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[Football Manager 2021 Touch]The 20 best wonderkids to sign on Football Manager 2021 (and how much to pay for them)

Update time:2021-08-23 15:49Tag:

  Global audiences are beginning to appreciate the talents of Manuel Locatelli at Euro 2020, but for Football Manager fans, his performances come as no surprise. The Italian midfielder has long been one of the best wonderkids to sign on FM21 and there’s always a sense of joy when you see someone you signed on the game shine in real life.

  Here at The Athletic, we’ve put together a list of the best young players below the age of 23 who you need to sign.?Expensive wonderkids like Kylian Mbappe and Alexander Isak, despite their brilliance, are not included in this list, as they are too expensive. The cut-off point here is £70 million, which may seem steep, but there are two players listed here well worth that expenditure. Most players fall well below that asking price. We also haven’t just listed players for the sake of it, instead only profiling players we’ve tested across hundreds of hours of gameplay, so some positions may be more populated than others.

  When signing young players, consider this tip. Ideally, with any negotiation, you want to avoid having any sell-on clauses. When bidding for a player, make sure you exclude from the negotiation the following two clauses: “percentage of profit from next sale” and “percentage of next sale” from your offer. Of course, if you want to pay a lower fee, you may wish to include sell-on clauses. Each player’s age refers to their age at the start of any new game save in FM21. For newer Football Manager players, every player is given a statistical rating out of 20, with 20 out of 20 being the highest and 1 ouf of 20 the worst. We’ve also listed each player’s estimated cost.

  So, here is our list of the best Football Manager 2021 wonderkids you need to buy, listed in order of their estimated transfer fee. It’s by no means an exhaustive list, but simply a collection of players who have been tried and tested across hundreds of hours of gameplay, so if you think we’ve left out your favourite signing, let us know in the comments. As a bonus, we’ve provided a starting XI of players at the bottom of this article who cost a lot at the start of a game save but should be able to be signed at a reasonable price from your second year onwards.

  Andrea Papetti

  Age: 18

  Club:?Brescia

  Position: CB

  Estimated cost: £1-4 million

  Papetti may be the only player listed here who can be purchased for a cheap fee and has genuine world-class potential. But he is still somebody you should sign as soon as possible because he has the potential to become one of the best defenders in FM21. You may have to wait a few years for him to reach his potential, but he can be signed by pretty much most sides on FM21 given that he plays in Italy’s second division. If you’re looking for your typical purchase for a few million who can eventually go onto become one of the very best, look no further.

  

  Gustavo Assuncao

  Age: 20

  Club:?Famalicao

  Position: DM

  Estimated cost: £5-8 million

  The Brazilian holding midfielder has excellent stats and given that he plays for one of Portugal’s lesser-known sides, he is available to sign by pretty much any team in Europe’s top-five leagues. His standout attributes include passing (15), technique (15), tackling (14), teamwork (15), composure (16), decisions (16) and concentration (15). He is a little raw in the first season, but under the right guidance, he can easily become one of the game’s best defensive midfielders. Given that most sides don’t have the biggest transfer budgets to begin with, Assuncao is someone who is easily affordable and packs plenty of potential.

  

  Josha Vagnoman

  Age: 19

  Club: Hamburger SV

  Position: DR/DL

  Estimated cost: £5-10 million

  It doesn’t matter if you’re taking charge of a Premier League side battling relegation or mounting a title push, Vagnoman is capable of slotting in with most teams on FM21. Given that he plays in Germany’s second division, it won’t be hard prising him away and he offers the versatility of being able to play at both right-back and left-back. Don’t be fooled by the scouting report you conduct on him either. He doesn’t always clock in as being a four or five-star player, but he is without a doubt one of the most reliable full-backs and available for a cheap fee.

  

  Armel Bella-Kotchap

  Age: 18

  Club: VfL Bochum

  Position: CB

  Estimated cost: £5-10 million

  Bella-Kotchap may not have the most potential of the defenders on this list, but with all things considered, he is one of the smarter purchases. For less than £10 million, you can sign a solid starter and a player who is available to sign by pretty much anyone who can afford him. He can easily do a solid job for a Championship side or could feature in the back four of a team in Europe’s top five leagues. His pace (15) and strength (15) are two of his standout attributes at the start of any new game save, but with time, he can develop his tackling (12), passing (13) and marking (13) abilities to become a high-performer with huge resale value.

  

  Sebastiano Esposito

  Age: 18

  Club: Inter Milan, on loan at Venezia

  Position: ST

  Estimated cost: £5-10 million

  The Inter striker begins any new game save out on loan which is a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that you can sign him on the cheap, but the downside is you have to wait a year to utilise his services. Esposito is one of those players whose stats don’t jump off the page, similar to Vagnoman, but his overall play is reliable and he is capable of starting from day one of your second season. Another bonus is that you don’t need European football to entice him into a move, making him a versatile buy for just about any manager with a few spare quid lying around.

