Football Manager wonderkids: Where are the likes of Samba, Adu & Kallstrom now?

Matt May
With the new version out now, we take a look at some of the successful and not so successful players who were earmarked for bright futures in the game

Football Manager is famed for its accuracy, both in terms of detailing a player's ability and predicting their potential career arc, but sometimes, even Sports Interactive's meticulous research can deviate wildly from reality.

From its earliest stages, when it was known as Championship Manager, the game has consistently thrilled virtual bosses by identifying football's wonderkids - those precocious players who would go on to take the world by storm - before the wider public knew anything about them.

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Scouting the world in the hope of discovering the next Zinedine Zidane, Gianluigi Buffon or Ronaldo has always been part of the game's allure, but, for every instance of Lionel Messi, there are many more who failed to live up to their Football Manager potential.

Even if they didn't quite live up to their virtual billing, many went on to forge respectable careers, while some have even become cult heroes for fans of the game. Goal takes a look at some of the most memorable Football Manager wonderkids and how their careers really turned out.


Cherno Samba of England and Germany's Patrick Milchraum

Cherno Samba was destined to become one of England's all-time best goalscorers in Championship Manager 01/02 but the former Millwall youth player did not quite achieve that legendary status in real life.

Samba was not only equipped with phenomenal attributes in the game, but, due to his relative obscurity, he was also available to buy at a bargain price, which made him all the more appealing to virtual managers.

Now 31, Samba is retired, having made the decision to hang up his boots in 2015, and, while his career didn't take off how many hoped it would, he still represented England at all youth levels, as well as earning four senior caps with Gambia.

Samba spent time in Spain, Finland and Greece, playing for clubs such as Cadiz, Haka and Panetolikos. He finished his career in Norway with FK Tonsberg and his status as a legend of the video game was recognised in a television advertisement for Football Manager 2017.


Zdravko Kuzmanovic

Zdravko Kuzmanovic was considered one of the hottest prospects in Football Manager 09, where he inevitably developed into one of the best midfielders in the game.

Kuzmanovic is still playing - he is currently back on the books at Basel, where he started out - and, while his career did not follow the path charted out in many Football Manager games, he still became one of the best Serbian players of his generation.

Now 30, he can look back on a journey that took him to a number of decent European clubs, including Fiorentina, Stuttgart, Malaga and Inter.


Kim Kallstrom to Arsenal

Kim Kallstrom was identified as a wonderkid from his days at Swedish outfit BK Hacken, where, at the age of 17, he could be scooped up for next to nothing in Championship Manager 01/02. Aspiring managers could pluck Kallstrom from Swedish obscurity and throw him straight into their team, which could be constructed around the midfielder's impressive ability.

Unlike Cherno Samba, whose career trajectory fell far short of the predictions in CM 01/02, Kallstrom went on to play for the likes of Lyon, Spartak Moscow and Arsenal, but he was probably just below the level expected of him in the game. Nevertheless, he matured into an integral player for Sweden, earning 131 caps and scoring 16 goals before retiring from international duty after Euro 2016.

Kallstrom is now 35 and he is still playing, having returned to Sweden in order to join Allskenskan side Djurgarden, who are one of his former clubs.


Keirrison ex Barcelona player

When Keirrison arrived at Barcelona in July 2009, he came with high hopes, identifying a place in Pep Guardiola's first-team as his main goal. His attributes in Football Manager chimed with the 19-year-old's confidence.

He had impressed as a youngster with Coritiba and Palmeiras, but Keirrison did not reach the heights expected of him in Catalunya. Loaned out to Benfica immediately after his arrival, he struggled to make an impact in Portugal and the same story played out when he joined Serie A side Fiorentina on loan. After that, he sought a return to Brazil, which heralded the end of his European exploits.

Keirrison is now 28 years of age and he is back where he began his career at Coritiba.


Freddy Adu MLS draft

Freddy Adu came to prominence at the tender age of 14 when he signed a deal with Major League Soccer and was selected first overall by D.C. United in the 2004 MLS SuperDraft.

The hype was picked up on across the world and Adu's potential was reflected in Championship Manager 4, but, as reality began to set in, the forward became less of an attraction in subsequent games.

The billing of Adu as "the next Pele" proved to be well wide of the mark, but he went on to play for a number of MLS sides and represented the United States on 17 occasions. His career took him to Europe, where he played for a number of clubs, such as Benfica, Monaco and KuPS, and he also had a spell in Brazil with Bahia. 

Adu was most recently playing in the United Soccer League with Tampa Bay Rowdies, but he is currently out of contract and searching for a new club. Still just 28, the Ghana-born striker remarkably featured in a D.C. United alumni match alongside veterans such as Ryan Nelsen and Hristo Stoichkov this month.


Henri Saivet of Newcastle United

Once dubbed 'the next Thierry Henry', Henri Saivet was considered a must-buy in Football Manager 2008. The former Bordeaux youth was knocking on the door of the first-team and his potential ability marked him out as one of the brightest young prospects in the game.

Saivet boasted pace, power and plenty of ability, which, in Football Manager, made him arguably the top talent to emerge from France. However, the winger, who is still playing, has come nowhere near Henry in terms of achievements.

He did enjoy a breakthrough season at Bordeaux, in 2012-13, scoring eight goals in 34 Ligue 1 appearances, but he has not managed to replicate that in the years since, despite making a move to the Premier League in 2014-15 when he joined Newcastle United.

Now 26, Saivet is still on the books at Newcastle, but he is seemingly not in the plans of Rafa Benitez. As for becoming France's next big thing, that possibility was extinguished when he declared for Senegal, the country of his birth, in 2013.



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Known for his famous 'seal dribble', Kerlon was earmarked as one of the next big things to come out of Brazil in Football Manager 2006 while he was at Cruzerio. An accomplished youth international for Brazil, the attacker joined Inter in 2008, which was a move that tallied with expectations.

However, from there his career stalled before going backwards, with a series of long-term injuries serving to hamper his progress. Kerlon had unsuccessful spells with Chievo and Ajax before trying his luck back in Brazil, in Japan and the United States.

Now 29, Kerlon was most recently on the books of Slovak Super Liga team Spartak Trnava.