Joel Matip (left) in action for Liverpool against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League and Eric Bailly (right) in action for Manchester United against Roma in the Europa League. Left: 3 November 2021, Anfield. Right: 6 May 2021 Olympic Stadium

FM22 simulates what would happen if 11 Eric Baillys played 11 Joel Matips

Football is nothing without entertainers. Sure, you need people to pass side to side and do the basics, but it’s the over-the-top, unnecessarily complicated tricks that you really love.

It’s even better when they’re pulled off by football’s great eccentrics in a completely inappropriate moment.

A Cruyff turn in their own box, a bicycle kick when literally anything else would have sufficed and a dazzling run from one end of the pitch to the other just to pass backwards.

That’s where two of our favourite footballers come in: Eric Bailly and Joel Matip.

They encapsulate this particular definition of crazy, making decisions that simply boggle the mind and that no one else could come up with.

We think more footballers should take a leaf out of their books and play football with fewer inhibitions. Sure, you could pass back to your goalkeeper, but you could also try to Ronaldo-chop past the attacker and that is frankly much more fun.

So we tried to imagine what it would be like if 11 Baillys played 11 Matips and then we decided we could use Football Manager to simulate it.

After cracking open the editor and messing around with the options, causing the computer to crash several times in the process, we managed it.

So sit back and enjoy football at its most beautifully chaotic. It’s Bailly FC v Matip FC, it’s El Eccentric-o and it’s live.

The Stats

First, let’s compare Matip and Bailly in the game.

In the build-up to the match, the game determined that a team full of Matip’s were the favourites ahead of a team full of Bailly’s and it’s easy to see why.

The Liverpool centre-back has an absolutely incredible 15 dribbling to represent his unique obsession and skill with driving forward with the ball from deep.

But this is just the first of a number of well-rounded stats.

With 15 passing, 14 first touch, 14 technique, and 17 positioning, the list goes on. Matip might be listed in-game as purely a centre-back, but his stats are comfortably superior to many Premier League midfielders in the game.

Furthermore, he stands at a huge 6’5″, which considering he’ll also be playing in goal is a huge boost.

Bailly also possesses some good stats, however.

His physicals are vastly superior to Matip’s, with greens almost across entirely across the board.

His 17 in tackling was two better than Matip’s and key technical attributes like passing weren’t far off the Cameroonian.

It looked to be a close match-up, and it sure delivered.

Match-day One

It was never going to be decided in one match, was it?

The crowd could feel the anticipation as eleven Matip clones strolled out beside eleven identical Baillys.

They lined up for their respective anthems before shaking hands and going into their huddles.

“Right Bailly, you play there and look to switch the ball over to Bailly on the other wing,” Bailly said.

“Matip, you make sure to keep your passes to Matip accurate,” Matip said.

We lined both teams out in a basic 4-4-2. No instructions, no adjusting roles, no team talks; this was just eleven of the same man against another eleven of the same man.

The game started fast with Bailly FC taking the lead in the 11th minute.

Bailly, the goalkeeper, sent a long ball over the top and Bailly, one of the strikers, beat Matip to it. He ran through on goal and slotted it away: 1-0.

It took just three minutes for Matip FC to respond. A deep free-kick was whipped in but Bailly’s clearance only went as far as Matip. He passed it to Matip, who passed it to Matip who shot from just inside the box, curling it past Bailly in nets. A sumptuous finish.

From there it was all about Matip. Bailly generated just three more shots the entire game for a total xG of 0.44 but Matip FC, who had 55% possession, were much more willing to take on a shot.

Matip had 18 strikes and generated an xG of 1.32. But he/they failed to find a way past Bailly in nets, who not only assisted Bailly FC’s opener but made several saves.

Time whittled away and the match ended a draw. Time for round two.

Liverpool's Joel Matip during the Premier League match against Burnley. Anfield, January 2021.

READ: 21 times Liverpool’s Joel Matip was the funniest player in the world

The Decider

If the last match was a tight, cagey affair, this match was the opposite.

There were no niceties this time, both teams heading straight out onto the field.

We’re pretty sure they had a fight in the tunnel on the way out as well, although shockingly Football Manager hasn’t got that sort of thing coded into the game.

It took less than two minutes for Bailly to once again break the deadlock, another long ball over the top unlocking Matip’s defence and Baily slotting home.

But once more a free-kick would be the Ivorians’ undoing, with Matip heading home in the 17th minute to bring his side level once more.

The Liverpool player(s) had control and went to kill the game off.

Matip added a second in the 19th, slotting home a penalty which for some reason goalkeeper Matip took to add even more insult to injury.

Another free-kick in the 32nd minute brought with it a disaster for Bailly and elation for Matip, as the Cameroonian(s) went 3-1 up with another header.

Match over? No chance. Bailly slammed home a direct free-kick just before half time and the game was on… until the 60th minute when Matip fired the ball into the top corner from 50 yards out, sending the crowd, which we can only assume was in the hundreds of thousands, into a frenzy.

Bailly clawed one back with 15 mins to go, another over-the-top ball providing the breakthrough. But late pressure from the Ivorian(s) was in vain.

Matip held on to lift the first, and probabaly last, Bailly-Matip Cup.

In the end, the Matips’ superior ability in the air paid dividends, and we now have a scientifically-backed answer as to who the better eccentric player is.

By Patrick Ryan

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