Aside from being ludicrously fun and addictive, the lasting legacy of Championship Manager, Football Manager, FIFA Manager Mode and every other game like it will surely be that it created generations of football fans who feel that they could be the best manager in the world, if only they were given a chance.
Whether it is actually writing your teams and tactics down, pretending to be in a press conference, (we’ve all done that right…? RIGHT?) or spending your week off from work bleeding the youth players seamlessly into the first team, the bug of virtual football management has bitten all us fans at one time or another.
Championship Manager was back where it all began. Just thinking about it makes me want to reach for a bunch of member berries. I am not sure about the rest of you, but when I played games like this, I would feel personally vindicated if I picked a player from absurdity and nurtured him into a world class player, only for the very same thing to happen in real life.
But some players never quite meet the heady height that their virtual alter-egos manage to achieve. On FIFA 14 for example, Zakaria Bakkali can end up becoming one of the best players on the game, with a rating of around 90. Anthony Martial is literally the best striker on the game from almost the start. Dortmund’s Eric Durm was always my first-choice right back, because despite the fact that he may have only had a rating of 79, he played like a player with a rating of 99.
I often wonder what became of the stars of Championship Manager. Remember Freddie Adu? Taribo West? Cherno Samba? They grew into superstars on the old school PC game. In real life it may not have turned out quite so well, but for the most part they managed to stay in the game, to one degree or another. One player however decided to take such a left turn, upon the end of his career, that he almost came full circle. That man was the Icelandic player Andri Sigþórsson.
Sigþórsson’s career started off with a great deal of promise. After being scouted by Icelandic club Knattspyrnufélag Reykjavíkur (mercifully known as KR), he moved to Bayern Munich’s youth academy and began his professional career in the Bayern Munich’s reserve/youth team. After spending four years playing sporadically with Bayern Munich II in the Regionalliga (Germany’s fourth division) Sigþórsson moved back to Iceland to rejoin his boyhood team KR.
Sigþórsson’s stay at KR lasted four years, from 1996 to 2000. However, because of extremely harsh winters in Iceland, and because in the Úrvalsdeild (Iceland’s top league), there are only 12 teams, the season is generally played between May and September, and as such, in four seasons he only managed 48 games. His goal return in those 48 games however was a very impressive 35.
It was striking form such as this that made Sigþórsson a force to be reckoned with on Championship Manager 3, a PC exclusive game which was first released way back in 1999. On Championship Manager 3, as some of you finer wines may attest, Sigþórsson was set with the maximum potential of 200. This, effectively, gave him the potential to literally be the greatest player to ever live.
The potential system worked much in the same way as the modern FIFA Manager Mode potential does – some players start off at, say, a 59 rating but they have a potential of 94. Then, as you scout them further, their potential decreases drastically. Some scouted players do end up flying up the rating system, but some never even get close to their rating.
Sigþórsson however had a maximum potential of 200 and more often than not reached it. Meaning that for pennies, you could pick up a player that would be better than Messi, Ronaldo, Zidane, Scholes and Lahm combined.
This was Sigþórsson’s claim to fame, and though his real life career unfortunately never reached the heights of Mount Olympus like his virtual doppelganger, the striker finished his career in 2004 with a very respectable 48 goals from 107 games.
Why only 107 games? Well in 2004, at the paltry age of 26 and just as he was picking up steam and looking like he could be a promising late-bloomer, he picked up a career ending knee injury.
Since his career ended, now 39 years of age, Sigþórsson has had a complete change of direction in his life. Now, he is in charge of his father’s successful chain of bakeries in Molde.
He was a CM wonderkid, but such is life. Though I’m sure he lives a comfortable life now, one can’t help but wonder at what might have been for the former Icelandic virtual superstar.