Naturally, the very first thing you do when you load up Football Manager is start a save with your favourite team and endeavour to lead them to the glory you wish you could see in reality. However, if you’re looking for an interesting challenge along the way, here’s our guide for the best teams or nations to manage. None are completely unrealistic and unachievable, but, simultaneously, all require patience and a little dedication.
Newcastle United, English Championship (Transfer Budget £5m/Wage Budget £1.1m p/w)
It’s a fairly obvious choice, but it’ll make for a good test of your managerial skills if you decide to take over Newcastle United. The challenge is simple. You’re a big fish in a small pond and you need to return to the big time on the first attempt. Can you do what so many others have failed to do in the past? The Championship is a notoriously tough league to navigate, but you do have a squad comprising seven players valued over £10m. With a squad of that quality in a league of low standard, it should be a cakewalk, in theory that is.
If you do return, though, can you stay there? And, ultimately, can you take the club back to the pinnacle of English football and the Champions League. The St. James Park faithful are an expectant bunch. Newcastle are a good side to manage as they basically have the set-up of a Premier League club already, which will make life easier for you if you do manage to win promotion.
Top players include: Matt Ritchie (AM RLC), Aleksandar Mitrovic (ST), Jonjo Shelvey (CM), Jamaal Lascelles (CD)
Rangers, Scottish Premiership (Transfer Budget £1.2m/Wage Budget £240k p/w)
Relegated to the very bottom of the Scottish professional football pyramid, they’re back once again in the top flight and ready to challenge for the title once more. This won’t bring you untold riches, but it will make a committed set of fans, that have been through turmoil, proud of their club once more.
Rangers have been to the edge of the earth and back again in terms of their financial struggles over the past few seasons. The challenge? Re-staking your claim to the Scottish throne and toppling your Old Firm rivals Celtic. It’s often a closed game of cat-and-mouse between Celtic and Rangers and it’s the only thing these diehard fans care for. If you don’t topple Celtic, expect to be out the door fairly quickly. If you achieve such a feat, maybe set your eyes further afield to establishing yourself as a European power. Scottish teams have never done particularly well in Europe, but maybe it’s time for a change?
Top players include: Joey Barton (DM, CM) Niko Kranjcar (AM RLC), Martyn Waghorn (ST), Harry Forrester (AM RLC)
Belgium National Team, 2018 World Cup (Transfer/Wage Budgets N/A)
The ‘Golden Generation’ of Belgium’s national football arrived at Euro 2016, boasting a star-studded line-up, as one of the favourites for the tournament and, unsurprisingly flopped with Marc Wilmots at the helm. Can you do what he failed to do and lead Belgium to glory at the 2018 World Cup?
You may only have two years to achieve your goals, however, as players, obviously, are always ageing and by the time Euro 2020 comes around, some of your key men may already have decided to hang up their international boots. It’s a tough ask, but the upcoming World Cup is your best opportunity for glory.
Top players include: Kevin De Bruyne (AM RLC), Eden Hazard (AM RLC), Romelu Lukaku (ST), Toby Alderweireld (CD), Thibaut Courtois (GK).
Southampton, English Premier League (Transfer Budget £31m/Wage Budget £1.5m p/w)
I think Southampton is the complete package really; they have a talented squad, an excellent academy and money to spend on new signings for improvement. This is all whilst they continually have their best players and managers poached by bigger clubs. Tired of the use of the club as a stepping-stone? The solution is to turn them into one of the Premier League greats.
In truth, all the ingredients for success are already in place, you just have to find the right recipe and figure out how to combine them. This is a work-in-progress save and, unless you’re an undiscovered tactical genius, don’t expect results right away. It requires patience and an astute tactical brain to lead Southampton to glory, but it’s definitely achievable.
Top players include: Virgil van Dijk (CD), Dusan Tadic (AM RC), Sofiane Boufal (AM RLC), James Ward-Prowse (MC).
Bournemouth, English Premier League, (Transfer Budget £3.6m/Wage Budget £885k p/w)
Like Southampton, Bournemouth are on the brink of taking the next step up, albeit this is stepping into the upper half of the table rather than European qualification. The Cherries are a relatively new side in the Premier League and Eddie Howe had done exceedingly well to establish them as such with a small budget.
Can you take over and build on Howe’s good work? The challenge for you would be to lead them into Europe, ideally the Champions League and then on to the title. The cherry (get it?) on top would be some European glory, but be prepared to wait a few years to see this vision realised. With not much money available, you’ll have to focus on improving your current personnel, but them makings of a force are certainly there. Will you become a selling club or fight tooth and nail to keep hold of your best assets?
