For those of us addicts who spent hundreds of hours playing Championship Manager (or Football Manager as it’s known as today), we’re always interested to see how careers of virtual legends turned out in real life. I’m about to take you on a trip down memory lane and reveal what happened to them cult heroes that dominated the game but never made the grade.
Maxim Tsigalko was the most prolific goalscorer in the Championship Manager series. The Belarusian frontman could easily bag 60 goals per season without breaking a sweat. Starting his career at Dinamo Minsk, he could be snapped up for just £2 million, providing you can get him a work permit. Legend has it, if you picked Tsigalko to mark the opposition goalkeeper, it increased his goals per game exponentially. In real life, Tsigalko’s career started brightly breaking into the Dinamo Minsk senior team at 18. In his first two seasons as a regular, he bagged 19 goals. This form was enough to earn a call up to the international setup where he scored on his debut. Little did he know, this was the peak of his footballing career. He left Minsk in 2006, moving to another team within the Belarusian league. Tsigalko later left Belarus, playing for teams in Kazakhstan and Armenia, enjoying limited success. He retired at 26 because of persistent injury problems, the guy was literally made of plastic. According to this article by Pundit Feed, Tsigalko is now unemployed and struggling to survive. Sad times for such an icon that brought joy to thousands of Champ Man fans across the world!
Fun fact, Maxim has a brother, Yuri Tsigalko, who was a goalkeeper that also enjoyed a small degree of popularity in the Championship Manager series. Unfortunately, his career path was no different from his brothers.
Tonton Zola Moukoko
Tonton Zola Moukoko is a widely loved cult figure in CM 01/02 who at 15 turned down AC Milan to sign for Derby County. The Congolese midfielder was the Lionel Messi of the game, developing into a world beater in a handful of seasons. Moukoko’s future looked promising but off the field problems largely contributed to his downfall. He departed the Rams in 2002 without playing a single game for the senior team and embarked on a journeyman career in Scandinavia, failing to get the big money move that every fan desired.
Todorov was a quality striker in the 03/04 game, his goal scoring ability was not far behind the legendary Tsigalko. Anatoli Todorov could be picked up for cheap if you could obtain a work permit for him. With pace, power and creativity, he was capable of producing 40 goals every season. During my game with Arsenal, he formed a lethal partnership with Thierry Henry. It’s a shame Todorov’s career never took off and has embarked on a journeyman career throughout Eastern Europe. At age 32, this cult hero is playing for Spartak Pleven in Bulgaria, his boyhood club.
Bakayoko is fondly remembered as the top wonderkid in CM 97/98 version. The Ivorian was an attacking midfielder/centre forward with ridiculous stats. Based on his performances in a computer game, Everton stumped up £4.5 million to find out if the hype was real. Sadly Bakayoko scored a measly four goals in 23 appearances for the Toffee’s and was shipped back to France the following season. While he never set the English League alight his form improved with a move to Marseille, bagging 34 goals in 115 outings. After Marseille, he had mediocre spells in the La Liga, Serie A and Greek Superleague. Never reached the heights everyone expected but wasn’t a total failure.
Tommy Svindal Larsen
Scandinavia was a hotspot for young talented players that cost next to nothing, perfect signings for lower league clubs. Tommy Svindal Larsen was the pick of the bunch; the holding midfielder was a beast in the 97/98 game. Larsen was like a Norwegian Mark Van Bommel but actually had some ability. He capped 24 times for Norway and had a decent spell in the Bundesliga with FC Nuremberg but in an alternate reality, this guy was helping teams win Champions Leagues for fun!
The Ghanaian burst onto the world scene during the under 17 World Cup, where he helped his nation win the tournament. Amazingly enough, Anderlecht was the club that captured the youngster at 15 and age limit rules was altered so Lamptey could make his debut at 16 years old. Despite being so young he was already a regular starter for the senior national team. After an impressive loan spell at PSV, his career turned sour after two tragic seasons with Aston Villa and Coventry City. Lamptey’s career spiralled out of control and wasn’t able to deal with the pressures of being an elite footballer. Over the next 14 years, he turned out for 11 different clubs before hanging up his boots at 33.
The former Millwall youth striker was touted as the next superstar in Championship Manager. Another prolific goalscorer who could kick a football through a letterbox. In the real world, he couldn’t hit a barn door. Liverpool made a £2 million for Samba that was rejected and he signed an extension with Millwall. Samba sadly never played for Millwall and left in 2004, playing for small clubs in Europe. In a 14-year career, he only managed to make a whopping 52 appearances with a return of 15 goals.
No list of flops is legit without the presence of Freddy Adu. At the age of 14, he became the world’s youngest footballer to play senior football, coming on as a substitute for DC United. This sparked a wave of media attention that capitulated Adu into the spotlight. Adu appeared in a commercial with Pele, Jay Z rapped about him and even had a trial with Manchester United. After disappointing spells in the MLS, he signed for Benfica in 2007 who loaned him out to various clubs in Europe, where he continuously underperformed. Fast forward to 2018 and Freddy has been a free agent for the past 12 months. Still only 28, he’s hoping for another club to give him a chance. Allegedly he’s on trial with new USL team, Las Vegas Lights. It’s sad to see such a promising prospect who was hailed as the next American Pele unable to find a club. There’s always been speculation over his age, but it’s never been proven to be false. He could be in his mid-30’s, who really knows?
The Portuguese goal machine was an absolute bargain and could be signed for less than a million from Gouveia. It wasn’t uncommon for Madeira to notch up 50 goals in a season if he was played consistently. To Madeira failed to live up to high expectations mainly because the guy never existed, for me, it was like finding out Father Christmas wasn’t real. Rumour has it, António Lopez, a researcher for the Portuguese market, created the player and give him amazing statistics. The creators of CM started to receive inquiries from clubs asking about this young Portuguese striker at Gouveia. After a quick investigation, the truth emerged, and Madeira was dropped from future games.
The Scottish Zidane was a talented youngster with significant potential. One of my first buys nearly every game no matter what club I was managing. Apart from one season in Greece, he never ventured outside of Scotland. Kerr drifted from club to club in the SPL never reaching the heights he experienced within Championship Manager.
Along with Sergey Nikiforenko, Milevsky was another Belarusian in CM 01/02 that was tipped for greatness. The Shakhtyor Soligorsk full-back developed into a world-class player in three to four years. In reality, Andrey Milevsky captured just 7 international caps and only played in Eastern Europe for lower-level teams. He retired in 2010 after a disappointing career. There’s very little information available on the internet about Milevsky but according to a couch surfing profile with the exact name, he’s living in Russia now.
Other Noteworthy Mentions
- Kim Kallstrom (bit harsh)
- Assane N’Daye
- Justin Georcelin
- Andri Sigþórsson
- Julius Aghahowa
- Kennedy Bakircioglu
- Bojan Djordjic
- Luke Chadwick
- Anthony LeTallec
- Stefan Ishizaki
- Mike Duff
I miss the old days of playing football computer games but no longer do so because I don’t have the time because of work. At 15, I developed such an addiction for Championship Manager that my mother had to lock the computer room or I’d be up until three o’clock in the morning regardless of what day it was.
Leave a comment below if I left out any players!