Football Manager 2016, the latest version of the legendary football management game that began life as Championship Manager back in 1992, is due for release this coming Friday.
For the ‘Champ Man’ generation the new release date probably won’t mean much. In bygone days you could get away with saying stuff like ‘I’ll just play out the remainder of the season’ when it’s already 3am.
Not anymore. We’ve got relationships, we’ve got kids to look after, and we’ve got jobs to… well… keep.
Nowadays Football Manager takes up roughly the same amount of time as managing an actual real life football club, perhaps more. We just don’t have the time, and consequently, most of us have retired from the game.
Remember when you could finish an entire season in one evening? The likes of Alfonso Perez and Ibrahim Bakayoko killing it in CM97/98, or Cherno Samba winning titles almost single-handedly in CM01/02?
No? Err OK, well it was a long time ago, to be fair.
To help jog your memory, I’ve put together a legends XI from that wonderful 01/02 version.
For purely research purposes, of course, I downloaded and installed the game (it’s now available for free), choosing Man United as my team for ease of signing players.
Has to be 4-1-3-2. A formation suitable for any club and any division you happen to find yourself in. The perfect blend between attack and defense.
Under team instructions I set the mentality to ‘Attacking’, the passing to ‘Short’, and the pressing to ‘No’. You couldn’t press the opposition in this version without your entire side getting too knackered to see out the season.
Goalkeeper – Sebastian Frey
It was between Sebastien Frey and Dionisis Chiotis for the number one spot. Both great keepers but, as the Greek had a tendency to get sent off two or three times a season, I’ve opted for the more dependable Frenchman.
Frey spent most of his career in Italy at the likes of Inter, Parma and Fiorentina (well according to Wiki, at least). Sadly he didn’t get as much recognition with the national team as his CM persona above, playing just twice for France.
He is currently a free agent after being released by Turkish side Buraspor at the end of last season. If there are any real life football managers reading this – sign him up! He can still do a job.
Right back – Mike Duff
No-brainer. Sign Micky Duff from Cheltenham for about 22k at the start of the game, and trust me, right back is sorted for the next 10 years. He gets up and down the pitch all day, rarely makes a mistake, and chips in with his fair share of goals and assists. As reliable as it gets.
Duff remained with Cheltenham for a couple more years before transferring to Burnley, where he’s still playing today at the age of 37. The Northern Irishman has been capped 24 times and enjoyed a couple of seasons in the Premier League.
He hasn’t quite hit the star-studded heights of his life in the CM realm, but a very commendable football career nonetheless.
Left back – Julio Arca
The choice came down to Arca, Grigoris Georgatos and Stelios Venetidis. All three were your archetypical modern attacking full-back. So you could say they were way ahead of their time seeing as this game is 14 years old!
Georgatis was absolute quality going forward, but slightly suspect defensively and at 28 years old a bit of a stop-gap solution. Arca was the more difficult player to sign but he just edges out Venetidis for all-round quality. If Duff was a bit Gary Neville, Arca was more your Patrice Evra. Loved bombing forward and had a delightful left peg on him.
Starting his career with Argentinos Juniors, Julio spent his prime years in the north-east, playing for Sunderland between 2000 and 2006 before moving to Boro, where he remained up until a couple of years back.
The Argentinian was more of an attacking player in real life, often starting games in central midfield and very much a creative outlet for the team. He’s still playing non-league football, for North Shields – the lad obviously just loves the north-east![adrotate group=”9″]
Centre back (left) – Tieme Klompe
In Champ it was imperative to have a left or either footed player as your left centre back. I doubt there is any empirical evidence to back this up – but it just felt right. I’d rather have started with 10 men than have a ‘Right Only’ footed player as left centre back.
Tommy Jonsson was a great budget option from Halmstad who you could always rely on at the lower levels. He was a little bit slow for a defender, though, so if you’re looking for a more premium option it has to be one of Kevin Hofland or Tieme Klompe.
Hofland was a classy ball-playing centre-back who starts off CM life at PSV, whereas Klompe, who starts the game at Heerenveen, was more your John Terry-brick-wall-type of defender. It’s a razor-thin decision, but historically Tieme Klompe performed slightly better for me. He also has one of the coolest names ever, so that seals it.
