When you’re first loading up Football Manager 2022, choosing your character and thinking about the team you want to take control of, you’re greeted with the team that you support as the default option. But really - who plays as their own team?
No, different bonds are created in FM. Loyalties are forged to random third-division Italian sides that you guide to a Champions League final. A National League club who build a stadium in your name. An African nation that you led to the 2034 World Cup final.
If you’ve not tied yourself down to a club in Football Manager 2022, we’re here to help. Here are our top picks of who to manage this time around.
1. Newcastle United
Already confirmed by FM chief Miles Jacobson as the most played team on the Beta version of Football Manager 2022, Newcastle are the obvious choice. After being taken over by a Middle Eastern nation, the Toon are absolutely minted (with a £200m transfer budget to spend) and have a squad that needs an overhaul.
What's more, you don't even have to feel bad about replacing the old coach – Steve Bruce has just been fired, so feel free to imagine you were cherry-picked by the Saudi regime. Howay!
You might have heard of this lot. Taking over a sleeping giant is one of the most exciting challenges in Football Manager - and though you could hardly describe a team of Barcelona’s ambitions as “sleeping”, they’re in a funk that will take some navigating. Lionel Messi has left and the wage bill is a mess, but there’s still a world-class academy spitting our starlets like Ansu Fati and Pedri. Take them back to the pinnacle of football.
3. Schalke 04
Relegated to the second tier after a campaign that saw them win just three times in the top flight, Schalke are nothing short of a shambles. But it wasn't always this way. The Royal Blues came second in the Bundesliga in 2019 and won the DFB Pokal as recently 2011.
They're short on cash and the squad is dreadful but they do have a magnificent stadium, passionate fans and a cheat code of an academy. Die Knappenschmiede – Germany's La Masia – has moulded the likes of Mesut Oezil, Leroy Sane, Leon Goretzka and Manuel Neuer. Raise an army of academy gems and take them back to the promised land.
4. Paris Saint-Germain
Unlimited pots of money? Check. A squad packed full of top players you can sell to make even more? Check. Kylian Mbappe? Check. Neymar? Check. Ermm... Lionel Messi? Check.
Let's face it, sometimes we don't want a challenge. Managing PSG on FM is akin to abandoning the missions on Grand Theft Auto and just going for a joyride. Who cares if you're only playing Clermont Foot, just batter them 15-0 and crack open another beer? Doesn't it feel good to be bad?
5. Derby County
Piles of debt and a 12-point deduction greet Wayne Rooney's replacement on day one of the Derby job – a frightful prospect for even the most experienced virtual bosses.
Yet the idea of returning one of the greatest club sides of the 1970s to the summit of Europe is surely the most satisfying objective this year's game has to offer. It'll be a tough task even keeping this mob in the Championship in year one, and don't expect to spend much money for the first few years, but the satisfaction when they name that stand after you in 2044 will be sweeter than ever.
6. PSV Eindhoven
PSV Eindhoven have a solid squad (Marco van Ginkel, Mario Goetze, Ritus Doan and Englishman Noni Madueke are among the highlights) but are without a league title since 2018; unacceptable for a club of their stature.
The name of the game is in challenging Ajax for the title and that one Champions League spot. This is a former European Cup winner too, don’t forget. There’s plenty of talent coming out of the Netherlands – you'll have a world class academy – and it’s fairly easy to sign talent in the Dutch league. A challenge that promises to be a lot of fun straight off the bat.
7. Deportivo La Coruna
There are great young Spanish players coming through and plenty of stiff competition in Spanish football right now. The top tier is due a shake-up though. With many teams playing similar styles in La Liga in 2021, what will you bring to the table when you arrive in 2024? It’s a big challenge but restoring the glory to Depor has been a solid FM option for yonks, now.
8. Red Bull Salzburg
Because RB Leipzig feels a little too dirty - what and PSG don’t, FFT? - why not take over Red Bull’s second-biggest European enterprise?
RB Salzburg is bringing through some of the biggest talents in the game. With a top academy, decent players in the first team already and scope to build Austria more as a footballing powerhouse, there are considerable resources that you can use with a save here. Oh, and why not add another affiliate club while you’re at it? Imagine you’re making RB Swindon.
9. AC Milan
Another fallen giant; but one on it's way back up. AC Milan are well-funded again, play Champions League football and have a big stadium that promises to keep the coffers ticking. The challenge will be holding on to the young gems in your squad (Franck Kessie, Fikayo Tomori and Sandro Tonaldi to name three), while also managing the older players. Olivier Giroud and Zlatan Ibrahimovic will both want to play, but can they be fielded together? A classic 4-4-2 could be the key.
Kaiserslautern are the 10th most successful German club ever and play in a stadium bigger than Chelsea’s. Yet somehow, the 1999 Champions League semi-finalists are rotting in the third tier in Germany.
Rebuilding the Red Devils into a feared force again is one of the most satisfying jobs in FM. Like fellow sleeping giants 1860 Munich, Kaiserslautern fans bitterly hate Bayern Munich - but given that they exist in their own town, free of bigger rivals, they’re a great club to turn into a franchise worth moving to.
When legendary manager Bela Guttmann was refused a modest pay rise at Benfica back in the 1960s, he put a curse on the club to not win the European Cup for 100 years. Eight European finals later, the curse is still holding up.
Can you be the one to break it? Benfica, or SLB as they’re known as on FM, have an endless conveyor belt of wonderkids and a top hitman in Darwin Nunez. If you can keep a few of the talents around and invest the money you receive wisely, there’s no reason you can’t win at least a Europa League in your first couple of seasons.
12. Inter Miami
OK, who doesn’t want David Beckham as their boss?
The Florida start-up already has the likes of Juventus has-beens Gonzalo Higuain and Blaise Matuidi on board, plus meathead Ryan Shawcross from Stoke. An MLS save requires plenty of reading the manual - signing players is a job in itself - but it might be fun to take a cool, new club and produce something brand new, all the while signing Europe’s over-30s. Plus, those kits are just lovely and you won't feel bad about making the old manager redundant (it's Phil Neville).
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