Just one more match… We’ve all been there, and we all know that it’s nothing but a self-deceptive lie.

Your girlfriend’s plans for a romantic dinner is simply not sufficient when the January-window just opened up, and you’re in dire need of a top quality striker. There’s always something in the way of a normal- and functional life when you’re playing a game in Paul and Olliver Collyers highly popular Football Manager-series.

Football Manager is a game we at FantasyBet have an ambivalent relationship to. We all know the feeling of self-loathing as the sun hits your eyes at 6:30 in the morning, and you’re still in front of the computer.

Over the years, people have formed life-lasting bonds to bizarre lower league clubs, and developed fatherly feelings towards their players. The FM-database has been used by professional football clubs in their search for talent – and a lot of times it’s proven to be a solid source. One can truly say that Football Manager has got omnipotent characteristics..

Players like Thierry Henry, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Arjen Robben were all great players in the game before they had their breakthrough in real-life football. There are, of course, exceptions… Some of the so-called “wonderkids” in the game have gained iconic status in the FM-community, because of the fact that they never managed to live up to the simulated hype. You can even find fan-pages for these players, and some of the virtual wonderkids are still being approached by fans who wonder why they never made it- as if they never bothered to materialize on the talent that God gave them.

Although it might be hard to compare players from one version of the game to another, some players undoubtedly stand out as the truly great ones when discussions about these important matters arise.

We have collected and ranked some of the brightest stars in the FM/CM-universe in this list.

1. Freddy Adu
Freddy-Adu Americans love their sensation stories, and Freddy Adu was the ultimate football sensation. At the age of 11, after dominating a friendly tournament in Italy for an American u-14 team, Inter approached him and wanted to sign the kid up for a six-figure number. His mother turned down the offer, and told the young lad to keep his focus in school.
Nevertheless, civil-war history and the periodic table had to lose in the end; at the age of only 14, he signed a historical contract with DC United in the MLS, making him the youngest athlete in U.S history to go professional.

Touted as “The new Pelé”, young Adu soon became a world known phenomenon in football, and Benfica thought they had done the deal of a lifetime when they signed him up for “only” $2 million in 2007. This was not the case, of course. The club early on realised that the media hype was far greater than his actual talent. It almost seemed like they tried to sweep him under the carpet, with several loan-deals to clubs of various status (Çaykur Rizespor, anyone?). When his contract finally expired, Adu had only played 11 matches for the Portuguese club. In the period to follow, the American sensation tried his luck back home again, but without any success. He was simply not good enough. The last club to give in for the wonderkid-spell was the Brazilian side Bahia in 2013, but “the next Pelé” was fired after only six months. Evil tongues claimed that they would have been better off with the 70 years old original…

Today, as this article goes to print, the “wonderkid-effect” appears to have lost all of its effect, and Adu is struggling to get a contract anywhere in professional football.

In the story of Freddy Adu, one can argue that his quick way to the top only can be matched by his dramatic downfall. Even though he’s still just 24, it’s hard to see him coming back anytime soon. Going from Champions League football at the age of 18, to desperate trials with Scandinavian minors, would take the sting out of most people.

Trivia: Adu gave Blackpools TV-channel an exclusive interview when he was on trial there in 2014. Here he talks about being a FM-legend and he explains why he decided to go professional at such a young age.

See the interview here.

2. Cherno Samba
Cherno-SambaWhat happened with Cherno Samba?? Everyone who played Championship Manager knows that Samba was a greater talent then Linonel Messi, Christiano Ronaldo and Neymar altogether.

13 years old, he bagged 132 goals in 32 matches for his youth-side, and all the major clubs wanted his signature. Alex Ferguson and Man United was reported to have a £2m bid ready for the teenager, but it was surprisingly Millwall who secured his signature in 2002.

At 14, he played for the club’s U-17 team, but instead of climbing the ranks, he stayed put and struggled to get a break-through in the first team.

In his childhood years, Samba had the advantage of a grown man’s physique. But as soon as the other players caught up, he suddenly looked like an ordinary 17-year-old football player. The hype around him had been massive, and it’s not unlikely that this pressure alone could have put a stop to a promising career.

Samba later admitted in an interview, that he already (at the age of 14) thought he was among the best football players in the world (!).  Little Cherno was wrong. So instead of playing in the big leagues and regularly picking up silverware, his greatest club merits today is 4 matches in the Spanish second division with Cadiz (2004/2005).

