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I love football, and Football Manager has always been a series that I've wanted to get into. However after multiple attempts of playing over the years I decided that it just wasn't for me; the menus were far too overwhelming so I never got past introducing myself to my new squad of players. That was until the first lockdown this year, when we all had a lot of spare time. I spent a good chunk of that time finally forcing myself to conquer this fear of Football Manager and it wasn't nearly as daunting as I initially thought. In fact, I'm not ashamed to say that I was addicted to guiding my Bolton Wanderers team through the tiers of English football.
I've been lucky enough to play a bit of the latest edition in the series by Sports Interactive: Football Manager 2021. There are a few updated features like how you conduct press conferences, the matchday layout has slightly changed and there's a nice improvement to the graphics in director replays of matches. There's also the option to throw a water bottle in anger or wag your finger at a cheeky journalist - very Mourinho-esque. However the Football Manager you know and love hasn't changed all that much.
So, now all you need is a team to manage. It's boring being a glory hunter and picking the best teams in world football, Football Manager is at its best when you pick a team in the lower leagues and take them all the way to the top. Therefore, I've compiled a list of some of the most exciting teams to pick in FM2021 - for a variety of different reasons.
In one of the most 2020 things to have happened so far, Welsh National League team Wrexham have been bought by Hollywood actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney. It doesn't matter if the team is rubbish, just imagine how fun some of the board meetings will be. 'The Gang Win Promotion...'
Not long ago, Bolton finished 6th in the Premier League on the same points as Liverpool. Today, they're struggling in League Two with zero transfer budget. Youngsters Dennis Politic and Ronan Darcy can grow into top players if you can hold onto them. This one is a challenge for sure but that makes it all the more sweet when you finally return The Trotters to their glory days.
Whether you love or hate them, RB Leipzig have one of the most promising, young squads in world football. Centre-backs Dayot Upamecano and Joško Gvardiol, can be coached into world class players giving you a really soild back line. Using sister club RB Salzburg to get even more wonderkids in is an easy win too. The reign of Bayern Munich won't last long...as long as you don't get really unlucky with injuries.
Ralph Hasenhüttl has developed a progressive, attacking style of football at Southampton since his appointment as Saints Head Coach that you can easily adopt. They have a decent squad too so with a few new signings and a bit of luck, taking Southampton on a European run is very possible and would be a lot of fun.
MLS saves on Football Manager offer a very different experience to the European game we all know. The draft, the playoffs and more can add a bit of variety to the game if you want something new. Plus you'll have Gonzalo Higuaín banging goals in to keep owner David Beckham happy. Thank God they don't have American football chants in the game though.
It feels a lot longer than four years ago when Leicester City surprised us all to win the Premier League with Tinkerman Claudio Ranieri at the helm. Leicester still have some of the old brigade like Wes Morgan, Kasper Schmeichel and Jamie Vardy, who is still scoring for fun. Though they also have some talented prospects like James Maddison and Youri Tielemans. Can you take The Foxes back to the top spot and recreate the 5000/1 piece of history?
Former Titans of Europe, AC Milan have had it tough for the past few years. Juventus have dominated the Italian league but things are on the up for the red side of Milan. Wonderkids like midfielder Sandro Tonali and goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma will make for a compelling few years. Oh you'll also have Zlatan Ibrahimovic though you'd probably be best to just let him do what he wants.
Another exciting Italian side, who reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League last year with their free flowing football. Atalanta games always include a lot of goals, for and against, so maybe make sure you only have key highlights selected if you choose La Dea.
Maybe I'm only including Sunderland because of the recent Netflix documentary but The Black Cats are a massive club and deserve to be much higher in the leagues than they currently are. Basically the whole team needs replacing but at least you can make the squad completely yours - assuming the board agrees with your decisions. You'll also get to sing "Will Grigg is on fire" - so there's that too.
1860 Munich was one of the founding members of the Bundesliga but now find themselves in the third tier of German football. To make matters worse they no longer play at the massive Allianz Arena, which they previously shared with Bayern. The time is now to take 1860 back to the top, working your way up the leagues as the noisy neighbours. I'd definitely be suiting up for the Munich derby of 2025 - a must win game to clinch the title. They have a decent kit too.
Football Manager 2021 is out now for PC and mobile and is releasing December 1st for Xbox.