Ahh, Master League. A jewel in the crown of the PES series both past and present. Having said that, even the biggest fans will have to admit the mode has been going a little downhill in the past few years, and with very little advancement from game to game, was in danger of becoming obsolete.
Then rejoice, my friends, when I say that Master League has been thoroughly upgraded and, dare I say it, is returning better than ever. Why? Well read on, as I take you on a journey spanning literally hours in Part 1 of PESFan’s Master League play through.
Loading up the mode I was instructed, as ever, to select a team to nurture and make my own for the foreseeable future. Having no real ties to the Premiership but liking Martin O’Neill, I chose West Midlands Village.
After setting up how I wanted the league to be formatted (unfortunately there’s still no third division), i.e. 20 teams, goal difference before head to head, the cup not featuring two legs, that sort of thing, I was presented with my given sponsors for the coming season.
Firstly, there was Zaalachsk, a “Dutch Car Manufacturer”, who gave me a deal of £1.4m for 3 years with a home win bonus of 60k. They also promised that if I won three games in a row, they’d provide me with a further 80k, with incremental increases the more I won. Hurrah!
But beware, as they then warned that if I managed to blunder into losing more than five home games during the season my sponsorship deal would be forfeit. Those fiends. I was also given two more sponsors, the first of which was Lesplindu, a French consumer electronics company who granted me 660k a season for 3 years with a 60k win bonus and no cancellation clause. There was also Alpilatteria, an Italian food company, also gave me a 4 year deal worth 800k a year and a 60k win bonus, again, with no cancellation clause. This brought my team funds to £41,785,000.
PES was not done, as I then found out my 28 thousand-strong fan club also came with £4.2m cash for my managerial pocket, bringing the total team funds for the year to just over 46 million. Sounds a lot, but it’s surprising how quickly it disappears.
My coach, athletic trainer, club doctor and scout were all set to lvl 3, meaning I spent 4m on them collectively and my youth team and fan club were set to lvl 2, which meant another 2m. Then, there were my player wages, which came to just over 12m in total.
So before I’d changed anything my team funds for the year were down roughly 18m to 23.7m. Looking for ways to remedy this expenditure, I changed my youth team and fan club to lvl 1, along with my athletic trainer and club doctor. This saved me a few million I’d plan to use on transfers, job done for now.
I set up my formation, a 4-3-3 with Carew up front supported by Ashley Young and Gabriel Agbonlahor, and played around with my Team Style settings. After a bit of a think, I ended up going for high player support, attacking style and no compactness or pressing. I called it the ‘Tony Mowbray’ and gave myself another pat on the back.
I also tweaked my training schedules, taking full advantage of Master League’s new ability to change the areas training points are spread about for players who I thought would benefit from it. I told Carew to train mostly in shooting and Ashley Young to focus on dribble speed, for example. I also went on a bit of a spending spree with my newly freed up funds and increased my coach to lvl 4, at the cost of 3m, which also upped the total points I could assign in training slightly.
Anyway, enough with that, my first game was coming up. The football gods must loathe me, as it turned out to involve an away day at Anfield to take on Liverpool. It was a pretty dull game truth be told, although I’m generally a pretty dull player, so there you go. Much to my displeasure, Salifou missed an absolute sitter with the chance at an open goal, instead choosing to blast it completely wide of the post with his first touch. I tell you. He couldn’t finish an egg that lad. Mark Lawrenson suddenly awakened too, spouting, “Well quite honestly, that would have changed the course of the game!”
Thanks for that Mark, I’d missed you.
0-0 at half time, not bad for me if I’m honest. With the second half in full swing however, I managed to score an absolutely goal using Big John Carew, surprising myself, everyone in the ground, and perhaps most startlingly Mark Lawrenson, who had since changed his mind about us and declared it the best goal he’d ever seen.
