How ‘Championship Manager’s’ finest failed to make the big time

Cited as a decisive factor in over 30 divorce cases, the addictive Championship Manager (later Football Manager) series successfully managed to develop a cult status amongst football fans the world over. Aside from its groundbreaking eschewal of graphics in favour of text, the series gained infamy for its ability to predict the promising futures of top players before they became famous, having foreseen the development of the likes of Fernando Torres and Wayne Rooney years before the pair gained widespread notoriety.

However, the series is equally as infamous for its ability to unearth duds. The following cult heroes are indicative of when Championship Manager has gotten it wrong…

Freddy Adu
Age: 21
Current Club: Aris Thessaloniki (on loan from Benfica)
Country/Caps: USA/15
CM said: the next Pele
In reality: The most high-profile name on this list, Freddy Adu has struggled to fulfil his early promise. Having become the youngest American athlete in 100 years to sign a professional contract (he signed with the MLS at just 14 years of age), the future looked bright after he became the youngest player to appear and score in MLS history.

Adu has struggled in the ‘promised land’ of Europe since moving to Benfica in 2007. Having made just 11 appearances for the Lisbon side, the American has been sent out on loan to Monaco, Belenenses and Aris Thessaloniki with minimal degrees of success. Omitted from the USA’s squad for the World Cup this summer, Adu was recently linked with a move to League One side Southampton. St. Mary’s was probably not the destination Adu had in mind when considering a move to England, having had trials at Manchester United as 17-year-old.

Julius Aghahowa
Age: 28
Current Club: Shakhtar Donetsk
Country/Caps: Nigeria/32
CM said: a mixture of Michael Essien and Didier Drogba
In reality: The former Nigerian international gained a reputation amongst Championship Manager fans during his first spell at Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk, a spell which yielded 33 goals in 90 outings, prompting his club to put an £8m price tag on his head. With his form dipping towards the end of his first spell in Ukraine, Premier League side Wigan Athletic acquired Aghahowa for an undisclosed fee in early 2007.

Unfortunately Aghahowa failed to find the net in 20 outings for the Lancashire side, with the club releasing him after 18 months at the DW Stadium. Aghahowa then had one season in Turkey with Kayserispor, before rejoining Shakhtar in the summer of 2009.

Mattias Asper
Age: 36
Current Club: Mjällby AIF
Country/Caps: Sweden/3
CM said: the next Peter Schmeichel
In reality: Despite managing to win the Swedish championship twice, veteran Mattias Asper has failed to impress outside of his homeland. Asper first gained attention for his performances at Stockholm side AIK, where he managed to set a Swedish clean sheet record by going 797 minutes without conceding a goal. This form led to interest from Spanish side Real Sociedad, who snapped him up in the summer of 2000. Ten appearances, two seasons and one loan spell at Besiktas later, Asper returned to his homeland, as he joined Malmö. At Malmö, where Asper enjoyed a glorious three-year spell, Asper won the second of his Swedish championship titles. Since departing Malmö, Asper has enjoyed spells at Norwegian side Viking and Brommapojkarna, before returning to hometown side Mjällby.

Kennedy Bakircioglü
Age: 29
Current Club: Ajax
Country/Caps: Sweden/5
CM said: the Swedish Pavel Nedved
In reality: Finishing fourth in the prestigious quest to find Hammarby’s greatest player of all-time, the midfielder with eight syllables in his name has dramatically failed to build upon his early Championship Manager promise. Having lead Hammarby to their first ever Swedish championship title in 2001, Bakircioglü later moved to Greek side Iraklis. Unable to hold down a first-team berth in Greece, Bakircioglü was transferred to Dutch side Twente, where he managed to net an impressive 23 goals in two seasons. This form led to a move to current club Ajax. After a mediocre first season in Amsterdam, Bakircioglü was deemed surplus to requirements and has been used sparingly since.

Click here to see the other CM cult heroes who failed to live up to their name…

Mads Jørgensen
Age: 31
Current Club: Retired
Country/Caps: Denmark/1
CM said: powerful, versatile attacking midfielder a la Cristiano Ronaldo
In reality: Touted for great things, an unfortunate set of injuries prevented Mads Jørgensen from emulating the career of his more famous brother, Martin Jørgensen. Whilst his older brother has accumulated 95 caps for the Danish side and enjoyed glorious spells in Italy with Udinese and Fiorentina, Mads spent the majority of his injury-plagued career within the Scandinavian leagues of Denmark and Norway.

