In the week that the 2016 version hits the shelves, we look back at Football Manager expert Iain Macintosh's take on the greatest bargain buys in the game's long, illustrious and in many cases relationship-wrecking history.
Nii Lamptey, Championship Manager (1993/94)
IN THE GAME: Lamptey was so wonderful that it didn’t take long before your conscience began to regard his signing as a cheat mode. A lightning quick MID ATT RLC (as we said in those days), you could swipe him from Belgium for £2.5m and he’d guarantee you ten years of success.
IN REAL LIFE: Troubled Lamptey fell in with bad advisors and, after one excellent season with PSV, he began a nomadic and wholly unsuccessful trail around the world. Now 38, he works with disadvantaged and underprivileged children. He still has the press cuttings that claim he will be the next Pele.
Danny Murphy, Championship Manager 2 (1995)
IN THE GAME: Danny Murphy was one of a number of Crewe Alexandra’s bright young things in the mid-'90s, along with a certain Neil Lennon, and with pinpoint passing he made any team look classy. Of course, with no graphics at this time, they only looked classy in your head, but it’s a good place to start.
IN REAL LIFE: No curse here. England international Murphy enjoyed a steady career at the top of the domestic game and was a significant part of Liverpool’s cup treble winning side of 2001. An articulate and intelligent man, he is expected to begin his own career as a football manager in the near future.
Ibrahima Bakayoko, Championship Manager 1997/98
IN THE GAME: This awesome Ivorian was quick, and deadly in front of goal, and if you could snatch him from Montpellier quickly enough, you may as well have had one hand on the title. Manage him carefully in the first year and he would develop so quickly that you could rely on him for ten more.
IN REAL LIFE: Bakayoko left Montpellier for Everton and flopped spectacularly, earning the nickname ‘Baka-joke-o’. Redemption came briefly at Marseille, but consistent mediocrity soon set in. It’s not all bad news. Bakayoko did at least win the Greek Second Division in 2011 with PAS Gianniana.
Tonton Zola Moukoko, Championship Manager 2001/02
IN THE GAME: Tonton is the poster child of fallen computer game heroes. A ludicrously talented young attacking midfielder for Derby County, with careful management he would develop into one of the world’s most potent footballers. In an alternative reality, there are posters of him in every teenager’s bedroom.
IN REAL LIFE: Moukoko left Derby in 2002, distracted by off-field problems. He played with little success in Scandinavia and, as his 30th birthday approaches, is considering a coaching career. Still slightly baffled by his cult status, he came to London in 2012 to help promote the book...ahem...‘Football Manager Stole My Life.’
Cherno Samba, Championship Manager 2001/02
IN THE GAME: This man-child seemed too good to be true. So young that you could build a 15-season game around his goals, he didn’t even need to be handled carefully. You could just throw him into your team from day one and he’d score freely. All you had to do was convince Millwall that it was in their interests to sell...
IN REAL LIFE: Gerard Houllier failed to convince Millwall that it was in their interests to sell to Liverpool. Having seen him score 132 goals in 32 games for a local boys club, the Lions were desperate to keep him. Unfortunately, Samba’s ego was swollen by the hype and he lost his focus. He was released in 2004 and never fulfilled his potential.
Tó Madeira, Championship Manager 2001/02
IN THE GAME: Tó Madeira seemed to appear from nowhere. An inexpensive, but highly promising striker lurking at a struggling Portuguese club; why hadn’t anyone else spotted him? It felt like a trap. But if you could get him, oh, if you could get him, he would change your stars forever. Madeira was a genuine, cast iron 50-goal-a-season striker.
IN REAL LIFE: Tó Madeira didn’t exist. He was a fake player inserted by a mischievous researcher. It didn’t take long for the game’s creators to realise what had happened and his file was deleted by the time the first patch was released. To commemorate his brief existence, the Sports Interactive company five-a-side team now play under the name Tó Madeira FC. They have badges and everything.