How 19 Football Manager wonderkids have fared in real life this season

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Kristoffer Ajer in Celtic training

Football Manager has got an excellent record at predicting the future success of young players in real life – but how have 19 of the wonderkids from the latest edition fared this season?

Back in October we, published a list of the 19 best wonderkids to sign on the then-new Football Manager 2019.

Exactly seven months on, we take a look at how each player has performed in real life since the game’s release.

Alban Lafont

The bottom might have fallen out for Fiorentina, who only narrowly avoided relegation in the end, but this was a huge breakthrough season for Alban Lafont. He made 33 Serie A starts in his debut campaign in Italy and kept nine clean sheets.

The 20-year-old has admirers in the Premier League and beyond, and after so seamlessly transitioning from French to Italian football, Lafont will surely get a stats upgrade in FM20.

Dayot Upamecano

A serious knee injury in January ended Upamecano’s season after a very promising start; he made 14 league appearances for RB Leipzig before that, helping them make the flying start they needed to finish in the Champions League places.

The Frenchman is yet to be capped by his country, but after a summer of rehabilitation, Upamecano will be knocking on the door.

Matthijs de Ligt

What a breakthrough season it’s been for the young Ajax captain, whose inspirational performances (and inspirational speeches) during the club’s run to the Champions League semi-final have propelled him to international stardom.

De Ligt is likely to move on to Barcelona after winning the Eredivisie this year, and based on his extraordinary campaign could be the highest rated wonderkid on FM20.

READ: How UEFA’s 50 ‘Ones To Watch’ for 2018-19 have fared this season

Kristoffer Ajer

The 21-year-old is developing cult hero status at Celtic following some commanding performances at centre-back this season. Ajer played in 23 league matches and a further 10 in Europe, equalling his appearance record in a single senior campaign.

Comparisons with Virgil van Dijk are easy to make, but it is too early to tell whether Ajer will deliver on the stats FM19 have given to him.

Theo Hernandez

The young left-back signed by Real Madrid in 2017 has seen his career dip slightly this season. He turned out 24 times for Real Sociedad, who finished ninth, and reports indicate Real hope to sell Hernandez this summer for £28million.

Napoli are reportedly interested, and after some assured – if unspectacular – performances at Sociedad, Hernandez is hopefully only suffering a minor setback.

Trent Alexander-Arnold

We knew he was good, Football Manager knew he was good, but did any of us expect Alexander-Arnold to be quite so important to Liverpool this season?

His 12 Premier League assists show a maturing footballer capable of holding down the right-back slot for a decade at Liverpool. The FM team really got this one right.

READ: Six stages of Trent Alexander-Arnold’s career: From local boy to Kop hero

Arnie Maier

The 20-year-old central midfield hasn’t quite made the grade yet, appearing in 23 games for Hertha Berlin in a year badly disrupted by injury. Ligament damage suffered in April means Maier will contend with a curtailed summer, too, further dampening his hopes of going mainstream.

But he still has plenty of potential and his attributes are unlikely to take a hit next year.

Sandro Tonali

He might be causing a stir in Serie B, but until Sandro Tonali plays at a higher level it is unlikely the Liverpool transfer rumours will come to fruition. Some sparkling performances in Italy’s second tier have, however, ensured Tonali will be back on the up in FM20.

The midfielder used to be one of the best buys on the game, but in FM19 his attributes took a hit. A strong campaign for Brescia indicates a brighter future than Sports Interactive’s most recent prediction.

Hassam Aouar

Lyon are an exciting young team and nobody in that squad is hotter right now than Aouar, who built on his 2017-18 breakout year with seven goals and seven assists in 36 Ligue 1 games.

His creativity has reportedly attracted the attention of Liverpool and Manchester City; Aouar’s stats will only rise in FM20.


Not much has changed for the soon-to-be Real Madrid player, whose pre-contract agreement at the Bernabeu begins in June this year. Brazilian football runs from April to December, so the 18-year-old has played less than half a dozen matches since FM19’s initial release.

There is no reason to believe Real have wasted their money; Rodrygo has already scored once and assisted twice more in three Brasileirao fixtures at the beginning of the new campaign.

Lucas Paqueta

People are getting really excited by Paqueta, who landed a big-money move to AC Milan in January 2019 and has since featured 12 times in Serie A.

His flair needs to be matched with greater maturity, but certainly it has been a successful year of growth for the 21-year-old.

READ: Lucas Paquetá’s already pulled out the dragback-backheel for Milan

Antonio Marin

Antonio Marin is still too young to be making regular senior appearances, with the 18-year-old playing only three times for Dinamo Zagreb in the 2018-19 season.

But the left winger was impressive in the Youth Champions League, standing out for Dinamo as they reached the quarter-finals.

Exequiel Palacios

River Plate’s most exciting young player has only featured in a dozen or so matches in Argentina over the last year, but his stock continues to rise regardless.

Palacios is now reportedly an £18million transfer target of Arsenal after a rumoured deal with Real Madrid fell through.

Federico Chiesa

What a year it’s been for Chiesa. He made 33 league appearances for Fiorentina and tore Serie A up from the right wing with his quick dribbling and eye for goal (six in total).

The Italy international is set to make a big-money move this summer with Juventus and Inter strongly linked, which will sadly end a three-year run of Football Manager games in which Chiesa could be signed on the cheap.

Kai Havertz

Every big club in Europe is after Havertz after he helped Bayer Leverkusen to a top-four finish and a place in next season’s Champions League. The playmaker’s most likely destination is Bayern Munich, although Liverpool are rumoured to be making an approach soon.

Havertz scored 17 goals in 34 matches in the Bundesliga and grabbed six goals and assists in as many games in the Europa League. He is undoubtedly ready for the highest level.

Phil Foden

Many Manchester City fans were hoping to see more of Foden than they have done this season – he started only three games in the Premier League – but with 26 appearances across all competitions, he has progressed.

The trouble is, at the moment he just isn’t quite good enough to force himself ahead of Pep Guardiola’s senior players. And with Kevin De Bruyne back from injury, the English midfielder’s chances will be even more diminished next year.

Foden may have a decision to make. Is it better to warm the bench at City and learn from Guardiola or get first-team football on loan?

READ: The six stages of Phil Foden’s rise: ‘A gift… on another level’

Lautaro Martinez

The Inter Milan striker is not quite good enough at the moment to lead the line for the club, having made as many substitute appearances – 13 – as starts in Serie A last season.

But Martinez will still be proud of the year he has had, scoring his first two goals for the Argentina senior team. The 21-year-old should make further strides next year, and is unlikely to see an attribute change in FM20.


Brenner’s reputation has fallen a bit over the last year. He only managed a solitary substitute appearance for Sao Paolo in the interim, and although this is partly explained by the football calendar, he seems unlikely to be rated so highly in FM20.

Fabio Silva

Unsurprisingly, this 16-year-old striker – who many tip to become one of the world’s biggest stars in years to come – didn’t get a look in for the Porto senior team.

However, Silva amassed five goals and four assists in nine matches in the Youth Champions League; he is the real deal.

By Alex Keble

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