Football Manager 2012 wonderkids - where are they now?

25.4.2020.  

Being attached to a player more because of a video game than his actual performances is mighty strange to all but Football Manager fans. But the simulation condenses the rise of a single player and a team making for a potent emotional punch. That's why some virtual managers still get a kick when names like Mika Aaritalo, Fredy Adu, and Sherman Cardenas get brought up. The 2012 version was one of the hallmarks of the series and these Football Manager 2012 wonderkids will hold a special place in the nostalgia boxes of most FM fans.


But how did they fare out in real-life?


First to set the scene. Football Manager 2012 came out in October of 2011 following the season which saw Manchester United win its 19th title with nine points ahead of Chelsea. In Germany, Borussia Dortmund won the title while Bayern Munich finished third. Even though Mario Gomez was the best scorer of the competition.


Barcelona won La Liga in front of Real Madrid, with a four-point difference as Cristiano Ronaldo scored 40 goals in the league. Paris Saint-Germain's rule didn't start in France and Lille was the winner of the championship. In Italy, it was the last time a team other than Juventus won the Scudetto with


In an all-Portuguese Europa League final, Porto beat Braga. While the biggest trophy of the season, the Champions League one, went to Barca who beat Manchester United 3:1 at Wembley.


That was the story of the 2010/2011 season, while these Football Manager 2012 wonderkids helped you write your own tales in the seasons to come.


Marc Andre ter Stegen (Borussia Monchengladbach)


Nowadays, it's hard to remember the time when Marc-Andre ter Stegen wasn't a part of Barcelona but the German transferred to Nou Camp only in 2014. Before that, he represented his home club of Borussia Monchengladbach and played in just six Bundesliga appearances in his debut, 2010/2011 season. In real-life, he went on to represent the Coals for another three full seasons before moving to Spain. But in the game, he was one of the best picks for a side to finish its goalkeeper worries.


Ter Stegen was reserved for elite or regular Premier League clubs as he could've been brought for below €16,000,000 with some players even managing him to get him for less than 10.


In 2009 MATS won the European Under-17 Championship with Germany which was the first major trophy the now 27-year-old lifted. Being a goalkeeper and only 27 in 2020 is why MATS was a no-brainer buy back in 2012 as he can easily be used until 2027. As long as you treat him right.


Carlos Fierro (Guadalajara)




Only a 16-year-old when the game started, Carlos Fierro was the type of a player that we rarely see in more current games of the Football Manager series. He could've lead the second-division teams from the get-go and even some major clubs from outside the top five leagues. Yet, he could've been the next golden boy of Europe's biggest clubs, being a substitute joker in some games for the first two seasons. After that, he would become a real problem.


He was part of the Mexico U-17 FIFA World Cup champions team and the hype was big behind the agile forward. Mostly a goalscorer back then, Fierro is more of a winger on the left side of the pitch now. Unlike in the game, his move to Europe never came and he played only in his home country until last year when he made a step up. Only to MLS though.


Fierro failed to make a cap for the A team of Mexico but with the improvement of the American league the 25-year-old can still make the army of his former managers proud.


Nelson Oliveira (Benfica)


While Cristiano Ronaldo's reign is still lasting, it was at his insane peak during the early 2010s. All fans and journalists (and FM scouts) were looking for a player who will take up Ronaldo's mantel for Portugal. In 2020 it seems like that will be Joao Felix but in Football Manager 2012 that man was Nelson Oliveira.


Coming in as a striker, Oliveira was at least seen as the solution to Portugal's deficiency up front as the side was packed with insane wingers but didn't have a proper 9. Benfica's player was supposed to play the Benzema role for the national side and definitely had the physicality to do it.


Yet things didn't turn up to be as stellar for Oliveira in 3D as he is currently playing in AEK Athens. He did manage to get 17 caps for Portugal with two goals. Yet most of his career was spent on loans in Portugal and then in the English Championship. Certainly not a career to be ashamed of with 30 La Liga and Ligue 1 appearances for Deportivo and Rennes respectfully but the 28-year-old promised way more in 2012.


Take a look at the careers of Football Manager 2009 wonderkids


Neymar (Santos)


Maybe you remember this Football Manager 2012 wonderkid. Neymar something. Still at Santos and a teenager, but the Brazilian star didn't come cheap as his value alone was more than €10,000,000. 2011 saw Neymar win the Puskas award while he also led the squad to the Copa Libertadores triumph before that.


Neymar won the Copa do Brasil in 2012 and two Paulista state championships with Santos before the game was published. He was already a known name in Europe alongside his teammate Ganso, and the duo was thought of as a package. Yet Barcelona picked up Neymar Jr. alone in 2013 for a fee believed to be €88,200,000.


Barca sold the Brazilian to PSG in 2017 for €222,000,000 but their story seems far from over as the 28-year-old longs for a return to Catalonia. While he is a major superstar, his influence didn't quite reach what was anticipated, in recent times due to injuries. While his international record seems quite strong, the numbers don't look strong after looking into them.


