Category Archives: Buying players

Top five players in FM17

After playing (methodically) around six seasons on FM17, I’ve had my fair share of disappointment but I’ve also enjoyed the odd pleasant surprise. Most of these precious moments have involved players I’ve been able to rely on for match-winning performances. Others have always stuck to their job, allowing me peace of mind or just have a special skill. Here are my five favourite players on FM17 so far…

Dusan Tadic

He was loyal to my Southampton until I let Villa prise him away at 32 years old. I regret it now because he was consistent on either wing, best as an inside forward. He’s a composed and able finisher. He’s good at free kicks and penalties. For me, he’s an ideal attacking midfielder; I love his versatility and wide range of skills. I only sold him because I bought a couple of forwards who needed game time. He’s elegant, has flair and he’s one of those players that people describe as seeming to have more time than the players around him on the pitch. A special player.

Harry Arter

I’ve never seen someone close down and tackle like this chap. They say he was refused entry to all nationally-recognised long-distance races as it would be unfair to any competitors: ‘Oi, no professionals.’ That may or may not be a myth but what I know for sure is he NEVER STOPS. This is very reassuring for a manager who can’t stand lazy footballers. He’s a player who’s singlehandedly changed what I want in my teams. Now I won’t go in to a season without this sort of player. Arter actually went on to let me down, asking to leave if I didn’t give him a hefty pay boost, after less than a season under my stewardship. I believe LA Galaxy had unsettled him (infuriating) but they lost interest. He still wanted to leave though and when Atalanta came in with an acceptable bid, he joined them. He’s on less money now than he was with me at Watford!! What is this game sometimes?


Gylfi, formerly known as Gylfi Sigurdsson, has had some fantastic seasons for me. As well as being reliable in possession and resilient to injury, he’s always a danger from freekicks, is great in link-up play and has very good vision and passing. He’s a class act. Like Tadic, he’s a well-rounded player – not amazing defensively, but not awful – he’s a very good team player. As I write this, I’ve played two games on FM17 and Gylfi has scored in each, including a 30-yard freekick.

Marco Asensio

Probably the most talented player I’ve managed so far on FM17. Who needs a right foot when your left is as good as Asensio’s? Apparently that’s what they say in Mallorca, where the Spaniard started his career before coming to greater prominence at Real Madrid. You could do worse than mopping up Real’s sloppy seconds. Although stuck in a dip in form at the moment, he’s scored 19 goals this season by January and notched seven assists. I imagined he’d be primarily a provider of chances so I’m very pleasantly surprised to see him taking the responsibility of putting the ball in the net from long range shots, freekicks, headed goals, penalties and more. He runs a lot with the ball, which can be a deadly weapon to have in my team, however, it can be frustrating when he gives away possession, sometimes putting us on the back foot. Overall though, a great £7.5m signing and only 26 when I signed him.

Moussa Dembele (striker)

Moussa was one of the first players I signed on FM17 in my first job at Swansea City. I’d seen him performing well for Celtic in real life; I copy-edited Scottish newspapers and it was impossible to miss the progress he was making and his goals against Man City in the Champions League this year confirmed he had real talent. He was extremely important for me and my Swansea team after I whisked him away from Celtic for only £7m. Although a ‘streaky’ player, he went on impressive scoring runs and he often created goals for himself. He wasn’t just a fox in the box, he could run at and beat several defenders at a time before smashing the ball home. Moussa has lost his way since I sold him to Arsenal for £25m but I’d be tempted to buy him again.


Using Moneyball ideas in Football Manager

I’m watching Moneyball, starring Brad Pitt, for the second time and it’s once again got my manager senses tingling.

It’s a film about a baseball team called Oakland Athletics who ‘changed the game’ winning a record 20 games in a row in Major League Baseball, against clubs whose teams cost much more to build, using an analytical scouting technique which helped them find cheap, unfashionable, but highly effective baseball players.

