5 Football Manager wonderkids who were even better in real life

Quick Reads
Erling Haaland for Borussia Dortmund against Bayern Munich, Signal Iduna Park, 4 December 2021.

Football Manager wonderkids are the stuff of legend. There are hundreds you can purchase for your team to take them to the next level, but while most don’t make it in real life there are some who are so good their FM stats actually undersold them.

Football Manager simply gets most players’ stats wrong, giving them a potential ability that is simply too high and unrealistic for the real life youngsters to attain.

But sometimes they get it spot on. They are so right in fact, that they go all the way back round to being wrong again because the players went on to become just so good in real life that they were in fact underappreciated in the game.

So from players who were predicted to be good but became great, to those that were not seen as anything special at all, here are five FM wonderkids who were even better in real life than they were in the game.

Erling Haaland – FM18

He might be one of the biggest names in world football now, but back in 2017, Haaland was far from the man-mountain-cum-goal-robot he is now.

Don’t get us wrong, he was rated as a wonderkid. Manchester United scouts were supposedly watching when he scored four goals at the age of 17 but that was for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Molde, where he was quietly bubbling under the surface.

He became a cheap option for FM18 managers, helping to fire mid-table sides to Champions League spots in Germany, France, Italy and England.

But even that totally underestimated him. His announcement to the world with Red Bull Salzburg in 2019 saw him become the hottest property in Europe, and now he’s off to Manchester City to ruin pretty much every English league save in the coming Football Manager instalments.

At least we’ll have the good old days.

Sergio Ramos – FM06

In 2005 Ramos got his dream move from Sevilla to Real Madrid. He was seen as a solid investment for the future, and one who would go on to be a key Real Madrid player.

FM06 reflected that, giving him some good potential. He was a solid rotation option for any Madrid manager and a great signing if you could prise him away in later years.

Of course, what we now know is that Ramos would become one of the greatest centre-backs of all time. His career saw him climb all the way to the highest echelons of Madrid folklore to sit alongside its greatest Gods, Raul and Alfredo de Stefano.

Even the most committed of FM bosses probably couldn’t deliver digital Ramos the trophy cabinet of the one in real life. Four Champions Leagues and five La Ligas; that’s eyewatering.

Fernando Torres – CM01/02

We’re travelling through time, but not through space as we take it old school in Madrid back to the good old days of Championship Manager.

CM01/02 is one of the most beloved footballing games of all time, and one of its favourite sons is none other than Fernando Torres.

He’s kicking around the Atletico Madrid squad, who were in the Segunda Division back then, at the start of the game and had high potential. Many managers, both domestic and from abroad, may have turned him into their starting striker in their push up the leagues.

But it’s likely no one turned him into the unbelievably lethal player he became in his career, and certainly no one outside of Atletico could have had a hankering of what he would become.

READ: A tribute to Liverpool-era Fernando Torres, a striker who could do it all

Luka Modric – FM07

Modric was still playing for Dinamo Zagreb back when FM07 came out and unlike some on this list, he was a real wonderkid in the game. As a regular in the Croatian national team, he had had plenty of exposure internationally and his quality was apparent.

That culminated in a move to Tottenham at the end of the 2007-08 season, but for one glorious year everyone managed to get him in their FM team in FM07.

What you got for about £10million was either your starting creative midfielder or someone who would be a good rotation option and become one of the better players in the game… but what Spurs unleashed into the real world all those years ago was something else entirely.

A Ballon d’Or winner and one of the true greats of his generation, Modric is somehow still starring for Real Madrid, and we love it.

Robert Lewandowski – FM09

Lewandowski defies description. He has broken almost all the Gerd Muller records that were seen in Germany as simply eternal; impossible to break, and which would stand forever.

Yet Lewandowski’s class in every aspect is itself eternal, and he continues to defy time as he gets older and better.

So it makes sense that he was not world class when he was super young. A new signing at Lech Poznan, Lewandowski was a quality lower league investment for FM managers when he became available and one you could sell for a profit, but he was certainly not the type of player you could expect to do what he did in real life.

“For my Southampton team he’s played 29 games and 4 goals,” reads an old blog post from 2009.

“Why does he suck?”

You can’t help but crack a wry smile at that now.

By Patrick Ryan

More Football Manager

Where are they now? PSG’s 4 Football Manager 2012 wonderkids

9 Brazilian wonderkids you should sign on Football Manager 2022

The five best signings you should make as Chelsea manager in FM22

Can you name Spain’s XI from their World Cup final win v Netherlands?