Talentspotter

Where are they now? The 10 best teenagers in Football Manager 2008

You may have noticed our list of the globe’s 100 finest youngsters this week, in conjunction with our pals at FM Towers. But what’s happened to the stars who were destined for greatness a decade ago?  

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10. Micah Richards

Micah Richards

Hopes were high for Richards back in 2008; months before he was revealed as the 10th highest-rated teenager in Football Manager, Manchester City manager Stuart Pearce told reporters he “would love to see Micah stay, captain the club, maybe be here for 10 years and carry the club on his back if he can”. Not much, then.

Richards was a regular for six seasons from 2006 onwards, and played an integral role in City’s astonishing 2011/12 title win

The subsequent takeover by mega-rich Abu Dhabians didn’t exactly help Richards’ chances of becoming a decade-long fixture, but nobody would have predicted the extent of his recent decline. A loan switch to Fiorentina in 2014/15 bore little fruit, before a permanent switch to Aston Villa the following season took the right-back down to the Championship, where he’s struggled for game time this term.

It wasn’t all bad at City, though: before being ousted by Pablo Zabaleta he was a regular for six seasons from 2006 onwards, and played an integral role in City’s astonishing 2011/12 title win under Roberto Mancini.  

9. Marcelo

Still only 29, Marcelo has nevertheless spent more than a decade at Real Madrid having joined the Spanish giants from Fluminense in January 2007.

Marcelo scored his first international goal at White Hart Lane in 2006 as Brazil beat Wales 2-0

The attack-minded left-back was still finding his feet at the Bernabeu when he was named among Football Manager’s top teens a year later, and many doubted whether he had a long-term future at the club after a poor run of form under Juande Ramos in 2009.

In truth, it feels as though Marcelo has only recently won over his sizeable contingent of doubters. The interpretation of him as defensively poor was always unfair, but in the last few seasons the Brazilian has proved beyond doubt that he’s one of the world’s best players in his position.  

8. Marek Hamsik

Another who’s been with his current employers since 2007, Hamsik is closing in on Diego Maradona’s scoring record for Napoli – at the time of writing, he needs just two more goals to overtake the Argentine’s tally of 115.

Hamsik has been named Slovakian Footballer of the Year for six of the past eight years. The other two years? Martin Skrtel

Likened to Juventus great Pavel Nedved early in his career, Hamsik has evolved over the years; he tended to be employed as part of a front three during Walter Mazzarri’s time at the Stadio San Paolo between 2009 and 2013, but he’s moved deeper in recent seasons and now plays in Maurizio Sarri’s midfield trio.

Hamsik has still only won trophy at Napoli – the Coppa Italia in 2012 – and will be desperate to help end the club’s 27-year Scudetto drought this term.

7. Zdravko Kuzmanovic

Kuzmanovic has carved out a decent career for himself, playing in the top flights of Italian, Swiss, German and Spanish football – but it’s hard to shake the feeling that he never quite lived up to his early promise.

Kuzmanovic represented Switzerland at Under-21 level before playing for the Serbia senior side

Named Swiss Golden Player of the Year in 2006, the midfielder left Basel for Fiorentina the following January. His time in Tuscany was a success but by 2009 Kuzmanovic was on the move again, joining Stuttgart for £7m. He’s represented Inter, Basel (again) and Udinese since then, and can currently be found plying his trade on loan at Malaga.

Although he’s not pulled on a Serbia shirt since 2014, Kuzmanovic will hope for an international recall in time for the Russian World Cup next summer.