They were the underdogs who captured our hearts, the band of misfits tasked with kick starting a campaign of European dominance, even if many of them would eventually find themselves released or permanently making the numbers up on the subs bench. They were humble, they were cheap, they were mostly shite, but they were our's. They were the Pro Evolution Soccer Master League default squad.
Between 2003 and 2006, football fans were enthralled by the pace and Alice band of Espimas, the midfield steel of Celnili and Iouga and the explosive finishing of Castolo. A decade on, though, and these cult heroes who enraptured millions long before Leicester City were upsetting the status quo with their own unlikely success story, are nowhere to be found.
Luckily, thanks to some stellar investigative journalism from your's truly, many of your old favourites have been tracked down after the directors at Pro Evolution Soccer cruelly deemed the last of them as being surplus to requirements in 2012.
The greatest shot stopper to come out of Russia since Lev Yashin, Ivarov once suffered, along with many of his other teammates, the humility of having his name spelled wrong for two entire seasons, being wrongly dubbed 'Ivanov' and 'Inorov' before he stood up to management, along with 'Castello', 'Miranda' and 'Baroja' to inform them that if their names were not put right, they knew of several teams who had amassed enough Master League points to acquire their contracts.
Ivarov was a mainstay in the default squad, tending goal for many a successful Division three and two campaign until calling time on his playing career in 2011. He is now enjoying a fledgling career in management, with spells at Valdai and Bruxelles already under his belt. He had recently been linked with the West Midlands Village job, before Steve Bruce was appointed.
Position: Centre Half
The classy, self assured French centre-half cut his teeth in the lower leagues of the Master League after being spotted by Konami scouts in 2001. Having been expelled from France's world famous Clairefontaine academy in the mid '90s, Valeny could have been forgiven for giving up on any aspirations of making it as a pro, but thankfully the Master League provided him with an opportunity to showcase his talents, which he did until, much like Ivarov, he switched the pitch for the dugout in 2011.
However, after disastrous spells with Aquitaine and Middlebrook, Valeny decided management wasn't for him and, after a losing out on a Kronenbourg endorsement to Eric Cantona, faded into obscurity, popping back up every now and again to provide commentary on WEFA Championship games.
Position: Centre Half
The strapping Swedish centre back was an expert man marker, whose loyalty was rewarded in 2011 when he was handed the captain's armband of the default squad. The Swede's first season as captain would unfortunately be his last as he decided to hand the armband over to newcomer and compatriot Stramberg for the 2012/13 campaign.
In the past couple of years Stremer has successfully branched out from the beautiful game and opened three IKEA franchises on the outskirts of Malmo. Ever the business opportunist, Stremer is also hopeful of piggybacking on the success of Kopparberg and Rekorderlig by attempting to crowdfund his own micro brewery, which will exclusively brew premium strength, seasonal fruit ciders.
Position: Centre Half
Stepping into the void left by veteran Dulic in 2005 was never going to be easy for the 19-year-old Jaric, but the Serbian teenager thrived under the pressure, soon challenging the likes of Draklovic and Viricchi for a starting berth in the Serbian national team. A victim of the drastic 2012 culling, Jaric became disillusioned with the modern game, declaring that the Konami overlords were a "Shower of bastards" in an explosive interview with The Daily Star in 2013, where he explained his decision to turn down a lucrative move to West London Blue in favour of a return to Serbia with Balvidan.
The former default squad skipper was a rock in midfield before retiring in 2005. He would become embroiled in a match fixing scandal in his new role as technical director at Piemonte just over a year later, serving 12 months in prison as a result, where he spent the majority of his time wearing a blue Adidas tracksuit and making enormous dinners with his fellow cellmates after his wife smuggled in bread, wine and cured meats for him during her regular weekly visits. His time behind bars would become the subject of a feature length documentary, directed by none other than Martin Scorsese:
Since then, Celnili had a quick stint as a manager before becoming an agent, dealing primarily in players involved with third party ownerships. He is still awaiting a call back from Sam Allardyce.
Another midfield lynchpin alongside first Celnili and then Dodo, Iouga inherited the captaincy from Celnili upon the Italian's retirement and held onto the armband for three seasons before bestowing it to Minanda for the 2007/08 season. After retiring at the end of the 2009/10 season, the Romanian headed straight into a successful managerial career which saw him lead Athenakos FC to an unlikely 2014 WEFA Championship victory, followed by a run to the semi-finals of the Masters Cup in 2015. Iouga has recently unveiled plans to open up a string of 'health supplement' shops with Adrian Mutu in Bucharest which Mutu maintains will be "Totally, 100% legitimate and in no way a front for anything shady, illegal or performance enhancing".