Ever since I read articles about using Moneyball ideas in Football Manager, by Alex Stewart, and maybe before then, I’ve used aspects in my own FM careers. It makes the game more challenging and gives me something to aim for, a reason to keep playing. The game is so much more rewarding when you have to work long and hard to succeed. It’s also satisfying for those, like me, who seem to enjoy the agonising struggle of having to suffer loss after loss after loss before they eventually succeed, knowing they were never willing to give up.

So I’m going to use the ideas of Moneyball in Football Manager again.

My challenge starts in earnest in my second season managing Sampdoria in Serie A. It’s July 2016.

Step 1 is to take another look at each player in my squad. What were their average ratings last season? Why are they here? Are they only at the club on reputation? Who are the most valuable players? Are they tied down to long-term contracts? Are they happy?

Step 2 Find undervalued and/or unknown players. Sign scouts with knowledge of players in obscure nations so I can find these players and sign them for low prices.

Step 3 Get rid of players who flatter to deceive, a la Luis Nani. Looks like a footballer, appears very talented, but does not contribute enough consistently.

The most important thing for me though is finding the right players to make a squad that can compete with the big boys, namely Juventus.

So that’s the plan. I’ll update you when the squad is sorted out and explain why I’ve picked those players.

Sampdoria career update: buying and selling for profit

It’s fitting that as I write this follow-up piece, I’m watching the team that inspired the transfer policy at my club: Leicester City.

Bargain signings, like Leicester’s Riyad Mahrez, are what I’m aiming for in my ‘Profit Challenge’ (introduction post here).

Since I took over at Sampdoria in Serie A, I’ve made four signings, a conservative number for me, and I’ve done quite well at sticking to my one self-imposed rule of spending no more than £1m on a player to make selling for a profit easier until we have a balance of at least £50m. It is currently £19.4m.



Daniel Sampaio Simoes

I love skillful, technical players. Danielzinho has skill in abundance with 16 technique and 16 dribbling. Maybe he could even show his hero, Ronaldinho, a thing or two. He cost us exactly £1m after each fee was added up and he’s 19 so has plenty of time to improve to a point where he could be sold for a big profit.

He’s physically weak but we can work on that. I’m concerned about his lacklustre work rate and teamwork but with 16 flair he will surely entertain the fans.


Eronildo dos Santos Rocha

Eron was picked up by my director of football so I don’t know a lot about him. He looks like your typical talented young Brazilian striker (although he’s not very fast) so let’s hope he fulfills his promise.

He only cost us 300k so we have little to lose and he could make us a lot of money.

Eron interview and goals


Svensson is a versatile Norwegian player who can play at right back and right wing back and centre midfield. He cost us £1.1m so I broke the £1m rule by a fraction. He’s only 22 though and looks like a solid investment.


Victor Andrade dos Santos

I’ve broken the £1m rule by quite a bit here but I couldn’t say no to the chance to sign Victor Andrade for £3.5m. He’s only 20 and he was one of the resulting players from a search based on Riyad Mahrez’s key attributes. He looks like he could become absolutely class and I knew of him when he used to play for Santos in his teens. 16 technique, 17 flair, 15 dribbling and he’s quick! I can see Andrade fetching upwards of £20m in a few years if I can help him develop. I couldn’t believe it when Benfica said they’d accept a lump sum of £3.5m for him.

On the pitch

In terms of results we are doing quite well. We qualified for the group stage of the Europa League and then made the first qualifying round for which we await the draw.

In Serie A we’re 11th at the end of November 2015 after a poor start but we’re on good form having lost only two of our last eight while winning five.


Spurs have been sniffing round my Italian striker, Eder, 29, who’s valued at £12.25m. We only paid £3m for him in 2012 so it might be the right time to sell him despite the fact he’s our top goalscorer. It’s a dilemma! The youngsters I’ve signed won’t arrive until summer 2016 but Svensson will in January 2016 so he will give us cover and we can start to try to boost his market value.

