FM Guide: How to Find the Best Wonderkids on Football Manager

You’re peeking around Europe’s top teams on Football Manager 2021 and discover PSG have a superstar striker who cost them an absolute pittance from some minnow in Colombia. You’re annoyed that your scouts didn’t spot him first and frustrated that you’ve had to spend far more money on inferior players. But it needn’t be that way.

My number one rule on FM21 is to never trust my scouts (unless they tell me a player is really, really bad). For that reason, I use a wide range of tactics for finding the best new players from all around the world on FM21. Below I’ll run through a few that I’ve used to find some of the best new wonderkids on my ongoing Trotters Talent save.

Option 1: Use your scouting network

My scouting network with Bolton is ridiculous. We obviously have worldwide scope but we also have 28 scouts and 6 recruitment analysts. Such a vast network isn’t really necessary and, honestly, it’s a bit of a nightmare trying to stay on top of it. But using your scouting network properly is a great, relatively hands-off technique for finding wonderkids.

Personally, I prefer to assign my scouts myself. Only one of my scouts has less than 16 for “Judging Player Potential” – because I wanted to sign the legend that is Gretar Steinsson. But I go through and set scouts to either search specific countries, regions or competitions.

I have a single scout sent out to every available region using this criteria:

  • Open the scout’s profile, hover over reports and select Scout Assignments
  • Select the Create new assignment button on the right
  • Click the button under Scope and navigate to Region, then select the specific region you want to scout
  • Click the arrow in the Additional Conditions section
  • Add Age, then Is At Most 19 or 21 (whatever your preference is)
  • Add Scouted Potential Ability – Is At Least Superb or Excellent (or whatever your preference is)
  • Click the Duration dropdown and select Ongoing
  • Select Start Assignment

I have another scout generally looking at South America, one covering Central and North America, and one specifically focused on Colombian youngsters, which I may rotate to other countries that I know produce good youngsters. I also have a scout rotating around Belgium, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Portugal and Spain. Plus, my chief scout is responsible for scouting the next opposition and my head performance analyst analyses the next opposition.

Competition-wise, I currently have individual scouts covering:

  • All the competitions across England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales
  • All the English youth leagues (Under 18s, Under 23s, U18 Premier Division Cup, FA Youth Cup , U23 Premier Division Cup, U18 Premier Division Cup)
  • All the major European leagues for the next 10 months (using the Until Finished duration option)
  • Another scouting all the major European leagues and cups – which is probably a little overkill
  • One scout is covering all the international competitions, such as World Cup Qualification, Euros U21 and U19 qualifying and more. Another is scouting youngsters in European competitions like the Champions League and UEFA Youth League.
  • Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana

Keeping staff on these assignments on an ongoing basis is important as it gradually improves their knowledge of a region, rather than constantly swapping them to new locations they have zero knowledge of. And, in theory, this should improve the recommendations they provide.

Additionally, I also currently have one, sometimes two, scouts with no assignment set, which leaves some leeway for the below scouting options. I’m not sure if that makes any difference or not, but I like to do it anyway!

Option 2: Manually search international youth teams

This option is a bit more hands-on but can be crucial to finding players that scouts might miss. It’s simply a case of searching for a nation, for example Brazil, then hovering over the National Teams tab and opening the Under 18s, Under 19s or Under 20s squads. And, in some cases, looking at the full squad to find any youngsters that have already called up, who are likely to be decent.

You can then manually look at players to see if they’re any good or sort the squad by value or age to find interesting players. Hover over the Reports tab on their profile and select Get Scout Report.

For example, I just looked at the Brazil U19 squad and the highest valued player is 17-year-old Internacional winger Luiz Henrique, who my scouts have never brought to me. Additionally, four of the top five most valuable players have no scout reports from my scouting team and there was a 16-year-old midfielder in the Under 20 squad. Additionally, i found two interesting 16-year-olds in Colombia’s U20s – so I’m not sure what my scout in Colombia is playing at. But, I’ve just requested scout reports on all of them.

From there you can hit the arrow buttons next to the Brazil logo in the top left to navigate through other youth teams in South America. Then repeat for nations in Europe and Asia etc…

This is a more laborious process, but I generally find it quite satisfying when you do discover a new prospect and it doesn’t really take too long. I tend to try and remember to do this every couple of years or so.

