Football Manager 2018: Real Madrid Guide, Player Ratings & Tactics

Can you take the helm at Real Madrid and lead the club back to silverware? We cover everything you need to know to master Real Madrid on FM 18.

Alastair Pusinelli by Alastair Pusinelli

Real Madrid, the Rolls Royce of football clubs. The Spanish giants have lifted three of the last five Champions League titles, and finally got the better of arch-rivals Barcelona last season, winning their first La Liga tile in five years. With that to build on and an uber-talented squad, Real Madrid are a fantastic choice to manage on FM 18.

That said, this season hasn’t gone to plan for Los Blancos. Zinedine Zidane’s men are down in third place in the table, 10 points behind Barca. With questions being asked about their attack for the first time in decades, can you galvanise the side and continue to win trophies?


After firing up your game with Real Madrid, Chairman Florentino Perez will welcome you to the Bernabeu and present you with the club’s philosophies. All you need to do is play attacking football. This shouldn’t be a problem with Senors Ronaldo, Bale and Isco in your squad.


As for the expectations for the season, the default is to win the Spanish First Division (La Liga) and reach the final of the European Champions Cup (Champions League). The Spanish Super Cup, Spanish Cup and European Super Cup are all regarded as not important. The only expectation you can customise is the Champions Cup, but your only other option is win the tournament. 

It’s a tough ask, but with no obligations in the domestic cup, you can go all out for league and Champions League glory.


Transfer: £53 million

Wage budget: £4.41m (Current use: £4.39m)


Real Madrid have rotated 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1 since Zinedine Zidane has been in charge, and these should be your two main systems for the season. If you need goals late on, go for a 4-2-4.

We’ve gone for the 4-1-2-3 DM wide formation, which provides more defensive protection. Against some of the La Liga minnows go for a 4-2-3-1 to get all your star attacking players on the pitch. 

Keylor Navas is in goal, and he has the familiar Dani Carvajal, Raphael Varane, Sergio Ramos and Marcelo in his back four. Casemiro is the protector in midfield, and he has the creators of Toni Kroos and Luka Modric either side of him.

Karim Benzema leads the line in attack, and he’s flanked by danger men Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo.

On the bench, go for Kiko Casilla, Nacho Fernandez, Theo Hernandez, Mateo Kovacic, Isco, Marco Asensio and Lucas Vazquez.


Real Madrid are most comfortable with a standard mentality and flexible team shape. Against the smaller teams you can go for a controlled mentality and then look to counter the bigger sides in Europe.

You should encourage your players to get the ball wide to Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, and with both wide men playing as ‘inside forwards’ they will naturally look to cut in and strike.

Look to get as many green lights on the pitch as possible, and with this Madrid side, you should get all 11 positions lit up. Troubles will come when you rotate the squad and try to get Isco and Marco Asensio in the side, who both prefer to play as an attacking midfielder. 

Key Players

It’s a talented side from top-to-toe, but we all know who is the star man at the Bernabeu.

Cristiano Ronaldo – CA 4.5 star (195), PA 5 star (196)

He’s the star attraction at Real Madrid, but it’s safe to say that this season things haven’t gone to plan for Cristiano Ronaldo. The 32-year-old has just one goal in eight league games so far this campaign, quite a fall from someone who hit 285 in his previous 265 games. 

Fortunately, you will not have to deal with this bad form in FM 18, with Ronaldo’s 195 current ability rating consisting of 20 long shots, 20 penalty taking and 20 determination. With the winger or striker now past his peak, you could choose to cash in on the £49 million valued superstar now, but selling such an influential player so early in your tenure could cause havoc in the dressing room.

Luka Modric – CA 4 star (178), PA 4 star (180)

Very much the unsung hero in this Real Madrid side, Luka Modric makes the team tick. Whether it be playing the ball through to the attackers, making timely interceptions in midfield or scoring himself, the little Croatian is everywhere on the pitch.

The former Spurs man has a 178 current ability score which is helped by 19 passing, 19 first touch and 18 technique. At the age of 31, it’s likely that Modric is now just past his peak potential of 180, so you may be tempted to sell the playmaker for upwards of £45 million. 

Gareth Bale – CA 4 star (176), PA 4.5 star (186)

Injuries have slightly got the better of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid, but you can’t deny the winger’s quality. Three Champions Leagues, a La Liga title and a Copa del Rey speaks volumes of what the £85 million man has brought to the club.