In the next article, after about a year in-game, I will hopefully be able to tell you my signings are playing well and improving and I’ll have a better idea if I can succeed at buying and selling players for a big profit. Until then, thanks for reading.

Profit challenge with Sampdoria

I’ve started a career at Sampdoria, inspired by the will to manage Italian football legend, Antonio Cassano. He recently returned to Sampdoria at a time when he must have wondered if he’d ever play football again. I’ve not got far yet but I’ve had a cheeky idea for a project which could make this venture interesting.

Sampdoria is one of several Italian clubs with a history of importing South American, especially Brazilian, talent and this was the catalyst for my idea to buy and sell Brazilians. However, Italian clubs can only buy two non-EU players from abroad per season so I’ll look for bargains elsewhere too.

I’ve been amazed by Leicester’s value-for-money signing, Riyad Mahrez, who only cost them £375,000. He’s probably worth fifty times that now.

I want to find other Mahrez’s out there. Porto have had continued success buying South American players and selling them for massive profits.

The only rules I need to abide by for this challenge are:

  • Pay no more than £1m for any player until we have a balance of £50m (currently £16m)
  • Concentrate on signing Brazilians, however other cheap players are allowed

It’s as simple as that really. I find the financial side of FM fascinating; it always provides an extra dimension to a game but I’ve never really focused on making profit for profit’s sake before. Can I do what I’ve never done before?


Focusing on mental strength in Football Manager 2015: The unlikely heroes

MY PHILOSOPHY on Football Manager – and it would be my philosophy if I was a coach in reality – always involves an emphasis on great technical attributes with physical attributes a not-too-distant second. On FM I often neglect the importance of mental attributes. Their effect is harder to visualise but mentality is probably more important than any technical or physical strengths, because without mental strength, a footballer could wilt and give up and never make it in the game.

Lately, in my career where I am currently managing Brighton in the Championship, I have prioritised certain mental attributes along with the prerequisite technical and physical attributes necessary for each player’s respective position.

Now, I cannot resist a classy ‘Number 10’, but not every one I have signed has lived up to the hype. And that is disappointing. So I wondered what they were missing.

I realised common mental weaknesses in players, especially flashy attacking midfielders, included bravery, teamwork, work rate, aggression and decisions. describes these mental attributes as so:

Bravery: How committed and indeed, brave, a player is. Braver players will risk injury more in situations a lesser-minded player may shy away from. They’ll go in where it hurts and lay it on the line for the team.

Teamwork: How well the player follows tactical instructions and works for and alongside his team-mates. A team full of players with a high rating here will work better as a unit. Players with lower ratings will slack off and not ‘buy in’ to the team ethos.

Work rate: This reflects the player’s mental drive to work hard. A high rating will ensure a player wants to work his socks off from start to finish, but he will need the necessary physical attributes to actually be able to pull it off. Nonetheless, it is an admirable trait to have in your team.

Aggression: This reflects a player’s attitude in terms of playing mentality but is not necessarily a dirtiness indicator. A more aggressive player will look to involve himself in every incident and get stuck in, perhaps at the expense of a yellow card or two. A less aggressive player may shy away from situations and merely drop into his comfort zone, waiting for the play to find him.

Decisions: The ability of a player to make a correct decision a majority of the time. This attribute is important in every position but perhaps more so for central defenders and midfielders, who will see a lot of the ball and have a number of options when in possession.

moriartyThis guy, for instance, has some excellent skills and he is a good athlete but only has 3 bravery which means I cannot trust him. I am sure I am not the only manager who gets frustrated when one of their players ducks out of a challenge and it is especially annoying when they have or could have the ball in a great position.

Moriarty actually has some impressive average ratings in previous seasons but why settle for him when I can get someone as skillful but who will also win the ball and keep the ball in dangerous areas?

