FM Experiment | FM Retro 98/99 | Part 4: Real-Life Newgens Join Hammers Revolution

Trebor Mahtal led his exciting West Ham wonderkids to back-to-back titles led by the exceptional Ronaldinho and Hidetoshi Nakata in 2025. And more exciting times were in store for Irons fans.

For what has to be an FM23 first, the West Ham board accepted Mahtal’s request for a new stadium to be built with plans due in 2027. So, I thought we’d skip ahead to that point to see how Mahtal’s rebuild progresses.

Beckham And Rooney Sign Up

Mahtal bolstered with real-life newgens Rafael van der Vaart for £13.5m from Ajax, Daniel Alves for £11.75k from Bahia, centre-back Pepe for £7.75m from Marítimo and right-back Bacary Sagna for £5m from Auxerre. And he boosted the midfield with Lars Ricken for £11m from Dortmund. As deadline day ticked over, Mahtal noted a news item linking a transfer-listed David Beckham with a move to West Ham, so he jumped at signing Beckham for a record £50m. And in January, another real-life English hero joined him as 16-year-old Wayne Rooney signed for £7.5m from Everton.

With his squad completed, Mahtal decided to switch up the tactic and go with a narrow 4-3-3 of sorts, with two attacking midfielders playing in behind Jaunildo but being instructed to stay wider and Beckham playing as a mezzala.

West Ham’s second title defence started well with Ricken scoring on his debut in a 2-0 win at home to Villa then Kaká getting an assist on debut in a 3-1 win at Everton. Beckham took to West Ham like a duck to water, scoring twice on his debut in a 4-0 win at Sheffield Wednesday. And his arrival marked new levels of excellence as West Ham only dropped points once through to December then lost their first game at Arsenal on Boxing Day.

Rooney made his debut at home to Everton and, of course, scored the 2nd in a 3-0 win alongside Beckham and the in-form Nakata. That made him the youngest scorer in West Ham history aged 16 years and 72 days. The youngster scored goals for fun, including a hat-trick as West Ham thumped Newcastle 6-1 then a brace in a 3-1 win at Southampton to move his new side 12 points clear with 6 games remaining. And West Ham strolled to their third successive title by 10 points from Spurs.

Champions League Knockout Struggles

West Ham got an easier set of Champions League fixtures, only dropping points at Valencia and a 1-0 loss at Roma, and qualified in 3rd. They got PSV in the last 16 and a Ronaldinho goal and assist sent them through 3-1 on aggregate after a 0-0 away. But next up was Milan, who held West Ham to a 1-1 with Alan Smith equalising after Fowler’s opener then won 1-0 at San Siro.

Jaunildo topped the scoring charts again with 26 but dropped off at the end of the season followed by Nakata with 25 goals and 13 assists. But the star man was Ronaldinho, who got 18 goals and 24 assists in 49 games, followed by Rooney, who scored 14 in 18 at the age of 16!

A year ahead of time, the West Ham board announced the plans for the new season at the end of the 2025/26 campaign. The Bobby Moore Arena, which is amazing, will have a 51,177 capacity, cost £214m and will be completed in June 2028.

More Exciting Youngsters Arrive

Mahtal added to his exciting real-life newgens in the summer of 2026, with the headline grabber being 17-year-old left-winger Cristiano Ronaldo for £5m from Sporting. He also snapped up 16-year-old Luka Modric for £1.1m from Dinamo Zagreb and two centre-backs in 17-year-old Giorgio Chiellini for £6.5m from Inter and 16-year-old Raúl Albiol for £1.3m from Valencia. He also decided to bring in an old head to support these exciting youngsters, signing requested Alan Shearer for £7.5m from Newcastle.

Shearer got injured on his debut in a 0-0 at Chelsea but Rooney replaced him and scored in a 2-1 win over promoted Man City. That sparked a strong start of 13 games unbeaten, including Shearer scoring in a 4-1 thumping of former club Newcastle and Ronaldo getting his first senior goal in a 3-2 win at Norwich, before a 2-1 loss at Villa.

Shearer picked up a hip injury that ruled him out for three months. But new European Golden Boy Rooney came in to inspire some impressive form in early 2027. Nakata scored two and created the other two for Rooney in a 4-0 hammering of Leeds then Rooney and created one for Ronaldinho in a 3-0 win over 2nd-place Chelsea, which opened up a 9-point gap.

West Ham wrapped up a 4th successive title in style, hammering Villa 5-0 led by Rooney’s brace. And they eventually won the title by 7 points from Chelsea, scoring 86 and conceding just 28. Ronaldinho was the best player in the league with a 7.80 average rating, 18 goals and only 4 assists in 30 games. But Nakata got the most assists in the league with 17.