Option 3: Blast scout youth intakes

Potentially the best way to find the latest wonderkids that Football Manager has to offer is to get straight to the source by scouting new players from clubs’ annual youth intakes. To do this:

  • Select the World logo in the top right of the screen
  • Select World from the top menu that appears
  • Select Transfers
  • Click the drop-down menu tab next to Transfers in the top left and select Youth Intake

I tend to go through the entire list and search all the players from appealing clubs. For example, all the clubs in major nations and, in particular, clubs that tend to produce good youngsters. To do this:

  • Select a group of players – only up to 50 players at a time
  • Right-click, hover over the Report tab and select Get Scout Report

You can then do that multiple times throughout the entire list of new players entering the game. I try to remember to do this at least around the European intakes or, if I forget, then in the summer. But, key youth intake dates to be aware of are:

  • January – Colombia
  • February – Norway, Russia, Mexico
  • March – all the major European leagues (some lower league divisions drip into April)
  • September – Brazil, Sweden, USA, Peru, China
  • October – Argentina, Australia, Belarus

One warning around this approach is that all the scout reports will come straight to your inbox, so you typically have to wade through a see of 100s of messages. I usually tell them to Keep Scouting if the scout recommendation is 50 or 60 and above, and discard if it’s below 50. One of the good things about this approach is that the scout report tells you how much the player is likely to cost, including potential compensation payments so it’s easy to spot a bargain.

This approach is probably my biggest recommendation. I currently have 20 pre-agreed transfers for exciting players who are 17 or younger, who will sign when they become available – typically in two years’ time when they become professional. This includes players I was able to snap up on compensation deals from the likes of PSG, Real Madrid, Barcelona, RB Leipzig, AC Milan, Porto and Dortmund and the exciting looking Marko Jovanovic from Red Star – which goes to show it’s very much worth getting scout reports on ALL club youth intakes.

Option 4: Search for young capped players

If a player has been trusted with an international call-up at a young age, that suggests they could be a decent player. Or they’re just from a terrible footballing nation. Nonetheless, this can be a useful tactic for finding a potential wonderkid:

  • Head to the Scouting tab
  • Hover over Players in the top left menu and select Player Search
  • Open the Edit Search menu in the far-right of the screen
  • Select players aged 15 to 18 or 19 (or whatever your preference, but this works best)
  • Select the Add Condition drop-down menu in the bottom right and select International Caps
  • Set this search term to Is At Least 1 and hit OK

This is a really nice way of manually finding some great youngsters, some of which your scouts may already have found, others they won’t. For example, I just did this search and somehow my scouts had never found Anderlecht wonderkid Andrew Lebreton. And that just goes to prove that you cannot trust your scouts!

Option 5: Use your staff’s knowledge

When you hire a new member of staff, FM21 offers you the opportunity to ask them to provide a new signing recommendation, which will pop up in your Scouting Centre and potentially your scouting email update.

The only reason I mention this is that when I hired Harry Kane as my U18s manager in 2035, I asked him for a recommended signing and he advised a random Argentinian midfielder named Germán Martínez. He looked promising, we signed him for £6 million rising to £9.5 million – and seven years later he’s one of the best midfielders in the world and he looks like this:

So whenever you sign a new staff member – especially a high reputation coach or a good scout – ask them to recommend a new signing!

Option 6: Manually search youngsters

The final option is to use the Player Search menu and simply set the Age setting to 15 to 16, 19 etc… Realistically, if you’ve done all the options above then you should have already found all of these players. But one might slip through the net, so it’s worth having a quick search now and again.

Option 7: Use your own youth system

Why bother paying for the best talent when you can product it yourself? This is a little more random than the other options on this list but it’s worked absolute wonders on my Bolton save. In 22 years, I reckon we’ve only two youth intakes that haven’t produced players that can either step up to the first team or we can sell on for profit. My first-team currently has 10 players that came through our academy.

Potentially more importantly, we also made an absolute fortune selling players that came through our youth intakes. For example, Ronnie Latapy was sold in 2024 for £5 million when we were cash-strapped, then Jack Salter, Lewis Gordon and Liu Junyan all moved on for over £20 million in 2029. And that set us on the financial road to the Premier League.

So there you have it, a thorough approach to finding all the new wonderkids in Football Manager 21! This foolproof process has helped me find the best new players on the game, develop multiple generations of my own homegrown wonderkids, and making an absolute boatload of money!

What do you think of these wonderkid discovery approaches? And do you have any of your own tactics for finding new talent?

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