Believe it or not, we’re only around the halfway mark of the Football Manager 2022 lifecycle. That means you still have six months of adventures just waiting to be explored in FM22 so, if you’re bored of your current save or looking for a new challenge, then now is the perfect time to kick it off.
We put our thinking hats on to come up with some interesting teams and challenges to take on through the remainder of Football Manager 22.
If you’re anything like me, then your main aim in Football Manager is to amass an army of world-beating wonderkids to win your chosen league with. If so, then you’ll want to join a club that has youth development built into its ethos and, ideally, an existing focus on signing young players.
With that in mind, we used the CIES Football Observatory tool to identify the clubs with the youngest playing squads in Europe that could pose an interesting challenge:
FC Nordsjaelland, Denmark
Nordsjaelland is right up there at the top of my list of teams to manage. That’s partly because one of my favourite players on FM22 Andreas Schjelderup starts the game at Nordsjaelland, but also because I’ve never managed in Scandinavia before. Additionally, according to the CIES tool, they have the youngest squad in Europe at an average age of just 21.58. The club offers a great wonderkid creation infrastructure with 18 youth recruitment, 17 junior coaching and 16 youth facilities. It also offers 11 first-team players with 5-star potential and mone more in the under 19s, as well as a further 14 with up to 4.5-star potential. Their finances are also decent, with £24 million in the bank and no debts.
The next youngest team in Europe is Rudes, who play in Croatia’s second tier. In fact, they start the game without a single player aged over 28, 10 first-team players with at least 4.5-star potential and four exciting players in the youth squad in Jakov Zaja, Riad Masala, Gabriel Popovic and Roko Brajkovic, plus loanee Alessio Tonon. The finances aren’t easy with a transfer budget of just £40,000 and the infrastructure isn’t great, but the board only expect a top-four finish for the next five years, which gives you a bit of time.
Over in Belarus, Energetik start the game with an average age of 21 – according to FM at least – and don’t have any players aged over 28. The first-team squad contains seven 5-star potential youngsters, including 17-year-old midfielder Maxim Omeljanchuk. They’re predicted to finish 13th of 15 teams, which again poses a real challenge. However, they have a decent financial situation with a balance of £540,000 and you get a youth intake preview on your very first day in the job!
It’s a little unusual for one of the best teams in a league to also be the youngest team. But that’s the case with Zilina, who boast an average age of just 22.87 – or 21 if you prefer to trust FM. Zilina also have the best youth system in Slovakia with 19 youth recruitment. Their first-team has 18 players with 4.5-star potential or better, including 18-year-old left-back Dominik Javorcek, and six more in the B Team. So this could be a really fun save, although their finances aren’t great.
Viitorul Targo Jiu, Romania
Staying in Eastern Europe, Romania is an intriguing country to manage in. I managed FCSB in the Soviet Surge then found out the club is a bit controversial (see Steaua below). But if youth focus is your thing then Romania’s offering is Liga II side Viitorul, who have an average age of 23.03. That includes several exciting young players like 18-year-old goalkeeper Bogdan Eftimie and centre-back Alexandru Core, plus five more talented youngsters in the youth squads including winger Razvan Vulpe. However, they start the game with £192 in the bank, no transfer budget and they’re overspending on wages, plus the infrastructure is pretty terrible. So maybe not…
FC Groningen, Netherlands
If you fancy the rather steep challenge of usurping the big three of Ajax, PSV and Feyenoord by building a young team then Groningen may be the one for you. FM suggests the club’s average is just 21 and predicts them to finish 7th in Eredivisie. They have a solid infrastructure with 16 training facilities and junior coaching and 15 youth facilities and youth recruitment. And you start off with six first-team players with 5-star potential, including 19-year-old attacking midfielder Tomas Suslov and a good goalscoring option in 21-year-old Jorgen Strand Larsen. There’s also huge potential in their B and under 18 squads, including striker Lucas Gomes and four exciting 16-year-olds led by midfielder Jorg Schreuders.
Build A Nation
Build a nation saves are all the rage these days – regardless of whether or not dynamic youth ratings actually work or not! In theory, any of the above youth dev saves could also become a Build A Nation save. However, the latter focuses more on selling players you develop within the country you’re based in to help your rivals improve alongside you. Obviously, big nations like England, France, Italy, Spain are already well-developed as leading football nations. So you need to look a little further afield. Here are a few ideas for nations I think could work for this:
This is a bit of a weird challenge. FC Liefering are a side in the Austrian second-tier with magnificent facilities: 19 training and youth facilities and youth coaching and 20 youth recruitment. They also have a bank balance of £30 million. Sounds great right? Well, unfortunately, the club has an affiliate deal with RB Salzburg that prevents the clubs from playing in the same division. So even if you win the second-tier, you can’t get promoted – unless the impossible happens and Salzburg get relegated.
