With the exciting news that Football Manager 2015 is less than one month away, I got thinking about my own relationship with the famous football game. As a Leeds fan, my time playing Football Manager has been bitter-sweet at best. The odd cup victory was often the best I could muster in seasons often characterised by a relegation dogfight but I still remember the joy and excitement when I returned my beloved Whites to the Premiership.
More than a game, Football Manager is a right of passage for football fans around the world looking to chomp their teeth into management. For some of us it’s the furthest we’ll go, for others it’s the first step onto something big. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer famously used the game to hone his managerial skills. Where else would you get the chance to manage some of the world’s greatest teams and find the next big thing in football?
All of us have one player who we ‘discovered’ through football manager. They could be a hot prospect, an old legend or simply a bargain buy. In the 2001/2002 season, I found football’s next big superstar whilst playing Football Manager’s predecessor, Championship Manager.
His name? Tó Madeira.
I, like many of those who discovered the young Portuguese striker, knew that he was destined for greatness within the sport. Pace, finishing, dribbling, Madeira had it all. A man with the Midas touch, he could be relied upon to consistently score goals. He was a must-buy and Madeira would only get better as the game progressed. He improved season after season and often ended a year’s campaign with a goalscoring record that would make Messi envious. It wasn’t unheard of for him to notch more than 60 league goals a season. Forget Zidane, Ronaldo or Henry. When I began a season in that year’s game, Tó Madeira was the first player I went for.
You can imagine my surprise then when it became apparent that my young Portuguese prodigy hadn’t been signed by a top club in real life. For years I waited for Tó Madeira to announce himself on the world stage, but sadly my young brain had not yet discovered the truth.
You see there was more to Tó Madeira than met the eye. He didn’t actually exist.
Championship Manager, a platform known for having such a reliable database of players that top managers such as Arsene Wenger have been known to use the game on occasion, had been duped into creating a fictitious player with jaw dropping statistics. The culprit of such blasphemy? António Lopez, a researcher entrusted by the CM team to provide information on the Portuguese team.
A former footballer himself, Lopez had represented Gouveia at youth level before studies cut short his footballing career. Lopez always wished to rekindle his own football career, so when he was asked to provide information for Championship Manager 2001/2002 on Portuguese football, he sensed an opportunity to live out his dream.
Knowing that his own footballing career was effectively over, Lopez took the chance to immortalise himself in the game and give himself the career he never had. Tó Madeira was thus created as the world’s greatest footballer. Lopez put himself into the game and sat back as the world began taking about the Portuguese wonder kid.
Sadly for Lopez, things were not to last. By the early 2000s, many top English clubs had begun using Championship Manager’s databases to scout players. So when it became apparent that Tó Madeira was the greatest player in the game, he became hot property amongst England’s top clubs.
Sports Interactive, the makers of Championship Manager, began to receive phone calls from English teams asking about a Portuguese superstar named Madeira. After several investigations, which included calls from several Portuguese researchers to Clube Desportivo de Gouveia asking about Tó Madeira, the truth emerged. António Lopez’s creation was found out and Madeira was removed from all future versions of the game.
Thus ended the bright career of Tó Madeira, a striker who appeared to good to be true and turned out to be just that.
Nevertheless, when FM hits shelves next month, I’ll still search in vain for the next Madeira. So here’s to Tó Madeira, the greatest player in the world.
Conor Heffernan, Pundit Arena.