NinoNino has to be one of the major success stories of my Brighton job. His technical attributes are generally pretty uninspiring. It was his 19 bravery that made me want to buy him, plus, he was young and I could see potential in him. He has good physicals too. I paid Villarreal only £375k for him at the start of this season (it’s January now) and his value has boomed to £4.9m after 25 appearances and an average rating of 7.22. He has only scored three goals from centre midfield but each has been a long range scorcher. Here is one of them

Nino is always one of the first names on the team sheet and has done well since his first game.

I cannot guarantee its his bravery that has made him perform so well but, watching him play, I really notice it. He is always first to the ball and quick to tackle. His quickness also helps in that regard.

BonottoLet me introduce you to Paolo Bonotto. I would not have found him had I not looked for attacking midfielders with high bravery. His weighs in at 17. He brings fantastic skills across the board. He is not very strong and might be described as a ‘selfish player’ if you simply look at his attributes (low teamwork and average work rate). However, judging by some of his assists – and he has made 13 already this season – the truth is he contributes more than his fair share to the team. Eight goals and a 7.52 average rating help form a picture of the sort of player he is.

cameronCameron is another example of an attacking midfielder I found after searching for brave players. I saw he was brave and, as you can tell, this was not the only attribute of his that stood out, so I could not wait to get him on our books. Interestingly, there is a trend in my career at the moment of Scotland producing excellent attacking midfielders.

gauldHere is a familiar face for you. Ryan Gauld. He is the most valuable player in the Scotland squad in 2024. Currently at Leverkusen after leaving Bayern who signed him for £31m from Sporting Lisbon. £115k a week!

bezjakBezjak is an example of a striker with pretty awful technical attributes who still scores tons of goals. I suggest he is such a good goalscorer because of his mental faculties. Great composure, anticipation and off the ball. I would propose determination helps too as he will keep trying to score even if he misses chances.

It is easy to power through the seasons without thinking too much about the mental attributes of the players you want to sign but the more I use my own mental attributes the more I think that would be missing a trick.

The official description of ‘teamwork’, especially, ‘Players with lower ratings will slack off and not ‘buy in’ to the team ethos’ is particularly thought-provoking, because if my tactical plan is to succeed, I need as many of my players as possible to have a good teamwork attribute. I rarely prioritise this as I always thought it was something that I could get away without. Not anymore. At first I searched for brave players. From now on, I will add teamwork.

I find how these mental factors affect the game fascinating. A player’s level of aggression is another feature that I intend to consider more for future signings. ‘A more aggressive player will look to involve himself in every incident.’ I want all of my attacking players to have this trait as I want them to capitalise on every opportunity to create a goal and I think aggression will aid that.

That is all for now. Please share this article if you liked it and say ‘hi’ on Twitter and/or Facebook. Links are on the right sidebar :]

Part 2: Build or buy? Should you buy ready-made talent in Football Manager 2013?

Ryan Giggs is the sort of loyal player I love to manage on FM13

Wonderkids, rightly or wrongly, seem to get everyone’s pulse racing, every FM boss loves taking the credit for developing a youngster in to a world-beater but even if you’re certain a player is mega-talented he might only become an average Premier League player.

Who wants to wait five or more years before your young players start to hit top speed? After all, you can’t win anything with kids, can you?

When I took on the challenge of winning big with Genoa C.F.C. (Genoa Cricket and Football Club) I set about investing in promising teenagers, predominantly home-grown Italians, thinking it wouldn’t take long until their talent shone through and helped us to our first league title.

However, I was wrong and the kids I put my trust in were mainly inconsistent for about five seasons while Antonio Conte’s Juventus embarrassed all-comers in Serie A winning league title after league title.

At low ebbs like this you realise you can’t just gamble on youngsters developing to their full potential ability, you have to buy mature players who already have the quality and experience to make a real difference.

Fortunately, though success in the form of glistening trophies was tough to find, our forays in the Europa League and soon after participating in the lucrative Champions League, meant most years I’ve had a fair transfer budget with which I could strengthen my high-potential squad.

