Football Manager is a baffling series to the uninitiated. Despite carrying all the visual appeal of Microsoft Excel, fans cite an all-consuming playability that sees many refer to it as a second job. Such is the quality of the database they have built up, a number of top clubs even use it to supplement their own scouting system.
FM has a mixed record of identifying future stars. Players may remember Carlos Vela and Kerlon developing into world-beaters in previous editions of the game, but on the other hand their scouts were able to identify the likes of Marco Verratti and Vincent Kompany as future elite players from their very first appearances.
However, the SEGA-published game is not as simple to succeed at as signing the players with the current and potential highest stats. Player personalities, compatibility with certain tactics, and value for money will all feed into the ultimate success (or lack of) at your club.
So, ahead of the full disclosure of the game's player stats upon release on 9 November 2021, and taking into account the full range of different playthrough options available, let's have a look at some long term Sports Interactive favourites, and others who may come out of the blue to be a virtual sensation this year.
10. Berat Djimsiti
The most interesting update to the upcoming instalment of Football Manager is generally agreed to be the addition of the Wide Centre Back role, the first truly new role to be introduced since a revamp of the midfield in the mid-2010s.
The Wide Centre Back can be deployed in a number of ways, either in a defensive back three allowing Wing Backs the licence to push on, secure in the knowledge any counter attack down the wings can be cut out, à la Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea, or providing an attacking threat themselves, underlapping more defensively minded Full Backs.
Chris Wilder's Sheffield United is, at least in the UK, citied as the most high profile example of the underlapping Centre Back, but it is Italy's Atalanta who have deployed this tactic to the greatest success.
Cristian Romero is usually referred to as the driving force behind the success of this set-up last season, but with Serie A's Defender Of The Season 2020-2021 moving on loan to Tottenham this summer, he will be unavailable in the first year, and presumably very expensive after that.
Players should therefore turn to Albania's Berat Djimsiti, a creative centre back who usually features on the right side of a back three. Valued at just over £8m on FM21, and providing 5 league assists last year he is an ideal candidate to drop straight into this exciting new system.