The extravagant Spanish winger was as flamboyant off the pitch as he was on it, with his speed and ability to put balls into dangerous areas grabbing headlines on the front and back pages of newspapers across Europe. Jealous of his teammate on the opposite flank, French heartthrob Espimas, Ximelez became no stranger to kiss and tell stories dominating his private life, as he missed out on several high end shampoo commercial deals, despite being the owner of a lustrous, coiffed mane of hair.
Following his release in 2011, the man who had sped down the touchlines of stadiums across the world, from Hauptstadtstadion to Haze Hills and Porto Folio ended up becoming a contestant on the Spanish version of 'Ex On The Beach', where he was confronted by five angry women demanding paternity tests. Up to his neck in child support payments, Ximelez is believed to have reached out to countryman Barota about forming a footballing supergroup in the mould of Hoddle and Waddle, but is yet to hear back from his compatriot.
The French lothario, who made David Ginola look like Peter Beardsley, cornered the shampoo market upon his retirement from terrorising full backs and scoring screamers. Espimas also produced and starred in several independent 'art house' French films, which, due to them being shot in black and white, were definetely not porn. However, after his 2014 re imagining of Demi Moore's classic 'Striptease' was panned by critics, Espimas took to management, where he soon became one of the hottest free agents in the game. However, his stint as manager of Man Red was a disappointment, with fans at the Trad Brick Stadium voicing their disapproval at Espimas' derogatory comments towards Eric Cantona's acting ability in 'Looking For Eric' which he described as "derivative" and "utter shite" during an interview with L'Equipe.
Position: Attacking Midfielder
A legendary figure if ever there was one. Peacocking his way around the final third, looking to deliver that killer through ball or scintillating free kick, Minanda was a god among some very average men. Generally considered to be one of the finest number 10's of his generation, Minanda recently demanded that he be honoured with a statue of himself in the same manner as Cristiano Ronaldo was.Upon seeing the finished product, Minanda became enraged, screaming "Why have you made my bulge so much smaller than Ronaldo's!? It's supposed to be the size of a Duty Free Toblerone you clueless pricks!"
Statue controversy aside, Minanda now produces free kick tutorial videos on his official Youtube channel:
His flame burned bright and fast, but the dynamic Spanish forward gave the default squad the best years of his career before he was replaced by a younger model in Ordaz, in 2005. He may not have grabbed the headlines in the same manner as his strike partner Castolo, but Barota was loved by fans around the world, despite the Master League points he helped his team acquire often proving to be his outdoing when they were used to replace him with more well known strikers.
Like many of his other former teammates, Barota has made himself available for managerial roles but prefers hosting poetry recitals and art exhibitions with Juan Mata in his new home of Manchester, having been brought aboard the Man Blue coaching staff by new manager Pep Guardiola, who is aiming for Masters Cup glory, this season.
He's only the striker Ronaldo could have been! The prolific Brazilian has remained a fan favourite after his departure from the squad, with his speed, agility, response, acceleration, shot power and heading ability making him an instant hit with every manager who had the good fortune to coach him. Whether he was paired with the aforementioned Barota or Ordaz, the Brazilian hitman was guaranteed goals and has since returned to South America where, since 2013, he has managed the Master League's recently formed Latin American default squad, nurturing the likes of Brazilian forward Walcao, Uruguayan playmaker Ciriboni and the Colombian duo Corquado and Marchamp. He still doesn't think the competition has been much cop since 2006, however, demanding in several interviews for teams to be given "more realistic names and properly licensed kits, for fuck sake".
Castolo has recently been ranked as the greatest Brazilian of all time, footballer or otherwise. When asked if he felt the honour was a tad over the top when the likes of Pele, Ronaldo and Rivaldo were in contention, Castolo simply replied "How many Master League titles have those pricks got between them? You try banging in 30 a season when you've got a load of half arsed teammates with weird names trying to assist you. Fuck the lot of 'em".
Rumours, that I'm beginning right now, are abound that Castolo will be the first inductee into the Master League Hall Of Fame when we manage to pressurise Konami into opening one. Until then, let's enjoy one of his finest efforts:
If ever there was a comeback that needed to happen, it's seeing these 11 lads taking to the field together, again. Konami, make it happen.