you to the features of v2, I would like to say that the formula’s used in the spreadsheet and the results it gives are based on I have found works during my own saves. I can’t guarantee that they’ll work for every team so please don’t always take what it says as golden as I cannot promise the results are perfect.

How does this differ to v1.5?

  • New Club DNA Analysis feature
  • New Player Analysis sheet
  • New Squad Notes sheet
  • Top 3 Overview is now Top 5
  • Behind the scenes formula update to lower file size and increase speed
  • New colour scheme and layout

Feature Guide

After setting up the spreadsheet by following the installation guide in the zip file, you’ll be given several pages of data.

Each positional area has its own sheet, which is broken down further into the relevant roles.

Every squad player is given a rating based on how suitable they are for that role.

If the player is a natural in the position the role matches – e.g. ST as a Target Man, D (R) as a Wing-Back – they will receive a bonus rating

Another way you can view role suitability is on the ‘Overall’ sheet. This shows every player and every role on one sheet.

→ The yellow cell can be edited to any percentage based on your required levels and, in turn, any matching ratings will be highlighted in light purple.

As an example, I find 70% is a good level for high-quality teams playing in Europe

→ The row to the right of the yellow cell shows how many of your squad have above your chosen percentage so you can see where you have the best depth for that role.

→ The column directly below the yellow cell shows how versatile a particular player is and how many roles, based on your percentage, they could comfortably play or even be retrained in if young enough.

Top 5
An ‘at a glance’ view of the top 5 players for each role, separated into sections based on the positional areas.

NEW – DNA Analysis
Club DNA is an often overlooked part of FM which I touched upon on in the first part of my DNAjax blog. In short, DNA is all about building a squad that share the same qualities. There are plenty of blogs around that go into a lot of detail so I’d recommend a quick Google search if you are interested in learning more.

This sheet will populate after you’ve imported your data into the ‘DNA Base’ sheet. The 5 core attributes (Bra, Cmp, Det, Tea, Wor) are my own personal choices so you may want to switch them out for 5 that suit your style of play better. Changing the attribute names on the ‘DNA Base’ sheet will update them on the ‘DNA Analysis’ sheet too.

Along with the 5 attributes, the DNA rating is also made up of the following:

Country Where Club is Based: Players who play in the country of their Nationality receive a 5pt bonus on their DNA score.

Core Squad Personalities: Up to 5 of the strongest personalities you’d like in your squad – a 20pt bonus goes to those who possess one of them.

Secondary Squad Personalities: Not every player will be perfect so choose up to another 3 personalities you’d find acceptable – a 15pt bonus will be applied.

Personalities to Develop (u23): Young players still have room to develop their personality with mentoring or experience. There will be a 10pt bonus given to anyone under 23 years old who has one of the personalities you enter here.

IMPORTANT NOTE: I have left in the examples used in my DNAjax save so you can see how the data is filled in – you just need to change your country to the three-letter abbreviation used in FM and the personality types to suit your style of play.

Once all the above data has been filled in, the spreadsheet works its magic formula and gives a suggested squad for the player to be part of and even if you’d be better off without them.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The formula takes into account the suitability percentage you enter on the ‘Overall’ sheet so don’t forget to fill it in or the calculations won’t work!

→ Players between the ages of 17 and 21 can be recommended for a loan spell away from the club in order to develop.

→ Players between the ages of 19 and 21 can be put forward for exposure to your First Team if they show high potential to be a star. I’d suggest training them with the senior squad and using them as a substitute or in cup games.

NEW – Player Analysis
Type the name, or use the drop-down menu, for one of your squad into the top box and it will pull the most important data from the other sheets into one place.

→ Club DNA % is calculated from the information inputted into the ‘DNA Analysis’ sheet. Edit the Target DNA box on the right to the lowest percentage you’d consider as an acceptable match for your DNA vision.

→ Use the Formation Suitability menu to type in, or select using the drop-down menu, the formation and roles being used in your tactic and it will work out whether they are a suitable fit (based on their top 3 roles) for your team.

IMPORTANT NOTE: When inputting your formation, please make sure you state both the role and mentality using the format in the example or the sheet will return an error.

NEW – Squad Notes
This was a last-minute addition to the spreadsheet after it was something I found came in useful whilst setting up my DNAjax save.

There isn’t anything automated about it but it enables you to have a sort of notepad for when you’re moving players around squads, setting up individual role training, or simply just wanting to keep track of who you’re offering out for transfers and loans.


The download you receive contains the following in a zip file:

  • Analysis Spreadsheet
  • Installation Guide

    Attribute Analysis
  • Custom Squad View
  • Custom Player Search View
  • Custom Shortlist View

    Squad DNA Analysis
  • Custom Squad View
  • Custom Player Search View
  • Custom Shortlist View

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you are using different core attributes for your Club DNA than what I have, don’t forget to change them on the views before exporting to the spreadsheet.

Because this version of the spreadsheet has taken so much work, I have made the decision to offer it as a download for a minimum £1 donation


If you’d prefer not to donate, then is a free version of the spreadsheet available which doesn’t include the Club DNA feature

v2.1 (no DNA)

CSKA-Sofia: Meet the Manager

Lilyana Dimitrova has been appointed manager of CSKA-Sofia, becoming the first female football manager in top-flight football. Dimitrova, 27, replaces Milos Kruscic who resigned less than 24 hours after taking charge.

The appointment has divided football fans across the world, with many wondering whether Dimitrova can make the jump into a male-dominated world and bring success to her new club.