See how the Football Manager 2010 wonderkids did in their careers


Josh McEachran (Chelsea)


Probably no other unfulfilled potential will annoy the author as much of that of Josh McEachran. Chelsea’s midfielder displayed soft long-range that was more fitting for an NFL quarterback, not a teenage footballer. Playing in nine Premier League games and 17 across all competitions, it was clear that Carlo Ancelotti had great hopes for the Englishman. So did the game.


Great for teams looking for loans, and for the more patient managers who would wait for Chelsea to (realistically) splash the cash on more reputable midfielders, and then move on McEachran.


McEachran is the personification of the often vilified Chelsea's loanee strategy as he went on five different loans after 2011. He played for Swansea, Middlesbrough, Watford, Wigan, and of course, Vitesse on loan, before Brentford picked him up in 2015. The 27-year-old currently plays for Birmingham City and besides the season in Eredivisie, he is mostly a Championship player. 


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Memphis Depay (PSV)


Perhaps a man that had even bigger potential than any other player on the list, including Neymar, fell short of the giant expectations. But not by as much of a large margin as it is thought of on the British isles. Depay didn't even make his professional debut for PSV before FM 2012 came out but he remains one of the most memorable Football Manager 2012 wonderkids.


Completely justifiable, as he led the Netherland's U17 side to the UEFA European championship the summer before the game dropped.


A direct inside forward with a great shot and the strength and balance to fire of even under challenges, Depay was seen as perfect for the Premier League. The move came in 2015, after he conquered the Netherlands, along with the top scorer title in 2014/2015. After just a single full, albeit disappointing season at Old Trafford, he moved to Lyon. A team which he now captains with 43 Ligue 1 goals in 102 matches.


Matija Nastasic (Fiorentina)




For a player who arrived at Manchester City following their miraculous title win and playing in 21 Premier League games in the first season, Matija Nastasic is notably forgotten. As is the case in most iterations of the game, Football Manager 2012 wonderkids also had a Partizan Belgrade product. Albeit, Nastasic was one that never even played for the A-side of the team that made him. A current Fiorentina centre-back wonderkid Nikola Milenkovic also went through the same path although he left a short but potent mark at Partizan.


Fiorentina always has one eye on Serbia's capital and grabbed the young centre-back for cheap back in 2011. The first season saw him made 25 appearances in the best academy for any young defender - Serie A. With 51 games played for City, Nastasic had considerable experience before moving to Schalke 04.


Forgotten in England, the 27-year-old made 104 Bundesliga appearances and represented Serbia 28 times but his career is in limbo as he enters his prime due to often injuries.


Do you remember these Football Manager 2011 wonderkids?


Kurt Zouma (Saint-Etienne)


Even at the age of 16 Kurt Zouma had insane physical attributes, making him one of the more exciting Football Manager 2012 wonderkids. Playing for all France's youth selections, Zouma was supposed to be a staple in the backline of the powerhouse, yet he managed only five caps overall.


His professional debut season did come in the 2011/2012 season as he played in 21 Ligue 1 matches. Another two seasons with similar numbers saw him get a transfer to Chelsea. After two solid first seasons in terms of caps, if not performances, Zouma played only nine league games in 2016/2017 before moving to loans at Stoke and Everton.


Zouma is now a regular centre-back for the Blues with 22 appearances in the interrupted 2019/2020 season. A feat few accomplish, although the expectations for him were on Marcel Desailly's level.


Mbaye Niang (Caen)


Another 16-year-old to really put the "kid" in Football Manager 2012 wonderkids. Mbaye Niang was a save-long centre forward if you managed to get him while he was young and affordable. Although his value was already high at €2,900,000. Caen never got to keep him and it was only a question how many steps will Niang skip.


In real life, Niang played 30 league games for the French side, scoring five goals, before Milan picked him up and gave him a chance in 20 Serie A games his debut season. None of them saw him score a goal. Overall, in 79 total matches for Milan over seven seasons, he scored 12 goals for the Rossoneri.


Loans were a major part of his story as he played for Montpellier, Genoa, Watford, Torino, and Rennes while still being a Milan player. Only at the last club he managed to score more than five league goals and that was enough for Rennes to sign him permanently. At 25 years of age, he has 54 league goals in 249 games.


Luc Castaignos (Inter)




Putting a "next Thierry Henry" monicker on a young player eventually became a spell to derail his career. Luc Castaignos was one of the few which actually deserved it with his playing style. His second professional season with Feyenoord saw him score 15 goals in 34 Eredivisie matches.


Not long after their triplet, Inter was building a new generation of players and Luc Castaignos was thought to be the solution up front. In the competition with Giampaolo Pazzini, Diego Forlan, Diego Milito, and Mauro Zarate Luc still got eight appearances that season. But that's all he wrote for Nerazzurri.


A move back to Twente the following season saw him regain some of his reputation by scoring 37 times on 94 matches. Eintracht Frankfurt was the next to take the chance but the Eagles had to wait for other Football Manager wonderkids before they made a hit. Castaignos moved to Sporting Lisbon after a year, with his stats still looking depressing, as they did in his loan back to Eredivisie and Vitesse. Since 2019, the 27-year-old is in Korea.


Which of Football Manager 2012 wonderkids was your favourite? 



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