First featured on Football Manager 2005 as a 15-year-old playing for MLS side DC United, Freddy Adu is still remembered for his reputation as a wonderkid on the game. Adu, now 27 years old, has played for thirteen clubs in his career, including stints in Portuguese, Turkish, Brazilian, Finnish, Serbian, Greek and French football. Most recently, Adu failed to secure a contract with MLS side Portland Timbers, who are captained by ex-West Bromwich Albion and Aston Villa left-back Liam Ridgewell.
Anthony Vanden Borre was another wonderkid to be uncovered on FM 2005. The versatile Belgian, a 17-year-old playing for Anderlecht at the time, was an obligatory signing for savvy FM bargain hunters. However, persistent injuries prevented Vanden Borre from living up to his Football Manager hype and last month, despite a short loan spell with Portsmouth earlier in his career, and he announced his intention to hang up his boots at the age of 29.
Orlando Pirates duo Benedict Vilakazi and Lebohang Mokoena are well remembered wonderkids from the Football Manager class of ’05. Mokoena has spent the entirety of his career in South African football and continues to play for Ajax Cape Town.
Vilakazi had a brief spell in Europe with Danish side AaB before returning to South Africa with Malmelodi Sundowns. He retired in 2015 after spells with Malanti Chiefs, Notwane FC and Botswana Meat Commission.
The 2006 edition of Football Manager gave us free scoring Chilean forward Nicolas Millan. The Colo Colo striker would score a ridiculous amount of goals - once you sorted out his work-permit issues - but he is yet to live up to his FM fame. Millan is now 25 years old and has played for eight teams without hitting double figures for any of them.
Those who are old enough to have played the earlier incarnation of Football Manager – Championship Manager – will fondly remember the likes of Cherno Samba, Juluis Aghahowa and Richie Partridge. Samba, a product of Millwall’s academy, was known to score bucket loads of goals for those who snapped him up for a bargain price on the 2001/2 edition of the game. In real life, Samba’s career never really took off and he announced his retirement from the game at the age of 29, following stints with Plymouth Argyle, Wrexham and Panetolikos.
On the same version of Championship manager, Aghahowa and Partridge would also develop into virtual world beaters. Aghahowa, known for his acrobatic celebrations, did enjoy success with Shakhtar Donetsk, scoring over thirty goals for the Ukrainian side. An ill-fated loan spell with Wigan Athletic during the 2007/8 season prompted a career slide for the Nigerian, who would hang up his boots following a failed return to Donetsk in 2012.
Partridge now works as a physiotherapist for Liverpool’s first-team. The midfielder played for numerous clubs during his 13-year professional career, including Coventry City, Rotherham United and Sheffield Wednesday, before retiring in 2011 to work as a physio with Liverpool’s youth team. In 2016, Partridge was promoted to work with Jurgen Klopp's senior side.
Championship Manager 01/02 also gave us Tonton Zola Moukoko. The Derby County midfielder was so good on the game that he was virtually a glitch and his legendary status is still celebrated today with a Facebook appreciation group set up in his name. Moukoko’s actual career didn’t quite follow suit. He returned to Swedish football in 2004 and is now a player/coach for Swedish side IFK Lidingo FK.
Bakayoko in action for Everton
Two of the earliest Championship Manager wonderkids were Ibrahima Bakayoko and Andri Sigporsson. The former did enjoy early success in his career, which included a brief stint in the Premier League with Everton. However, Bakayoko would struggle to settle after leaving Marseille in 2003, playing for nine clubs in ten years. He retired in 2013.
Sigporsson backed up his immense stats on Championship Manager 99/00 with an impressive goalscoring record for Icelandic side KR Reykjavik. Unfortunately, a serious knee injury prevented Sigporsson from realising his potential and he was forced to call time on his career in 2004.
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