When asked during her first press conference how she would command respect within the dressing room due to being a female manager, Dimitrova was indignant in her reply:

If my father or brother were sat in this seat now, would you be asking them about respect? Women have fought in wars but for some reason nobody expects us to be able to manage a group of men who kick a ball for a living. Football is in my blood. I’ve been surrounded by it my entire life. I’ve done the same courses as many of the other managers in this league. The only difference is I have a pair of breasts.

Lilyana Dimitrova (born 13 March 1991) is a Bulgarian professional football manager, who currently manages CSKA-Sofia. She is the daughter of sports agent Petar Dimitrov.

Dimitrova signed for FC Sportika Blagoevgrad at the age of 16, signalling the start of an underwhelming playing career. Due to persistent knee injuries, she struggled to break into the first team and at the end of the 2008/2009 season was released from the club without ever having played a competitive match.

After being released from Sportika, Petar Dimitrov touted his daughter to clubs in the United States in the hope it would relaunch her career. Dimitrova eventually signed for Philadelphia Independence in 2010 for their inaugural WPS season – she went on to make 23 appearances over 2 seasons but again suffered from several reoccurrences of knee injuries.

When the WPS folded in 2012, and on the advice of doctors, Dimitrova announced her retirement from professional football at the age of 21 and returned to education.

In 2014, Dimitrova relocated to England and attended the University of Chichester for 3 years while studying for a degree in Football Coaching and Performance. Alongside her University course, Dimitrova gained her National B Licence and assisted in coaching the Under 14’s squad at Chichester City FC.

CSKA-Sofia is her first full-time coaching appointment in professional football.

CSKA-Sofia: A History

CSKA Sofia are the most decorated Bulgarian team, holding 51 league and domestic cup titles – they are also the only Bulgarian team to reach the Champions League semi-finals, albeit the last time being back in 1982. Over recent years, Ludogorets Razgrad has challenged their dominance and have beaten CSKA to the league title for the last 3 seasons.

CSKA Sofia Milestones

1948Officially founded under the name Septemvri pri CDV
1948Won first league title
1951Won first league and cup double
1954 – 1962Won 9 consecutive league titles
1956First European Cup appearance, reached Quarter Finals
1964Sacked manager, Krum Milev, after 16 years in charge
1967First Bulgarian team to reach European Cup Semi-Final
1968Signed Petar Zhekov, the top Bulgarian scorer of all time
1985Forced to disband after violence during the Bulgarian cup final
Refounded as Sredets
Hristo Stoichkov banned from playing for life
1986Hristo Stoichkov ban overturned
2002Won first league title since 1998
2005Won 30th league title
2008Refused license to play in Champions League due to unpaid obligations
2008Former Club President, Aleksander Tomov, arrested for embezzlement
2013Withdrawn from Europa League after financial problems
2015Refused license to play in Bulgarian top tier due to unpaid debts, demoted to 3rd tier
2016First 3rd Division club to win Bulgarian Cup
2016Reinstated to Bulgarian top tier

Managerial Merry-Go-Round

Out of the last 20 managers, only 7 have stayed longer than 3 months. The shortest tenure belonging to club legend Hristo Stoichkov who lasted just 1 month in the role, leaving due to the club’s poor financial state.

Krum Milev is deemed the most successful CSKA manager, winning 11 league and 4 cup titles in 16 years. He was sacked in 1964 after finishing 11th during the previous season and only 3 points clear of relegation.

What the (FM) Future Holds

  • will I be able to end Ludogorets run of 8 consecutive league titles?
  • will I be able to turn CSKA into a European powerhouse?
  • will I be able to last longer than 3 months in charge?

In my next blog I’ll be outlining my aims for my FM20 save, I have a few ideas up my sleeve and have taken inspiration from a few other bloggers. Now, where’s that beta so I can get planning…

FM20: Save Announcement

And the winner is…


In what could be a controversial decision after the events of Monday night, the team I shall be managing in FM20 is CSKA Sofia.

I did consider abandoning the idea after the England game but a Bulgarian save is what was voted for in my twitter poll so it’s only fair to give people what they want.

Plus, Football Manager is a fictitious game in a fictitious world. If I want to have Bulgaria as a hippy dwelling, free love kinda country (in my head I’m imagining the last scene of Mad Men) then I can.

FM 20: The Choices

After a few weeks of deliberation, I’ve narrowed my FM20 save down to just 4 options and you’re going to be the people to choose where I’ll be starting.

Hopefully, it will turn into a long-term save and I’ll do a bit of club-hopping to keep things interesting, but I’ll only move on once I’ve brought some form of success to my current team… or when I get sacked!

So let’s get down to business and where FM20 is going to take me, the common theme being:
teams who have had success in the past but have underachieved in recent years or are missing something from their trophy cabinet

Holding the record for the most Swiss National Championship titles, Grasshopper are currently without a title since the 2002-03 season. Their last domestic cup success came in 2013 and they have never made an impact in Europe, very rarely making it further than the Qualifying Rounds.
What can I say about Liverpool that you don’t already know? The most successful English team in Europe, most recently winning the Champions League, but their first Premier League title still eludes them after 27 seasons!
With 54 league titles and 7 domestic trebles to their name, Rangers are one of the most successful teams in the world. Unfortunately financial difficulties in 2011 saw them liquidated and having to start over in the fourth tier of Scottish football. Now back in the top tier, their quest to retain the dominance of Scottish football begins.
CSKA Sofia are the most decorated Bulgarian team, holding 51 league and domestic cup titles – they are also the only Bulgarian team to reach the Champions League semi-finals, albeit the last time being back in 1982. Over recent years, Ludogorets Razgrad have challenged their dominance and have beaten CSKA to the league title for 5 of the last 8 seasons.

Head on over to my Twitter page https://twitter.com/TheFFM_ to vote for the first club of my FM20 save!