Therefore, the objective here is to churn out masses of amazing Austrian wonderkids solely for the purpose of selling them to other Austrian teams to build the nation. You also have access to Salzburg’s under 18s team, which all looks very confusing. But it could be worth a go to see if it works!
Belgium has long been revered so its so-called golden generation that, in truth, has achieved absolutely nothing. The likes of Hazard, Alderweireld, De Bruyne and co have won nada. However, FM regularly churns out excellent Belgian wonderkids for you to work with and its league is clearly ranked below the big European leagues. So the aim is start with a Belgian club with good youth production, grow the league reputation, develop top-level Belgian players and, potentially, work towards leading the Belgian national team to glory.
If you’ve ever played Football Manager and progressed past the first five years or so, you’ll know how good Colombian wonderkids are. One focus I think could be interesting would be to take control of Envigado, one of Colombia’s leading wonderkid factories with 20 youth recruitment, and use them to develop exciting talents and farm out around the country while developing the club. For context, Envigado used their supreme talent development to win three national titles on my Aventuras Américas save, in 2039, 2041 and 2043.
Anyone who’s watched football in the last 25 years will know that Croatia repeatedly punch above their weight in the footballing world. Back in 1998, they came third at the World Cup with the likes of Davor Suker, who won the Golden Boot. And they went one better by reaching the Final at the expense of England World Cup 2018. That’s despite Croatia having a population of just 4 million people – which is more than 16-times less the population of France, who beat them in the last World Cup Final. FM22 reflects this with hot prospects emerging from the likes of Dinamo Zagreb, Hajduk Split and Rijeka. But it might be fun to select a smaller side like Gorica, Osijek or the aforementioned Rudes and look to build the nation.
Serbia was a country I really enjoyed managing in on my Soviet Surge save. Not only does Serbia produce great wonderkids, it also boasts a host of fun clubs to manage. That includes the big two teams Red Star and Partizan through to the likes of Cukaricki, Radnicki 1923 and Vojvodina.
Rags to Riches challenges
There are countless examples of teams that have fallen on hard times having tasted glory in recent times. The obvious ones include the likes of Deportivo La Coruna, but here are a few more examples of teams you could lead from the doldrums to glory:
Royal Football Club de Liége, Belgium
Dwelling in the third-tier of Belgian football you’ll find a sleeping giant that’s been national champion five times, but not since 1953. In fact, FRC Liége was the winner of the first-ever Belgian championship and is the only club to play every season of its existence at a national (or professional) level. Intriguingly, it’s also the club that initiated the Bosman ruling, when it refused to release Jean-Marc Bosman when his contract expired in 1990. RFC have better facilities than any other side in the third-tier but the board only expects a top-half finish for the foreseeable future. However, they do have £160,000 of debt with a bank balance of just £90,000.
Boldklubben Frem, Denmark
I have to admit I’ve never heard of this team. However, they are six-time champions of Denmark who now reside in the fourth tier of Danish football! Their last title came in 1944 but they were in the top tier 3F Superliga as recently as 2004. However, they start with just £75,000 in the bank and pretty weak facilities, so this is a massive rags to riches challenge. If you want a slightly less difficult challenge then the third tier of Denmark has two clubs that have been national champions nine times each in AB and B.93.
FC Sète 34, France
Another club I’ve never heard of, but Sète 34 are two-time French champions back in 1934 and 1939. They’re also the only former national champions who start the game in the French third tier. So 90 years on, can you restore them to the top of French football? Well, it’s going to be difficult as they have terrible facilities and no transfer budget. But at least they’re not in debt!
Turun Palloseura, Finland
Currently in the second tier of Finnish football, TPS have eight titles to their name, including four between 1968 and their most recent title in 1975. The board are pretty ambitious, expecting their manager to finish in the top two with virtually no money. But they do have 14 junior coaching and youth recruitment and an exciting-looking prospect in 18-year-old Santeri Pohjolainen.
TSV 1860 Munchen, Germany
The other Munich side last won Bundesliga way back in 1966, at which point they were tied with rivals Bayern on 1 title each. Since then, 1860 fans have seen Bayern win 30 titles and six Champions Leagues while their club slipped into the third-tier of German football in 2017. So the challenge here is to rebuild the club around decent young talents like Maxim Gresler, Erik Tallig and Fabian Grellinger and revive the Munchner Derby. However, the £53 million of debt could pose a challenge.
