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Football Manager prodigies who made it in real life (and some who didn’t)

| 25.03.2013

There are a select few computer games that can truly lay claim to simultaneously destroying the social lives and massaging the managerial egos of people around the world.

Football Manager is one of them.

And let’s not forget its predecessor, too. After all, without Championship Manager, we never would have met its bigger, stronger and cleverer offspring, Football Manager.

I vividly remember the first time I bought a Championship Manager game. As I held Championship Manager 2 for PC in my hand, the salesman’s very words were: “You’ll never talk to anyone again.”

Eighteen years later, I’m still relatively in touch with the outside world. I’m talking to you about the greatest utilisation of an Excel spreadsheet in history right now, aren’t I?

So if, like me, you fancy a nostalgia fest to reminisce about the weeks and months in which you forgot to feed the cat, change your pants and communicate with the outside world, read on, dear boy. Read on.

The following is based on my own personal experiences and those of my fellow football managers, so please add your own stories of world domination in the comments below. Share your Football Manager stars with the world.

Leo Messi

With whom else could we start this list? Messi is a star in anything and everything he does, so it’s no surprise that he more than lived up to his computer generated hype. The Argentinian has made unrealistic Championship Manager success a reality.


Another world star in and out of the greatest managerial game ever is Brazilian playmaker Kaka. His time at Real Madrid hasn’t been as prolific in goal-scoring terms compared to his time at Milan, but he’s still one of the game’s greats.


Former double World Player of the Year, Ronaldinho, enjoyed years at the top of his game, just as Championship Manager predicted. He’s been playing in his home country since 2011 at Flamengo and, now, Atletico Mineiro.

Cristiano Ronaldo

In Football Manager 2005, popular consensus was that Ronaldo wasted too many chances, but his attributes and performances began to improve significantly the following season.  Like Messi, his real-life goal tallies are ridiculously Football Manager-esque these days.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

A smothered talent in the Ajax reserves, Zlatan had to be found to be believed in the days of Championship Manager. Top quality at a low price – everything we love about these games.

Andres Iniesta

The Spaniard has grown to become one of the greatest playmakers of all time, but those of us who played Championship Manager 2001/02 saw it coming.

Gareth Bale

The new Welsh Wizard’s talent was recognised by football manager scouts in the early days at the age of just 16 when, of course, he was still at Southampton.

Vincent Kompany

A stalwart of the game before anyone had even heard of him in real life, Kompany was arguably a must-sign from the beginning of his career at Anderlecht.

Anthony Vanden Borre

Another lively talent from the Belgian outfit Anderlecht was Kompany’s friend, Anthony Vanden Borre. A short spell in the Premier League and an admirable number of international caps means he makes this list, despite failing to impress at Portsmouth.

Kim Kallstrom

The Swede was destined to be quality player right from the very beginning. The fact that he’s still playing now and that he is still only 30 is quite remarkable, considering that he stole the show in Championship Manager 2000/01.

Javier Saviola

CM 00/01 again and it’s Argentinian Javier Saviola in the spotlight. A decent goalscoring record at River Plate mirrored his obvious talent in the game, but he wasn’t cheap, even at a young age.

Hernan Crespo

Remember Crespo? There was no stopping him in Championship Manager 2001/02, especially when he was partnered up front at Lazio with his fellow South American…

Marcelo Salas

The Chilean striker banged in 40+ goals a season at his best. While this form never quite transferred into the real world, he was still a class act. It’s a shame he never came to play in the Premier League.

Gabriel Batistuta

Staying in South America, let’s turn our attention to Gabriel Batistuta. 1998 saw a lethal partnership between the Argentinian and a certain Englishman by the name of Alan Shearer.

Fernando Cavenaghi

Maybe the game’s scouts spent a lot of time in Argentina. Ex-River Plate striker Cavenaghi always caught the eye as a youngster in CM 03/04, but you’d have to fork out for the privilege of seeing him catch the eyes of your opponents.

David Trezeguet

Juventus struck fear into their opponents on and off the computer in the late nineties, spearheaded by Italian Alessandro Del Piero and Frenchman David Trezeguet. The latter now plays for River Plate.

Vagner Love

Football Manager in the late noughties saw the boy from Brazil announce himself in the world of computer games, but he got more and more expensive as the years rolled on. A decent record in front of goal at CSKA Moscow between 2004 and 2011 gets our respect.

Fernando Torres

Many would argue that Torres should be in the ‘flops’ list, but there was a time when he was good at what he did (so much so that Chelsea splashed £50 million on him).

And those who perhaps didn’t live up to the virtual hype…

Derek Boateg

One of the cult heroes of the early managerial classics, Derek Boateg, who was actually Derek Boateng with his name spelt wrong, was an absolute goal machine. He used to score more goals in a season on Championship Manager than he has in his whole career in real life.

Ibrahima Bakayoko

How could we forget one of the best names and best strikers in the game? The Ivorian scored goals for fun in Championship Manager and didn’t break the bank when he was signed from Montpellier. Sadly, he didn’t break any records at Everton in real life either.

Carlos Vela

Despite his obvious talent in the virtual world, Carlos Vela struggled to make an impact in the Premier League at Arsenal. He was sent out on loan four times until he was bought by Real Sociedad, for whom he is now scoring prolifically.

Eddie Johnson

Granted, he’s bagged a few caps for the USA, but Eddie just hasn’t quite lived up to his performances in the (much more important) world of Football Manager.

Mads Timm

Injuries and unsavoury behaviour off the pitch bestowed the Danish youngster an unfortunate end to his seemingly promising career at Manchester United. He was top class on CM, but disappointing in the real world.

Freddy Adu

As a star in the USA and a star in the game, one could understandably believe that Adu could have become a star, but it wasn’t to be.

Ritchie Partridge

Championship Manager 2003/04 saw a young reserve at Liverpool grow to be one of the most talented players in the game, but in real life, he spent the last half of the noughties at Chester City and joined The New Saints via Kettering Town and Stockport County. Glamorous.

Luke Chadwick

A friend of mine once told me that the former Manchester United man, Luke Chadwick, received the coveted award of World Player of the Year on Championship Manager. Virtual reality doesn’t always translate.

Image credit for Anthony Vanden Borre: 
By Roberto Vicario [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons



Scott Mason