The Welshman has a 176 score on FM 18, which is aided by 19 long shots, 18 heading and 18 pace. The 28-year-old may just have enough time to reach his 186 potential if he hits the ground running in your first season, and with Ronaldo likely to fade, Bale could soon become the main man at the Bernabeu. 

Young Talent

The likes of Vicente del Bosque, Rafael Benitez, Esteban Cambiasso, Guti and Iker Casillas came from Real Madrid’s youth setup, so you always know each year a couple will go on to play consistently for the first team.

Achraf – CA 2 star (125), PA 3.5-4.5 star (140-170)

Thrust into the limelight earlier this season after injuries to Rafael Varane and Dani Carvajal, young right back Achraf suddenly found himself starting against Tottenham in the Champions League. The Moroccan international showed he was capable on the big stage, so expect a bright future for the 18-year-old.

The right back, wing back or midfielder has a 125 current ability rating, with the potential to hit at least 140. His best attributes are 18 versatility, 16 acceleration and 15 pace, contributing to his value of £1.5 million

Martin Calderon – CA 1 star (84), PA 3-4 star (140-170)

Defensive midfielder Martin Calderon is amongst the hottest prospects in the Real Madrid B squad, but the defensive midfielder is yet to make his debut for the first team. The 18-year-old is currently in the Spain U18 squad.

The youngster may only have an 84 current ability rating, but his potential between 140 and 170 makes him an exciting player to nurture for the next few seasons. Calderon, who can also operate in central midfield, has 12 heading, 11 team work and 10 work rate in his game. 

Miguel Baeza – CA 1 star (80), PA 2.5-3.5 star (140-170)

It’s a similar story for the 17-year-old Miguel Baeza who has three goals and an assist in four matches in the UEFA Youth League. The right or left winger should be monitored closely over the next two seasons, and then consider sending the starlet out on loan for more experience.

Beza’s 80 current ability can rise to anything between 140 and 170, with his attributes randomised on FM 2018. 

Team Report

Midfield Depth – CM, AMR Overall Depth
Star Attacker (Cristiano Ronaldo) Goalkeeper Depth
Scouting Staff Defence Depth
Leadership Attack Depth
Youth Prospects Wage Budget
Star Midfielder (Toni Kroos)
First Touch
Star Defender (Sergio Ramos)
Transfer Budget
Jumping Reach


Team Leaders – Sergio Ramos (C), Marcelo (vice-captain), Cristiano Ronaldo

Highly influential – Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, Dani Carvajal, Karim Benzema, Nacho, Gareth Bale, Isco, Keylor Navas, Lucas Vazquez, Marcos Llorente, Raphael Varane, Kiko Casilla

Dynamics is the main new feature for Football Manager 2018. This tab shows the atmosphere in the dressing room and the social groups in the squad. Be sure to keep your most influential players happy, as saying the wrong thing to the wrong person could have cataclysmic effects on the rest of your squad. 

Transfer targets

With a transfer budget of just over £50 million, you can sign one top player and save some cash for the January transfer window. With Karim Benzema the only recognised first team striker, you should bring in one more established forward.

Striker – Mario Mandzukic (CA 161, PA 166)

With that budget, even in January, are you likely to find a player to put pressure on Karim Benzema. So you should look at a stop-gap player, or a man who is coming towards the end on his career who can still add something to the squad. 

This perfectly sums up Juventus’s Mario Mandzukic, the Croatian has always been a handful for defences with his aerial dominance, and he will undoubtedly bring the likes of Ronaldo and Bale into the game with his hold-up play.

The 31-year-old has a 161 current ability score, which has only just fallen from his 166 potential. His best attributes are his 20 determination, 20 teamwork and 20 aggression, which you should be able to pick up for around £35 million plus add-ons. His wages of £111,000 a week should be manageable, but you may need to sell off some fringe men to allow the room in your budget. 

Alternative options:

  • Edin Dzeko – Age 31, Roma, Bosnia, CA 158, PA 166, Value: £24m, Wage: £143k
  • Jonas – Age 33, Benfica, Brazil, CA 157, PA 158, Value: £8m, Wage: £49k
  • Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Age 35, Man United, Sweden, CA 157, PA 185, Value: £5m, Wage: £125k
  • Olivier Giroud, Age 30, Arsenal, France, CA 154, PA 156, Value: £33m, Wage: £110k

Player to sell

There is a gulf between the regular starters at Real Madrid and the fringe players, so a couple of those you can afford to let go.