AE Larisa, Greece
Riches may be a stretch here, but AE Larisa are the only team in the Greek second-tier that’s previously won the Greek Super League 1. That was way back in 1988, but they’ve also won the Greek Cup in 1985 and 2007. Can you lead them back to the top tier, overcome the likes of AEK, PAOK and Panathinaikos, then challenge the dominant Olympiacos?
Knattspyrnufélagid Fram, Iceland
If that hellish name hasn’t put you off then you’ll discover a team with a superb history in Icelandic football. Fram, as they’re thankfully known in-game, have 18 Icelandic titles to their name, but none since 1990, and eight Icelandic Cups. However, they remain in the second tier since being relegated in 2014. The board expect promotion in the first season then to become an established Premier Division side. There’s no money and the facilities aren’t the best, but this would definitely be an intriguing challenge.
Hapoel Petach-Tikva, Israel
This may not surprise you, I’ve never managed in Israel on Football Manager before! But lingering in the second-tier of Israeli football are multiple national champions Hapoel, who won all of their six titles between 1955 and 1963. The board aren’t very ambitious, only expecting top-half finishes for the next five years, which gives you a bit of freedom to build the club.
Growing up watching Italian football in the 1990s, I was always intrigued by a couple of smaller teams. The first was Sampdoria, who I managed in the FM Beta earlier this season, but the other was Bari. The club has fallen into Serie C/C, where they still play at the 58,720-capacity San Nicola, doesn’t have the best facilities and has an old squad with an average age of 29.4. So rebuilding Bari is going to be a massive challenge.
Fredrikstad FK, Norway
Nine-time national champions Fredrikstad are now in the second tier OBOS-ligaen having just been promoted from the third tier. Despite being newly promoted, they’re predicted to finish mid-table, have half-decent facilities and at least five exciting young players to build the team around, so this could be a good place to begin a Scandinavian journey. However, they have a starting balance of around £240,000 and a £165,000 loan to pay off by 2023.
Steaua Bucuresti, Romania
A bit of a controversial one, Clubul Sportiv al Armatei Steaua should not be confused with FCSB. However, Steaua offer the epitome of the Rags to Riches challenge. As well as becoming European Champions in 1986, Steaua also have 21 Romanian titles and 20 Romanian Cups to their name. The club went through an interesting legal situation with FCSB in 2014, which forced FCSB to change its name and logo. Steaua retained the rights to the historic name then re-entered Romanian football at the fourth-tier in 2017 and is now in the second-tier. So the challenge will be to lead Steaua back to the top-tier, overtake FCSB, become national champion and win a second Champions League. Too ambitious?
Örgryte IS, Sweden
Örgryte IS are a 14-time national champion of Sweden, but haven’t won the title since 1985 and now reside in the second-tier Superetten. Their facilities aren’t the best but they do have £640,000 in the bank and an exciting prospect in midfielder Kevin Ackermann. Another option in the same league is Helsingborgs, who are seven-time champions of Sweden most recently in 2011 and have good facilities and a bit more money.
1 Team For Each Top 6 League
If you want to stick firmly with the top European leagues, then I’ve picked out the most interesting team from each that I’d recommend taking on.
Crystal Palace, England
Palace have been making waves under Patrick Vieira this season and that’s reflected in FM22. The club has four players with 5-star potential and one with 4.5-stars, in Michael Olise, Tyrick Mitchell, Conor Gallagher (on loan from Chelsea), Marc Guehi and Nathan Ferguson. And they have the basis of a solid squad and an exciting prospect in 16-year-old striker Adler Nascimento. So I think this could be a fun save to take on, but can you build a Palace side that challenges the “top six?” And can you lead them to their first-ever English title?
I imagine the main reason most people are aware of Rennes is their production and sale of Eduardo Camavinga to Real Madrid. That’s indicative of a club that has ambitions to develop the best youth system in France over the next five years, which is where 18 youth recruitment and 17 youth facilities and junior coaching come into play. They start with exciting young talents like Loic Baldé, Jérémy Doku and Kamaldeen Sulemana, as well as eight players with 5-star potential in the youth ranks. It feels like this is a club on the up and, like Palace, they’ve never won the top tier of French football, so that’s the challenge. Just to add a bit of a challenge to this, Rennes have overtaken PSG in my ongoing Aventuras Américas save, winning the French league for the first time in 2048. So you need to beat that!
Bayer Leverkusen, Germany
Leverkusen may sound like a big club, given they reached the Champions League Final in 2002. However, they’ve never won Bundesliga, despite being runner-up five times since 1997. The club does have all the ingredients you need to cook up this first title, including 17 youth recruitment and training facilities and 16 youth facilities. They also have six exciting first-team talents in Odilon Kossonou, Florian Wirtz, Piero Hincapié, Jeremie Frimpong, Paulino and Moussa Diaby, plus two excellent 16-year-old prospects Iker Bravo and Zidan Sertdemir. Plus the German league is the easiest place to build a great squad given the amazing competition prize money and total lack of squad registration rules. Hello, South American wonderkids.
