An XI of the best Football Manager 2021 wonderkids: Camavinga, Meslier…
Football Manager 2021 was released this week, and, as ever, players are immediately drawn to the list of wonderkids – those teenagers with the potential to become world-class players.
Signing wonderkids is one of the best ways to ‘moneyball’ and become a world-beating manager on FM21, and with that in mind we simulated five years on the new game to see who would develop most impressively.
Since they’re well known and virtually impossible to buy, the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Matthijs de Ligt have been excluded from our XI of the best hot prospects on the game, which we compiled in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
GK: Illan Meslier
Signed for £5million by Leeds United this summer after spending last season on loan at Elland Road, it might be a surprise to learn that Marcelo Bielsa’s 20-year-old No.1 is considered to be arguably the most promising goalkeeper in world football.
Within five years of our game, Meslier was bought by Bayern Munich for £75million, and it is easy to see why. He is a real all-rounder, with no goalkeeping stats below 13, and he particularly excels in reflexes and agility. Another five years and he will be unplayable; he is the baby-faced Buffon, after all.
RB: Max Aarons
Norwich City’s right-back is relatively affordable following the Canaries’ relegation, and he will do a decent job at a top-half Premier League side. Give it a few years and he is among the best in the world, boasting superb defence stats and physical stats.
Aarons lacks a bit of technical ability, with crossing 12 and passing 13, but there is no doubt the Norwich man would be dominant at any super club. In our game, Manchester City paid £27million in 2022 – and his value doubled within a year.
CB: Zinho Vanheusden
The 20-year-old Standard Liege defender is already widely regarded as a future star, and that is reflected in a £5million valuation at the beginning of the game. It is very hard to sign Vanheusden, who grows to become a technically gifted centre-back with particularly good mental attributes.
Borussia Dortmund managed to snatch him for £34million in 2022 on our game, and his valuation stood at £53million after five years.
CB: Nehuen Perez
More of a no-nonsense player, Perez remained at Atletico Madrid throughout our save. That makes a lot of sense; he is a typical Diego Simeone defender, showing a lot of strength and raw defensive attributes but lacking in the agility or technical ability of the modern centre-back.
Perez has a smattering of green stats in the mental area, showing the toughness that Simeone wants from his players – and plenty of aggression, too.
LB: Nuno Mendes
Mendes can be poached from Sporting Lisbon at the very beginning of the game by Premier League sides, and he is well worth the £15-20million. A cut above Aarons, Mendes has brilliant technical ability and 15+ stats in nearly every area you want from a full-back.
Real Madrid signed him in 2021 for £52million in our game, and he became a regular at the Bernabeu.
CM: Eduardo Camavinga
The France international has a very bright future ahead of him and is one of two all-action defensive midfielders we have picked in our XI. Camavinga is valued at £6.5million at the start of the game, despite the Rennes player being just 17.
There’s a good reason for that; Camavinga develops into a player with perfect defending stats as well technique and dribbling high enough for him to burst through the middle of the park.
He signed for Chelsea on a free transfer at the end of the 2023-24 season in our game and was instantly valued at £74million.
CM: Florentino Luis
A relatively similar player to Camavinga, Luis is another energetic midfielder who can play in pretty much any role in the middle. He is strongest in the defensive position, where his brilliant defending comes to the fore.
Luis signed for Manchester City in our game after two years for £67million, becoming a linchpin of the City team and averaging around 7.4 across the season.
CAM: Dejan Kulusevski
He will be very difficult to sign, in that Kulusevski arrives at Juventus for £32million at the beginning of the game, but it is possible to get him before he fully develops. On our save, he is valued at £63million and regularly hit double figures for goals and assists in Serie A.
Kulusevski excels in all the traditional No.10 ways, with excellent dribbling, passing, technique, first touch, flair and vision.
LW: Diego Lainez
Lainez is probably the best young winger on the game and begins as a relatively unknown teenager at Real Betis, priced at just £900,000. That makes him easy to sign early on, and you will need to pounce soon; by 2023 on our save, he joined Manchester City for £75million.
A modern winger who prefers to cut inside and play as a playmaker between the lines, his crossing and strength are both poor but, with outstanding dribbling, agility, technique and flair, Lainez is among the best players on the game.
Signed by Ajax for £21million in 2020, it is not possible to buy Antony until he has settled in in the Netherlands. He is the archetypal Football Manager winger, in that the Brazilian has 12s and 13s in plenty of mental and physical attributes as well as 17s and 18s in the most important stats.
All-rounder wingers are unplayable on FM21, especially if instructed to roam from their base position and influence the game in other areas of the pitch.
ST: Sebastiano Esposito
Aside from Erling Haaland and Mason Greenwood, there aren’t many truly outstanding young strikers on FM21. Esposito is your best bet for an early signing, with the Inter Milan striker valued at just £500,000 when the game begins.
On our save, he was bought by Manchester City for £91million. That’s slightly over the odds for a forward with only 14 finishing, although some brilliant physical attributes make up for that.
By Alex Keble