  

  Matteo Lovato

  Age: 20

  Club: Verona

  Position: CB

  Estimated cost: £15-22 million

  For managers looking for a ball-carrying central defender, Lovato fits the bill, but you’ll need to put him on the right training programme to help him develop in that role. He is more of your old-school, no-nonsense type of defender, but given that his passing ranking is 11 at the start of any game save, there is plenty to work with. He has the pace and strength you want to see in a centre-back, which are complemented by a string of attributes that have all the makings of an elite defender, including tackling (13), marking (14), heading (15), positioning (14) and anticipation (15). He’s more of a longer-term project, but worth the investment.

  

  Kristoffer Ajer

  Age: 22

  Club: Celtic

  Position: CB

  Estimated cost: £15-25 million

  For fans of Football Manager 2020, you might be experiencing a sense of deja vu here, as Ajer was also one of the better young players to sign in last year’s version. The Norwegian centre-back is still just 22 and has a bright future. Capable of playing out from the back, Ajer is the ideal signing for any Premier League side and represents a future option as captain, thanks to his 16 out of 20 mark in leadership. He’s not the flashiest purchase but can become a long-term starter for a range of Premier League sides.

  

  Youssoufa Moukoko

  Age: 15

  Club: Borussia Dortmund

  Position: ST

  Estimated cost: £20-25 million

  The youngest player on this list may also be the most talented. Considering his age, his stats are incredible. A striker who is as good as he is at carrying the ball (dribbling — 16) and then putting it in the back of the net (finishing — 15) would be of interest to most teams. Throw in the fact he has the potential to become the best strikers in the entire game and is five years away from reaching the age of 20, and suddenly spending £20-25 million on a youth player makes complete sense. Without a doubt, he is an absolute must-buy. He may be the very best wonderkid in FM21 with all things considered.

  

  Diogo Costa

  Age:?20

  Club:?Porto

  Position: GK

  Estimated cost: £20-25 million

  Costa represents another developmental prospect but doubles up as a goalkeeper who can start for your team for years to come. FM21 is not littered with amazing goalkeeping prospects, but the Porto shot-stopper is one of two on this list who can become capable of elite performance between the sticks. At 20 years old, he’s still quite raw, but like the goalkeeper listed in the slot below, Costa can evolve into an elite starter. Already a Portugal Under-21 international, he could also be a successor to Rui Patricio in the national side as his raw stats are too impressive to ignore.

  

  Maarten Vandevoordt

  Age: 18

  Club: KRC Genk

  Position: GK

  Estimated cost: £20-30 million

  Hear me out. Paying the above-mentioned fee for a goalkeeper who may be a season or two away from being a full-time starter may not seem like the best investment — on the surface. Especially not for the clubs who may have to spend the majority of their budget on Vandevoordt. But, it’s a worthwhile investment. None of his key goalkeeping stats, such as aerial reach, command of area, handling, one on ones and reflexes are higher than 14, but the fact they are also no lower than 12 (given that he’s just 18) works heavily in your favour. An ideal signing for a club with an ageing goalkeeper who may not have long left as a starter.

  

  Eric Garcia

  Age: 19

  Club: Manchester City

  Position: CB

  Estimated cost: £20-30 million

  The longer you wait, the cheaper it becomes to sign Garcia. If you manage a side outside of the Premier League and can hold out until January 2021, you can sign him for free with a pre-contract agreement. If you manage a team in England, you’ll have to dip into your transfer kitty, but he is one of the best ball-playing defenders for his age. At the start of the save, Manchester City demand silly money. By January, their asking price dips to in the region of £20-30 million. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s had the tutelage of Barcelona’s famed La Masia academy and a few years under Pep Guardiola to hone his craft, with bags of room to become one of the most dominant defenders in FM21.

  

  Patson Daka

  Age: 21

  Club: RB Salzburg

  Position:?ST

  Estimated cost: £25-30 million

  In real life, Leicester are close to signing the RB Salzburg forward in a deal worth at least £23 million and for good reason. With strong finishing ability, impressive physical attributes and a willingness to press opposing defenders, the Zambian striker is an ideal option. He is strong off the ball and has the pace to give opposing defenders a nightmare, offering something of a similar option to Jamie Vardy. Still just 21 at the start of any game save, Daka has all the room to develop into a long-term striking option.

  

  Manuel Locatelli

  Age: 22

  Club: Sassuolo

  Position: CM/DM

  Estimated cost: £25-30 million

  He’s best used as a box-to-box midfielder in FM21 but also possesses playmaking skills thanks to the following key metrics: passing (16), technique (16), first touch (15) and vision (14). Locatelli can also be slotted in as a holding midfielder if needed, or you can use him in an advanced playmaker. Put simply, there aren’t many midfielders in this price range who can play so many different roles in the centre of the park at a high level. A starting midfielder good enough to start for sides in the Champions League who can hit the ground running from day one.