This may seem an obvious choice, but Atalanta are one of very few sides to boast a perfect 20 youth recruitment. They’ve also still never won Serie A and have fallen away a little in real life compared to the last few seasons. The current first-team only really has Giorgio Scalvini as an exciting prospect and their current financial status also isn’t great with around £20 million in the bank and debt of £10 million. So this actually looks like a more difficult, long-term challenge than you might imagine. The aim will be to develop Atalanta with their regen youth products, but can you make them as good as my Atalanta Avventura side on FM19?
S.C. Braga, Portugal
Outside the big three of Benfica, Porto and Sporting, you’ve got your work cut out in Portugal. However, one team that rivals them in terms of infrastructure is Braga, who boast 18 training facilities, 17 youth facilities and 16 junior coaching and youth recruitment. They also have four big prospects to build around in Vitinha, David Carmo, Abel Ruiz and Francisco Moura. Like Atalanta, this is more of a long-term project to develop your own Portuguese talents and take on the traditional big boys.
Taking on the big three in Spain is undoubtedly a tough challenge. Indeed, 12 of the 20 current top-tier sides have never been Spanish champions, three have only won it once and one side has two titles. So which of these 12 makes the best option to take the fight to the big boys?
Well, Espanyol has a surprisingly good infrastructure of 17 training and youth facilities and youth coaching with 16 youth recruitment (which, for context, is on par with Sevilla and Bilbao, and better than Betis and Sociedad). They also start with exciting youth prospects Nico Melamed, who Arsenal and Spurs are immediately interested in, and Dani Villahermosa, plus 16-year-old Brazilian prospect Miguel Carvalho. The board expects you to develop players sing the youth system and only wants a mid-table finish while working towards European qualification by 2024. However, finances aren’t great with £11.5 million in the bank and outstanding debts of £34 million. So the pressure is on to develop youth talents and sell them for a profit to grow the club.
Some Random Challenges
I’ve also been mulling over some other challenges that are a little bit different:
This idea fuses together a few different concepts that are out there in the Football Manager community. The general idea is to take charge of a big club that has valuable assets to replace with an army of wonderkids. You have to sell all players at the club aged 24 or over (which can obviously be flexible) and only sign players 21 or under. You also have to target players that come from your club’s local catchment area.
I’ve been mulling this save idea over for a while and thought good candidates might be Man UFC, whose name I would definitely change to something like North West FC. Other good options would be Chelsea and Tottenham, as you then get the massive London catchment area. And away from England, good options include the likes of Lazio and Roma, the Milan clubs, Barcelona and Madrid, Benfica and Bayern Munich. I like the idea of removing Man UFC from the game, but I’m not sure I fancy managing in England, especially as it might make it tricky signing foreign youngsters.
Ultimate European Journeyman
There’s all manner of journeyman challenges out there in the FM community. But surely the ultimate challenge for the European football connoisseur has to be to try and win every title across the continent? That’s the aim of this challenge. Start unemployed, work your way up from the bottom and attempt to win every top-tier title of every nation in Europe.
For context, that’s 35 titles: Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Northern Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Scotland, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine and Wales.
The biggest issue with that is the leagues you choose to fire up to start the game, because loading 35 countries with multiple divisions will probably kill your computer. So do you start with smaller nations and build your reputation? Or choose bigger nations with more leagues available to grow your skills?
This is a challenge that I’m potentially lining up for FM23, because it sounds ridiculously fun.
Charlotte FC, USA
One of the most unique challenges on FM22 is Charlotte FC, who are a new expansion club entering MLS that enter the league in the 2022 season. This means you go through all manner of drafts at the start of the 2022 campaign, via which you have to build your own squad. On my Aventuras Américas save, Charlotte FC won their first MLS title in 2034 and the Supporters’ Shield in 2028, so can you do any better than that?
Whoever comes last, USA
One of the most intriguing elements of the aforementioned MLS draft system is the team that comes last should, in theory, get the first pick of the next generation of new talents the following season. For example, in my Americas series, New England Revolution drafted the best “Generation Adidas” prospect, who led them to the Supporters’ Shield trophy two years later. With this challenge, the best plan is probably to sim the first season and take control of whoever finished bottom of the entire MLS.
Do any of these teams and challenges pique your interest? Or do you have another challenge in mind for the rest of FM22? Let us know in the Comments below!