Where Are They Now: The Wonderkid List From Football Manager 2009

To celebrate the ten year anniversary of Football Manager 2009, I have compiled a list of wonderkids that were tipped for greatness. From the highly rated Carlos Vela, a player guaranteed to score 50+ a season, to the next Thierry Henry, hidden in the depths of Bordeaux's youth team - these classic names should take you back to a better time.

Lets kick-off with a man who completed the game.

Carlos Vela - Arsenal

This won't be the last time we visit North London in this piece.

In mid 2008, Arsenal fans couldn't wait to see what Carlos Vela was all about after he was finally granted a work permit that allowed him to play in England following loan spells at Osasuna and Salamanca.

Vela was labelled one of the best young striker's in world football, so expectation was naturally high when he replaced Robin van Persie for his competitive debut against Newcastle. He would go on to score a hat-trick in the League Cup, but never really remained in Arsene Wenger's first team plans.

That being said, the 30-year-old would definitely remain in my Football Manager career.

It would take the Mexican forward a couple of seasons to settle in, but after two or three years under your guidance, this pacey, composed striker would become the best forward in the game.

Once with the world at his feet in both real and virtual life, the 30-year-old now plays for Los Angeles FC after six successful years at Real Sociedad.

Image: PA
Image: PA

Sunny - Valencia

If you wanted a defensive mid with solid offensive and defensive stats then Stephen 'Sunny' Sunday was the ideal candidate to lead your team to European glory - even Carlos Vela himself struggled against the 19-year-old wonderkid.

In real life, the Nigerian was tipped for greatness when he joined Valencia CF in the summer of 2008.

But after barely playing a game for the first team because of injuries, he was loaned to fellow La Liga side Osasuna in 2009, despite interest from Portsmouth, who couldn't wrap up a deal for Sunny because of financial complications.

Sunny's career never really hit the heights of his virtual journey. He played at MLS side Real Salt Lake between 2016 and 2018, but is appears the 30-year-old is now a free agent.

It makes you think what could have been if his move to Portsmouth in 2009 had gone through.

Francesco Merida - Arsenal

Arsenal make another appearance in this list with arguably their biggest youth 'prospect' in years.

Francesco 'Fran' Merida arrived from Barcelona's famed La Masia academy in 2007 with many touting him to become the next Cesc Fabregas - and that wasn't solely down to his nationality.

He made his debut against Boreham Wood a number of months later, and impressed in midfield. Arsene Wenger even described Merida as "an absolutely amazing player" when he signed the Spaniard on a long term deal in 2008.

Perhaps his inspired words were the reason behind Merida's incredible stats on Football Manager 2009?

That being said, Merida's career soon went down hill. He decided to leave the club in 2010 to join Atletico Madrid and appearances became hard to come by. The 29-year-old, who now plays for Osasuna, admits he made a mistake leaving North London.

"It was a mistake, I wasn't patient," he told Yahoo Sport. "I realise that now, but I've never been a patient person."

Image: PA
Image: PA

Breno - Bayern Munich

Now this is an incredible story. Bayern Munich signed highly-rated defender Breno back in 2008 after It was reported that the Brazilian had turned down Real Madrid because they wanted a bone sample to see if he was indeed 18 years old.

He was rightly given the 'wonderkid' label on Football Manager 2009, and became a regular in saves around the world, conceding a handful of goals all season with his incredible marking, heading and pace stats.

Away from the game, three years later he was arrested on suspicion of arson after his rented apartment burned down. He was charged in April 2012 and sentenced to three years and nine months in jail.

Following his release in August 2013, Breno went on to sign for Brazilian club Sao Paulo but made just five appearances for the club.

He now plays for Vasco de Gama, aged 29.

Henri Saivet - Bordeaux

At the age of 17, French-born Saivet was the king to Thierry Henry's throne.

Pace, power, skill, finishing and composure. He had it all but eight years on from his success on Football Manager 2009, the former prince of Bordeaux is lost in the vortex of players who flopped because a video game overhyped their ass.

In 2007, he signed his first professional contract with Bordeaux, making him the youngest professional player in the history of the football club. In nine years at the club, Saivet managed just 17 goals in 134 appearances but that didn't stop Newcastle United in acquiring his services in January 2015 for a reported £5 million.

Although it's hard to believe, Saivet is now 28 years-old, and after making just two starts under Rafael Benitez at St James Park, he is currently on loan at Bursaspor.

If you're a Football Manager diehard like myself, I still believe there is a glimmer of hope for the once prolific poacher...89 goals next season, mate?

Image: Twitter
Image: Twitter

Lulinha - Corinthians

After scoring an incredible 15 goals in 10 games for Brazil U17's, Lulinha was another Brazilian tipped for greatness by Football Manager.

But like his good friend Kerlon, who made a name for himself by dribbling the ball on his head like a seal, the pressures of 'wonderkid status' proved too much for the attacking midfielder, despite his ridiculous potential on Football Manager.

The fact that Corinthians' slapped a £24 million price tag on his head early on is potentially a crucial factor towards his, let's face it, underwhelming career.

