A is for Adu and Other Football Manager Wonderkids by @CarrileroFM
Football Manager has long had a decent eye into the future. Sergio Aguero and Vincent Kompany are two of the most famous examples of being highly rated in the game at such a young age and going on to become world-class players in the real world. But there are also times that the game has gotten it completely wrong, though, of course, at no fault of their own.
Here are just a few ‘wonderkids’ that never lived up to the hype.
The most famous example would, of course, be Freddy Adu. He first appeared in the game in Championship Manager 03/04—before the game became known as Football Manager—as a 14-year-old at MLS side DC United. He was predicted to go the distance and become one of football’s greats, but it never turned out that way in the real world.
Once labelled as the ‘next Pele’ he went on to play for 15 teams in 9 different countries, failing to make an impact, and at 16 years of age had a trial with Manchester United. If his work permit application had not failed in England, then maybe his career would have taken a different trajectory.
His last team was Österlen FF in 2021 after taking a three-year break from the game, but he never made an appearance and was released shortly after his arrival, with the club stating that Adu was not physically or mentally fit. Scathing words that he did not agree with.
Anthony Vanden Borre
The Belgian right-back and midfielder, Anthony Vanden Borre, went on to become one of the best players in the game on Football Manager 2005. Starting out at Anderlecht alongside Vincent Kompany, he was predicted to shoot to stardom, but it never worked out for him early on, and he would go on to return to Anderlecht on a further two occasions.
His most famous moment was being sent off for Portsmouth in 2010, and that was only due to Chris Kamara completely missing it while reporting for Gillette Soccer Saturday.
The Romanian striker only recently retired and spent most of his time playing in Turkey, and although he did well, he really had become a forgotten man within the world of Football Manager. He was first noticed at Steaua Bucharest, and on the game, he would easily hit you 30+ goals a season; in the real world, however, that was not the case.
In total, he scored only 148 goals in 457 career appearances. If you had believed the Football Manager hype, then you would have expected him to have ended his career with Cristiano Ronaldo-like numbers.
Believe it or not, he is still playing. Did you know that he is still only 32? He made his debut at 17 for Bordeaux, being able to play on either wing or up top as a striker, and was dubbed the next Thierry Henry. He spent 6 years at Newcastle United and only made 5 appearances for them, spending 3 of those years out on loan in France and Turkey.
The South African attacking midfielder was a favourite on Football Manager 2005, and we will never know whether he would have gone on to become a football great, as a big move never materialised. He spent most of his career in South Africa, where he turned out for the Orlando Pirates, Mamelodi Sundowns, Ajax Cape Town, and Moroka Swallows, where he still currently plays as club captain.
He did feature for Maccabi FC in the 2018–19 season, which I’m assuming is in Israel. He was tipped for a move to Deportivo La Coruna early in his career, but for whatever reason, it failed to happen. Like Adu, it’s another case of what might have been.
We can still fairly say that Football Manager gets it right more often than not, but there have been some absolute clangers. It’s well known that some football managers actually use the game as a scouting system to get an idea of what a player can and can’t do, but they should definitely not take the game’s player ratings as gospel.
Is there a player that you thought would go on to great things but instead did not live up to your expectations? Tell us in the comments!
For previous A-Z entries, please visit: The A-Z of Football Manager.