As a devoted Football Manager fan, you often come across articles along the lines of ‘a list of players with great potential on FM, who never made it in real life’. In those pieces, you find the likes of Cherno Samba, Freddy Adu and *insert whichever other flop*. But then the saying “stuff isn’t always as good as it seems, but until you get it how could you know?”, or maybe I need to stop listening to J Cole. Either way, you eventually realise that even the greatest FM-player in the world can’t always predict the demise of players we once saw as wonderkids. On the flip side of things, you sometimes uncover hidden gems on FM who go on to become absolute maniacs in real life, and then feel like a boss when that player proves his worth in real life. Consider this – in a year or two, most of Europe should know who Youri Tielemans is, but if you’re an FM devotee, you would’ve known of him for a few years now and probably be feeling pretty smug when he eventually gets his big move from Anderlecht to a bigger European club. For every Freddy Adu, there’s a Neymar and for every Tielemans, there’s a Dagoberto out there. So, we’ve put together an XI of some of the best ever gems from FM, supplemented by an XI of their respective flops.
Goalkeeper – Asenjo/De Gea
Flop – Sergio Asenjo
To call Asenjo a ‘flop’ seems a little harsh, considering he is still relatively young (26) and playing first-team football with Villareal in La Liga. But when you remember he was once considered perhaps the best goalkeeper in the game back in FM11, it’s disappointing that he didn’t go on to do more.
Success – David De Gea
Asenjo lost his place to De Gea and Courtois at Atletico Madrid, both of whom are undisputed virtual beasts, and also, not bad in real life either…
Left Back – Mattock/Shaw
Flop – Joe Mattock
Mattock was a mainstay for most lower-league clubs in FM10, and didn’t cost much more than a few million to sign. He was reliable, chipped in a few assists but sadly never fulfilled the potential of becoming England’s starting left-back in real life.
Success – Luke Shaw
On the flip side, Luke Shaw, formerly of Southampton and available to sign for around £15-25m in FM15 (and earlier editions), has turned out quite alright and on-form, looks like the league’s best left back.
Centre Back – Spence/Laporte
Flop – Jordan Spence
Spence was available for as little as £3m in the earlier additions of FM, and turned out to be that pacy, agile and ball-playing defender every team needs. In real life however, things were less kind to his career. Whereas on FM he was good enough for most Champions League clubs (when fully developed), in actuality, he now plays for MK Dons, which isn’t particularly bad, just a far-cry away from being named in the Champions League team of the season in my FM11 game-save.
Success – Ayermic Laporte
Centre Back – Doria/Kompany
Flop – Doria
If you didn’t sign Doria in FM14 or FM15, then shame on you. You really missed a trick here as he costs no more than £10-15m, and easily becomes one of the best centre backs in the game. In real life however, Doria moved to Marseille and has since been farmed out on loan twice to Sao Paolo and Granada. There is of course still time for him to come good, but it doesn’t appear he’s heading that way, and to top it all off, he isn’t that great on FM16 either. Sigh.
Success – Vincent Kompany
Vincent Kompany is now considered to be one of the best defenders in world football, but once upon time he was just another youngster you had to sign on earlier editions of FM for a few million.
Right Back – Vanden Borre/Bellerin
Flop – Anthony Vanden Borre
Once rated higher than Vincent Kompany, Vanden Borre was the prodigy to sign back in FM05 (the first edition of Football Manager since its rebrand from Championship Manager), but somehow, he went from 15-year-old wonderkid to being dubbed “too fat” for Portsmouth in 2010. His career was bang average and it’s big disappointment that he didn’t turn out to be better.
Success – Hector Bellerin
Bellerin on the other hand, is now one of the league’s best right-backs having spent a few seasons learning his trade on loan and sporadically in Arsenal’s first team. Add to that the fact he’s also one of the best right-backs in FM16, and you have yourself a real winner here.
Centre Midfielder – Kuzmanovic/ Tielemans
Flop – Zdravko Kuzmanovic
Kuzmanovic was a class act in the centre park back when Inter where actually a good side, but now when you sign him on FM16 his average rating never goes higher than 7. Now of Basel and largely irrelevant in latest FM, it’s a shame he didn’t amount to more.
Success – Youri Tielemans
Okay, maybe this is tad early, but I’m that confident of Tielemans becoming a real-life animal, I included him anyway. I don’t even need to talk much about him and his brilliance. Start a new FM16 file and sign him up, then thank me later.
Centre Attacking Midfielder – Adu/Eriksen
Flop – Freddy Adu
Did you really expect to read an article like this and not see Adu’s named mentioned here? I mean, in 2006 he was dubbed the ‘next Messi’ on Championship Manager, but in 2015, one of his occupations was a night-club promoter for an event in Washington. Somehow, I think things didn’t go to plan for him.
Success – Christian Eriksen
Eriksen meanwhile is at the heart of Tottenham’s attack, and is also one of those rare FM wonderkids who turned out to be a beast in real-life.
Right Wing – Fleck/Moura
Flop – John Fleck
Wellington Nem was a shoe-in for Fleck’s position, but given how virtually-insane he was once was, the Scot slightly edged it here. Once dubbed the best British winger available, Fleck now plays in League 1 for Coventry, which is far-cry from winning the Premier League Young Player of the Year award back in the days of FM12.
Success – Lucas Moura
Lucas Moura is contentious choice here, as his move to PSG hasn’t exactly produced amazing results, but he’s still been pretty decent. More importantly, he didn’t flop hard like most on this list, has bags of talent left in him and still has the best part of his career ahead of him.
Left Wing – Dos Santos/Neymar
Flop – Giovani Dos Santos
Dos Santos was meant to be the guy you signed when you realise Messi was off the cards. A cheap low-risk/high-reward prospect who cost no more than £10m and easily became one of the best attacking players in FM09/FM10. Now of Villareal and considered to be just another decent player, it’s safe to say his career didn’t pan out like FM intended it to.
Success – Neymar
Neymar is a bit of cheat pick here as he’s now being considered in the final three to win the Ballon d’Or, but the inner-
nerd scout in all of us knew about Neymar since FM09. It’s crazy to think you could’ve once signed him as an 18-year-old for just £26m…
Striker – Dagoberto/Sturridge
Flop – Dagoberto
This was a tight-one between Dagoberto and Kierrson, but in the end it was Dagoberto who edged it. He was once a young, atheltic and potent forward who cost just £2.5m. Now of Cruzeiro in Brazil, he hasn’t even scored 100 career goals yet, which gives you an idea of how his career panned out.
Success – Daniel Sturridge
Striker – Samba/Benzema
Flop – Cherno Samba
Legend has it that Michael Owen once personally called Samba as a schoolboy to get him to sign for Liverpool when he was still in school and on Millwall’s books. After scoring 132 goals in 32 youth games, he became everyone’s dream back in Championship Manager 2001-2 (the first edition I ever played), but in real life, he was far from being a world-beater. He looked like a man amongst boys at youth level (quite literally), but as a professional, his career saw him have modest spells at Cadiz, Plymouth Millwall, FC Haka, FK Tonsberg and Gambian side Samger FC, before retiring in 2015.
Suceess – Karim Benzema
Benzema on the other hand was kind to us all as he stayed at Lyon until 2009, and had at least 2 seasons before his move to Real Madrid which qualified his a bonafide FM star worth signing. Yes, he was expensive, but he was worth every penny if you could prize him away from Lyon before Madrid pounced in 2009.
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