So Near & Yet Sofia | The Story So Far

As you may have seen on my Twitter feed, I’ve made the decision to stop my regular blog posts about my CSKA-Sofia save. This is mainly due to lack of time and brain space on my part, plus the limited views I get for each post. I’ve found myself playing slower this year just so I can get a blog post out before I forget what’s happened so it’s kind of taking some of the enjoyment away from the game.

My plan now is to start a Twitter thread for each season and post more regularly on there instead, then at the end of each season, I’ll create a blog post with the tweets embedded for those who prefer to read them all in one place. This gives me the option to expand a little more in the blogs if I want to without feeling like I have to.

My previous CSKA blog posts are still available to read here but I’ve also put together a little ‘at a glance’ view of the story so far.

10 seasons to achieve as many competition and award wins as possible
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Lilyana Dimitrova Stats
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Competition, Club Culture and 5 Year Plan progress
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CSKA-Sofia Facilities
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Player & Club Records
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So Near & Yet Sofia | Season 2 | Part 1

Previously in Sofia
Season One

In a bit of belated update, we have reached the Winter Break during Dimitrova’s second season in charge of CSKA-Sofia.

Club Vision

In what could be the biggest turnaround of all time, the board are finally something other than devastated with the club vision of signing high-reputation players! Rumour has it, they were even delighted at some stages during the season.

They are still only satisfied with the development of youth players however they are delighted to see CSKA are maintaining the best youth system in the country. Once the upgraded system has bedded in properly, there is no doubt in Dimitrova’s mind that several Youth Academy players will become a major part of the starting 11.

Parva Liga

Board Expectation: Challenge for the title
Current Status: Very Pleased

It couldn’t really be any closer at the top but thanks to the goalscoring prowess of Evandro, Ali Sowe and Graham Carey (31 league goals between them), CSKA are sitting top of the Parva Liga on goal difference.

Kupa na Bulgaria

Board Expectation: Reach Final
Current Status: Failed

For the second season in a row, CSKA has failed to progress further than the Quarter Finals, with another 2-1 extra-time defeat.

Superkupa na Bylgarija

Board Expectation: Not Important
Current Status: Lost

Even though it’s not an important competition, it’s still heartbreaking to lose on penalties.

UEFA Champions League

Board Expectation: Reach 3rd Qualifying Round
Current Status: Passed

CSKA were not expected to make waves in their first Champions League appearance since the 1989/1990 season, and waves they did not make, losing in the 3rd Qualifying Round as expected.

Europa League

Board Expectation: Be Competitive
Current Status: Very Pleased

After being knocked out of the Champions League, CSKA were thurst into the Europa League once again.

A convincing 4-0 first-leg victory over NK Maribor helped secure their place in the Group Stage for the first time in 10 years. It was there where they caused one of the biggest upsets in the competition, beating Roma twice to finish 2nd in the group and reach the Knockout Stages!

Just reaching the knockout stages is a massive achievement for Dimitrova and her band of merry men, but will they be able to continue the fairytale and beat Man Utd… ?


The chequebook has been called upon several times this season, with the money from the Antov sale being reinvested into the squad. It’s unlikely CSKA will have anywhere near the same amount of transfer budget for a long time so the aim was to strengthen the team for the current season whilst also ensuring the majority of the players would improve even more over the next few years.

Karnezis, Antov and Anderson all returned for a second season on loan. The remaining signings were all youth team members and will be covered in a separate post.

{A handful of fringe and youth players who didn’t make the grade found themselves leaving the club }


The success of the club brought in more awards at the end of 2019,

CSKA-Sofia | Season 1 | Part 3

{ I’m changing up the format of my save game blogs – I’ll be doing more in-depth ones at the beginning and end of each season, with shorter ones in between covering the ‘highlights’. This is the first of the latter }

Previously in Sofia
Part 1 | Part 2


In the biggest news of the last 3 months, the CSKA board finally gave in to Dimitrova’s requests for a contract extension and she officially signed on the dotted line for another 2 years with the Armeytsite.

CSKA-Sofia | Season 1 | Part 3

Along with the contract extension, the board also permitted Dimitrova to study for a new Coaching Qualification and she now holds a National A Licence after 4 months of intense study.

CSKA-Sofia | Season 1 | Part 3

The impressive start to her professional management career continues and after a further 6 games – Dimitrova has a win percentage of 62%!

CSKA-Sofia | Season 1 | Part 3

Parva Liga

CSKA-Sofia | Season 1 | Part 3

CSKA-Sofia | Season 1 | Part 3

The league run continued and CSKA went 19 games unbeaten before a surprise 1-0 defeat to midtable Botek Vraca. Their fine form propelled them to first place in the league, overtaking historic rivals Levski Sofia in the process.

CSKA-Sofia | Season 1 | Part 3

Officially qualified for the Championship Stage, now only 9 games remain. Can CKSA hold on and win their first Parva Liga title since 2008?

CSKA-Sofia | Season 1 | Part 3

Club Vision: Sign high-reputation players

Before the Winter Break, the board were devastated with the lack of high profile signings. In a bid to appease the board, Dimitrova dipped into the loan market and brought in 2 new squad members.

Former Greek international, Karnezis, comes in from Napoli to provide goalkeeping competition.

Up and coming Ukranian defender, Mykolenko, also arrives and slots straight into the starting 11 at wingback.

The board were delighted both signings, they fitted exactly within the high reputation vision of the club. “More needs to be done”, they said, “more.”

CSKA-Sofia | Season 1 | Part 3

In the next blog

It’s the end of CSKA-Sofia | Season 1 | Part 3: will CSKA win the league and, most importantly, will the board ever not be devastated with the transfer market?

CSKA-Sofia: December 2019

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.

But first…

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 in Football Manager. 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

football manager spreadsheet position overview

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.

football manager attribute analysis spreadsheet overall positions
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.

football manager attribute analysis spreadsheet top 5 positions

NEW – DNA Analysis
Club DNA is an often overlooked part of Football Manager which I touched upon on in the first part of my DNAjax blog. In short, DNA is all about building a squad that shares 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.

football manager attribute analysis spreadsheet dna overview

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 Football Manager 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)

{This spreadsheet is in no way affiliated with Football Manager)

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…