Borja Mayoral

There is a shortage in striker options at the Bernabeu, with back-up Borja Mayoral nowhere near the Real Madrid quality. The forward has a 123 current ability score, with the potential to hit somewhere between 140 and 170. You simply don’t have the time to watch him develop, and you’ll have the funds over the coming seasons to bring in a top class striker. The 20-year-old Mayoral will only collect you around £2 million, but you will save on his £17,000 a week wages.

Marcos Llorente

It’s a similar tale for defensive midfielder Marcos Llorente, who finds himself behind Casemiro and Mateo Kovacic in the pecking order. The Spaniard’s 138 current ability could be of use, but his 156 potential ability means he could never fight for a starting place. If you sell the 22-year-old, you should receive £5.25 million, freeing up almost £29,000 a week in wages.


Real Madrid are one of the best run clubs in the business, but their finances don’t look as smooth as you would expect. The club’s balance set to rise, the turnover will drop at the end of the season. Expenditure is on the up, and the club’s profit is set to turn to loss in 2019. This is perhaps a result of all the new contracts that have been issued out at the Bernabeu of late.

The silver lining is that your transfer budget will increase with every passing window, so make sure you get the most out of your money to lift the finances of the club through your efforts on the pitch.

Ride the wave

As much as there is a feeling that Real Madrid are on the crest of the wave, things could come crashing down as their top talent come towards the end of their careers. Four of their key starting players are now in their 30s, and looking behind them, there aren’t many who would be ready to step into the first-choice side.

This first season is vital for the club’s development, as you look to attract new talent and secure finances for the next few seasons. With just a smidge of cash to use this summer, it will not be an easy task.

Role Ability
Starting Lineup
Keylor Navas 30 GK Goalkeeper Defend 3 star 162/
Dani Carvajal 25 DR Full-Back Support 3.5 star 161/
Raphael Varane 24 CD Ball Playing Defender Defend 4 star 165/
Sergio Ramos 31 CD Ball Playing Defender Stopper 4 star 174/
Marcelo 29 DL Complete Wing-Back Support 4 star 166/
Casemiro 25 DM Defensive Midfielder Defend 3.5 star 162/
Toni Kroos 27 MCR Advanced/
Deep-Lying Playmaker
Support 4 star 174/
Luka Modric 31 MCL Deep-Lying/
4 star 178/
Gareth Bale 28 AMR Inside Forward Attack 4 star 176/
Cristiano Ronaldo 32 AML Inside Forward Attack 4.5 star 195/
Karim Benzema 29 STC False Nine Support 4 star 170/
Kiko Casilla 30 GK Goalkeeper Defend 3 star 155/
Nacho 27 D (RLC) Full-Back

Ball Playing Defender



3 star

2.5 star

Theo Hernandez 19 D (L)
WB (L)
M (L)
AM (L)
Defensive Full Back Defend 2.5 star 134/
Mateo Kovacic 23 DM
M (C)
AM (C)
Advanced Playmaker Support 3.5 star 160/
Isco 25 M (RLC)
Advanced Playmaker Support 4 star 175/
Marco Asensio 21 M (RLC)
Advanced Playmaker Support 3.5 star 160/
Lucas Vazquez 26 M (R)
Winger Support 3 star 148/
Jesus Vallejo 20 D (C) Ball Playing Defender Defend 2.5 star 136/
Jose Leon 22 D (C) Central Defender Cover 1.5 star 104/
Achraf 18 D (R)
WB (R)
M (R)
Attack 2 star 125/
Marcos Llorente 22 DM
M (C)
Deep Lying Playmaker Defend 2.5 star 138/
Dani Ceballos 20 M (C)
AM (C)
Attacking Midfielder Support 2.5 star 148/
Borja Mayoral 20 ST (C) Advanced Forward Attack 2 star 123/

Who have you signed on Football Manager 2018? Let us know in the comments section below. 

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Alastair Pusinelli

First console: GameBoy Color / Favourite Game: Assassin's Creed 2 / Currently playing: Football Manager 2020