My overall income/ expenditure balance has never been great though so I’m regularly offered a higher transfer budget than my overall balance will allow.

Obviously, funds are key when we want to ‘dip our toes’ in to the transfer market for that 20-goal-a-season striker so you need various and substantial sources of income.

Qualifying and doing well in Europe’s top club competitions is probably the best way to make enough money annually to be competitive in the transfer market, success breeds success as they say.

The last of the big spenders

I bought a Dutch newgen called Jan ter Borgh from Ajax for £20m – I believe he was relatively cheap because he was in the last year of his contract and he signaled the start of a brief period of luxury spending. I only kept Ter Borgh for two seasons as he never really settled, selling him for £30m to Man United.

ter borgh

I wasn’t holding back anymore and I decided if I had to spend big on one or two players instead of five or more 16-year-olds to compete with Juventus and other big European clubs I would.

Moreover, I knew as long as the big signings I made were relatively young, say under-26, I’d still be able to sell them again if they didn’t perform once at my club.

You have to bear in mind a player’s re-sale value like Sir Alex Ferguson has often pointed out, such as in 2010, following Man United’s acquisition of Javier Hernandez.

Ferguson said: “We like doing these kind of deals where we can identify young talent. We’ve been good at that over the years. There is the odd exception when we sign an older, more mature player like [Dimitar] Berbatov, but when you sign a player for that kind of money, you know there isn’t going to be a resale value.

“It always comes down to signing a player who we think is going to improve us or maintain the level we are at.”

Chicarito had already played for the Mexican national team in the 2010 World Cup before joining United later that year though and was near enough ‘the finished article’.

Still, Sir Alex’s comment has resonated with me.

Picking up bargains

Signing established international players for your club doesn’t necessarily mean breaking the bank though and you can, if you’re vigilant and lucky, pick up top players on frees.

Free transfers have many of us rubbing our hands together thinking of how much money we’ve potentially saved but I’m sure I’m not the only one who sometimes underestimates the worth of putting effort in to looking for these deals.

I managed to sign Paulo Eduardo, a player worth £50m-£60m, on a free and could’ve signed an equally immense centre back if the two foreign player transfer rule didn’t exist in Serie A.

Paulo Eduardo

Here’s a player I will NOT be selling as long as I can help it.

I’m extremely satisfied I managed to sign such a great player on a free, a player I’d previously signed as a 16-year-old for the club I bought him from.

Renato Matias

The above player, Renato Matias, I bought for £26.5m from Sevilla, an astronomical amount compared to my average spend.

Matias, who was already well-developed at 22-years-old when he joined, hit the ground running for Genoa and bagged nine goals and two assists in 18 games in his first season showing how buying ready-made talent can work wonders in FM13.

The main reason I spotted this attacking midfielder was he played alongside Delfim Couto, a centre midfielder already hugely important for Genoa, in the Portugal team, and I wanted their chemistry to benefit us too.

Nevertheless, because Matias didn’t start his career with me at Genoa, I don’t feel attached to him and would sell him for around £20m at the drop of a hat.

This leads me to believe if I had a team filled with players I’d bought in their twenties who another manager moulded, I’d have little or no attachment to my team and I’d never be able to stay for long.

For me, Football Manager is enjoyable for similar reasons I like football: I love player stories and seeing a player develop at my club.

There’s nothing better than, for example, scouting a 16-year-old Belgian centre back called Carmine Di Muro, signing him for £2.3m and giving him his first professional appearance, forgiving his early mistakes, watching him play for Italy in a World Cup after gaining citizenship and seeing him grow as a footballer and re-pay you on the virtual pitch for your faith.

In truth, if you really want palpable success in FM13, you’ll struggle unless you can buy one or two mature world class players every other year, however, it’s the players who’re at my club by my side for their entire careers who keep me interested in this game of epic stories.