For the enthusiasts of the video game Football Manager, for the FM20 version we recommend 13 talents from Barça you could sign with a variety of accessibility and potential.
The return of top-flight football in Europe has been welcomed by fans across the world as people continue to remain in lockdown during the COVID–19 pandemic. And if you, like many others, are frustrated by your team’s transfer business and tactics or just find yourself wondering how to dawdle your days, Football Manager 2020 is just the game for you.
The game was recently made free to download on Epic Games and can be accessed through their website. You can dawn on a new save with your beloved club, buying players in positions you feel your club hasn’t addressed adequately in real life as you guide your side to success. Virtual contentment is still contentment.
The most treasured players to buy in the game are the Wonderkids. If you are a novice, the term wonderkid refers to players between the ages of 14 and 23 who have the potential to develop into some of the finest on the planet. The word has taken its place into casual conversations as well and used quite popularly to refer to global superstars like Kylian Mbappé, Ansu Fati, and Jadon Sancho. You must have gotten the gist of it by now.
FC Barcelona is home to one of the world’s best academies in La Masía also has a plethora of players than can be ascribed to be wonderkids – in Football Manager, at least. In a different style of segment, Barça Universal takes a look at some players you should consider keeping an eye on if you are managing the Catalan giants, and worth buying if you have embarked on a journey with a different club.
For context: Each attribute is marked out of 20, with 10-12 considered acceptable, 13-15 great, and anything above is outstanding. Similarly, the potential of every player is rated out of 200. 150-160 is generally good, 160-180 is excellent, and anything above that is a sure short world-beater. For example, Lionel Messi’s potential of 190+ in FM06 is considered to be the highest ever in the game.
Valencia-born Iñaki Peña is the first choice keeper for Barcelona B. With a rating of 14 for reflexes, handling and one on ones, he is a reliable goalkeeper. His existing ability in FM20 is at 120, and with a potential ability of close to 140, he can become a quality goalkeeper for a lower league club or a mid-table club in the top 5 leagues. There are definitely better options elsewhere, so if you are considering bringing him in as the first choice for a European competition tier club, you might be better off not buying him.
Recommendation rating: 5/10
Jean-Clair Todibo, while not a La Masía product, is one of the finest young centre backs in the game. His tackling and marking ratings are 16 and 14 respectively and coupled with his explosive pace of 17, he’s a high calibre choice for playing the cover role in your backline. As with any Barca player, he’s also top-notch with the ball at his feet, indicated by his passing attribute of 14, allowing you to play him as a central defender or a ball-playing defender.
There’s still scope for growth in his positioning (13), and concentration (10) attributes but given his young age, he can improve those quickly. As a part of his loan deal at Schalke 04, the German club have a buy option on him so you might not be able to buy him till 2021, but if Die Knappen do not exercise that option, you should be all over him. A potential ability between 160-190 and a price under 25m make him an enticing choice to lead your backline for over a decade.
Recommendation rating: 9.5/10
A name Barcelona faithfuls are quite familiar with, Jorge Cuenca played for the club’s B team – though this morning he was sent to Villarreal with Barça retaining a buy-back option –, and you will often find him listed for a loan at the start of the game.
One glance at his attributes and you can certainly tell why the club wants him to play at a higher level. With tackling, marking, positioning, and pace attributes rated 14, the Spaniard is a dependable player already. Furthermore, he boasts of a current ability of 120 and the potential to reach between 140–170. Cuenca can grow into a top-notch centre back or at the minimum, a rotational option for the most prominent clubs. Barça are usually willing to sell towards the end of 2019/20 season for less than 20m, so keep an eye on him.
Recommendation rating: 7.5/10
Like Cuenca, Ronald Araújo also is part of the B string when you start the game. The Uruguayan has similar traits to his Spanish compatriot, with his tackling, marking and positioning attributes rated 14. His lack of composure (11) and pace (12), make him a better choice for the stopper role than the cover role in your backline. He’s usually available to loan at the start of 2019-20 and with his current ability of 120 and potential ability between 130–150, he’s an outstanding option if you are managing a smaller club.
Recommendation rating: 6.5/10
Todibo is joined by fellow Barça youngster at Schalke – Juan Miranda. He is a player with the traits to develop into a world-class left-back, and undoubtedly one of the best in the game. With crossing and dribbling attributes of 13 and 12 respectively along with pace attribute rating of 14, he can play the role of a wing-back, complete wing-back or even a conventional full-back in a 4 or 5 man backline effortlessly with either of attack, defend or automatic duties.
While his tackling (15) and marking (13) attributes are first-class for a full-back, his positioning (12) and strength (11) attributes are not quite there yet. He is a well-rounded player who will fit in any tactic and is usually available for a fee less than 10m at the end of the first season. His current ability of 125 often rises to between 140–170, which makes him an integral part of your shortlist if you’re going shopping for left-backs.
Recommendation rating: 8/10
The long-haired Spaniard is on loan at Getafe in the first season who retain an option to buy him. If the Madrid based club choose not to exercise that option, Cucurella should be your first target if you’re looking for a defensive left-sided defender. He’s nimble with a pace rating of 13 and with exceptional defensive attributes of tackling (14), marking (13) and positioning (15), he’s even a cut above some centre backs.