Top players include: Jack Wilshere (MC [loan]), Callum Wilson (ST), Harry Arter (MC), Lewis Cook (DM), Jordon Ibe (AM RL).
RB Leipzig, German Bundesliga, (Transfer Budget £12.9m/Wage Budget £549k p/w)
Can you turn Germany’s most hated club into Germany’s most adored club? That’s probably a little far fetched, but what you can do is topple the Bavarian giants Bayern Munich and create a new power struggle in the German Bundesliga.
The rise of RB Leipzig is been quite remarkable really; they’ve achieved four promotions in seven years and, in their first ever season in the top flight, are joint top with Bayern. Their fans have seen it all, from offensive banners directed at their owners, energy drink giants Red Bull, to actual bull’s heads being thrown onto the pitch. The challenge is to turn hate into love as you assault the league.
Top players include: Timo Werner (ST), Oliver Burke (AM RL), Kyriakos Papadopoulos (DC [loan]), Emil Forsberg (AM RL).
Atlético Madrid, Spanish La Liga (Transfer Budget £4.3m/Wage Budget £2.2m p/w)
Whilst you won’t have untold riches at Atlético, you do have a fantastic starting squad that’s pre-made to be competitive in La Liga and the Champions League. However, that’s the issue right there, Atlético have only ever really been competitive. They had their moment in the sun when they won the Spanish first division in 2014 and they’ve appeared in two Champions League finals, though lost both of them to local rivals Real Madrid.
This is the challenge I lay down for you. Take over at Madrid’s second club and turn them into Madrid’s first club. Could you topple the duopoly that Barcelona and Real Madrid have over La Liga and outshine their success? Can you turn them into a force in Europe? If you don’t, you may risk losing your key players as they develop into world class stars seeking silverware.
Top players include: Antoine Griezmann (AM LC, ST), Yannick Carrasco (AM RL), Saúl (DM), Koke (M RLC).
Inter, Italian Serie A, (Transfer Budget £17.2/Wage Budget £1.9m p/w)
It’s time to wake up the sleeping giants. That’s the nature of this challenge if you decide to venture into the steadily declining Serie A. Juventus have dominated the league for the last few years, but there was once a time where Inter and AC Milan were the two biggest Italian teams and two of the biggest in Europe.
In truth, there’s not much to separate Inter and Milan, but I’ve suggested to try with Inter as they have more money to offer than their neighbours and that’ll help you on your quest to restore this giant to their former glory. Can you break Juventus’s tight grip on Serie A and reinstate Inter as Italy’s greatest side? Perhaps you’d be able to claim their first Champions League since 2010.
Top players include: Mauro Icardi (ST), Gabriel Barbosa (ST), João Mário, (AM RC), Geoffrey Kondogbia (DM), Jeison Murillo (DC).
AS Monaco, French Ligue 1 (Transfer Budget £21.5m/Wage Budget £812k p/w)
Once one of Europe’s great clubs, AS Monaco took a rapid decline in the early 2000s which ended in relegation to Ligue 2 in 2011. Bought out by a Russian billionaire, they returned to Ligue 1 in 2013 and spent £140m, including a club-record £50m for Radamel Falcao. They’re currently back in the title mix in Ligue 1, but there’s still work to be done to return to the very pinnacle.
Your challenge? Restoring this historic club to its previous greatness. PSG have basically run riot in Ligue 1 for the past few years and knocking them off of their domestic pedestal is a challenge in itself, but, ultimately, it’s European glory you’ll be seeking. Monaco would be a great challenge as you’re backed quite heavily by the board with a sizeable budget, plus you have a number of promising youngsters in your ranks, such as Bernardo Silva, Thomas Lemar and Fabinho.
Top players include: Bernardo Silva (AM RC), Thomas Lemar (AM RLC), Radamel Falcao (ST), João Moutinho (MC).
England National Team, 2018 World Cup (Transfer/Wage Budgets N/A)
In the state of disarray that Roy Hodgson and short-lived successor Sam Allardyce left the once great nation in, are you the manager to step into the spotlight to achieve that which is unfoundedly expected of England? Can you deliver their first World Cup since 1966?
The challenge with England is to turn expectation into reality. Play attacking, fluid football and win the 2018 World Cup and the 2020 European Championships. It’s not as if England don’t have the players at their disposal and, given that they have a core of youngsters starting to emerge, the possibilities for success are endless.
Top players include: Harry Kane (ST), Dele Alli (MC), Eric Dier (DM), Marcus Rashford (ST/AM L), Raheem Sterling (AM RLC).