Football Manager’s Cult “Wonderkids” – Where are they now?

To mark the day on which the newest Football Manager game is released worldwide, we decided to take a look at the most iconic players from both the formerly titled Championship Manager game and the current Football Manager franchise.

Our list of nostalgic names stems back as far as the 1997/98 edition of the game, when the classic Mitre Magma ball featured on its cover.

Francis Jeffers

Jeffers scores as Everton beat West Ham 6-0 in May 1999.

Francis Jeffers’ unfulfilled potential is perhaps one of the greatest disappointments when it comes to under-performing players of the Premier League era.

The striker’s successful first season with Everton gave him the well deserved, ‘the fox in the box’ title, with many fans and professionals alike saluting his finishing abilities.

20 goals in 60 appearances for the Toffees earned him a lucrative move to Arsenal in 2001. Many thought he would go on to become a household name, Championship Manager faithful included. It wasn’t to be, however, Jeffers struggled to break into the first team and never really mand an impact on Wenger’s side.

He went on to play for eleven clubs since leaving the Gunners in 2004, finishing his career at Accrington Stanley nine years later. He currently coaches at Everton’s academy.


Ibrahima Bakayoko

Bakayoko holds of the challenges of Arsenal’s Vieira and Grimandi as Everton visit Highbury in November, 1998.

Ibrahima Bakayoko is a cult hero for the Championship Manager franchise and certainly one of the greatest signings any interactive manager could sign. The Ivorian was a goal machine who would indefinitely bag you a a tonne of goals season after season.

His finishing was unnaturally good. When “Bakayoko is on the ball” flashed on the commentary screen, you knew what was to follow more often than not.

Title challenges were built around the Ivorian’s striking qualities, making him one of the greatest wonderkids in the game’s history.

When the front-man moved to Everton in a £4.5 million deal, there was no doubt that Everton fans and gamers alike were expecting big things.

Sadly for all parties, that bubble quickly burst.

Bakayoko only managed to register four league goals before being swiftly shipped back to France.

The 38 year-old currently plays with Stade Bordelais in who play in French footballs’ fourth tier.


Tonton Zola Moukoko

For all Football Manager enthusiasts, Moukoko may be the most iconic player to emerge from virtual reality.

The Congolian was most deserved of his “must sign” tag. His abilities were discovered in the Championship Manager 1999-2000 edition, when he played his football with then Premier League side, Derby County.

Moukoko was linked with a move to AC Milan along with several other top level sides. Unfortunately, the midfielder ended up moving on to spend the rest of his career to date in the depths of Europe’s league systems, never quite living up to his “next big thing” status at the turn of the millennium.

It says a lot when you Google a professional sportsman’s name and there are more results regaling his exploits on a virtual management game than his factual performances.

In fact, the YouTube video above is the only piece of footage we could find when researching the player.


Julius Aghahowa

Aghahowa celebrates scoring against Liberia during the 2002 African Cup of Nations.

Another legend of the franchise, Julius Aghahowa turned up during the 2001/02 version whilst he was on the books at at Shakhtar Donetsk.

The Nigerian forward had blistering pace and was an extremely promising talent available for a considerably modest price. One of Aghahowa’s most important attributes was his consistency as well as his ability to stay injury free.

Aghahowa eventually made a move in 2007 to Wigan Athletic, but the speed merchant’s move yielded a barren run of 20 games and a 2008 transfer to Turkish outfit, Kayserispor.

He may have won trophies and scored important goals in his long career, but unfortunately Aghahowa never really lived up to expectations. In April 2013, the Nigerian announced his retirement from professional football and has since been living his life in Steve Finnan-esque fashion.

Mark Kerr

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - MAY 28: Craig Bellamy of Celtic battles with Mark Kerr of Dundee Utd during The Tennents Scottish Cup Final between Celtic and Dundee United at Hampden Park on May 28, 2005 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Craig Bellamy;Mark Kerr
Dundee United’s Kerr puts in a tackle on Celtic’s Bellamy during the Scottish Cup final in May, 2005.

What ever happened to Mark Kerr?

A Falkirk world-beater and seemingly a sure-fire Ballon D’Or winner, Kerr’s Football Manager legacy is rivalled by few.

The Scotsman was available on the cheap from Falkirk in 2001 and he led the line on many teams constructed during the early millennium years.

Kerr was being tipped as Scottish football’s saviour, but instead he spent the majority of his career wallowing in the SPL before an ill-fated switch to Greece.

Two appearances and no goals for Asreras Tripolis would epitomise a career whose heights could only be scaled through a Windows 98 desktop computer.

The 33 year-old  has since returned to his faithful Falkirk, but one imagines his name will not be atop the shopping list in this year’s Football Manager addition.


Freddy Adu

14 year-old Adu is announced to the professional footballing world in November, 2003.

At just 14 years of age, Freddy Adu was dubbed “the next Pele”.

He made his MLS debut at that tender age and immediately carried the hope of the entire American football fraternity on his shoulders. Lucrative sponsorships, including his infamous connection to Campbell’s Soup, were inevitable and Adu caught the interest of the biggest clubs in world football.

He famously had a trial at Manchester United but instead joined Portuguese giants, Benfica. He spent a four years at the Estádio da Luz, completing four loan moves in the process.

Adu returned to the MLS in 2011 with Philadelphia Union and the general consensus in the football world was that the teen sensation could kick-start his career. Unfortunately, the fairy tale was not to be and after a year of mediocre performances, Adu found himself shipped off to Brazilian side, Bahia.

Freddy Adu was an absolute marvel in Football Manager terms. He was pretty cheap given his his age and would develop rapidly. He has become an icon, both in-game and in reality.

Adu is still only 26 years old and plays his football for American second tier club, Tampa Bay Rowdies.


Nicolás Millán

Similar to Freddy Adu, Millán burst onto the football scene by making his club debut at the age of 14 years and 9 months.

The forward rose to prominence in Football Manager 2007 as an agile athlete with quick feet and a sharp sense of awareness.

Sadly for the young Chilean, his meteoric rise came to a sudden halt and he has spent his career in numerous South American leagues to date.

Currently, the 23 year-old frontman plays in the Chilean second division with Deportes Puerto Montt.


Cherno Samba

Samba in action for England U-19’s as they took on Germany in 2003.

Another legendary FM player, and also another who came to prominence whilst at Millwall, Samba excelled in multiple iterations of the game.

By the time he was 14 he had managed to score a ridiculous 132 goals in 32 youth appearances.

This led to him garnering considerable interest from some of the best scouts in the country, with the likes of Liverpool and Manchester United the more prominent suitors.

It was eventually decided that Samba would join Liverpool but, when unable to agree a fee, the transfer broke down and left the young striker in despair.

After this setback he never managed to push on and develop into the player that everyone had imagined he would become.

He was later released by Millwall in 2004 and has since become something of a journeyman in Europe.


Gareth Reynolds