Your club buying a player you’ve previously signed on Football Manager is one of life’s great joys – but as Arsenal, Tottenham and Newcastle United fans among others know, it doesn’t always end well.
If, like us, you spent the best part of your adolescent and early 20s years religiously playing Championship or Football Manager, you will know all about the various wonderkids who have graced the game.
Landing a young prospect at the start of the game and then molding your team around him is the best thing about the game, and sometimes those players go on to become stars in the real world, too. Others, however, have ended up in the Premier League and crushed all our dreams.
An unbelievable bargain on Football Manager 2003, Kim Kallstrom could be snaffled from Djurgardens for less than a million quid and would soon be worth ten times more. His goalkeeper team-mate Andreas Isaksson wasn’t half bad either.
In fairness, Kallstrom went on to enjoy six seasons at Lyon and win over 100 caps for Sweden in real life, and it wasn’t until he was 231 that fans saw him grace the Premier League when Arsene Wenger brought him in on a six-month loan from Spartak Moscow in January 2014.
Still, it didn’t make his lack of impact any less disappointing. Hit by injuries, Kallstrom’s spell in north London can be filed under the ‘blink and you’ll miss it category’ as he only featured three times in the league, although he did score a crucial FA Cup penalty against Reading.
Anthony Vanden Borre
It says much about Anthony Vanden Borre’s time in England that he is best remembered for his role in a classic Chris Kamara blooper on Soccer Saturday.
You’ve all seen the clip by now. Jeff Stelling asks Kammy what’s going down at Fratton Park, and he waffles on for a bit completely oblivious to the fact that Vanden Borre has been sent off. It’s vintage stuff.
Anyway, while fellow Football Manager wonderkids Vincent Kompany and Romelu Lukaku went on to bigger and better things after leaving Anderlecht in real life, those formative years were the best it got for the original AVB.
— Soccer AM (@SoccerAM) April 3, 2018
The original and best, Bakayoko was a wonderkid on Championship Manager 97/98 so just imagine what it must have been like to be an Everton fan when they signed him from Montpellier in 1998.
And just imagine what it must have been like to be an Everton fan when the £4.5million signing – not peanuts back then – scored only four goals in 23 games in the Premier League that season before being sold on after just a year to Marseille.
Also a legend on the 97/98 game, Dundee was pretty prolific in real life, too, scoring 36 goals across three seasons for Karlsruher in the Bundesliga.
The South African was even fast-tracked a German passport, such was his promise, so when Liverpool signed him in June 1998, fans could have been forgiven for getting excited.
And they could have been forgiven for feeling a tad let down when Dundee proceeded to make only three substitute appearances in the Premier League that season, failing to score, before being promptly shipped back to Germany with Stuttgart.
Dimitar Berbatov is Bulgaria’s greatest player this millennium by a distance but if FM05 was anything to go by, it was Valeri Bojinov who was his country’s superstar in waiting.
Sven Goran-Eriksson might not strike you as the archetypal FM player but, evidently, he was as in 2007 he brought Bojinov to Manchester City along with other FM superstars Elano and Geovanni.
Injury problems plagued Bojinov’s time in Manchester, however, and he managed just one Premier League goal from 11 outings in the top-flight during an unfulfilled three-year period.
Kylian Mbappe has belatedly taken on the ‘Next Thierry Henry’ tag and run with it for Les Bleus, but according to FM08, Henri Saivet was next in line to become French football’s next superstar striker.
Blessed with frightening stats for speed and acceleration as well as finishing, Saivet was primed to start out on the wing before being re-modelled as a central striker on FM, a la Mr Va-Va-Voom himself.
By the time he ended up at Newcastle some seven years later, though, he had become a kind of jack-of-all-trades midfielder – not quite a winger, but not quite a central midfielder either. Rafa didn’t fancy him and on he went.
FM wonderkids aren’t just all fancy-dan playmakers or goalscoring demons, you know? Sometimes you can stumble upon a young goalkeeper with the talent to stick around for a decade or more.
Sadly, it looks as if we will never see famed FM legend Igor Akinfeev in England, but Argentine shot-stopper Oscar Ustari was the next best thing on FM08.
At the time, he was at Getafe in Spain, but a ridiculously low release clause allied to an Italian passport made it very easy to pick him up. Sunderland eventually took a punt on him in real life in 2014, but Vito Mannone kept him out of the side.
There was no better striker to snap up on Championship Manager 01/02 than Julius Aghahowa, who possessed the ultimate 20/20 combo for pace and acceleration. He was electric.
Not only was the Nigerian striker blessed with 100m runner speed, he was also a deadly finisher if given the right service. He spent a decade at Shakhtar Donetsk over two spells, but in between was an ill-fated stint with Wigan.
During a one-and-a-half-year spell with the Latics, Aghahowa failed to score a single goal. That’s an even worse return than Conor Sammon managed FYI.
The first port of call on Championship Manager 01/02 was to head to the player search bar, type in ‘Taribo West’ and chuck a wad-load of virtual cash at him to join your club.
At the time, West, renowned for his rather different hairstyle choices, was a free agent after seeing out his contract with AC Milan. On the game, he was a defensive colossus.
In his peak years, West was a player of some repute, winning the Olympics with Nigeria and representing both Milan clubs, but it’s fair to say his brief stint with Derby County in the season they were relegated won’t be remembered as one of the better spells of his career.
He might have the turning circle of a cruise ship, but Federico Fazio has carved out a pretty successful career for himself in Europe after leaving his native Argentina as a teenager.
If there is one blot on his CV, though, it is his time at Tottenham where his lack of pace and mobility allied to a propensity to commit the odd calamitous mistake meant he failed to settle in Mauricio Pochettino’s team.
Perhaps Spurs’ scouting department decided to give him a shot after playing with him on FM as he was rock-solid for Sevilla in the 2008 version of the game.
Another of the speedy winger/striker variety, Norwegian Daniel Braaten was hot property on CM03/04 just before he made his big move to Rosenborg.
Braaten eventually moved to England in 2007, joining Bolton Wanderers for a paltry £450,000. Football Manager fans couldn’t believe how the little the Trotters paid for this gaming god.
There was a reason why Bolton got him on the cheap of course; he just wasn’t that good. Braaten played only 14 times for Bolton but he fared far better in French football, turning out for Toulouse for five seasons.