He spent 11 years at the Brazilian club before making a permanent move to Serie B side Ceará in 2013. In typical, spectacular fashion, Lulinha has played for eight clubs in the past five years.

The 28-year-old is now playing his football in the Greek First Division side Pafos FC.

Bojan - Barcelona

Once upon a time, he was flourishing in the Barcelona set-up alongside Lionel Messi and co.

Expectation was naturally high and in 2007, he broke Lionel Messi's record as the youngest Barca player to feature in a La Liga game. Three days later, he made his Champions League debut and the world awaited a superstar.

But sometimes things don't go to plan in football, and his career has gone downhill since.

Then again we can always look at back at Football Manager 2009 and remember one of the deadliest striker's to ever exist on the popular game. Barca weren't exactly keen to offload the Spaniard, but once you managed to get a deal through, goals would flow like a broken tap.

The 28-year-old now plays for Championship side Stoke City.

Image: Neoseeker
Image: Neoseeker

John Fleck - Rangers

Despite being one of the youngest on this list at the age of 27, another one of Scotland's biggest talents was hyped by Football Manager as the next big thing and in Football Manager, the youngster was one of everyone's go-to signings.

Fleck was cheap as chips at just under a million pound. He was basically the perfect player to give your Football League side a one way ticket to the Premier League, until Manchester United and Liverpool came knocking with a £25 million bid.

Fleck was unstoppable on the wing and if you need a goal or five, you could him as a number 10.

In real life, Fleck has failed to live up to Football Manager legend. He spent five years at Rangers between 2007 and 2012 before leaving for Coventry City, where, in all fairness, he made a decent name for himself, making a total of 162 appearance.

He now plays for Championship side Sheffield United.

Bogdan Stancu - Steaua

I sometimes wonder if the guys at Football Manager just handed out overpowered stats to players with incredible names.

Bogdan Stancu's journey from Romanian minnows FC Argeș to the Champions League was one of my greatest memories on Football Manager. If you needed a player who would score week in, week out for your Football League side then Stancu was your man.

Cheap as anything at around £350k, the Romanian striker would treble in value after your first season.

Despite his rise to fame on the Football Manager series, Stancu never really hit the ground running after his big move to Steaua Bucharest in 2008 and despite scoring against France in the 2016 European Championships, the 31 year old is currently a free agent.

Image: PA
Image: PA

Mika Aaritalo - TPS Turku

It's a well known fact that Football Manager like to big up Finnish talent and former Aston Villa striker Mika Aaritalo was one of those blessed with deadly stats on Football Manager.

Although he wasn't officially classed as a wonderkid, Aaritalo was a goal machine back in the day, and the best thing was, he was an absolute steal at 500k.

Incredibly former Premier League side Aston Villa had touted the Finnish international for stardom in 2003, after beating a number of top European clubs to his signature, but he never made a single appearance and moved back to TPS Turku in 2005 - a team the 33-year-old still plays for to this day.

If you wanted to get from the depths of League Two to the heights of Premier League glory in three seasons, this was your guy.

Lauri Dalla Valle - Liverpool

He was branded the heir to Fernando Torres' throne back in 2009 when he signed a three and a half year contract with Liverpool.

'Lauri' began life in the North West as part of the academy team that reached the final of the FA Youth Cup and after being promoted to the reserve squad, he went on to score a 32-minute hat-trick a year later against Leicester - a feat that catapulted his reputation among the hierarchy at Anfield.

In Football Manager, the Finnish-born striker was a deadly poacher. He would bang in goals for fun on your save - that's if you gave him the chance to impress.

But when it came to real life, Dalla Valle would struggle to live up to his virtual name. He would make just a single first team appearance for Liverpool in a Europa League game before spells on loan at Dundee United, Exeter and Crewe Alexander failed to spark any magic - even Ole Gunnar Solskjaer couldn't reignite his career at Molde.

The 27-year-old retired from professional football in 2018 to concentrate on his photography and consultancy company in Italy.

Image: FM Base
Image: FM Base

Nicolas Millan - Colo Colo

At the age of fourteen years, nine months and three days, Nicolas Millan made history as the youngest player to feature in a Chilean professional game, so when Football Manager 2009 came around, the Colo Colo striker was one of the biggest wonderkids in the game.

By the time he was 21, he would dominate world football with his incredible finishing and composure, but in real life his career didn't exactly pan out the way FM predicted.

Premier League side Chelsea reportedly tried to take the starlet on trial in 2006, with Everton also showing some interest but after he left Colo Colo back in 2012 after loan spells at Rivadavia, Tigre and Naval, he joined the second level of Chilean football with Deportes Puerto Copiapo.

The 27-year-old has scored seven goals in 41 games for the club at the time of writing.

*buys Football Manager 2009 disc on Amazon and plays it for the next 365 days*

Jack Kenmare

Jack Kenmare is a writer at SPORTbible. He's interviewed some huge names in the world of sport, including Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Pele, Carles Puyol and Tim Henman. He dabbles in all things sport, but football is his biggest passion. He was once hit in the head by a wayward strike from Nicky Butt and lived to tell the tale.

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