He doesn’t possess stellar crossing (12) attributes, though, which means he’s best cut out in a full-back ‘defend’ or a wing-back ‘defend’ role. His potential ability lies between 150-170 and for less than 10m, he represents an inexpensive choice.
Recommendation rating: 7.5/10
The rapid Senegalese full-back is more nuanced than the club’s first-team right-backs, yet the club are willing to let him leave after his loan at OGC Nice, in the game. Quite like real life, eh?
For less than 20m, you can make Barca rue their decision. He’s exceptionally rapid with his pace and acceleration attributes at a stronghold of 16 and 17 respectively. While his crossing and dribbling attributes are just 12 and 13, respectively, Wague develops meteorically and is capable of providing plenty of assists.
Like most modern full-backs, he is below par defensively with ordinary tackling (13), marking (12) and positioning (11) attributes, meaning he might best be suited to a wing-back attack role. He earns a modest wage of €8k and can be brought in on loan in 2020 if you have budget constraints. With a current ability of 142, he can walk into your starting XI straight away, and with potential ability close to 180 (!), he could be the Dani Alves to your Barcelona.
Recommendation rating: 9/10
With the overabundance of talent at the club, it makes one wonder how Nélson Semedo and Sergi Roberto are the first choices in their positions. Another pacy, attacking right-back, the Brazilian is currently on loan at Real Betis. For a 20-year-old, his attacking attributes are beyond belief: crossing and dribbling characteristics of 14 and 13 respectively, coupled with his pace (14) and acceleration (15), make him a fascinating prospect.
He’s defensively suspect with poor tackling (12), marking (11), and positioning (10) attributes which means like Wagué, his best role is also as an attacking wing-back. He’s obtainable for less than 15m at the end of 2019-20, and with potential ability close to 170, you should go for him unequivocally. Your striker will love you for it.
Recommendation rating: 8.5/10
19-year-old Dutchman Ludovit Reis is at Barça B at the start of the game. He represents an acceptable option for smaller clubs given his attributes are unexceptional at the beginning. With ordinary tackling (11) and marking (9), features, he isn’t ready for a first-team role just yet at a top club. The potential is there for everyone to see, though, with decent passing (13) and vision attributes (14). His current ability of 110 is low, but with a potential capacity close to 160, he has a high ceiling. Buy him for a deep-lying playmaker role if you’re at a smaller club. By the time you become a big club, he will have grown with you.
Recommendation rating: 6.5/10
Ilaix Moriba is genuinely second to none among central midfielders in the game. Possessing a flair rating of 17, passing rating of 13, and technical rating of 16, he’s a nifty player. At his tender age, he’s clearly not ready for first-team football yet, but by the end of 2019-20, he is usually prepared to challenge the senior players for a spot. The club are aware of how good he is with a potential rating close to 180, so do not expect him to come cheap but if you do manage to prise him away, he’ll exhibit why he ranks among the creme de la creme of the young midfielders.
Recommendation rating: 9.5/10
Few youngsters in the world live up to the term, ‘fan-favourites’, and probably none better than Riqui Puig. He has already showcased his abilities in the back end of last season with the first team, and he is just as splendid in the game. His spectacular passing rating of 16 is matched by his first touch rating and surpassed by his technical and vision rating of 17. He also boasts impressive mental attributes, and while there is work to be done on the physical side, he is probably the closest you can come to managing a young Andrés Iniesta.
As one of their prized assets – take note, Koeman –, Puig comes at a high price but is well worth it. He is capable of playing as a mezzala, advanced-playmaker, deep-lying-playmaker or even an attacking midfielder, and possessing a potential ability close to 170, he should be on your shortlist if you’re at a top club.
Recommendation rating: 9/10
17-year-old Pedri officially joins his Barça teammates at the end of 2019/20 season, and even at his tender age, he can be a valuable member of your squad. His technical ability is indubitable with world-class dribbling (16), flair (17), technical (15) and vision (16) ratings. He has tantamount crossing (12) and finishing (13) attributes so if you get your hands on him quickly, you can train him to be an inside forward or an inverted winger – depending on your tactics.
You will have to shell out a fortune for him considering his potential ability (150-180), but he’ll prove to be money well spent. If you don’t have the money to buy him, try and get him on loan just so you can experience managing him.
Recommendation rating: 9.5/10
Saving the best for the last: a household name already at the age of 17, Ansu Fati is just as majestic in the game. A skilful player, his finesse is reflected by his strong flair (17), dribbling (16) and technical attributes (16). His pace (15) and acceleration attributes (16) also make him a tricky customer for defenders.
Like Pedri, the diminutive Spaniard is equally adept as either an inside forward or an inverted winger. With a current ability close to 125 and a potential ability of almost 190, he’ll cost you a few quids over 100m, but that’s a small price to pay for someone of his talent. You can’t buy Messi in FM20, but with Fati, you can come as close as you ever can to managing a young Lionel Messi.
