When Bafetimbi Gomis wanted to know about the Premier League club that had bid for his services, the then-Lyon striker booted up his computer. But rather than Google Swansea City, Gomis loaded up Football Manager, playing a season as the Swans, and in the process learning all about the strengths and weaknesses of his soon-to-be teammates.
How has Football Manager, and its predecessor Championship Manager, gained such a great reputation for accuracy when it comes to football? Why is the game not only so realistic, but also so addictive? Moreover, how can it help sharpen your sports betting? We examine the strange cult of a game that is more immersive than World of Warcraft, wider-ranging than Minecraft, and yet also useful in the real world.
How Did it Begin?
Back in the nineties, when Championship Manager became better and better known for its realism and accuracy, football fans who wanted to play the game from the comfort of their own home had two choices: either play a match-based arcade game, like Kick-Off or Sensible Soccer, or instead play one of the many postal football games. These used to involve players filling in their teamsheet, then receiving results by return of post.
Championship Manager may have been a simulator that you played on your own, with, at least in early versions of the game, no online input, but it still felt real, The reasons for this were the constant and rigorous assessment of players by Sports Interactive, the gaming house which, under different names, has developed the program since its initial release in 1992, conveniently timed along with the first season of Premier League football.
What Makes The Game Special?
The key has always been the feedback that players get from Football Manager, as the game is known these days. Sometimes, games seem just like that - pale imitations of real life. But with Football Manager, it's possible to delve as deeply into the running of a football club as you want. If you want to tweak a player's training regime, you can. If you fine a player for getting sent off in a match, it can cause a domino-effect of low morale, with other players complaining to you.
The most special part of the game, at least for this player, is the ability to take a little-known raw talent, and mould him into a complete footballer. If I may, I'll give you an example, close to my heart: the French winger, Arold Belladon.
Belladon was a spectacularly good signing for me as manager of Swansea City in Football Manager 2010. I signed him on loan from Grenoble in Ligue 1, he stayed on loan for a year and a half, and then, owing to a bug in the game, when I signed him permanently, the little left-winger was said to have a sudden problem settling, asking to return home due to a bout of homesickness.
I put my foot down, told the media he wouldn't be going home on leave, and asked Filip Marcic, our French-speaking Croatian right-back, to mentor him. While he was adapting to his permanent contract, our attack coach - the hitherto unknown Martin Rose, technical skills rated by the game at 18/20 - suggested he be put on special training to improve his finishing.
The result was a right-footed left-winger at the height of his powers. When Belladon jinked inside onto his better right foot, and hit a shot, it usually went in. The rewarding feeling came from sticking with and nurturing a young player into an accomplished winger. I was disappointed to find the real Belladon is playing for SO Chambery Foot in the French amateur leagues - but perhaps he would have benefited from my tough love as a manager. I can only wonder.
Improve Your Betting By Playing
There are other examples of players and teams on Football Manager that are not as successful in real life, but the majority of the game is accurate, owing to complex algorithms, mixed with the finances and resources to scout any club Sports Interactive wishes. The database is exhaustive, and so if you're a football bettor, you can improve your real-life returns by simulating match situations with a team in Football Manager.
Check out a player's statistics. If you feel that James Wilson, the Manchester United youngster, will have a good goalscoring season, test out what happens on Football Manager, and if your thoughts are confirmed by the game, there's a chance there could be a winning bet in it.
Offer Get up to €100 in FREE bets! 18+. T&Cs apply