With so many major competitions and events postponed, the video game Football Manager 2020 will quench the sporting thirst of many. Whether you’re tackling one of the toughest FM 2020 challenges or simply taking the reins of your favourite club, you’ll undoubtedly be on the hunt for some young talent to accompany you on the road to success.
While trophies and tactical masterstrokes are the lifeblood of the game for aspiring digital coaches, little beats the feeling of snapping up a starlet and turning them into a top-level player. Watching that raw wonderkid turn into a world beater because of your tutelage is a feeling to be savoured.
After scouring through the sharpest shot-stoppers and best value defenders on FM, our Football Manager 2020 Wonderkids series continues with a look at five of the game’s best young midfield wonderkids.
Compared to goalkeepers and defenders, midfielders naturally fetch a bit more in the transfer market but there are still some players with world class potential who can cost less than £25 million.
Wingers and number tens will cost more than those in a more defensive, anchor role and the most important attributes for any midfielder on Football Manager are passing, stamina and work rate. Playing across a range of positions is useful and it’s always worth looking at a player’s shooting stats as midfielders who can pop up with goals are like gold dust in this game.
Dominik Szoboszlai – Red Bull Salzburg
Asking Price: £13m
Red Bull Salzburg lost starlets Erling Haaland and Takumi Minamino in the January transfer window but they still have a midfield maestro with plenty to offer in their ranks in Dominik Szoboszlai.
The Hungarian is one to look out for not only because he’s relatively cheap at £13 million but also because he is strong in two positions – as a tricky left winger and as a composed central midfielder.
It is therefore unsurprising to see him score so well in passing (14) and stamina (13) as well as pace (15) and crossing (12), rendering him an exciting creative outlet and robust midfield engine. He has already been capped four times for Hungary and earns just over £4k per week, making him accessible for mid-table outfits with fairly healthy budgets.
Szoboszlai can become a danger from free-kicks and although his leadership score (7) is low, this is more to do with his age than anything else and his determination (15) figure implies he could be a competent leader in your team for years to come.
Jonathan David – Gent
Asking Price: £25m
Combine two of the most popular English names and what do you get? A Canadian wonderkid plying his trade in Belgium of course.
Belgium’s Pro League has long been the place to go for young talent and few clubs are more renowned for churning out starlets than Jonathan David’s Gent, where Kevin De Bruyne, Kalidou Koulibaly, Thibaut Courtois and Divock Origi all made names for themselves.
David has already made 60 league appearances for the club, scoring 30 goals, as well as managing 11 strikes in 12 international caps for Canada. In-game he is equally as impressive with such high pace (16), acceleration (16) and aggression (18) scores meaning he can cut it in bigger leagues and shine in direct systems where the emphasis is on quick transitions and moving the ball forward using the flanks.
With real-life interest from Arsenal sure to ramp up his price tag in the next game if he is still at Gent, players should make the most of his £25m fee on Football Manager 2020 and sign a long-term deal with David, who can play on the left, right, through the middle or even up top.
Jude Bellingham – Birmingham City
Asking Price: £20m
It is challenging to peruse the daily football headlines without seeing Jude Bellingham’s name. Since becoming Birmingham’s youngest ever player in a League Cup game in August 2019, his reputation has gone from strength to strength and being able to sign the Englishman for anything less than £30 million should be seen as a steal.
He is only 16 at the start of the game and so if you are playing with a bigger club it may be worth signing him and then loaning him out. Any managers taking charge of sides from seventh or below in any of Europe’s top leagues should, however, slot him straight into the team. He is that good.
Bellingham’s preferred position is to play in either central midfield or behind the striker, which is testament to his great dribbling (14), passing (12) and technique (12) stats, but he can also operate as both a left and right winger.
He is a forward-thinking player and is best deployed as an ‘advanced playmaker’ where tactical roles are concerned. Bellingham is a quick, creative player and it is probably a waste to simply play him as a plodding central midfielder.
Sandro Tonali – Brescia
Asking Price: £25m
Andrea Pirlo? Gennaro Gattuso? Luka Modric? Brescia’s Sandro Tonali has been compared with pretty much every top midfielder but is very much his own player with the potential to be a world beater.
The good news is he plays at a lowly Serie A side in need of cash so it’s fairly easy to lure them into a deal. The bad news is they also recognise he could be something special so managers in the game should expect to pay around triple his estimated valuation to stand a chance of landing him.
But he is worth every penny, especially for those who want to play a controlled possession game or need a sturdy, defensive component in an otherwise free-flowing, attacking side.
The reason Tonali has been compared to Pirlo is he is such a well-rounded talent, scoring at least 14 in passing, dribbling, first touch, aggression, determination, work rate, technique, free-kick taking and many other categories.
He is limited to playing predominantly defensive midfield or central midfield but after seeing how competent he is in those positions, managers will not want to play him anywhere else.
Ezequiel Barco – Atlanta United
Asking Price: £20m
Major League Soccer may not be the first division that springs to mind when looking for players of tomorrow, with players of yesterday tending to cross the Atlantic to play in the USA’s top division.
But the league has improved in recent seasons and is home to some exciting talent, the latest of which is winger Ezequiel Barco who plays for Miguel Almiron’s former club Atlanta United.
The Argentinian can play on either flank or as a number ten and has long supported Atlanta’s deadly marksman Josef Martinez in MLS.
His scores go into the green in penalty taking (16), bravery (16), determination (18), flair (16) and stamina (16) which paints the picture of a workmanlike wideman who will fight for your team but can also rack up the goals and assists. MLS players are typically straightforward to negotiate with if your club players in Europe’s upper echelons and Barco represents one of the best-value purchases in the game.