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Football Manager: Which players and managers play FM?

Antoine Griezmann
(Image credit: PA)

Football Manager is about as close as most of us will get to sitting in a dugout. But for those who are actually represented in FM, the game can still take up hours of your free time.

Plenty of footballers and managers alike play FM. Many coaches have said that the game has taught them things, while it's fascinating to think that there are stars out there who have managed themselves within the game.

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So next time your other half tells you that you're a loser for spending so much time coaching your regens... you may well be - but at least you're in good company.

1. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Manchester United fans may protest that the manager of their club could perhaps do with a little more practice on FM, but yes, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is a fan of the management simulator.

"It's a fantastic game, I have learned a lot about football. I have learned a lot about players, especially young talent." the Norwegian said a few years ago. 

In fact, when he talked about his love of the computer game, Solskjaer even gave an indication as to why things are going wrong in real life for him: he doesn't like having a big budget in FM.

"You could push a few buttons and get extra millions to buy a player. I never enjoyed that. I would rather win in spite of, than because of." Maybe it's time to sell Ronaldo in real life too, Ole?

2. Ousmane Dembele

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While Barcelona have been enduring a slow, gradual implosion on the pitch, Ousmane Dembele has been waiting for it all to blow over, managing Winchester FC on Football Manager.

Dembele is reportedly quite a big gamer. The fictional club have been working their way up from obscurity to the top of the Premier League with the French wide man at the helm - and near-namesake Winchester City FC, who play in the BetVictor Southern South Division, have even shown an interest in their sister club's fortunes.

Antoine Griezmann, however, has made the claim that Dembele gave himself £40m while in the third tier...

3. Antoine Griezmann

...Griezmann himself is a big FM player, too.

The Atletico forward took charge of Arsenal in 2019, signing Andy Robertson, Jadon Sancho, Phil Foden, Bruno Fernandes, Matthijs De Ligt, Ryan Gravenberch and Joao Felix all for the side - they even in the same formation that Didier Deschamps used in the 2018 World Cup.

"I am where?" Alexandre Lacazette tweeted his countryman to ask. Sold to Huddersfield for less than £25m, came the answer. Brutal. 

4. Joe Lolley

 "I love quick centre-halves (so I can play a very high line) and ball-playing midfielders with good off the ball attributes and movement as I try to play good football," Joe Lolley casually told Football Manager's official website.

Look out for the Nottingham Forest star making a move into coaching one day: Lolley is already an accomplished virtual manager. In 2019, the winger took Oxford City from the Conference South to five top-flight titles and three European trophies. He's an innovator too.

"I had a save with Shrewsbury and by about 2035 I had a squad where 50% of the players had come through the academy," Lolley revealed. "We played a 2-7-1 formation and won every trophy going. I can remember beating Atalanta away 13-0 in the group stages in Europe and having 50 odd shots. Total domination."

5. Cesar Azpilicueta

Cesar Azpilicueta is reportedly a big Osasuna fan - but has never been able to convince any of his Chelsea teammates to join the Spanish minnows in FM.

While the Champions League-winning full-back hasn't fully revealed how he's done in the game, mind, we bet that if he's anything like the player he is in real life, he's a vastly intelligent manager. Perhaps this is preparation for when he takes on coaching in the real world...

6. Adam Le Fondre

Not everyone is good at Football Manager - and while it's mean to judge Adam Le Fondre harshly, one particular save looked bad for him. 

The Sydney FC striker was sacked by middling German outfit Paderborn in the game, after expectations grew and he couldn't quite match up to them. After his time on the scrapheap, Le Fondre went to Fiorentina.

"Stayed long enough and became the villain," Le Fondre claimed of his Bundesliga career. "Cup final loss, knocked [out] in [the] Europa [League] by Roma an[d a] poor 9th place finish wasn’t good enough for the new owners."

7. Diogo Jota

Diogo Jota

(Image credit: PA)

"In January 2031 I was able to sign myself for Gondomar, just in time for the most important campaign of the entire save," Diogo Jota claimed of his Football Manager career which began in the Portuguese third division. "I scored the decisive penalty in the shoot-out to be crowned champions of Europe in May. What a moment!"

The Liverpool star favours a 4-2-3-1 - which is interesting: maybe if he were Reds boss, he'd be able to get all of Mane, Salah and Firmino in the team around him. It seems like his closest rival for a spot in the real-world side - Firmino - might just be the player he likes best in FM, too.

"The one that I really appreciate is the no.10," Jota said. "I like him to have some good stats in terms of passing, free-kicks and creation of opportunities."

8. Darren Bent

Darren Bent was a journeyman of English football as a player. As a virtual manager, he's all about high intensity.

The former striker has said that he likes high pressing, a high line and a goalkeeper who plays short, as he looks to take a team right to the top. He's also keen on uncovering gems and suggests looking in Africa as an untapped region for wonderkids.

"I’ve managed to win European titles, do the treble and have a stadium named after me, but my favourite thing is winning the league and the European title in the same season and then defending them both in the following season," Bent said of his Football Manager accomplishments.

Honourable mention: Robbie Williams

A regular on Soccer Aid and a massive Port Vale fan in real life, former Take That star Robbie Williams is a huge FM nut, you'll be pleased to know.

“I’ve got addicted to Football Manager again," the singer mentioned a few years ago. "People had warned my fiancee Ayda what would happen, but I don’t think she was quite prepared for what was to come…”

Maybe the "angels" he was singing about were Di Maria and Juan Pablo. 

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