Recommendation rating: 10/10 (only because it is not possible to give him more than a 10)
While you can always try and buy established superstars like Neymar and Kylian Mbappe for mind-boggling sums, there’s a sense of accomplishment watching a wonderkid grow with your tactics into a paragon, that is unrivalled. So get on Epic Games, download Football Manager 2020 and develop these kids into your own Messi. Happy gaming!
Ronald Koeman and a case of poor game-management
Ronald Koeman has had a rollercoaster of a start to life as Barcelona manager. He had an excellent opening week, claiming a thumping 4-0 home win against Villarreal as well as a 3-0 away victory at Celta Vigo, but since then, things have started derailed.
From no goal against and seven for in his first two to six apiece over his last four matches, the Catalan side seems to be crumbling under the immense pressure being placed on their shoulders. The cherry on this miserable cake was his poor game-management against Real Madrid as Barcelona chased the game for the last 30 minutes, eventually succumbing to a 3-1 loss.
The starting line up
Dest – Pique – Lenglet – Jordi Alba
Busquets – F. De Jong
Pedri – Lionel Messi – Coutinho
On paper, this is one of the best starting line ups that Koeman could have played against Real Madrid. Sergiño Dest was finally playing in his rightful position, Jordi Alba was back from injury, Sergio Busquets was there to provide defensive aid to de Jong and Pedri, a 17-year-old in phenomenal form was deservedly called up to play. Normally, this should have been a good game given the perfect blend of the zeal and zest that comes with youth and the calmness and composure that comes from the experience; however, it was anything but.
Busquets has seen far better nights in his time as a Blaugrana. In the game, he was often poorly positioned, lost possession countless times and was simply incapable of playing through the pressure imposed on him by the defending champions.
Pedri meanwhile made little to no impact. This was to be expected given the fact that he is most influential when playing down the middle but Koeman decided to use him as an out and out winger instead with no explanation.
Pedri was no by means poor; but was a lot less influential than what he can be. (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)
Perhaps due to his injury, and the fact that he was completely out of position, Philippe Coutinho wasn’t as effective as he has or could have been. Jordi Alba had a rather good first half and easily could have had two assists, but his influence decreased as both the game and his legs wore on.
Real Madrid were forced into making their first change early on, but unlike his counterpart, Zinedine Zidane made a tactical change at a time when the player in question had adequate time to make an impact. Given the fact that Pedri, Coutinho, Busquets and Alba simply weren’t having their day, and that Koeman had five substitutions at his disposal, he should have taken them off well before the 82nd minute, when his first change was made.
Keeping in mind the strength in depth that the hosts had on the bench, Koeman should have made like for like changes in the team to both add some of the much-needed dynamism in play as well as maintain a structured shape when in possession of the ball. Instead, he opted for the following:
- Antoine Griezmann for Fati
- Ousmane Dembele for Busquets
- Fransisco Trincão for Pedri
- Martin Braithwaite for Alba
These substitutes served to worsen the team’s functionality in possession, as no one was anywhere where they could actually make an impact on proceedings. The formation essentially went from what was a fairly balanced 4-2-3-1 to a 3-1-6 and with no clear plan for how the six forward players were to position themselves.
Subbing off Alba for a striker seemed like a bizarre decision. (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)
Even with Junior Firpo and Miralem Pjanic at his disposal, players who would help in ball circulation while maintaining a reasonable offensive shape, Koeman decided to patch up the holes he saw in the team by adding more attacking players but this inadvertently made them bigger.
The Dutchman made the same mistakes against Getafe, bringing on Riqui Puig for Sergi Roberto in the dying minutes of the game. Not to mention he subbed on Braithwaite for Frenkie de Jong which crumbled the team structure.
What does this tell us about Koeman?
Sergio Ramos scored the penalty that put the visitors in the lead in the 64th minute. There was more than enough time, for Koeman to think of the changes that he could make which would — at the very least — last 25 minutes.
While the sample size is rather small, thus far we could say that he doesn’t seem to have a plan B whenever the team is in a losing position and that his fear of defeat impedes his judgment. Koeman had an abundance of quality on the bench but has made deplorable use of it. This stems from either out of a complete lack of trust in his players’ suitability in the team or distrust in his own tactics.
As a result, the players on the pitch, such as Griezmann – who made just a single touch in his short cameo role – were just as clueless, if not more than their manager.
Where do the improvements lie?
There is obviously an improvement in the football that the team is playing thus far in La Liga. As Jose Bordalas said, Barcelona is more direct than they were in previous seasons but this exuberance can only last so long, especially with players like Busquets who are on the wrong end of thirty. In games like this or the one against Getafe, the manager needs to have a clear and concise plan in mind on what to do whenever the team is trailing.
Bartomeu is gone, and Koeman’s fate lies in the hand of the new president. (Photo by Josep LAGO / AFP)
While he could be forgiven for a shaky start to the campaign, he will not be given a lot of time, not as much as Ernesto Valverde got, especially given a change in administration due very soon. Xavi is a clear target for most of the presidential candidates and if Koeman wants to keep his job beyond this season, then he needs to work on his squad management. This can come by shaking up the setup from time to time and showing some more faith in what is one of the best, most complete squads Barcelona has had in years.