There’s nothing quite like developing a wonderkid on Football Manager and watching them become a fully-fledged world-beater as your club conquers the world.
But it’s increasingly rare these days that a youngster in the game is rated with potential as a future world-class superstar. Over the past decade, just 10 rising stars have been earned a full 10/10 on their Potential Ability range – which was originally introduced all the way back in Football Manager 2005.
Thanks to the work of one Reddit user, we’ve gone back and identified every player with a 10/10 Potential Ability rating since Football Manager 2013 and taken stock of whether they’re on track to reach their potential in real life.
Aaron Ramsey was the only player awarded a 10 Potential Ability range in FM 2012, and no youngsters earned that distinction in FM 2013.
Balanta was one of three players given the rating in FM 2014. When the game was released in October 2013, the Colombian was 20 and just nailing down his spot at River Plate – regarded by many as the best defender in Argentina and tipped to become the next big thing out of South America.
The following year he was named in Colombia’s squad for the 2014 World Cup, where he played a peripheral role in their memorable run to the quarter-finals.
While he’s enjoyed a respectable enough career as a professional footballer, Balanta never quite hit the heights expected. He moved to Europe in 2016 and remains there today, having had stints with Basel, Club Brugge and Schalke.
Neymar misbehaving earlier. Great tackle in the end from FM legend Eder Balanta pic.twitter.com/a70FNPOFf2
— RT Football (@RealTlkFootball) December 20, 2015
Brazilian defender Marquinhos had already earned his career-defining move to PSG when FM 2014 was released.
He’d been signed for a €31million – think at least double that in today’s market – after one outstanding campaign with Roma. A decade on, Marquinhos remains in the French capital, a stalwart of a PSG side that have dominated domestic football but flattered to deceive in Europe.
Come late 2013, Pogba had firmly established himself as the one that got away from Manchester United.
He’d been exceptional in his title-winning debut season with Juventus, won the Under-20 World Cup with France and was named Tuttosport’s Golden Boy.
It’s no exaggeration to say that Pogba was the most-hyped youngster in world football at the time. In the following years, he lived up to that billing, making it to a Champions League final with Juve, earning a world-record transfer back to Old Trafford and shining as France lifted the World Cup in 2018.
Given those heights, Pogba definitely lived up to his billing. For a period. But it’s now five years since he lifted any silverware and a mix of factors have seen his career go off track.
The 30-year-old made just one start on his injury-ravaged first season back at Juventus and we’re starting to doubt he’ll ever get back to his best.
The one golden child from FM 2015, Tielemans was a teenager when he was anointed the future of Belgian football.
The midfielder had started to break through into Anderlecht’s team and clocked up over a hundred appearances before his 20th birthday, eventually moving to reigning Ligue 1 champions Monaco in 2017.
Tielemans has demonstrated his unquestionable quality and class over the years – think that FA Cup final winner – but he hasn’t been the Champions League regular he was expected to be, and there’s a sense that his career has stalled somewhat over the last couple of years at Leicester.
He’s still only 26. It’ll be interesting to see whether he can refind his mojo at Unai Emery’s Aston Villa.
— Emirates FA Cup (@EmiratesFACup) May 16, 2021
The only player awarded a 10 Potential Ability range in FM 2017 – with none the year before – Donnarumma debuted with AC Milan at the age of just 16 and pretty much instantly made the No.1 shirt his own.
The goalkeeper was only 22 when he moved to PSG in 2021, by which point he’d notched over 200 Serie A appearances for the Rossoneri.
While no doubt exceptional on this day – as he proved in his finest hour, Italy’s Euro 2020 triumph – Donnarumma hasn’t quite become the undisputed best ‘keeper in world football as he was tipped to be. Milan have arguably upgraded on him with Mike Maignan, ironically enough a PSG academy graduate.
Yeah, we’re not giving Football Manager any credit for calling this one – Mbappe and repeat entry Donnarumma were the two wonderkids with the highest potential in FM 2018.
Mbappe’s done alright for himself, we suppose.
After two years without giving a 10 potential rating, Camavinga ended that drought in FM 2021 – and he retained it the following year.
A prodigy at Rennes, their youngest-ever debutant at 16 years old and six months, Camavinga was already being talked up as a future superstar in his very first senior appearances.
And sure enough that Galactico move happened, moving to Real Madrid for £34.4million in 2021. The France international has had to bide his time at the Bernabeu, often slotting in at left-back under Carlo Ancelotti, but there’s no doubt his day is coming.
With Casemiro gone and Toni Kroos and Luka Modric slowing down, Los Blancos have secured their future masterfully by bringing in Camavinga, Aurelien Tchouameni and Jude Bellingham.
The youngest debutant in Bundesliga and Champions League history, as well as Germany’s youngest-ever player to feature at a World Cup, it’s safe to say that Moukoko is prodigiously talented.
Moukoko joined Borussia Dortmund’s youth set-up back in 2016 and it’s been a rapid rise to stardom since then. He famously scored 141 goals in just 88 games for Dortmund’s under-17 and under-19 sides before getting gradually integrated into their senior set-up.
The attacker was strongly linked with a move away from the German club as his contract ran down last season, but in January he signed a new deal that runs to 2026.
Smart move. Dortmund have a proven track record of developing outstanding young talent. Moukoko is well on his way to becoming the club’s next star asset, following in the footsteps of Jadon Sancho, Erling Haaland and Jude Bellingham.
It’s not been long since La Masia starlet Ilaix was named alongside Camavinga and Moukoko as one of the youngsters with world-class potential in FM 2022.
He’s still only 20 and has all the time in the world to prove us wrong, but the early signs suggest that Ilaix will be a rung or two below world-beater.
The midfielder left boyhood club Barcelona to continue his development at RB Leipzig and has spent the last 18 months doing okay-ish on loan at an ailing Valencia side.
He’s now back at his parent club, but reports suggest that Leipzig are willing to offload Ilaix. Watch this space.
FM 2023’s standout wonderkid. It’s too early to make any definitive judgements, but Real Madrid have already snapped up Endrick’s services – he’ll join when he’s 18 next summer – but the kid looks the business.