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Top 10 best Football Manager wonderkids who made it big in real life

Manav ChowdhuryManav Chowdhury

April 10 2023
Top 10 best Football Manager wonderkids who made it big in real life

The game is known for scouting the best youngsters before their big breakthrough

Every football fan has at some point played Football Manager, and without fail, those select stars are always tipped for unrivalled glory. Football Manager is a massive staple of fans’ obsession with the beautiful game. The iconic, cult video game series allows self-proclaimed fanatics to delve into the dug-out and experience the wild and stressful life of a manager or, as close as possible anyway.

And, as players plunge into the immersive experience, one aspect of the game provides a thrill like no other – finding the next wonder kid. Scouting the market to discover the gems that the Football Manager operating stats system believes will, one day, turn out to be solid gold. Some predictions have been terrible, with many projected wonder kids hardly making a name for themselves in professional football. Others, however, achieved almost impossible heights. Here we look at the top 10 biggest wonderkids who made it big in the football world.

10. Vincent Kompany

The Belgian rock was always the defender to buy in the game. Even as a teenager, Kompany’s stats were quite simply ridiculous. The athletic star could be played in any position across the back four to devastating effect. Kompany’s player rating – and transfer value – shot up in the game at an exponential rate. Many Football Manager fans kept the lesser-known star a secret until word rapidly got out that the young lad was tipped to become the next Paolo Maldini.

Despite the game predicting huge things immediately, the reality did not quite play out similarly. He made a move to Hamburg in August 2006 and his career appeared to stutter a little. However, a move to Manchester City two years later saw him fulfil his early potential. He played an integral part in the blue half of Manchester winning two Premier League titles in three seasons.

9. Alexis Sanchez

Sanchez was always a curious case, as it seems he was a South American starlet with bags of potential playing in Italy but that was it. The skilful winger ripped up the scene for Udinese and immediately flagged up on the Football Manager system as a player to buy quickly. In real life though, this did not translate.

None of the European giants swooped in for Sanchez early doors, and so initially it seemed that Football Manager had rather jumped the gun a little bit with his estimation of the Chilean’s abilities. Sanchez surged into one of the best players in the game with unrivalled speed and trickery. In real life, Barcelona penned a deal worth almost £ 25 million and he spent three seasons with the Catalan giants, winning LaLiga and the Copa Del Rey before the club cashed in on him to land Liverpool’s Luis Suárez.

Arsenal parted with £31 million to secure the versatile forward and he helped them win the 2014-15 FA Cup.

8. Cesc Fabregas

Football Manager 2005 saw many take note of an Arsenal youngster going by the name Francesc Fàbregas. The teenager would quickly become of the best midfielders in the game and his career in real life mirrored it.He helped the Gunners win the FA Cup and reach the 2006 Champions League final before going on to captain them.

He returned to Barcelona in 2011 and won everything other than the Champions League and he was then instrumental in Chelsea winning the 2014-15 Premier League. He delivered on the international stage too and was part of the Spanish squad when they won Euro 2008 and 2012 along with the 2010 World Cup.

7. Sergio Aguero

The prolific Argentine striker and Manchester City legend delivered for Independiente as a teenager before scoring over 100 goals for both Atletico Madrid and Manchester City. He’s won the Europa League, the Premier League and the FA Cup. He had to retire due to problems with his heart.

The Football Manager 2006 forums were filled with people asking the same question; does anybody have a screenshot of Sergio Agüero’s stats, he was that good at that time as well.

6. Phillip Lahm

Football Manager 2005 saw Bayern Munich legend Philipp Lahm in the second season of his loan at VfB Stuttgart. You had to wait to sign the German but he was worth it. In real life, his career couldn’t have gone any better and to date he’s won seven Bundesliga titles, six German Cups as well as the Champions League. He also captained his country to the 2014 World Cup and retired with 113 appearances to his name.

5. Gareth Bale

For years, before Bale truly burst onto the scene, Football Managers sang his praises endlessly. The young lad in the Southampton academy could do no wrong. His figures were frightening and he was simply getting better at an alarming rate. Given that Bale was so unknown and also being from a small town on the outskirts of Cardiff, many football fans mistook the Football Manager’s prediction as a flash in the pan. Surely such a player could not become a world-beater. How wrong they were.

His career in real life started slowly and Tottenham, after buying him cheaply, reportedly then almost gave up and sold him to Birmingham for £1m. Luckily for them, the deal didn’t happen. He was converted from a left-back into an attacking midfielder and his career exploded.

A world-record transfer to Real Madrid would be the outcome. The rest, as they say, is quite literally history.

4. Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Zlatan Ibrahimovic was just 19 years old on Championship Manager 00-01 but he topped the shopping list of every single virtual manager. Even at such a young age, he was a destructive force of nature and he’d rack up goals like they were going out of fashion.

Similar story in real life too. The Swede has delivered regularly for some of Europe’s most prestigious clubs and at 41 years old is currently playing for Italian giant AC Milan. He’s scored over 400 career goals and has won silverware every single season since the 2000-01 campaign.

3. Eden Hazard

When youngsters start to set the world on fire in the French league, a degree of caution is always taken. Ligue 1, while it may be a leading European division, cannot match up to the calibre of the Premier League and La Liga. Hazard however very much bucked the trend. Tearing the place up with Lille despite his very, very tender years.

Back in 2008, Lille had a 16-year-old Hazard on their books and on one occasion he was available on a free deal at the end of the first season, making him one of the best coups on the game ever. He would go on to be one of the best players on the planet, especially when put on a specifically tailored training regime.It took Hazard little time, in the real world, to become a living great. Switching to English football and becoming the darling of Stamford Bridge, Hazard claimed the title of the Premier League’s best player for years on end.

2. Sergio Ramos

“I had to sell Ivan Helguera because Ramos is keeping him out of the team” – Football Manager 2006 players. The versatile defender burst onto the scene for Sevilla in 2004 before a €27 million move to Real Madrid. He was shifted around the team early on and even played as a defensive midfielder but then settled into life as a centre-back. Currently plying his trade in Ligue 1 For PSG the Real Madrid legend has won it all in his career including the Euro and the World Cup.

1. Neymar

The wonderkind of all wonder kids. Neymar is the benchmark when it comes to unearthing the next gem of football, and Football Manager could not have been more spot-on with its forecast for the Brazilian prodigy.In 2011 the 18-year-old Brazilian was the must-have player in the game, a next-gen Lionel Messi who was going to own the world. He was a cheat code and simply could not be stopped.

Football Manager tipped that Neymar would become accomplished in absolutely everything; dribbling, passing, shooting, and assisting. You name it, the game said Neymar could do it – better than anybody else. While the reality may have been almost impossible to match, Neymar did go on to achieve his potential, winning every trophy on offer with Barcelona and forming a core element of one of the most iconic front-threes in football history with Messi and Suarez.

As for personal accolades, however, the Ballon d’Or that seemed an absolute certainty has somehow always evaded.

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