Unfortunately I couldn’t find a neat little graphic displaying Tieme’s career stats, so here’s a lovely picture of him looking exactly how you’d imagine a John Terry-brick-wall-type of defender to look.
One of the true greats of Championship Manager but unless you follow the Eredivisie it’s unlikely you’d have heard much about him in real life. Tieme never made it to the national team and, in fact, never scored a career goal.
He played for SC Heerenveen for most of his career, followed by a couple of short stints at RKC Waalwijk and FC Groningen during his twilight years. He is now assistant coach to Dwight Lodeweges at SC Heerenveen.
Centre back (right) – Isaak Okoronkwo
An either-footed defender (Right/Left/Centre) with Isaak’s quality is a manager’s dream. He’d seamlessly slot in to any position in the back four and perform week-in, week-out. Ideally you’d want to play him at centre back, with his Franco Baresi-esque ability to read the game and command the defence.
Available for relatively cheap from Shaktar, the only issue was you wouldn’t always get a work permit at the first time of trying. Once you’d managed to sort out the paperwork, though, you’d guaranteed yourself top-level defender. His defensive stats were world-class.
Isaak won the Ukrainian Cup and Ukrainian League title with Shaktar before leaving in 2003 for a very brief spell at Wolves in the Premier League.
It wasn’t a successful spell in the Midlands for the Nigerian. He failed to break into the first team until towards the end of the season, by which time relegation was none other than a formality. Manager Dave Jones obviously didn’t know the level of talent he was dealing with.
He abruptly left on a free transfer and spent the rest of his playing days in Russia, including stints at FC Rostov and FC Russia. Thinking about it just now, I’ve probably said the name “Okoronkwo” in my head about a million times without ever pronouncing it correctly. Sorry about that, Isaak.
Defensive midfield (Centre) – Ibrahim Said
Another no-contest selection for the all important Defensive Midfielder slot. In the 4-1-3-2, the Defensive Midfielder (Centre)’s were never that comfortable as the DM. Even the stand-out players such as Roy Keane, Patrick Vieira or Steven Gerrard would struggle to deliver good numbers.
Ibrahim Said, who was a Sweeper/Defender/Defensive Midfielder (Centre) in the game, and either footed, never had such problems. It was just the perfect role for the Egyptian who protected the defense but also controlled the tempo of the match. He was a whingy sort of player, truth be told, but he was that brilliant you’d be willing to put up with it. A bonafide legend.
Check out his imperious stats below for our 2006/2007 campaign:
Said started his real life career with the famous Al Ahly Sporting Club in the Egyptian league, where he won two Egyptian League titles and two Egyptian Cup titles.
He had a brief loan spell at Everton in 2003 but returned home after saying his mother was very sick. It has been claimed this was just an excuse to compete in a local derby for the team he supported. Perfectly fitting behaviour for a CM legend.
He spent most of the rest his career in Egypt aside from brief stints in Sweden and Lebanon. He played 72 times for his country winning the African Cup of Nations on two occasions. He’s now managing an Egyptian team called Goldi. I couldn’t tell you much about them, if I’m being honest, other than their kits look cool.
Centre Midfield (Right) – Kennedy Bakircioglu
Kennedy could play anywhere across the front five attacking positions but he was most comfortable to the right of the midfield three. There are more talented right midfielders in the game but for about £200k from Hammerby at the start of the game, you can’t go wrong.
Bakircioglu’s family is ethnic Assyrian, and he began his football career in 1996 with Assyriska FF, a Swedish club formed by Assyrian immigrants in the 70s. They have a fan base from all over the world and they also have their own pop song, called ‘My Assyrican team – the team of my dream’. You don’t want to listen to it, trust me. They make Hoddle & Waddle look like Simon & Garfunkel.
He had a trial with Manchester United in ’96 but sadly didn’t make the grade. Along with selling Jaap Staam and hiring Moyesey, probably one of the few major mistakes of Sir Alex Ferguson’s illustrious career.
Kennedy is currently enjoying his second stint with Hammerby after spells in Holland (with Ajaz and Twente) and Spain (with Racing Santander). He’s played 14 times for the Swedish national team too. Oh, and here’s a nice clip of him destroying Real Madrid;
Centre Midfield (left) – Abgar Barsom
Another Swedish maestro, Barsom is just as effective on either side of midfield. He’ll slot in on the left hand side of the legends team as his compatriot Bakircioglu is more effective on opposite flank. Possibly the most consistent performer in the game, he was an assist machine who delivered at any level.