  

  Gabriel Menino

  Age: 19

  Club: SEP (Palmeiras)

  Position: DR/DM/MC

  Estimated cost: £25-30 million

  When Gareth Southgate picked Trent Alexander-Arnold for England’s Euro 2020 squad as one of four right-backs in the squad, he cited the Liverpool man’s ability to operate in midfield. The same is true of Menino, who is capable of slotting in at right-back but is best used in the centre of the park. The fee you’d need to sign him is something of a snip, given that he boasts the following stats: passing (14), tackling (14), technique (14), vision (14), determination (16), work rate (14) and natural fitness (14). At 19, he represents a savvy purchase for any club capable of raising the funds to sign him.

  

  Juan Miranda

  Age: 20

  Club:?Barcelona — on loan at Real Betis

  Position: DL/WBL

  Estimated cost: £30-40 million

  High-quality left-backs on FM21 don’t seem to come on the cheap. So before we continue, if you want a cheap option, take a look at Luca Netz from Hertha BSC, who can do a solid job and can be signed for just a few million. Now back to Miranda. Earmarked by some as a successor to Jordi Alba at Barcelona, he begins each game save on loan at Real Betis (Real Hispalis), but is an ideal signing for clubs with cash to invest in longer-term projects. His stats present a first-team ready defender capable of becoming one of the game’s best left-backs.

  

  Florentino Luis

  Age: 20

  Club: AS Monaco (on loan from Benfica)

  Position: CM/DM

  Estimated cost: £30-40 million

  Signing a 20-year-old defensive midfielder with five-star potential, excellent defensive stats and enough forward-thinking flair to match, is something of a bargain at £30-40 million. You’ll have to wait a season to actually use him given that he begins each game save on loan at Monaco, but his standouts attributes, namely, tackling (17), anticipation (16), concentration (16), positioning (16) and teamwork (17) are worth waiting for. Luis is an all-action holding midfielder who can cut it at any top team in FM21.

  

  Nuno Mendes

  Age: 18

  Club: Sporting

  Position: DL/WBL

  Estimated cost: £35-45 million

  The Athletic’s 60-page scouting guide titled “The Radar” for Euro 2020 earmarked Mendes as a possible target for Manchester City, which gives you an idea of the type of player he could be for your team in FM21. His attacking stats, crossing (14), dribbling (14), passing (13) and vision (12) would be impressive for a fully-developed player, but Mendes is just 18 years old at the start of a new game save and has tons of room to improve. Throw in his solid defensive numbers, such as tackling (13), strength (13), positioning (12) and marking (12), and you have all the makings of one of world football’s best left-backs during the next few seasons.

  

  Max Aarons

  Age: 20

  Club: Norwich

  Position: DR/WBR

  Estimated cost: £35-45 million

  Barcelona and Bayern Munich have been credited with an interest in the Norwich right-back in real life and for good reason. As The Athletic’s Michael Bailey explains in great detail, he is a prolific ball carrier and an attack-minded full-back who begins any new FM21 game save as a 20-year-old with 36 starts in the Premier League under his belt. The bad news is that he costs a pretty penny. The good news is that, if you can raise those funds, you will have your right-back for the future on the books and someone who is capable of a decade of high-level performances. You may need to help him improve his crossing and passing stats in order to become a truly elite full-back.

  

  Alessandro Bastoni

  Age: 21

  Club: Inter Milan

  Position:?DC

  Estimated cost: £60-70 million

  Bastoni started 33 league games as Inter Milan secured their first Serie A title in 11 years in real life. There are 36 categories in which outfield players are ranked on Football Manager. Bastoni is rated at least 14 out of 20 in 20 of those categories, with his marking (15), tackling (14), positioning (14), pace (14), stamina (15) and strength (15) some of the standouts. There are few better young centre-backs worth signing in this version of FM, making him the type of player worth selling players for to raise funds to accommodate his arrival. A world-class centre-back in the making and a wonderkid capable of starting for just about any team on Football Manager 2021.

  

  Eduardo Camavinga

  Age: 17

  Club: Rennes

  Position: CM/DM

  Estimated cost: £55-70 million

  The finances behind this deal are among the trickiest on this list. You may have to leverage the press by declaring Camavinga as your top target (with the hope of unsettling him at Rennes) or include a sell-on clause. But to say it’s worth it is an understatement. None of his stats are green (rated as 15 out of 20 or higher) from the get-go, but in a season or two, his player profile will be filled with more green than the grass he graces on a weekly basis for your club. He may need easing into the first team for a side challenging in Europe, but it won’t take long for him to become one of the best midfielders in the entire game.

  

  Honourable mentions for players who cost a lot at the start of a game save but may be able to be signed at a cheaper price from the second year onwards:

  Gianluigi Donnarumma (GK) — AC Milan

  Achraf Hakimi (DR) — Inter Milan

  Jules Kounde (DC) — Sevilla

  Jean-Clair Todibo (DC) — Barcelona

  Owen Wijndal (DL) — AZ Alkmaar

  Sandro Tonali (MC)? — Brescia

  Michael Cuisance (MC) — Bayern Munich

  Matheus Cunha (AML) — Hertha BSC

  Nicolo Zaniolo (AMR) — Roma

  Mason Greenwood (ST) — Manchester United

  Donyell Malen (ST) — PSV

  (Top image: Getty Images)

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