Champions League Progression

Another Champions League campaign began with a 3-0 home win over Juventus inspired by Joe Cole’s assist hat-trick. Impressive wins over Lazio, Galatasaray, Marseille and an 8-1 battering of Rosenborg were followed by defeats at Parma and Ajax, but they qualified 5th. That teed up another meeting with Marseille, and Ronaldinho earned a 1-0 in France before a 3-1 home win. A second quarter-final clash with Milan in 12 months followed and a Cole hat-trick inspired a 4-1 home win before a 1-0 away loss.

That teed up semi-finals that highlighted how different football was in the late 90s/early 00s. West Ham faced Parma while Roma and Lazio faced off in the other. But they lost 3-0 in the away leg to van Nistelrooij, Thuram and Crespo goals then lost 2-1 at home to Veron and Crespo (scary).

17-year-old Rooney was the club’s top scorer with 32 in 40 followed by Ronaldinho (26), Shearer (19), J Cole (13) and Nakata (10). Nakata led the assists with 22 followed by Beckham and J Cole (14) and van der Vaart and Ronaldinho (9).

Seeking 5 In A Row In Final Boleyn Ground Campaign

The summer of 2027 was a little quieter but two stars did arrive in Sergio Ramos for £5.25m and the impressive-looking Alberto Aquilani for £18m from Roma, taking the club to a total of 13 wonderkids. However, all signings so far could, potentially, be trumped by snapping up a 16-year-old Lionel Messi for £15.75m from Barcelona.

Title defence four began with a thumping 8-1 victory over Man UFC, who’ve fallen apart in recent seasons and nearly got relegated last season, led by a Rooney hat-trick. That sparked a superb start, winning their first 10 games and scoring 34 in the process before Rooney bagged all four in a 4-0 hammering of Arsenal. And they stayed unbeaten for 16 games until losing 3-0 at 2nd-place Spurs.

Three wins over Christmas were followed by a 3-1 New Year’s Day loss at Chelsea, which suddenly left them just 3 points clear of Spurs, who had a game in hand. But a strong run of form, largely inspired by Rooney scoring 18 in 10 games, saw West Ham pull away and open up a 7-point gap with 6 games remaining. A rotated, exhausted team lost 2-0 at home to Spurs, but a 4-0 win at Everton and 2-1 win at Leeds wrapped up a 5th consecutive Premier League title!

And they eventually won the league by 8 points with a new record of 97 points, scoring a huge 105 and conceding just 28. Rooney was the top scorer with 35 goals and Ronaldinho the best player with a 7.93 average rating and a league-record 20 assists.

First Cup Final

West Ham had lost in the third round of the Coca Cola Cup every season so far. But 5th time around they beat Grimsby, QPR (on penalties) and Wigan to face Arsenal in the semis. Ronaldinho and Mario Yepes edged the home leg 2-0 then Nakata’s strike earned a 2-1 defeat at Herbert Chapman Arena to send his side to the Final.

Their opponent at Wembley was Sunderland, who bizarrely beat Liverpool 6-1 in the second leg after a 5-2 loss at Anfield. West Ham made a great start as Aquilani sent Ronaldinho and he squared for Rooney to tap home. Sunderland had more efforts but couldn’t find a way past Shay Given and Rooney made them pay again as he was sent through by Cole, beat 3 men and chipped the keeper. Sunderland got one back through Solskjaer but Cole unlocked their defence again sending Ronaldinho through for a 3rd.

West Ham won their first-ever League Cup!

Champions League

West Ham enjoyed another strong league phase, including a 3-2 win at home to Barcelona, before 7-0 and 5-0 wins over Club Brugge and Galatasaray confirmed a 6th-place finish. That teed up a last-16 clash with Inter, in which they drew 0-0 at San Siro then a Shearer brace earned a 3-1 home win. A 3rd-successive quarter-final with Milan followed and 3 goals in 9 minutes from Ronaldinho and a Rooney brace saw another 3-1 home victory. And the same players scored again in a 2-2 at San Siro. Another Italian opponent followed as they took on Lazio in the semis for the 2nd time in 12 months. But Lazio proved too good again, winning both legs 1-0.

The End Of The Upton Park Era

The final 5 years of life at Upton Park were a resounding success, wrapping up all 5 titles and winning a Coca-Cola Cup en route. Rooney led the way with 49 goals in 47 games but Ronaldinho remains the main man with an incredible 30 goals, 28 assists and 7.95 average rating in 55 games. Shearer, now 33, scored 25 in 45 followed by Nakata (20), Cole (14) and Beckham (9), while Cole got 25 assists followed by Nakata (17), van der Vaart (11) and Beckham and Sagna (9).

Join us next time as West Ham move into the Bobby Moore Arena for Trebor Mahtal’s 7th season in charge!

Thanks for reading this FM 23 Experiment using The Mad Scientist’s 1998/99 database. To use the database yourself, either:

  • Subscribe to the database on Steam
  • Download the Save Game File into your ‘FM23 Games’ folder (this is what I did)

And follow The Mad Scientist on Facebook, Twitter, Patreon, Twitch and YouTube.


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