A two-time Danish Superliga winner, Mads Jørgensen’s move to (then) Serie A Ancona was hugely unsuccessful, with the winger departing Italy without having made a single appearance for the club. He retired in June 2008, having ended his turbulent career with hometown club AGF Aarhus.

Dean Keates
Age: 31
Current Club: Wrexham
Country/Caps: England/0
CM said: all-action midfield dynamo a la Steven Gerrard
In reality: Currently playing for Blue Square Premier side Wrexham, Dean Keates has forged a career as a lower-league journeyman. Starting out at hometown club Walsall, Keates has since featured for Hull City, Kidderminster Harriers, Lincoln City, Walsall (again), Peterborough United and Wycombe Wanderers, before moving to Wrexham last month. Keates has admirably won promotion on six occasions with three different clubs.

Leon Knight
Age: 27
Current Club: Unattached
Country/Caps: England/0
CM said: prolific international quality centre-forward
In reality: A highly-rated trainee at Chelsea, it’s safe to say that Knight has failed to set the world alight since leaving Stamford Bridge. Having made just one senior appearance for the West London Blues, Knight was sold to Brighton & Hove Albion where he bagged a respectable 30 goals in 106 outings. Since leaving Brighton in 2006, Knight has turned out for nine different sides.

Unfortunately, Knight’s indiscipline has hampered his career, with his poor attitude and conduct contributing to the termination of his tenures at Swansea City, Wycombe Wanderers and Rushden & Diamonds. Currently without a club, Knight was last seen playing for Scottish side Queen of the South in early 2010.

Click here to see the other CM cult heroes who failed to live up to their name…

Tonton Zola Moukoko
Age: Unknown
Current Club: Unknown
Country/Caps: Sweden/0
CM said: the best goal-scoring midfielder in the history of the sport
In reality: The biggest cult hero on this list, the mystery whereabouts of Moukoko have only added to his exalted status amongst Championship Manager fans. Having departed Derby County without a single senior appearance, Moukoko is thought to have spent the majority of his career toiling away in the Swedish lower leagues.

Moukoko was tracked down by a Derby County fansite, with a subsequent interview revealing that Moukoko frequently receives phone calls from Championship Manager fans intrigued about his real-life career. Although this is mere speculation, is it thought that Moukoko currently plays for Atlantis FC in the Finnish second division.

Cherno Samba
Age: 25
Current Club: Panetolikos FC
Country/Caps: Gambia/1
CM said: England’s next number nine
In reality: After scoring 132 goals in 32 games as a 13-year-old at schoolboy level, the Gambian-born Cherno Samba came to the attention of many of the Premier League’s leading clubs. Much coveted whilst on schoolboy terms at Millwall, Samba left the London side without having made a single senior appearance for the club in 2004. Since then Samba has exhibited nomadic behaviour, having featured for Spanish sides Cádiz and Atlético Malagueño, Wrexham and Finnish outfit FC Haka. Following his release from FC Haka, Samba had trials for both Swindon Town and Portsmouth before joining Greek second division side Panetolikos FC.

Once regarded as the finest young player in the country, Samba attributes the relative failure of his career to the fact that Millwall prevented him from moving to Liverpool. Speaking of the aborted transfer, Samba said ‘I felt tortured. My football went out of the window. Whether you are 10, 15 or 38, when a move to big club falls through, you get low. I started to question myself and there were times I tried to quit football. At 14 I played for the under-17s. I was still playing for the under-17s when I was 17, which means I didn’t improve my football. ‘

Sharbel Touma
Age: 31
Current Club: Djurgårdens
Country/Caps: Sweden/2
CM said: marauding winger in the vein of ‘90s Ryan Giggs
In reality: Despite being tipped for big things as a youngster, Sharbel Touma has failed to make an impression at top-level European football. Capped twice by the Swedish national side, Touma has featured without great distinction for AIK, Halmstad, FC Twente, Borussia Mönchengladbach and Iraklis Thessaloniki.

Follow me on twitter at