Trivia: Sambas father was a goalkeeper for the Gambian national team. Because of this, (and of course the tiny issue of playing time) Cherno decided to play for Gambia instead of England. 4 matches and 1 goal later, the Gambian F.A decided to name a national football academy after the FM-hero.

3. Tonton Zola Moukoko
Tonton-Zola-MoukokoThis guy is one of the most famous CM-players of all time, and was also considered a big talent in real life football. 15 years old, he trained with both Empoli and Bologna. After turning down an offer from A.C. Milan, he signed for Derby and played for their youth team.

In the game it was possible to buy him out of this contract for around £500k and he always ended up as one of the best players in the world. Paying this this kind of money for the real-life version would have been more questionable. He soon returned to Sweden (because of “family issues”) and has been playing in the lower leagues there ever since.

Trivia: His professional football-adventure may have stopped in Derby, but his CM-legacy is still strong. He’s got his own fan pages on Facebook, and even got a “testimonial” match when he was invited to play in a five-a-side match organised by Sports Interactive (the company that makes Football Manager).

4. Maxim Tsigalko
Maxim-TsigalkoRing a bell? Although the guys at SI got his name wrong (it should be “Maksim Tsyhalka”), everything else about this Belarussian wonderkid was top notch.

Starting up his career in Dinamo Minsk, he could be hard to spot the first time you played the game, but after a while the jungle telegraph made everyone aware of his insane goal scoring potential. If deployed correctly, this  wonderkid was known to score more than 100 goals a season.

If you search for “Maxim Tsigalko” today, you’ll find numerous fan sites and YouTube videos celebrating his virtual sorcery. His real-life career was more of a tragedy, as he was forced to retire at the age of 26 because of injury proneness.

Trivia: Maxims twin-brother Yuri also appeared in the game. He was a goalkeeper, but not of the same calibre. In real life, he overcame his brother and played professionally for 14 years.

5. Julius AgahowaJulius-Agahowa

AN ABSOLUTE MACHINE IN FRONT OF GOAL!! In the game obviously, not in real life…

In Championship Manager, the Shakhtar Donetsk striker would come to a mid-table Premier League club and score a bucket load of goals, before he was snapped up by Barcelona or Real Madrid for about £30 million(which used to be a lot).

When he signed for Wigan  in 2007, the FM-community watched in anticipation, as a god of the game visited the Premier League to re-produce his magic. But after 20 games and zero goals he joined the growing list of players that the game overrated.

6. Ibrahima BakayokoIbrahima-Bakayoko

The Ivorian was actually a more than decent footballer and got over 40 matches for his national team. In CM 97/98 he definitely was more than decent, and if you were an ambitious manager you had to sign him.

The most interesting part about Bakayoko is the fact that Everton, which were known for using the CM-database in their scouting, reportedly bought him for £4,5m solely based on his merits in the game. However, after one season, with more penalties missed than goals scored, Bakayoko was thrown out of Goodison, earning the nickname “Baka-joke-o” in the process.

7. Taribo WestTaribo-West

Perhaps not one of the greatest players in the game per se, but a rare gem for everyone who cherished the prospect of taking a small club from non-league obscurity to Champions League supremacy.
Available on a free transfer from A.C Milan, he was an obvious signing in the game- and the first stepping-stone toward world domination.

In real life, he was a solid player with ugly hair.

8. Andri SigthorssonAndri-Sigthorsson

Iceland have always produced talented footballers- and Andri Sigthorsson might have been the greatest talent ever to come from the saga-island.

He signed for Bayern Munich at the age of 16, and the young striker seemingly had the world at his feet. From there, the story splits up in two different versions: 1) He became the best striker in the world. 2) He retired at the age of 26 to start up a bakery-store. Can you sort out which one actually happened, and which one’s another Football Manager fairy-tale?


Note: If you find yourself in Molde, please drop by Braud og Bollur  for some delicious pastry and some long-demanded answers.

9. Kennedy BakircioglüKennedy-Bakircioglü

If your club was in need of a world-class playmaker, but couldn’t afford the likes of Zidane, Pirlo and Ronaldinho, this guy would be your first pick.

Brilliant in CM 01/02 and a decent enough player in reality, too. His name is impossible to pronounce though..

10. Serge MakofoSerge-Makofo

One of those players who switched positions from game to game, but no matter where you decided to put him he excelled.

Because of MK Dons financial problems, you could buy him for close to nothing. The true story of Makofo is that he became a non-league journeyman, playing for glamorous clubs such as Potters Bar Town, Maidenhead United and Grimsby.

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