Football Manager Greats - Where Are They Now?

November 1, 2013 in Features by Matty Deller

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So this week saw the launch of the yearly social life-ender that is Football Manager. With 2014 looking to be the best one yet, it made me all nostalgic for the days gone by and where some of its former star players are at this current time. Those players that made us waste work hours, ruin relationship and, in my case, turned me from a know-it-all brainboxl to a half decent student with an impressive managerial CV (on the computer). Where did those former wonderkids, star strikers and legendary players end up when they had to actually play on grass instead of pixels and megabytes? We could go on all day about the Messi’s, Iniesta’s and the big name players that you heard of first through the PC juggernaut but here’s five of my personal favourites and some you may have forgotten about yourself – and how their career panned out.

Aaron Lennon – Championship Manager 2003/2004


Now, this seems a weird place to start, but the now Tottenham winger was the hottest young winger in Football Manager 2003. Available on a free from Leeds United at 16, he quickly turned into a pacey young wide midfielder with an eye for goal. His career in real-life, somewhat panned out that way. He began his professional career at Leeds United, where he became the youngest player to appear in the Premier League at the age of 16 years and 129 days, coming off the bench against Spurs. He moved on once Leeds Uniteds financial problems worsened, actually joining Tottenham for £1million in 2005. He then went on to make 230 appearances, scoring only 25 goals – it seems his scoring prowess might have been slightly overclocked. He has also been nominated for PFA Young Player of the year twice, and capped for England 21 times. So, another Football Manager success story…

Ibrahim Bayakoko – Championship Manager 97/98


This man was a god in the early genesis of this game. He made Zlatan look like Heskey, he made Falcao look like.. Heskey – he pretty much guaranteed goals if you brought him in. His career in this universe didn’t really pan out too well.  He had an average career in France, playing for Montpellier before Walter Smith decided to bring him to Everton for £4.5million in 1998. That didn’t go so well. 4 goals in 23 games and one outing against Blackburn Rovers which lead him to be named ‘Baya-joke-o’ by the Everton faithful, and he was shipped off a year later. This lead to fourteen years of basically being a European footballing nomad – turning out for Marseille, Osasuna and Messina – amongst others. He is still playing amazingly currently at Olympiacos Volou 1937 FC, in the second tier of Greek football. Also amazingly, he scored 30 goals in 45 appearances for the Ivory Coast.

Freddy Adu –Championship Manager 2003/2004


There was no finer science in the game than getting Freddy Adu to your club. The torture of having your work permit application rejected again and again, until the one shining moment – he finally signs, and carries your team to all the trophies. Sadly – he didn’t live up to this. You know that you’re in trouble when your Wikipedia begins with ‘he is generally considered a disappointment’. The child prodigy had an amazing youth career, being courted by all of the major clubs. He signed with the MLS and DC United in 2004 at age 14, the youngest American athlete to sign professional terms in over a century. They needn’t have bothered. He was meh at best at DC, perhaps too young to have hit the big time. He was traded to Real Salt Lake, then moved to Benfica – now this is where his career takes off right? No. He made ELEVEN appearances in four years, with loans to Monaco, Belenenses, and Aris in between before going back to the Philadelphia Union in the MLS. He is now, at age 24, at his NINTH club in the form of Bahia in Brazil. A textbook disappointment. He did date former American pop star JoJo though, you know the one that sang ‘Get Out’? No? Oh, never mind.

Mika Aaritalo – Football Manager 2008

The versatile young Finn was a steal for £50k and had potential to be as good as Wayne Rooney and usually lived up to it. In real life, he lived quite a sheltered career – starting at FC Turku in Finland before moving to Aston Villa (Yes, he came to the Premier League) in 2003. Two years and no appearances later, he returned back to TS Turku – where he has been ever since.

Helder Postiga – Championship Manager 01/02


Now, any  CM/FM freak worth his salt knows that Postiga was the O.G for REAL players in the game (To Madeira doesn’t count, he wasn’t real).  If you wanted a marquee striker, he was your man. In real life, his career started off rather well – being the forefront of Jose Mourinho’s debut season in charge of Porto, scoring 13 goals at age 20. He won a league and a UEFA Cup medal, but wasn’t in the squad for the latter honour. He then got all Spurs fans with a laptop excited when he moved to their club for £6.25million, touted as Spurs finally getting their big name striker (NOTE: they’re still kind of looking now). He failed to adapt to the Prem, scoring twice in 19 games before scuttling back to Porto, with Pedro Mendes going the other way.  He failed to impress again, staying there for four years with two loan spells to Saint Etienne and Panathanikos in between.  He then shocked the Portuguese footballing audience by moving to Porto’s arch rivals Sporting. He started well, but then had a nightmare of a second season  - leading to him moving to Real Zaragoza. He had a much happier time in La Liga, scoring 23 goals in 70 appearances. He is now at Valencia, bought this summer to replace the now Spurs striker Roberto Soldado, which kind of brings his journey full-circle, from letting down Spurs up front to replacing a Spurs bound player up front. Symmetry.


So there you have it, hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane. I’m off to lose my friends and loved ones by trying to win the Belgian League. It’s been nice knowing you all.