An XI of the best bargain signings on FM23: Gronbaek, Bakker, Ceballos…
Football Manager 2023 is out now and if you’re anything like us, you’ve already set aside some time to conquer the world.
Unless you’re boring enough to select a handful of clubs with endless wealth, you’ll need to think carefully about building your squad within a strict budget. Here’s where we can help.
We’ve trawled through the FMScout database to select a full team worth of players that are well worth their low transfer value and arranged them in a 4-3-3 formation. They’re all available for under £10million, and we’ve tried to avoid players that will smash your wage structure (although we couldn’t resist one or two).
GK: Ruben Blanco
The 27-year-old goalkeeper is relatively experienced, having made over 100 La Liga appearances for Celta Vigo since emerging as a promising Spain Under-19 prospect a decade back.
But he’s fallen out of favour for the Galician side and has been loaned out to Marseille as their back-up this season. With an 84 rating, he’s the highest-rated ‘keeper you can pick up for relative peanuts, valued at just £4.6million. His wages won’t break the bank, either.
RB: Alessandro Zanoli
Turning out for
Napoli Parthenope, Zanoli is only on the fringes of Luciano Spaletti’s squad. The 22-year-old right-back has only made a handful of appearances for the Serie A side this season – all off the bench – and he’s firmly behind Giovanni Di Lorenzo in the pecking order.
That state of play means that the Neopolitans won’t play hardball for a fee. You can pick him up for approximately £5.5million, and he’ll more than likely do a job for your team. Maybe not if you’re in charge of an elite club, but then you’re probably not shopping in the bargain bucket anyway.
CB: Matteo Lovato
With a considerable and commanding 6’2″ presence, Italian Under-21 international Lovato looks destined for bigger and better things than relative minnows Salernitana.
He’s not got a wealth of experience, and at 22 he’s already made three permanent moves and represented five Italian clubs, but perhaps you can be the arm-round-the-shoulder coach to give him a settled home and get the best out of him.
Lovato has a rating of 84 and should be available for £7.5million, which is a snip for a young defender with his best years ahead.
CB: Arnau Comas
Having developed his game at Barcelona, making over 50 appearances for their B Team as a youngster, Comas has since moved to Swiss giants Basel.
Comas boasts the versatility to slot in at defensive midfield, as well, and is valued at just £6million, with wage demands that are a tiny fraction of some of the more established cheap central defenders like Samuel Umtiti, Ozan Kabak and Diego Llorente.
LB: Mitchel Bakker
Netherlands Under-21 international Bakker moved from boyhood club Ajax to PSG before he had a real chance to break into the first team.
He spent two years with the Parisiens before moving on to Bayer Leverkusen. The 22-year-old arguably hasn’t become the player expected from his eye-catching performances with Jong Ajax, which is reflected by his relatively low rating of 79 and value of £6million on the latest edition of Football Manager.
Bakker still has time on his side, though, and might just need the right club to come good. He’s particularly enticing if you want to increase the levels of shithousery in your side.
Soy yo Carrasco y me hace eso Bakker después de fallar lo que ha fallado y me sancionan en competiciones europeas hasta 2040. pic.twitter.com/aL3MfztjMY
— Jeorge cluney (@jeorgecluney) October 26, 2022
DM: Krystian Bielik
As an Arsenal youth-teamer, Bielik was tipped for big things.
Having been loaned out originally, the Poland international has forged his path in the Football League. He’s now on loan at Birmingham City, on loan from cash-strapped League One side Derby County.
Bielik remains the Rams’ star asset, but his rotten luck with injuries has seemingly warded off any suitors. Adept at playing the centre of defence or midfield, the £4.6million-valued 24-year-old could be excellent value, but it’s up to you whether you want to take the gamble on keeping him fit.
CM: Dani Ceballos
Danny Onions had a couple of okay-ish loans out to Arsenal before returning to the fringes of Real Madrid last season.
Los Blancos boast one of the world’s most stacked midfield and reportedly deem Ceballos surplus to requirements. He looked absolutely exceptional as a youngster at Real Betis, but it looks increasingly unlikely he’ll ever nail down a first-team place at the Bernabeu.
You may well try and do an Odegaard and pick 86-rated Ceballos up for a cut-price fee – he’s surprisingly valued at just £4.6million (he’s out of contract in 2023). The snag is that Ceballos’ wages are astronomical, and he’s unlikely to sign for a club that can’t offer something ambitious.
CM: Albert Gronbaek
Bodo/Glimt are one of best-run, overachieving clubs in Europe at the moment.
Having bloodied the nose of Jose Mourinho’s Roma and won the Norwegian title against all odds, scouts across the continent have been sitting up and taking notice of their remarkable rise.
That’s seen players like Jens Petter Hauge go to Milan and Patrick Berg to Lens. Attacking midfielder Gronbaek, 21, has only recently joined Bodo/Glimt but may be the next to move on. The creative midfielder has a rating of 82, is valued at just £2.8million, and wouldn’t ask for much in terms of wages.
The Spanish winger scored 31 goals in 82 appearances for Real Betis’ B Team. Rober remains on the Verdiblancos’ books, but he’s never made it beyond the periphery of Manuel Pellegrini’s first-team squad.
A rating of 83 – and eight La Liga goals while out on loan at Las Palmas in 2020-21 – demonstrate his considerable ability. The 21-year-old is at the more expensive end of the spectrum here (valued at £7million) but that’s somewhat counterbalanced by his cheap wages.
ST: Bamba Dieng
In real life, Dieng looked set to make a deadline-day switch to Leeds United, before a last-second change of heart saw the striker decide on Nice – where he promptly failed a medical.
Given that, it’s fair to assume that parent club Marseille consider the 22-year-old Senegal international for sale. He has a respectable 82 rating and is valued at just £5.5million. Bargain.
Leeds target Bamba Dieng only started in 11 of his 24 appearances for Marseille in Ligue 1 last season, but he had 0.63 goals and 0.65 xG per average match. Did well with the minutes he played. #lufc
— Tom Carnduff (@TomC_22) September 1, 2022
LW: Pione Sisto
If you’re a long-running Football Manager obsessive and have collected every copy of the Scouted Football handbook, you’ll remember a time in the not-too-distant past when Sisto was tearing it up at famously progressive Danish club Midtjylland.
A wonderkid of yesteryear, Sisto has 25 caps for Denmark and over 100 La Liga appearances for Celta Vigo, but his career never quite exploded into life in the way many expected. He’s now 27 and back at Midtjylland and has fallen out of favour in terms of the national team.
Still, the ability is doubtless there (rating: 85) and maybe he just needs the right environment to flourish. Valued at just £2million, you won’t need to break the bank to take the risk.