Erling Braut Håland, Francisco Trincao, Joao Felix – we’ve seen it all too often where clubs in the modern football era are simply unable to retain their prize assets, and the Football Manager universe is no exception. Once a player’s head has been turned, it can be next to impossible for their employers to keep them at the club and some teams have even built this into their philosophy whereby they have become a conveyor belt for young talent by which they develop extremely talented high potential players with the specific intention of cashing in on them later down the line (think Ajax, Dinamo Zagreb, FC Porto etc). Other clubs have battled furiously to keep their top talent in the past however usually a combination of money, agents, ambition and reality means that they are more often than not fighting a losing battle to keep hold of their youth talent in the modern era.
What to do about it? Here are 10 “Keep your Wonderkid” challenges in Football Manager where the main objective is to hang on to a club’s most talented wonderkid and build a team around them as you start your empire in a new save.
1. Bologna – Emanuel Vignato
Signed from Chievo in January 2020 and subsequently loaned back for the rest of the season, Vignato returns to the Bologna side at the end of Season 1 in FM and at just 18 years old already shows bags of potential either as a Winger or Attacking Midfielder. Can you hold off outside interest and guide the “Rossoblù” to glory in Italy with Vignato spearheading the attack?
2. Stade Rennais F.C. – Eduardo Camavinga
Already known for producing talent such as Ousmane Dembélé and Sylvain Wiltord, Stade Rennais are no strangers to losing their prize assets to the more elite clubs in Europe. At just 16 years old at the beginning of FM20, Eduardo Camavinga is usually no exception and is more often than not snapped up by one of the European giants within the first season or two. His attributes and personality mean that he develops into one of the best playmakers in the game – imagine what you could do with Rennes if you built a team around him?
3. Brescia – Sandro Tonali
You could argue that Sandro Tonali is more well known to FM fans than Brescia themselves, however the club are no strangers to producing world class midfield talent down through the years with players such as Andrea Pirlo and Marek Hamsik all coming through the Brescia academy system. I have yet to see Sandro Tonali stay at the club past the second season in FM – if one could overcome that challenge then Tonali could arguably be the driving force in returning Brescia to the heights of Italian and European football. Can you resist the offers?
4. Norwich – Max Aarons
It’s not often we see a Wonderkid in FM who plays as a Right Back. Norwich have catapulted between the Premier League and Championship on numerous occasions over the last 20 years – keeping a player of Aarons’ quality would lay the foundation for bringing long awaited success back to Carrow Road – let’s be having you? (Writer’s note: more Delia references please)
5. Vasco Da Gama – Talles Magno
If you prefer managing further afield and/or managing in a different league outside of Europe – here’s one that might suit those of you looking for a new challenge. Talles Magno is as good a 16 year old youth prospect as you will find in FM, and this is usually reflected in a big money move to one of the top European sides within a couple of seasons. Naturally comfortable on either wing or up front, if you manage to keep him in Brazil then there is no doubt he will light up the league and help bring much needed silverware back to the club – the question is can you convince him to stay?
6. Red Bull Salzberg – Dominik Szoboszlai
Salzberg fans are still mourning the loss of Erling Håland however they can take plenty of solace in the fact that the future is still extremely bright at the Red Bull Arena with a player like Szoboszlai in their ranks. Already highly coveted by a host of top European clubs in real life, there is little doubt that one could build an entire team around the Hungarian if outside influence can be resisted.
7. Velez Sarsfield – Thiago Almada
Keeping with the theme of managing outside the larger European leagues – Velez Sarsfield present an enticing challenge not only to retain their most valuable asset in Thiago Almada, but also as it’s almost a decade since the club last won the league in Argentina. Would succeeding in the first challenge lead to success in the latter?
8. Birmingham – Jude Bellingham
Jude Bellingham turns 16 just at the start of FM20 and not only is he the most exciting prospect to come out of Birmingham for years, he is arguably the most exciting prospect to come out of England since a certain 16 year old Striker came on the scene on Merseyside a few years back. Birmingham have had mixed fortunes over the past number of seasons, and tying down Bellingham to a long term future at the club could surely be the catalyst in propelling the club back to the upper echelons of English football – reckon you can persuade him that the club can match his ambitions?
9. FC Porto – Fabio Silva
Granted Porto are former European Champions, however it’s a long time since the club competed with the bigger elite European sides and they have only managed to win the league once in the past six seasons (Benfica picking up the other five titles). Despite the fact that he is only 16 at the start of FM20, Fabio Silva is already well known both in and out of FM circles; if he lives up to his potential and can be kept at Estádio do Dragão then Porto fans could expect to see a spell of dominance and trophy success as a result of his goals and undoubted quality.
10. Olympique Lyonnais – Rayan Cherki
Lyon are a big club, huge in fact and have enjoyed their fair share of success at both domestic and European level over the past 20 years. When the going was good they were the best team in France winning 7 titles in a row, however it’s now over 10 years since the club last tasted the league trophy since the emergence of PSG’s unrivalled dominance in Ligue 1. At just 15 years old when starting a new save, it’s fair to say Cherki is one for the future in the game however if the right players and foundations are laid at Lyon in advance of Cherki’s impending arrival to first team football, then competing with and overthrowing PSG might actually become a reality if he develops and lives up to his potential.
Of course – keeping these players at their clubs is a big ask, especially with the increasing financial dominance of the major clubs combined with enhanced agent influence in the game – not to mention when the board decide to intervene and accept bids on your behalf! (yeah thanks boss). Here are a couple of tips to help you ward off any potential bids and succeed in the battle to retain your prized asset at the club:
1. Get that contract signed. It’s been said before and we can say it again – keeping existing employees is far more valuable and cost effective than hiring new ones, and if we apply the same logic to Football Manager then it is worth spending a little extra cash in wages in order to get that signature and keep renewing it regularly to ward off outside interest. They don’t call it a loyalty fee for nothing.
2. Minimum Fee Release Clause. If he has one, make sure it’s high. If not, the last thing you want is your board accepting a bid or fee that you haven’t sanctioned as manager. Setting a really high release fee means that at the very least you won’t lose the player for a fraction of his true worth, and also it helps to deter offers which don’t realistically meet the player’s true value. You might have to spend a bit extra in wages, but if that gets them to agree to a monster release fee then you can be confident of him sticking around for the long haul.
3. Sack the agent. This isn’t always an option, but if the opportunity presents itself it’s always worth asking the player to sack their agent if he/she are touting them to other clubs and making noise etc. The option usually appears after a bid has been made or if a new contract has been requested – you know what’s best for the lad, why would he need an agent?
4. Sign / Develop Favoured Personnel . If a player has some favoured staff members, bring them in to sweeten him up – brother, father, next-door neighbour, having them on board can help the player to lay down some roots and commit his long term future to the club. If he hasn’t yet got any, then it’s worth focusing on trying to become a favoured staff member for that player – usually achieved by giving them more playing time, praising training and match performances, helping them to win an International Cap and/or having positive interactions with the player. If you become best mates why would he ever leave?
5. Fulfil your promises. Whether it’s playing time, cup games, loaning them out, offering a contract or improving specific player or staff roles, always ensure to live up to your promises so the player has no reason to lose faith in you. Trust is key, even in a Football Manager simulation game based on data and dots on a screen.
Tempted by any of the above? Go for it! A lot of FM20 playing time left, if you have been struggling to get into a save or it’s time for a new challenge then hopefully one of the above can give you some food for thought as well as presenting a real and potentially difficult challenge to overcome..also there’s a good chance these players will move on in real life before long, so the sooner you get there the sooner you can prevent it from happening!
Thanks for reading,