At the end of the game I was presented with a screen showing the gate receipts from the match, although presumably because I was away this time the number totalled 0. Back on the menu, I had a look at the youth team, and after a brief look at some of their individual stats and a recommendation from my coach that Ximelez was a pacey player, I signed him up on a 222k professional contract.
In the next game I beat Lancashire Athletic 2-0 to progress in the England Cup, but in the game after that Yorkshire Orange humbled me with a 1-0 defeat. Ups and downs to the season thus far, but not a terrible start. The next game was away at Manchester Blues, where it was raining (natch). I scored a lovely goal in this one with a move totalling probably 20 passes or so, and ended up winning the game 1-0. I was also being awarded with gate income from my home matches now, the cup game bringing a mere 80k but the league match earning me a respectable 260k, perhaps an indication that even in PES no one can be bothered with the league cup.
Back to the menu screen and I was presented with a warning that Brad Friedel, my goalkeeper, was unhappy about something. My coach explained further by telling me it was because his contract was expiring, so I gave the cheeky guy a 2 year extension, which seemed to keep him quiet for a while. I don’t know if my team saw this as a sign of weakness, because the turn after this Delfouneso was suddenly unhappy with the position he was being played in. Sigh.
Now, I either had two options with this, the first was to just play him in his natural position or choose to specially train him in the new position at the cost of time and money. Quite a lot of money, too (about 10m), so it’s probably only viable for a team with cash to burn. Or there was the third option, which was to continue and let him sulk. I chose this one, and then dropped him a few games later. You’re not with Martin O’Neill now you know.
Further investigation revealed I could also train a player in the use of a new card, but again, it was too rich for my blood.
A few games later, and I began to notice I’d a) stopped scoring, and b) my players seemed unnaturally fatigued and in bad condition. Fatigue has always been a problem with Master League, the idea that a player can’t play two games in two weeks without becoming absolutely exhausted is a ridiculous one to me, but this was different.
I remembered what I’d done at the start of the season in diminishing the ability of my athletic trainer in favour of increasing that of my coach. Turns out a better athletic trainer deals with fatigue better, as well as increasing the chances of your players being in better condition. I increased him to lvl 4, and in a few games time I started to reap the benefits, even if it did take a chunk from my budget.
Likewise my club doctor seemed quite unable to properly deal with an injury my team had sustained in any reasonable amount of time. The injury was only to Steve Sidwell though, so I left the doctor at lvl 1.
I also liked how your scout gives reports on other teams prior to playing them, for example with West Midlands City “Will probably go all defensive and play 11 men behind the ball.”, I thought it was a nice touch, and true to form, they were exceedingly defensive.
About 6 games into the season and I seemed to not be scoring as much as previously, i.e. at all. I thought a change in tactics was called for, the Tony Mowbray was no longer benefiting me as much as I’d have hoped, so it was back to the Team Styles screen to devise a new pressurising, long ball using, thug team to bully the league from now on.
The Europa League groups were then drawn, and as West Midlands qualified last season, I ended up being put with Villareal, FC Twente, and some other team who I forget and as thus is unimportant to me. When you play a Europa League game it has its own separate background, is all nicely licensed, the competing teams are properly sorted into groups of A-L, and generally feels like a suitably grand step-up from the normal league.
I lost my next two games, as well as getting knocked out of the England Cup by East London. So far my debut season was turning out to be as disappointing as real football is. Who says PES isn’t realistic? The European Footballer Of The Year was then announced, unsurprisingly featuring Messi, C. Ronaldo and Kaka in the top 3 with 550 votes, 480 and 450 votes respectively.
I played on in both my domestic league and the Europa League (a campaign which had ended in disappointment for me by late December) to end up in 7th place in January, feeling encouraged and ready to expand my squad with the look into the transfer market. It would have to wait, however, as Part 1 was up.
Come back tomorrow to read Part 2 of my Master League play through. If you ask any questions about transfers/future ML events, I’ll try and squeeze them in the report tomorrow. Cheers for reading.