5 long-term projects to attempt in Football Manager 2020
From making Salzburg a powerhouse to completing the game with Woking, these Football Manager challenges should keep you busy while social distancing.
MISSION: RETURN TO THE BIG TIME
Club: Leeds United
Objective: Earn promotion and win the Premier League.
Transfer budget: £1.2m
How to do it: After Marcelo Bielsa’s mysterious departure, it’s up to you to get Leeds back to where they belong.
To do so, you’ll have the club’s best squad in years at your disposal.
While Kalvin Phillips and Pablo Hernandez are the star names, you have solid Championship players in every position, including central defenders Liam Cooper and Ben White.
The Under-23 squad is also packed with youngsters who are almost ready to step into the first team. Sixteen-year-old Nohan Kenneh is a special talent who, with time, can develop into one of the best holding midfielders in the game.
It’s no surprise Leeds are among the promotion favourites, and reaching the Premier League in the first season should be a given.
That’s not enough for this ambitious club, though. The board’s five-year plan expects you to have achieved a top-half finish by the end of the 2023/24 season.
But why stop there? The supporters remember the days of Don Revie, and you can join him and other Leeds greats by competing for – and winning – the title.
Leeds’ standing in the game means you should soon be able to attract the kind of quality players to help you do just that.
With a 37,799-seater stadium that the board plans to expand, superb training facilities and a great academy, this club is set up for success.
Now it’s just your job to achieve it.
Key players: Kalvin Phillips is possibly the best player in the Championship and will be a star player even after promotion.
Pablo Hernandez and Helder Costa provide quality on either flank.
MISSION: BECOME A POWERHOUSE
Club: RB Salzburg
Objectives: Win the Austrian league five times in a row and the Champions League once.
Transfer budget: £17.2m
How to do it: Salzburg have developed a reputation for snapping up young gems from all over the world, developing them, and selling them on at a huge profit, and you should persist with that approach to take them to the next level.
Things might be a bit sticky at first after some generous release clauses resulted in the January sales of Marin Pongracic, Takumi Minamino and the main man Erling Haaland (in real life).
You should still romp to the league title, which is bound to result in interest in more of your players. While you shouldn’t be afraid to knock back low offers, you also shouldn’t be afraid to accept good ones.
Receiving £100m or so from two or three player sales after your first season can fund the signings of several of the next generation. The South American market is fertile, and produces players who are generally cheaper and as good as the ones you’ve sold – although watch out for the Austrian Bundesliga registration restrictions (seven non-EU players per squad).
By sticking to this model you will quickly build a team capable of competing with the best teams in Europe. With your finances in such a healthy state, you can occasionally splash out on a bigger signing when required, too.
On the field, adopt a high-pressing, attacking style. The board and fans crave an entertaining winning machine, and you have the tools to provide one.
Key players: Jerome Onguene and Maximilian Wober should provide you with a solid base at the back, and are both sellable assets.
Trust Dominik Szoboszlai to run your midfield, even if he is more potential than the finished product to begin with.
MISSION: THE GREAT ESCAPE
Club: Bolton Wanderers
Objectives: Escape relegation and earn £10m from player sales over three years.
Transfer budget: £0
How to do it: When you start with a club who don’t even begin the season in their natural position in the alphabetical order, you know you’re facing an uphill task.
But with Bolton, a 12-point deficit is only the first of your many problems.
For a club in crisis, the squad isn’t hopeless. Kean Bryan, Jason Lowe and Daryl Murphy provide a solid spine, while Dennis Politic has plenty of potential in the attacking midfield positions.
But any hope of improving the team around those four is dashed when the board provide you with a transfer budget of £0 and an available wage budget of less than £3k p/w.
Morale is extremely low. Only a handful of your players are happier than ‘Okay’, while several are miserable.
So why bother? Well, this job provides you with the chance to really prove your managerial mettle.
Murphy is the star man, so your best bet is probably to build your attack around him. With a heading rating of 16, a direct style could suit both him and pacey strike partner Joe Dodoo.
You can then concentrate on keeping them out at the other end.
Once safety is assured, you are going to have to help get the club back on track financially after years of disastrous mismanagement.
Ali Crawford, Remi Matthews and Politic are among several young players with heaps of potential. Selling them for seven-figure fees can enable you to start moving back up the leagues and become a Bolton legend.
Key players: Kean Bryan will be crucial at centre-back, with Ryan Lowe patrolling the defence.
Daryl Murphy will probably have to score a large proportion of your goals.
MISSION: IMPRESS MR. BECKHAM
Club: Inter Miami
Objectives: Win the MLS Cup and become the USA’s most reputable club.
Transfer budget: £15.5m
How to do it: The first challenge you’ll face as manager of Inter Miami is getting through a six-month holiday until mid-December 2019, when the MLS season is about to start.
As one of the league’s two new expansion teams, you’re tasked with reaching the playoffs in the franchise’s first ever season.
And if that wasn’t pressure enough, you’ll have to do it with one of the most famous footballers of all time breathing down your neck.
David Beckham and the rest of the Inter Miami board have plenty of ambition. They expect silverware by the end of 2024, and you won’t get away with missing the playoffs even once during that five-year period.
Beckham has said “Miami needs a star”, and that’s reflected in the board’s insistence that you target high-reputation targets in the transfer market.
The £15.5m transfer budget should help you bring the next Steven Gerrard, Andrea Pirlo or Robbie Keane to the MLS.
This squad isn’t far from contention, though, and almost all of the club’s key players are under the age of 27, so not much work is needed.
There’s plenty of opportunity to bring in new players on the cheap, too.
Along with your hefty budget, you can trade with other MLS sides and use the expansion draft – which takes place on 17 December – to pick up players from other clubs in the division.
Key players: Rodolfo Pizarro, Wil Trapp and Nicolas Figal should form the spine of your team for years, as they’re all aged between 25 and 26.
MISSION: COMPLETE THE GAME
Objective: Win the Champions League in six seasons
Transfer budget: £0
How to do it: Jay from The Inbetweeners famously claimed to have completed Football Manager by taking Woking from the National League to the Champions League in six seasons.
Why not do the same?
It won’t be an easy task. Woking aren’t just a National League club, they’re a National League club in real danger of relegation.
Predicted to finish 19th, you need to immediately work wonders as failing to earn promotion in the first season would make it incredibly hard to stick to Jay’s ridiculously tight schedule.
It’s not all bad, though. Former England international Matt Jarvis is in the squad, while Martin Tyler – yes, that Martin Tyler – is a member of your backroom staff.
You’ll have some freedom in how you get the job done, as the only philosophy imposed by the board is to sign players under the age of 23 for the first team.
Relying on young players will be necessary anyway, given the transfer budget is non-existent.
By finding an affiliate club from which you can poach loanees and making some crafty free-agent signings, you can make quick progress through the lower divisions. Once you reach the Championship, things should get easier.
Succeed, and who knows? Maybe you’ll be offered a role in the England setup.
Key players: Matt Jarvis is by far the biggest name at the club and is an exceptional left midfielder, while Jake Gray has the potential to be just as good on the right.
Dave Tarpey has a finishing rating of 13, making him a great option in attack.
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