In his fourth entry in his ‘diary of a Doomed FPL’, Jamie Pacheco talks prosciutto cotto, pizza genocide, madness in the method and why he’s picked James Rodriguez. 

When I lived in Malta, my favourite restaurant was a pizza place called Margo’s. The value was almost as good as the tournament on FanTeam where you buy in for €25 and compete for a prize pool which will be at least €1,000,000.

Whoever the owner was (“Margo”, presumably), they clearly weren’t that fussed about such details as décor, ambience, fixed opening and closing hours, proper tablecloths, good service (at times any kind of service) or anything like that. 

In search of the perfect pizza 

All their love, patience, energy and money went into producing the perfect pizza: crispy, light, a tomato sauce that tasted of nature and golden sunlight, the fresh organic water buffalo mozzarella soft and comforting, that final drizzle of olive oil seemingly created by Shezmu, the Egyptian God of oil, as if he’d personally made it from…well, you get the picture.

The problem I had at Margo’s was that over the course of my first year in Malta, I’d whittled down Margo’s 12-Pizza portfolio down to just three, which had made the cut based on such factors as: reliability and consistency, freshness, quality of ingredients, flavour, nutritional value, attention to detail…and price.  Among others. The obvious problem was: which of those three to go for? 

When three becomes one 

The Margherita was pure, unspoilt like a deserted island, beautifully naive and in possession of almost virginal-like qualities. It was oblivious to such atrocities committed to other pizzas over the decades like the addition of pineapple, the cheese-filled crust or in a barbaric, unprovoked, ruthless pizza genocide of a move by some dope-smoking pizza ‘chef’ somewhere with the munchies: the addition of BBQ sauce. 

Then came the Affumicata, the house special. A triumvirate of smoked meats- pancetta, Amalfi sausage and prosciutto cotto- brash and confident, only too aware of their worth, a lighthouse of flavoursome Italian meats in a dark, red sea of tomato. Onions were artfully dispersed over it all, seemingly randomly to the untrained eye, but following some sort of maniacal method to the wise one, like a Pollock painting. The mozzarella bound it altogether, a peacemaker among volatile, mercurial, power-seeking ingredients. 

Then there was the Seasonal Special, using only the freshest and most carefully selected ingredients of the month. Maybe some butternut squash, artichokes or even some octopus. I never quite knew what you were going to get but most of the time it came through, and when it did, I felt like it had been specially created for me. 

Which FPL player is the Affumicata pizza a metaphor for?

Which maybe it was. After all, when the waitress is asking you for marital advice (like I’d know), the Manager wants to know who I want to win Eurovision (like I cared) and the Pizzaiolo is after the smart bet to win the Champions League (like I’d tell him), you’ve probably been there a few times. 

What’s the point of all this Pizza talk? 

Perhaps that there are some half-baked metaphors in there for Fantasy Football. 

Did I choose my three favourites based on very similar criteria to those I use to pick my players? Was the Seasonal Special a metaphor for Adama Traore, unpredictable and frustrating, at times ordinary and at other times brilliant?  Are the three smoked meats in the Affumicata no more than protein-filled pizza ingredient versions of Martial, Rashford and Fernandes, stars of their team, quietly vying for centre stage,  but also able to selflessly work together for a bigger and more significant greater good? Maybe. 

The first rule of FPL is stick to what you know 

But I think the biggest lesson of all behind this is that I know what I like, what I trust and what I want. In a way, I know… what I know. So, with that in mind, I’ve picked a FanTeam side packed with players from whom I know what to expect. 

I’ll wait till Donny van de Beek is assured of a first-team place, thank you very much. I’ll see if Chelsea’s Hakim Ziech is the next Ryan Giggs or another unsettled Angel di Maria. Whether Ferran Torres at Man City slips right into the starting eleven or has to earn his stripes under General Pep Guardiola. And so on. 

So, it’s not the most adventurous side but the likes of Jamie Vardy, Ben Davies, Heung-Min Son, Aaron Ramsdale, Harry Kane and Lucas Digne aren’t the sort of men to let you down in battle. 

Adam Lallana has had a troubled time of late and I personally put that down to starring in too many facial hair-related adverts. I’ve got absolutely no evidence to suggest that the two are related but then again, I’ve also got no logical reason to also have James Rodriguez in my side. Other than the fact he plays for the team I (sort of) support, and that he’s called James.