Football Features

Iconic Football Manager wonderkids who failed to hit the heights

By Ben Green

Published: 10:44, 8 April 2020

Every year Football Manager provides us with a fresh batch of wonderkids to gawp at, snap up and transform into world-beaters.

Whether they’re hidden gems plucked from obscurity or a teenage tyro on the books of an elite club, wonderkids come in all shapes and sizes, but they always leave a lasting impression.

Unfortunately, for every Neymar there is a Kerlon; for every Marco Verratti there is a Freddy Adu. Not always do our fledgling fulcrums translate their virtual success with reality.

Some have gone on to reach great heights and realised their potential, while others have failed to live up to expectations and are now confined to Football Manager folklore, serving as nostalgic reminders that not all diamonds in the rough succeed.

Indeed wonderkids have captured hearts and minds over the years, and some still have time on their hands to reverse the trend and reach the peak. But, for now let’s take a trip down memory lane and remember some of the more recent cases of those cherubic magicians.

Once untapped potential, now unrealised. Here are 15 FM wonderkids who failed to fulfil the hype.

Carlos Fierro

Cast your mind back to FM13 and FM14. This Mexican marksman was a penalty-box assassin who would quite literally transform your attacking unit. Having rose to meteoric prominence in the Guadalajara academy, Fierro looked destined to follow in Javier Hernandez’s footsteps and leave the Striped Goats for a major European club. Unfortunately, at 25 he is uncapped for the national side and currently plies his trade in MLS for San Jose Earthquakes.

Erick Torres

Sticking with the Mexico — and Guadalajara — theme, we have Erick Torres, an absolute gem on FM12. Blessed with an illustrious surname, Torres looked set to grace European soil, particularly after his nation finished third in the U20 World Cup in 2011, beating a France side in the third-place play-offs that included Antoine Griezmann, Kalidou Koulibaly and Alexandre Lacazette. 

Torres has, in fact, been capped at senior international level, though El Tri might have to wait a little longer for their next Hugo Sanchez as this once-burgeoning talent is still pitting his wits in Liga MX at 27, playing for Tijuana.

Adryan

Brazilian football is an absolute hotbed for emerging talent, and it looked as though Adryan would sit proudly among Flamengo’s esteemed alumni when he first burst onto the scene. He was the jewel in the wonderkid crown on FM13 after enjoying serious success at youth level for the Selecao. But, at 25, this silky customer is back in his homeland with Avai, on loan from FC Sion, after that forgetful stint at Leeds in 2014/15, where he clinched the infamous “Fallon d’Floor” award.

Khouma Babacar

During his embryonic years on FM 10 Babacar was an absolute beast, combining brains and brawn to operate at an entirely different level to any teenager on the game. He was, quite simply, the must-buy on that year’s instalment and would go on to become one of the world’s best. He has consistently played in Serie A across his career, but at 27, he now finds himself on loan at Lecce from Sassuolo and has only been capped twice for Senegal. 

Gai Assulin

Where to even begin with Assulin? Once earmarked as the future of Barcelona after making his debut for Israel at 16, this incisive winger made an absolute mockery of youth football during his time in the famed La Masia academy. Unfortunately, he was unable to make the step up to senior football in Catalonia and after an unsuccessful stint at Manchester City, Assulin went full journeyman mode and embarked on a widespread tour of Europe, failing to cement a permanent home. At 28 he is now in Romania with Politehnica Iasi.

Yaya Sanogo

During his Auxerre years Sanogo was a pixelated icon on FM11, a teenage striker with all the requisite attributes to flourish at the very highest level. And if you prised him away from Burgundy, then chances are you had one of the game’s most clinical No. 9s by the time the Frenchman turned 20. We all thought Arsene Wenger pulled off a masterstroke when he captured his young compatriot, but the 27-year-old ultimately failed to cut the mustard in north London and is now playing for Toulouse in Ligue 1.

Doria

A cracking starlet on FM14, when Marseille captured the youngster in real life, we all doffed our proverbial caps to the club’s shrewd scouting network. Doria didn’t cost a king’s ransom from Botafogo and developed into a leading centre-back. The one-time Brazil international amassed 33 appearances for Marseille, but ultimately struggled to produce consistent performances, and he now finds himself with Santos Laguna in Mexico.

Lucas Romero

In FM14 and FM15 the Argentinian was quite possibly the creme de la creme of wonderkid signings. The Velez Sarsfield graduate possessed exceptional all-round stats for such a young midfield player, and could be developed into a leading No. 8. Likened to box-to-box virtuoso Arturo Vidal, it’s safe to say Romero hasn’t quite lived up to the Chilean’s illustrious heights. At 25, Romero is yet to venture beyond South American football and currently turns out for Independiente. 

Gaston Gil Romero

It was a toss up really between Romero and his namesake Gil Romero. Both were young, robust and tenacious central midfielders on FM14/FM15 back in the day. The latter was possibly the less desirable option of the two Argentinians but he was certainly no laggard. Brimming with a range of elite-level attributes, Gil Romero would rise to the virtual summit, which certainly cannot be said of his career, with the 26-year-old still in his homeland with Aldosivi.

Joel Valencia

During his Zaragoza days the Ecuadorian was one of the most sought-after tricksters across the continent. He possessed a coveted blend of pace with creativity, and would invigorate any wing on Football Manager. He didn’t quite break the glass ceiling at Zaragoza and, after enjoying a nomadic existence in Eastern Europe, he now finds himself at Brentford in the Championship.

Wellington Nem

The diminutive Rio de Janeiro forward turned considerable heads after thriving for both Figueirense and Fluminense during his younger years. On FM13 you were an absolute fool if you didn’t try to sign this versatile attacker from the Tricolor. As it turns out, Nem took the well-trodden path of so many of his compatriots by relocating to Shakhtar Donetsk, though he hasn’t had anywhere near the impact in Ukraine as Willian or Fernandinho and remains on the books as a peripheral figure.

Ryan Gauld

The Scottish starlet was creativity personified on FM14 and an absolute steal from Dundee United. Indeed, a young Gauld was stealing all the headlines during his nascent career north of the border, and when Sporting Lisbon acquired his services in 2014, it looked like an astute move for all parties involved. However, the Aberdonian made just two first-team appearances, and at 24 he is currently turning heads for Farense in Portugal.

Bryan Rabello

Another like Gauld who was riddled with creative genius during his early days. The Chilean was meant to be the next big thing, as far as FM11 and FM12 were concerned anyway, but the mercurial marvel wasn’t quite able to replicate his on-screen success with real life. Despite Sevilla snapping him up from Colo-Colo in 2012, he was unable to fight his way into first-team plans and now struts his stuff for Greek side Atromitos.

Gino Peruzzi

The five-cap Argentina international was a right-back worth investing in on FM13. The Argentinian was an archetypal modern full-back in every sense and was a shoo-in to cross the Atlantic for a spell at one of Europe’s heavyweight clubs. However, at 27 he is yet to leave the continent of his birth and now takes to the Estadio Pedro Bidegain turf for San Lorenzo.

Richmond Boakye

Football Manger weren’t the only ones who thought Boakye was a golden egg and could develop into one of world football’s most lethal finishers. The Ghanian was an elite talent having progressed through the Genoa academy, and after two successful loan spells with Sassuolo, Juventus plundered the Griffin’s ranks to secure his signature. With competition fierce in Turin, Boakye never quite elevated his status in the pecking order and you can now find him banging them in for Red Star Belgrade.

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