Football Manager is a simulation game developed by Sports Interactive that allows you to play out an alternate reality. One where you are a director and head coach of a football team. For some fanatics, it led to real-life jobs in the footballing world.
From the sofa to the sidelines
One of the first success stories to spread on the internet was of Vugar Huseynzade. Azerbaijani Premier League team FC Baku signed him in 2012 despite his only managerial experience coming from playing Football Manager. Although, over the years many incorrect reports have not accurately described his situation. He didn’t get the job because of Football Manager, nor was he ever a manager for FC Baku.
He explained in an interview from 2013 “of course, it helped me a lot. My job here is not 100 per cent as it is in this game, it is 50 per cent. In ‘Football Manager’ you are a coach, but I am not a coach. I am more like a director of football, working above the coach”. While this may not be a manager position, it is similar to what you see in Serie A with sports directors. This role is what many mistake as the work a football manager does. Overseeing transfers in and out, deciding which staff to bring in, and working with players to make sure they’re doing well.
Using Football Manager for a job application worked for this man
Andrej Pavlović from Serbia reached out to FK Bežanija in 2019 at the age of 22. Surprisingly, the club director responded by calling him and offering him a volunteer position as a data analyst, with the club facing financial difficulties. At that time FK Bežanija sat middle of the table in the Serbian First League. They began a winning streak which had them clinch a promotion playoff spot but unfortunately, the season was cancelled with the world having to fight off covid. After the conclusion of the 2018-19 season, they withdrew from the First League due to financial difficulty.
Around this time Andrej was getting a degree in medical science and in need of money took a part-time job as a nurse. With FK Bežanija dropping to the 6th tier of Serbian football, they no longer needed a data analyst and Andrej left the club after 1 year’s work. As of 2022, he’s working as a professor at a medical school, a job he likes. Though, he did admit that he’d jump back into being a data analyst in a second if it paid the bills. In an interview from 2022, he said, “I would say the best thing FM taught me is to be thorough and look for every single detail before making some kind of decision”.
15-year-old uses his knowledge from Football Manager to apply for a job
After seeing a position to work with FM on their website, Matt Neil applied. He was a researcher for Truro, which competed in the National League South. Six months later, Sports Interactive was impressed and promoted him to covering Plymouth Argyle in League Two. This led to him working with the club itself as their first team analyst, and he was still yet to finish school at this time, being only 15. During his 7 years at Plymouth Argyle, the team yo-yo’s between League One and Two, before becoming an established League One team. Neil is currently signed to Salford City, with whom he’s been working for almost three years now as their recruitment analyst. The Guardian spoke to him eight years after his passion for Football Manager led him to work with them. He was still playing and racked up 100s of hours each year.
These aren’t the only real-life impacts of Football Manager
Back in 2015, Liverpool signed Bobby Firmino from Hoffenheim. He was found the usual way, performing well for club and country. This put him on the radar of many big teams around Europe. But, the way Hoffenheim had found him was quite the opposite. There was a rumour that the Hoffenheim head scout Lutz Pfannenstiel found him using Football Manager. In 2016, he had an off-air chat with Talksport presenter Paul Hawksbee who asked if it was true. Turns out, it was. With Football Manager hiring researchers to scout players much like a club would. Maybe it’s not a bad idea to use their database, considering how many future talents FM accurately represented.
International call-up for Ben Brereton Díaz
Those who watch Championship football will know this footballer previously as Ben Brereton. That was until his debut with Chile in 2021 where he added Díaz to his professional name. After playing for England under 19s he interviewed with Blackburn Rovers where he mentioned that he was also half Chilean. The FM researcher for Rovers had this added and he started being called up by Chile in the game. With this, FM streamers noticed and drew attention to this surprising change creating a social media meme of posting Chilean flags when Brereton Díaz was mentioned. With encouragement from the previous manager of the NT, he began the process of gaining a Chilean passport and has now accrued 18 caps for the country.