Barsom starts Champ life at the famous Swedish team Djurgarden (Djurgarden, if anyone’s interested, is an island in central Stockholm), who were a treasure trove of bargains for CM managers scouting for talent.
I picked Barsom up for £250k this time around, partly because I was Man United (and therefore loaded) and couldn’t be bothered to fiddle with the slider. For those willing to spend an extra few seconds selecting a custom amount you can get him for £20k to £30k.
Barsom’s real life career was a little underwhelming compared to the global phenomenon he became in pretty much every saved game of mine. He spent most of his playing time in Sweden but did have a short spell in Holland with Heerenveen in 2003. At least we can take solace from the fact he got to play with Tieme Klompe.
Check out the YouTube of him below. It’s funny, but he’s just how I imagined him all these years, a sort of Swedish Paolo Di Canio – but better!
Centre Midfield (centre) – Tonton Zola Moukoko
This crucial central midfield berth was the toughest choice. It came down to Tonton Zola Moukoko, Mark Kerr or regen Gazza.
Regen Gazza is easily identifiable in each game. He’d always be English (obviously), a Midfielder (Centre) either footed, and have insane attacking stats. Due to him not actually being Gazza though, It just didn’t seem right to let him in the team.[adrotate group=”8″]
So it came down to Kerr or Moukoko. Kerr the combative midfielder that would provide solidity to the midfield, or Tonton the more attacking player who would provide flair, skill and goals. Tough decision.
As it’s a coin-flip, this one has to be decided by the name. Is there a better CM name than Tonton Zola Moukoko? Unlikely. You’re in the team, son.
Moukoko, like in the game, started his youth career at Derby County after impressing with the Sweden U16 side. It was reported that he turned down a competing offer from AC Milan when he signed his first professional contract with Derby at the age of 17.
It didn’t work out for Moukoko in England and he returned to Sweden in 2004 after falling out with Derby and suffering family problems. Sadly his career never really got going after that, but at least he has several facebook pages like this dedicated to him.
Striker (Centre) – To Madeira
Available for about 8 grand from Portuguese minnows Gouveia at the start of the game, To Madeira could be signed by pretty much any team. He’d take a few years to develop but it was definitely worth the wait. Madeira had blistering pace, great technique, unwavering determination and was a world-class finisher. Goal machine.
Now written into Champ Man folklore, the fact is, the legendary footballer To Madeira didn’t exist in real life. How did that happen? Well, it seems a researcher went a bit rogue. The statistics in Championship Manager are compiled by a team of researchers and scouts who put together the vast database of clubs, players and information.
Antonio Lopez, one such researcher from Portugal, was tasked with providing the stats for Gouveia seeing as he’d played for the club at youth level. So the story goes, Lopez created the fictional player to represent the career he once dreamed about.
Needless to say, as soon as the fabrication was discovered, To Madeira was removed from future versions of the game, and that was that.
Striker (Centre) – Cherno Samba
The inspiration behind this blog post, Cherno Samba is probably the biggest Championship Manager legend of them all. Starting the game as a rookie 15-year-old at Millwall, he’d be ready for top-level action inside of a year. He was like a turbo-charged To Madeira with everything you’d want in a modern-day striker; pace, power, skill, heading ability, finishing, strength. He had the lot.
Just look at this:
Cherno’s career didn’t match up with his Championship Manager one, but in all honesty, how could it? He’d have to be Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo rolled into one to achieve what his CM counterpart did.
Samba came to prominence when as a 13-year-old, he scored 132 goals in 32 games for St Joseph’s Academy, Blackheath. Starting at Millwall he continued his prolific scoring at youth level, sparking interest from both Manchester United and Liverpool.
His career took him to Spain, Finland, Greece and Norway at club level. Cherno played for England at youth level alongside Wayne Rooney but I’m guessing he wasn’t that impressed with the set-up, later choosing to play for Gambia at senior international level.
How did the legends team perform?
For old times’ sake, I managed the team for a season. I took charge for the 2006/2007 campaign (after being on holiday to begin with to give the players time to develop). As always, the legends delivered.