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Football Manager is one of the most addictive computer games ever released and offers the average bloke an opportunity to manage their own football club in a simulated environment. Like everyone else who has spent large chunks of their life playing the game, I was always interested to see how FM’s top prospects did in real life. So here is my list of the top eight youngsters in the game who never reached their full potential!
In Championship Manager 01/02, Maxim Tsigalko was a goal machine, scoring 50 plus goals a season without breaking a sweat. The Belarusian striker could be picked up for a measly £2 million from Dinamo Minsk and would transform into a world beater within two seasons. There are multiple stories online that he even broke the 100 goal milestone in games. Sadly in real life, he was forced to retire at 26 due to injury. Allegedly, he received a serious injury while on trial at Maritimo when he was 23. He continued his career for another three years, but the pain was too severe and was forced to call it a day. I recently found out he is struggling to support his family due to ill-health, would love to set up a GoFundMe campaign for this legend!
Andri Sigthorsson is another terrible misjudgement from the guys at the Sports Interactive. In CM3 the Icelandic goal poacher had a potential rating of 200, the highest rating possible. While his career ended prematurely through a serious knee injury, his brother Kolbeinn starred in Iceland’s famous Euro 2016 campaign where they knocked out England. Andri now manages his family-run chain of bakeries and acts as a football agent for his younger brother.
Anthony Vanden Borre
In FM 06/07, Vanden Borre was everybody’s first signing when they started a new season. He would become a first-team regular within two to three seasons and provide reliable defensive cover for the next decade. Vanden Borre made his debut for Anderlecht at just 16 years old and was hailed as the future of Belgian football. Blessed with raw pace and power, he could play full back or on the wing. Persistent injuries and a poor attitude lead to a mediocre career with spells in Italy, France, England and in Congo with TP Mazembe. His greatest contribution to football was undoubtedly his involvement in Chris Kamara’s blooper live on TV, where the commentator failed to spot he was sent off.
In CM 04, Paim was a highly rated wonderkid hidden in Sporting Lisbon’s academy. Only 13 at the time, the winger could be signed for £300,000. His reputation as a youngster was incomparable to everyone else other than Freddy Adu. Some even believed he was more talented than Cristiano Ronaldo. Somehow, Paim secured a loan move to Chelsea but his performances in the reserve team failed to earn him a permanent move to East London. When he left Sporting Lisbon in 2010, he drifted into the lower leagues of Portugal and later played for teams in eight different countries. Now 30 years old, Paim is currently playing with Portuguese minnows Leixões B, in the second division.
Aged 17, the red-haired attacker was labelled the next Wayne Rooney in FM 08. Fleck burst on to the scene in Scotland with Rangers, making his debut at 16 years old. Even Sir Alex Ferguson made an attempt to sign Fleck but failed. After five years with Rangers, he moved to Coventry City and now plays for the mighty Sheffield United. Despite not meeting the dizzy heights expected of him in Football Manager, he has still carved out a decent career outside the Premier League.
Another gem from CM 01/02, the Millwall youth product could be snapped up for less than a million pounds and would develop into a world-class forward. Nowhere near as lethal as Tsigalko but still an impressive player. The early days for Samba suggested the hype was justified, as a 13-year-old he scored 132 goals in 32 games for St Joseph’s Academy football team in Blackheath. His goal scoring form continued when he joined Millwall’s youth team and Premier League teams soon came calling. Liverpool had a £2 million offer turned down and Samba never progressed as predicted at Millwall. After moving to Cadiz in Spain, Samba became a journeyman of Europe’s smaller leagues, spending time in Greece, Finland and Norway.
This Brazilian wonderkid was dubbed the next Ronaldinho in his homeland. Clips of his infamous seal dribble went viral on YouTube and every major club in Europe was chasing his signature. Inter Milan won the race and signed him in 2006 but Kerlon never lived up to the ability showcased in FM 2006. He spent four years at Inter Milan and failed to make a single appearance. Now 30, the injury-plagued Brazilian is now retired but his memory will live on in the archives of YouTube.
No list of failed wonderkids is complete without the inclusion of Freddy Adu. The American was no doubt signed by every Football Manager fan at least once. Once touted as the ‘American Pele’ he set the world alight at the age of 14, making his debut for DC United in the MLS. His debut generated insane media attention, thrusting the youngster into the spotlight way before he was ready. Adu left DC United in 2006 and went to Europe in search of a lucrative contract. While he failed a trial with Manchester United, Benfica took a chance on him in 2007. As everyone knows, things didn’t work out as FM predicted and he has gone on to represent 14 different clubs. Currently, Freddy is without a club after being released by Las Vegas Lights.